Travel: Hong Kong – Macau 2017

Had a 7 day trip with my family to Hong Kong and Macau. Writing this piece to record some of the interesting experience we had that may be useful in future.


Budget

 

We prepared approximately SGD 500 per person. It was more than enough for our food, gifts, activities and transport. (exclude accommodations and air ticket).


Transportation

We flew to Hong Kong and transferred to Macau via a ferry, without clearing Hong Kong immigration. After staying two nights in Macau, we took another ferry to Hong Kong, where we stayed for another 4 nights before flying home.

Transiting from Hong Kong to Macau

  1. When checking in for departure, make sure that you have received baggage reclaim tags of check-in luggage, if any.
  2. Make the flight to Hong Kong.
  3. HACK: Keep the arrival and departure card given by your airline but don’t fill it up. You will need it when you travel from Macau to Hong Kong.
  4. Upon arrival, ask around or look at the directions to head to ferry transfer area.
  5. There are multiple companies offering ferry service to Macau. Be sure to check the timings that are best suited for you, and whether the ferry provides baggage transfer that you may require. (Just ask the ticketing staff for more information. For this trip we took a Cotai Water Jet ferry).
  6. Go to the your desired ferry company ticketing counter located in the ferry transfer area to purchase the ticket. If you require baggage transfer, highlight to the ticketing staff and pass them your baggage reclaim tag, in exchange for a new tag issued by the ferry company. (The company staff will reclaim the luggage on your behalf at the airport and load it up the ferry).
  7. While waiting to check-in, use the kiosk located near the ferry transfer area to check if your luggage has been successfully loaded up the ferry. (Scan the barcode on the ticket to check the status).
  8. Check the display screen to know if the gate is open. Once it is open, you can check-in and board the ferry.
  9. After arriving at Macau, clear the immigration, and if you had luggage transferred, remember to retrieve it from the baggage reclaim area.
  10. You can consider hoping on to any casino shuttle bus for a ride to the city area free of charge.

Travelling within Macau

  • The cheapest way to travel within Macau is via casino shuttle buses. The casino operators provide scheduled free transfers between various casinos across Macau, as well as shuttle to certain tourist attractions. (Check with the hotel you are staying in for a complete schedule).
  • Alternatively, you can call for a cab, or use UBER. UBER fares are pretty cheap. But do note that UBER is not yet legal in Macau as of now.

From Macau to Hong Kong

  1. Hop on to a casino shuttle bus heading for the terminal. There are two ferry terminals in Macau, that offer ferry services to different destinations. (Check online, or ask your hotel on which terminal to go to).
  2. Head to the ticketing area in the terminal, check for your desired departure timing, and purchase your ticket. There should be no need to check-in luggage as you are free to store them at the back of the ferry cabin. (For our trip, we took a TurboJET ferry).
  3. Clear the customs, board the ferry and enjoy your ride.
  4. HACK: You can pull out your arrival and departure card and fill it up. You will need it to clear immigration when you reach Hong Kong.
  5. After arrival, proceed to your destination, either by cab or by MTR. (For our trip, we arrived at the terminal in Kowloon, which is right on top of Kowloon MTR station.)

Travelling within Hong Kong

  • The public transport system is pretty cheap, efficient and connected. It can take you to most destinations.
  • Purchase an Octopus card at any MTR stations. It will allow you to pay for rides on the MTR, public buses, Ding Ding trams, or even make purchases at 7-eleven. At the end of your trip, you may refund the card.
  • The MTR is very similar to MRT in Singapore. Just follow the directions and you should do just fine getting around.
  • Public buses are also similar to Singapore, just that you pay a fixed fare regardless of distance traveled. Use your GPS or on-board digital signage to identify your destination, and remember to press the bell to alight!
  • Ding Ding trams are an interesting experience to enjoy some sight-seeing in the city. Take note of the following:
    • There only a few Ding Ding trams routes that are differentiated by colour. Check out the route map to plan your journey.
    • Every Ding Ding stop only serves tram going in a single direction, either east-bound or west-bound. Therefore the stops are typically located in pairs, to serve opposing directions. Make sure you board at the correct stop.
    • The common practice is to board the tram from the back, and alight from the front. Similarly, you will move to the upper deck from the stairs at the back, and exit to the lower deck from the stairs in front.
    • Pay your fare before you alight by tapping your Octopus card.

Travelling Home

  • Following this route, and a family of 4 with luggage, the most efficient way to get to the airport is to take a cab. From Mong Kok to HKIA will cost around HKD 300.
  • From the airport, the procedure is straightforward. Just follow the directions and you will be fine.

Food

Food sold in the hotels and casino can be pretty expensive in Macau. It is a good idea to stock up on some snacks at the airport before taking the ferry to Macau, as the casino areas do not have a single convenience store.

