Words for Mentees (1): While at school

The secondary school I went to runs a mentorship programme. Past students from all walks of life mentor current Form 5 students. I have been a mentor for a few years. Owing to my background, I was mostly matched with students who are interested in joining the legal profession. As such, I find myself repeating the same thing every year to different mentees. I have decided to write a series of blogs about what I want to share with them.

For Form 5 students, the immediate goal ought to be getting good DSE results. Not everyone wants to further study, but it’s always good to keep the options open. To get good grades means that you can choose the university and curriculum you want to pursue.

Students are busy with exams, school based assessments and after school tutorials. However, it is important to balance academic work with extracurricular activities. There are many activities that are only available in secondary school. My school has a tradition of drama and each year there is a drama production. Drama, be it on stage as cast or behind the scene as production team, is a great way to practise English, learn to take responsibilities and more importantly, learn to be a team player. These soft skills are essential for future success.

Uniform groups and societies offer opportunities to meet friends outside of your own class. Serving positions in these groups enhance your leadership skill, taking advantage of invaluable teacher guidance which will not be available once you finish secondary school.

Make lasting friendship from school. Very often the best friends come from young school days. Keep in touch with your friends and don’t underestimate the value of alumni. When your schoolmates join different professions, it can form a useful and powerful social network support network.

Top travel experience: Cefalu

Cinema Paradiso, Oscar’s best foreign language film in 1989, is my all-time favourite movie. Its main theme song, written by Ennio Morricone, is my all-time favourite tune.

One evening in early March, hubby and I were wondering whether Ennio Morricone is dead. He is now 86 years old. As we found out (thanks to the internet), he is not only alive, he will be holding a concert in Dublin on 12 December this year! We bought tickets for the concert there and then!

We planned our Christmas trip around the concert months in advance, which we seldom do. However, to our surprise today, we were notified that Ennio Morricone had a back operation and will reschedule the concert to next year!

Talking about the movie Cinema Paradiso, we visited Cefalu, where the movie was filmed in Sicily. It’s one of the most beautiful and romantic places I have ever been in my life! If I have to choose a place to live happily ever after, Cefalu will be on the list. That’s how good the place is. It is not rich nor pretentious like many other resort towns in Italy, but it ticks all the boxes as a romantic getaway.

On the night we went to Cefalu, we had dinner at a local pizzeria at the seafront. Many locals were eating there, sharing pizzas with families. We watched UEFA Euro 2012 football quarter-final – Italy vs England. It was 0-0 at full time and went on to penalties; and Italy won by 4-2! We were shouting and dancing with the Sicilians with joy. I will never forget that night!

If anyone is planning a trip to Sicily, go to Cefalu. You won’t be disappointed!

拋花球

婚禮其中一個highlight,是新娘拋花球。我覺得尤其是在戶外場地,那張action shot會好靚好有wedding的感覺。一世人只會做一次新娘拋花球,記住唔好忽略這個環節。

首先,你要認清會參與搶花球的單身女仕的人數。如果你大部份朋友都已婚或者好怕醜,冇人出來參與,那就没有氣氛了。

決定人數後,就要揀好位置。酒樓地方一般比較淺窄,好難在入席後揾個位去集合一班人,企得落仲要有位影相。室內樓底矮,花球隨時撞上天花板,未被搶到就已經撞爛了。如果你唔想掟爛個真花球,記住準備個dummy呀。

拋花球可以順其自然,但是最好內定一個特別積極想搶到的朋友。最怕花球跌咗落地,冇人肯拾,非常尷尬。好記得有一次一班小學學界籃球精英去參加籃球敎練的婚禮,新娘一拋花球,個男學生自然反應地見到高的東西接住,拿着花球後唔知點算,勁攪笑!

幫兩姊妹證婚

五年前幫個家姐證婚,昨日幫她的妹妹證婚。我覺得同呢對姊妹有種好親近的感覺。

在婚禮上,家姐的仔仔做花仔帶頭march in。新人在正式註冊前向對方講的一段speech,感人至深,我以為我相當老練,但都差點忍唔住感動到喊。見到她們兩姊妹都咁幸福,真係好開心。

臨走前,我和家姐擁抱。有咩工作會五年之後再遇上“client”,佢仲會咁感激?我真係好中意好中意證婚!

HK Express booking tips

HK Express is branded as Hong Kong’s budget airline. I have flown with them to four destinations this year. So far so good and no delay on all flights.

Budget = no frills. You have to pay extra for many things – checked in baggage, choose your seats etc. You are not allowed to consume outside food or drink, so you have to buy everything onboard, including water. If you are cold on the plane, they won’t give you a blanket; they sell it to you!

