It is the magic of Hong Kong and its beautiful sights that a group of students will remember from their recent trip to the island.
THE atmosphere on the bus was abuzz with excitement as the students exchanged notes on the prices of souvenirs and other items they bought on their last night in Hong Kong.
The students, winners of The Star-Pizza Hut Mag Inc Contest 2012, had prior to boarding the bus spent two hours at the famous Mong Kok Ladies Market as part of their four-day three-night winning prize trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.
The 14-member group (excluding three teachers, a Pizza Hut representative, two tour guides and this reporter) had been treated to an all-day city tour of Hong Kong, and this last stop seemed to take the cake.
The students were from Team Bliss from SMK St Xavier Penang, The Explorers from SMK Bukit Mewah, Seremban and Jet Set from SJK(C) Chung Hua, Seremban. Their trip to Hong Kong Disneyland was sponsored by The Star and Pizza Hut, partners in Newspaper-in-Education (NiE).
Team “Bliss” members — Bernard Cheah, Lim Kean Wooi, B. Kuhanesan, Loke Ren Zhang and Thong Wei San — will also receive a total of RM150,000 worth of scholarships from Taylor’s University for their pre-university studies.
At the market, they picked up reasonably priced souvenirs for themselves (and for their loved ones, of course), and more importantly, the art of bargaining (and the adrenaline rush that comes with it).
Earlier in the day, stops included various top local attractions: Golden Bauhinia Square, Aberdeen Fishing Village, Repulse Bay Beach, Victoria Peak and the Hong Kong Museum of History.
Blessed with good weather, this meant that the group could take full advantage of the fisherman boat ride at Aberdeen, the sun and sand at Repulse Bay (where there was also a wishing well guarded by a “dragon”) and the breathtaking view from Victoria Peak of the city’s skyline.
On their first evening in Hong Kong, the winners also paid a visit to the Avenue of Stars (Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame) along the Victoria Harbour waterfront, where they braved the northerly winds to catch a glimpse of Hong Kong’s film stars, including Jackie Chan, Jet Li and even our very own Datuk Michelle Yeoh against the backdrop of the city’s bright lights.
But the main event of the trip, of course, was Hong Kong Disneyland, and when asked to think retrospectively, almost in unison the winners named Disneyland as the highlight of their trip.
Set to explore
For all five members of Team Jet Set from SJK (C) Chung Hua, Seremban, winners of the primary school category, this was their second time to the theme park, having previously visited it on family holidays.
“I’m very excited to be back again because now I can experience it with my closest friends,” said Liew Carmen, 12.
“I really enjoyed being able to spend a day at Disneyland with my friends,” beamed Ng Yi Yan, 11, who celebrated her birthday during the trip.
“And at the same time we learnt to look out for one another,” added another birthday girl Lee Yan Yan, 12.
“My favourite rides were the Stitch Encounter and the Autopia racecar course,” said Chong Hao Ran, 11.
“For me it was Space Mountain,” said Justin Kandy, 11.
“But Hong Kong itself is an awesome place. I’ll even remember the boat ride from Aberdeen,” he added.
“I really enjoyed trying out the new rides at Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch,” said Elina Lee Jia Ai, 13, of Team The Explorers from SMK Bukit Mewah, Seremban.
“We came at the right time,” said fellow teammate Lee Yong Xian, 15, “because the place is decorated beautifully for Christmas which brings an even more magical feel to it.”
True to their team name, the winners of the lower secondary category were exploring a new country for the first time on their own with friends.
“I think this trip has taught me to be more independent,” reflected Lee Kevin, 15. Alicia Kwan Su Huey, 14, agreed, adding that “since we had come so far and worked so hard to achieve this trip, I really wanted to cherish every single minute of it.”
Blissfully ever after
For the 17-year-old members of Team BLISS and winners of the upper secondary category, the trip symbolising the end of their NiE journey, was extra meaningful.
“This is probably our last chance to spend time together. After this, we’ll be heading towards different paths to achieve our own respective goals,” explained Kuhanesan.
The boys missed their school prom as it coincided with the trip, and though they made sure to check Facebook to stay up-to-date with the goings-on of prom night, the unanimous feeling was that they were happy to be in Hong Kong.
“What’s better and a more perfect way to end your secondary school years than to relive your childhood memories at Disneyland with your four best friends?” Ren Zhang summarised aptly.
Although they were the oldest students in the group, that did not deter their enjoyment of Disneyland one bit.
“I got to take a picture with two Disney princesses, Snow White and Belle.
“And I got their autographs too. It felt unreal meeting characters from my childhood,” said Wei Shan.
“My favourite was watching the lighting up of the Christmas tree,” added Kean Wooi. “The feeling of watching the dark streets slowly illuminate was dreamlike. Then, the Christmas tree came alive in a spectrum of colours and artificial snow started falling. Everything felt perfect.”
“I just love how Disneyland has the ability to transcend visitors into an array of mystical worlds and forget reality,” added Bernard, whose trip also marked his first time overseas.
“But perhaps the single most enjoyable part of this trip was the fellowship among us all. We were united by our common passion for NiE. I will cherish my fellow BLISS members for life and I have to thank The Star NiE for that.”
Hong Kong Disneyland
> Mickey’s Philharmagic. This 10-minute 3D movie is a true reminder of what the real magic of Disney is about. Not only was it 3D, but there were also real-time sound, wind and rain effects. An enthralling experience.
> Christmas Illumination. Just after dusk, Main Street came to life as a winter wonderland, complete with the finale of snow falling from the rooftops! In the cold Hong Kong night and with Christmas carols in the air, it was hard not to feel like you were experiencing a white Christmas.
> Art of Animation. A mini-Disney museum, with a collection of Disney artefacts from its first days right up to its Disney-Pixar days. The highlight here is the Toy Story zoetrope, where the art and science behind animation come to life right before your eyes.
> Victoria Peak. There is something about seeing a city of skyscrapers from above that takes away from its hustle and bustle and in its place, a sort of serenity descends.
> Mong Kok Ladies Market. Not just for the shopping, but also to experience the city’s lights, sounds and pulse by night. n Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. A slower, more yesteryear side to the metropolis. Birds chirping, old-fashioned bamboo bird cages hanging from the ceiling, old men having conversations on benches — a tucked-away gem.
Juanita Selvi Andrew, SMK St Xavier, Penang
“It was rather heartwarming to see the comradeship that formed between the winners during the trip. The older children naturally took it upon themselves to take charge and care of the younger ones. But in fact, the roles took a roundabout turn at Disneyland, when it was the kids who were advising the adults as to which rides to take!”
Santhi Seladurai, SMK Bukit Mewah, Seremban
“The trip was truly a dream come true experience for everyone who came; it’s definitely a prize worth winning. The trip also allowed the students to learn about the history of Hong Kong and experience Hong Kong tourist spots and delicacies. This was a good exercise in broadening their horizons.”
Bung Yew Thai, SJK (C) Chung Hua, Seremban
“Because the entire trip ran on a schedule, it gave the students valuable lessons in discipline and punctuality. And shopping at Mong Kok gave them the opportunity to learn how to bargain and spend their money wisely. This is knowledge and experience which they can’t get from their books.”
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