For cheap food, consider eating outside of the casino area, such as Taipa village. If you have to remain in the casino area, it is a good idea to locate the bakeries in some of the shopping malls. These bakeries tend to slash their prices after the late evening, so you can stock up on your breakfast or even lunch for the next day.

Food prices in Hong Kong varies depending on the location. Here is the Egg Tart Index that we have come up with. Plan where to have your meals strategically if you are on a tight budget.

Egg Tart index

Here are my recommendationsfor food worth trying:

  • Sheng Ji Porridge
    Signature Ji Di Porridge and Fish Belly Porridge
  • Yat Lok Roast Goose
    Roast Goose and Char Siew are must-trys. Don’t bother with the roast pork.
  • One Dim Sum
    Siew Mai, Char Siew Bun, Malay Cake, Carrot Cake.
  • Pork Chop
    Any cafe selling pork chop is decent. Try the standard HK breakfast set while you are at it.
  • 7-Eleven
    Alcoholic beverages are much cheaper in Hong Kong.
  • Yee Shun Dairy Company
    Steamed Milk Pudding.
  • Koi Kei Bakery
    Almond Biscuit and Peanut Cookies. This gift shop can be found in Macau and Hong Kong.
  • Street Food
    Egglet / Egg Waffle / Ji Dan Zai, Egg Tarts, Milk Tea.
  • Tang Shui Lao / Tong Shui Lo
    Red Bean Paste or Red Bean Soup. Signature dessert of HK.

Here are the food which I think you can skip:

  • The rest of the street food not mentioned above
  • Australian Dairy Company
  • Wanton Noodles

Of course, remember to feel free and explore. There are lots of hidden gems in HK. Consider using the Michelin street food guide. The recommendations are not bad.


Attractions / Activities

Booking your attractions or activities with Klook allows you to beat the queue, worth considering.

Museums are free on certain days of the week. Do some research before going.

Victoria Peak is a good experience but DO NOT go to the peak if the weather is foggy, you will not be able to see any scenery.

If you are attempting to hike on Dragon Back Trail, follow a comprehensive guide online, but take note:

  • Remember to press the bell to alight at the correct stop when you are taking bus to the start of the trail.
  • You can Google Map for the entire trail; there are data and GPS reception.
  • You will not be able to see any scenery after the first kilometers of the trail, due to the tall vegetation. Consider turning back and exit from the starting point instead (unless you want to visit the beach as well).
  • After returning to the bus terminal at Shau Kei Wan, consider having a meal at Aldrich Bay Market. There is a fantastic Zi Char stall, Siu Wah Kitchen.

Skip the Ladies Street in Mong Kok. It is totally not worth your time. Instead, visit Argyle Centre for better products and bargains.


Additional Pointers

There is no need for universal adapters the power sockets in Macau, HK, and SG are identical.

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Reading: Data Driven, by J. Dearborn

The author aims to draw out some insights from her past experience in implementing data analytics to improve sales performance in her organisation. I particularly appreciate the style of using a fictional story, of a company struggling to improve their sales and their eventual adoption of data analytics, allowing most readers to empathise with the protagonist, as well as relate the situations to the readers’ workplace. Here are some of the key learning points that I have picked up:


Preface

Sales as the Guinea Pig – we should all consider this when pushing for changes in our own organisation. Dearborn stated that about 80% of any companies is related to sales in some ways, and improvements in sales are easy to measure, and therefore more potential to gather support for the project following any initial successes.

Company’s Responsibility – I like the author’s thinking, that a company is responsible for preparing their staff with sufficient skills to manage technology changes in the workplace. Without any focus on proper training, layoffs are inevitable should the company continue to grow.


Chapter 1: Playing the Blame Game

The game that we are all too familiar with. When confronted with finding root cause of declining sales, all team leaders, from sales, per-sales, marketing, training, recruitment, product development, and operations, start pointing fingers at each other and making excuses for their situation.

Without making use of data, these leaders will end up setting unrealistic goals, solve the wrong problems (as root causes are typically identified based on “gut feel”), and end up measuring the wrong performance indicator.

I appreciate Dearborn pointing out the common bad habit of teams measuring efficiency instead of effectiveness as a justification of their performance. For example, an IT team is extremely focused on ensuring and reporting system up time, however they may be missing the fact that this system is not critical and does not contribute to the sales of other business units at all. When confronted with declining sales, the IT team never fails to pull out the system up time to justify their value and contribution, and starts shifting the blame to other teams. This is one of the factors that perpetuates the “silo” mentality that plagues many organisations.


Chapter 2: Pulling Back the Curtain

An important warning for every company venturing into data analytics. The landscape evolves constantly and there is no standard analytics taxonomy, so leaders who are embracing data analytics in their company must be comfortable with this mess. If you require every step of the journey to be properly structured and defined by some kind of “industry best practice”, then this is probably not for you.