For short haul flights, I have no problem with these. I actually find it more peaceful when no food is served and the plane smells less. HK Express is also quite generous with carry-on baggage. It allows one 7kg piece plus a handbag. They weigh the bigger looking carry-on baggage and don’t weigh the handbag. So you can get away with carrying quite a lot in two bags.

At the end of October, HK Express celebrated its first anniversary and offered $1 ticket sale. I am a perpetual deal finder and become quite familiar with their website. I write below some step by step tips, hopefully would be helpful to you in their future sales.

Checking:

- “Like” www.meethk.com facebook page and you will see its posts. Meethk updates airlines sales even faster the airline’s email distribution/promotion. During the $1 HK Express sale, Meethk updates availability of $1 seats throughout the day which is very helpful. Try the dates that it says it’s available first. But other dates not listed on Meethk may also be available.

- On HK Express website, key in dates, press “search”.

- if it says “Sorry, there is no available flight”, it means the system is busy, rather than there is really no flight flying on those days. Just keep trying or choose different dates.

- Once the search result is loaded, you will see the fare. If it’s not the discount fare that you are looking for, try different days and flight times combinations. From experience, departing Wednesday and Thursday is cheaper than departing on Friday or Saturday. But it really depends on the chosen days.

- When you try to search for different dates, you cannot click on the tabs that show the dates. It will go into an error message. You have to do a new fresh search for new dates.

- Airfare changes and varies a lot. Can go from $1 to $1060 and then back down again. So just have to keep trying.

- from experience, there is no advantage to book late at night when you think the website has less traffic. The system actually crashes just as much.

Booking:

- Once you find your desired flight, click “Book now”.

- booking page will load. First you have to deselect Travel Insurance. If you wait till you input all information, I have had experienced the travel insurance part disappeared on the screen. Then you will be forced to buy insurance.

- key in your contact details.

- for adult 1, click “passenger detail same as contact person”.

- you have to input date of birth and passport expiry date in the calendar that pops up. Non-sensical and very slow way to input dates. Be patient.

- Deselect check in baggage if you don’t want. Worth noting that if you want to add check-in baggage after booking the flight, you cannot do so by managing booking online as you would expect in other airlines. You will have to call their call centre (which costs money), or just pay even more when you check in luggage at the airport.

- then just scroll down, no need to purchase any extra services like choosing seats, receiving SMS etc. if you don’t want.

- click “Continue”, tick to agree to terms and conditions.

- Click “Purchase”. If it says “there is a problem during the booking”, it means you can’t buy the tickets. You will have to start all over again. This happened to me four times when I tried to book my $2 flights to Nagoya. Now you realise why I am so familiar with the website.

Paying:

- if you go to the payment page, choose the payment method other than 支付寶. The other method is for credit cards.

- then pay

Confirmation:

- if everything goes well, confirmation page will load. You will receive a confirmation email from HK Express almost instantly.

十周年紀念旅行(6): 東京超值酒店

今次是我第一次飛去羽田機場,比成田機場近很多,交通便利又便宜。住在品川或檳松町站附近坐車去羽田機場很方便,兩個站都有direct train to Haneda airport. Takes only 15 minutes and 490 yen.
I stayed at Hotel Bayside Azur Takesiba (http://en.hotel-azur.com/). Seaview room可看到彩虹橋,個view 一流。間酒店正正常常唔太舊,間房在日本酒店中唔算細。
由酒店行去JR or Tokyo monorail車站 only 10 minutes walk, 沿路仲可見到東京鐵塔,夜景幾靚。由檳松町坐山手線去東京站only 6 minutes,去澀谷only 18 minutes. 另外hotel 門外就有train 去台場。Hotel location very good。
The best selling point of the hotel is the price. It costs only HK$452 for a double room! Where else can you find in Tokyo?
I will certainly stay there again, especially if I fly to Haneda airport. It’s so good value that my husband even asked me not to write about it; to keep it as a best kept secret of Tokyo!
Tips: hotels, booking, agoda等booking websites有時會比booking directly with hotel更平,記住check credit card or other website e.g. www.meethk.com 有冇promotion code for extra discount. 今次我在meethk找到hotels.com discount code, save 10%.

十周年紀念旅行(5): 東京好味

去東京,當然要食好嘢。
美登利是我的favourite sushi place. 今年四月起店舖門外有ticket machine, 攞咗飛後可以去行街,唔洗企喺門口乾等。Monday night dinner time 差不多要等一個鐘頭等三十張枱,如果有internet scan QR code 仲可以有notification of 叫到幾多號飛,great improvement!我覺得美登利樣樣都好好食,又唔太貴,最好味是蟹糕沙律,超濃香鮮味,百吃不厭。


北海道迴轉壽司根室花在東京站對面的新mall Kitte五樓,有四種語言menu,寫number 落order,唔怕唔識叫嘢。北海道最出名是長腳蟹,snow crab sushi好正!