Also, there are a lot of hype in the market, and some sellers pushing products and solutions to your face may be making unsubstantiated claims on their analytics capability. They may not be analytics at all, just some re-packaging and re-marketing of traditional solutions. So do yourself a favour, gather more knowledge before making any investments.


Chapter 3: Changing Mindsets

Start Small – If you start big and fail, everyone will lose their trust in data analytics, and be rest assured future projects will never take off, ever.

Company Leadership – The project must be headed by the management, preferably someone interested in fact-based decision making. Successful transformation of the company depends on changes in processes, skills, culture, not just the implementation of a solution.

Internal Capabilities – I feel that this is a crucial point that many top management failed to appreciate. No consultants or solution providers will be able to transition your company, without you first establishing internal analytics capabilities. Your internal team will understand the nuances particular to your business and are driven to use analytics to make changes with more motivation than any outsource parties. Of course, assemble the team with staff of the right skills and mindset is the key to success.

Other pointers from Dearborn are to not rush to outsource your analytics capabilities, and do not expect analytics solution to work like a silver bullet for your problems.


Chapter 4: Finding the Keys

Always start off by considering all the possible variables that affects the performance output that you are trying to improve. This is a brainstorming exercise, and a lot of the factors maybe eliminated eventually as they are not as significant as others.

Next, try to locate the data. It may be in multiple systems within the organisation, or it may even come from external sources, like firmographics. Not all data that corresponds to the variables may be available, and some data cleansing will need to be performed.


Chapter 5: Descriptive Analytics

Descriptive analytics simply use software tools to present the data in a meaningful manner. I like that the author warned the readers not to be too particular with the terminology, and to accept that all the analysis in the subsequent chapters may make use of the exact same tools, the difference is merely the way we use data and the objective we are trying to achieve.


Chapter 6: Diagnostic Analytics

The story described the use of a machine learning model trained to identify high performers and poor performers through a large set of input data. Once the model is able to predict performance with high confidence, the configuration within the model will point out which input variables has the greatest impact on the outcome, and those are likely the areas that the company wants to focus on.

Once key variables had been identified, the performance of each staff in the respective variables can also be identified, which highlights the areas for improvement tailored to each staff.


Chapter 7: Predictive Analytics

With limited resources, the company will have to prioritise which staff and customers deserves more attention. Using the same machine learning model in the previous chapter, the company will be able to identify deals which are more likely to close than others, , and staff who are more likely to under perform. This helps the company to decide on resource allocation, just in time to bring up overall performance.


Chapter 8: Prescriptive Analytics

The author admits that prescriptive analytics is an extension of all the above analytics, and it really isn’t a tool or a method. In my opinion, it is a systematic way of using the results derived from the above analytics and take action.

Descriptive analytics had helped to provide the mechanism to look at performance objectively in greater details. Diagnostic analytics had identified the key areas of improvement that matter more than others. Predictive analytics then highlights customers and staff that the company can work on for quick wins with limited resources. Finally, all it takes is to communicate with the staff that are most likely to improve with the least amount of resources, work on key areas tailored for the staff, and focus on customers that are most likely to close the deals.


Chapter 9: Celebrating Success

[Spoiler Alert] Of course the story has a happy ending. The company saw encouraging sales improvements and adoption of data analytics.

In summary, this book teaches an action model that is applicable to most companies:

  1. Identify key factors that affects performance, and collect data for those factors.
  2. Diagnose which factors have the most impact on results.
  3. Predict the performance and identify quick wins.
  4. Act on the areas highlighted, and continuously measure and improve on the action plan.

Open Source 001: Development Environment

It has been awhile since I developed anything for fun. This series will document the steps I have taken to get my own developments going. As the series title suggest, I will be referring to a lot of sources on the internet.


1. Virtualisation

I have chosen to use my gaming machine as the host since there are more system resources available, and honestly I was not willing to subscribe to any IaaS providers. The machine is running on Windows 10.

As we all know, if we are going to be dealing with a lot of open source programs, then a Linux OS will probably be more efficient than my current Windows 10. I have chosen to use Ubuntu through a VM on VirtualBox. Why I chose this arrangement over dual boot? I prefer to watch Netflix on my host OS while I compile stuff on my development environment 😛


2. Docker

I recently got to know about Docker technology. Sounds like a good way to do development on any machines without worrying about dependencies.


3. Node.js

I am using node only as an example since there are plenty of resources available online to guide me. Purely a personal preference. The following guides will cover instructions to install node, along with other software installation, and tutorial that covers the basics of node application development.

 


4. Putting it together

Now that I am able to build a simple full stack application, it is time to put all the knowledge together and make the application deployable everywhere.