東京車站內的築地壽司清,價錢較貴。最好食是鰻魚,比美登利的招牌鰻魚更肥美軟滑。單單要食它的鰻魚壽司已經值得一去。


舞泉炸豬扒我以前會專登去表參道食,原來它在澀谷站旁邊Hikidarie mall都有分店。皮鬆脆,豬肉香,菜和白飯任食,大滿足!不過我覺得京都的名代炸豬扒更加好食,下次去東京我會去新宿的名代分店,一比高下。


去日本好大的enjoyment是試好多好多唔同味香港買不到的啤酒。間間便利店和supermarket都有唔同款,次次都有驚喜。今次我的至愛是Sapporo White bleg. 另外我亦愛上了180ml細細枝sake,可以買多幾枝試飲。以後去日本我會帶埋sake杯,隨時都可以自酙自飲!

十周年紀念旅行(4): 万座温泉

我最鐘意無敵開揚景的outdoor hotspring,万座温泉的日進館(http://www.manza.co.jp/main.html) 吸引了我。日進館是比較平民化的大型温泉旅館,一泊二食weekday 9000 yen per person, weekend 14500 yen per person. 包的兩餐都是自助餐,菜式不算名貴,但勝在用local produce,食物都幾多款式。
同之前一晚入住的嬬戀温泉Prince Hotel剛剛相反,日進館的客人全是日本人,weekend仲有歌手表演,有抽獎遊戲,個個著住件浴衣坐在大堂,好得意。雖然在咁local的地方,但奇怪地很多staff都fluent in English.
日本有三千幾個温泉,當中只有四十幾個位處高於1000米。日進館位高1800米,是全國唯一高地acidic sulphur water,據稱有特殊醫療效用。
温泉有超級open mountain view,可看到旁邊冬天的滑雪場,景觀一流。不過房間人數和温泉大細比例偏高,加上温泉日間對非住客開放,温泉人頭湧湧。


万座温泉本來有條highway去,但今年八月打風被破壞,到到現在都要封路。要改道經草津温泉和白根山去,每日只在10am to 4:30pm通行。山路彎彎曲曲,very interesting to drive on. The road also offers great scenery and lookout points.
白根山山頂有個白色的火山湖,但因最近日本發生火山爆發意外,暫時封閉,我無緣去遊覽。
Tips: 日本人似乎喜歡在餐前浸浴,晚飯後去浸温泉會較少人。早晨他們超早起床和check out. 我在早餐cut off time 前last minute去温泉, I had the bath all to myself。終於可以靜靜enjoy.

十周年紀念旅行(3): 草津温泉

草津温泉是日本三大名泉之一,中央泉源湯畑的熱水像瀑布般流下,interesting sight.
另一個特色景點西之河原公園,河水全是熱辣辣温泉,隨便除鞋坐下來就可享受足浴。在公園有outdoor public bath, charges
only 500 yen. 我望入去,見到班日本青年在玩和影相。我以為their custom doesn’t allow picture in hotspring. The custom must be changing.

草津温泉的名物是高原饅頭,紅豆味香濃,熱騰騰,好好食。這間”長壽店”在街上派試食,仲送熱茶,真貼心!

Tips: 草津温泉的温泉旅館都cluster on the street,沒有open view。我覺得比較適合day trip,then go somewhere else to stay overnight.

十周年紀念旅行(2): 嬬戀温泉

欣賞紅葉,最高享受莫過於浸住温泉看。嬬戀温泉is an hour drive away from 輕井澤. 嬬戀Prince Hotel
(http://www.princehotels.co.jp/tsumagoi/) 個温泉風景超open, 可近看紅葉,遠眺遠處的高山。酒店有好多facilities, 間房個無敵山景令人心境開朗,更重要是weekday room only 9400 yen, great value for money! Check in 時仲送了1000 yen cash coupon,夠錢在酒店販賣店內買早餐。不過好奇怪,我入住那天見不到日本遊客,只有香港和台灣客。
Tips: I usually check www.jalan.net for Japan 温泉酒店。Quote的price and package 有時比booking directly with hotel 更便宜。記住Jalan list price未包稅,要compare all inclusive price 啊。
温泉不准拍照,這些照片都是在hotel website download, 所以show唔到我看到的紅葉景。