Saving A Slice of Hong Kong: The 2015 AirAsia Travel Photographer Search

There are all kinds of photography competitions lately, but for a photography enthusiast like myself, I enjoy seeing entries and challenges that require someone to get a new perspective. The 2015 AirAsia Travel Photographer Search is different because all of its contenders are not professional photographers, but amateurs who come from different sectors completely unrelated to photography, making for an interesting contest.

I recently visited Hong Kong together to learn more about it, with Parc Cruz (the photography coach), Paul Vincent Delfin (the contender) and the rest of the team from AirAsia Philippines and ThinkDharma Inc. – the official distributor of Nikon in the Philippines.

About the Coach

Parc Cruz knows all about starting from the fundamentals. Having no technical training in photography, Parc Cruz, started learning the craft of photography as a hobby back in 2005. He confesses that it took a lot of trial and error before he reached this level of skill—now he is known for his portraits and cinematic shots, which has inspired other hobbyists to take up photography.

Coach Park and Paul at work
Coach Park and Paul at work

Parc’s skill has made him a privileged member of Nikon’s pool of endorsers; he has since traveled around the Philippines and abroad, imparting and encouraging other photo hobbyists to develop their creativity. He conducts workshops with a team of like-minded photo hobbyists, and together they encourage wannabe photographers to learn the basics and cultivate their own distinctive style.

About the Contender

Paul Vincent Delfin is a full-time barista. He loves art, indie music, football and loves to take long trips. Paul prefers to visit rural areas so he can soak up the local culture and enjoy some authentic.

Paulo Delfin getting Photography tips from Coach Parc
Paulo Delfin getting Photography tips from Coach Parc

He is very eager to learn photography because he finds it as a form of art—doubtless something encouraged by his enjoyment of travel.

Touchdown, Hong Kong!

#TeamHK gathered at NAIA Terminal 3 for our Hong Kong flight via AirAsia. Because of runway congestion, our flight was delayed by an hour. Fortunately, our schedule was not affected since we didn’t have any activities scheduled upon arrival in Hong Kong.

Upon arrival, we took a cab and headed to Ramada Kowloon Hotel Hong Kong, our official residence for four nights. We left our bags in our respective hotel rooms to have a hearty dinner together. While waiting for our food, Coach Parc continued giving photography tips to Paul, our contender.

One excellent piece of advice he shared encapsulates the essence of the whole competition: “Our objective is not just to capture a photo but to share a story out of the photo,” Coach Parc shared to Paul. Coach Parc imparted everything in a straightforward and practical manner to him, something which I, as a photography amateur, appreciated very much.

Day 2: Of Buddhas and Boat Trips

After having breakfast, we proceeded to Tsing Yi MTR Station—our nearest jump-off point to Tung Chung Station, where we started our 5.7km cable car journey.

TeamHK inside MTR
TeamHK inside MTR

Inside the well-ventilated cabins, Coach Parc started giving tips and instructions to Paul. Though our view was partially obstructed by the thick cabin glass, our contender Paul didn’t have a hard time capturing a panoramic view of Tung Chung Bay and the vast verdant scene.

The shoot became more intense and exciting at the same time when we finally saw the bronze Big Buddha Statue from Nei Lak Shan Angle Station. The Big Buddha is one of Lantau Islands’ most popular attractions.

We got off the cable car and waited at the beautifully landscaped Ngong Ping Village for our Tai O Fishing Village tour. Our tour started with a bus ride to the 300 year-old fishing village. Tai O is home to the fisherfolk community of the Tanka people, who built their houses on stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau Island.

These entrancing, precarious-looking homes are interconnected, creating a maze of a community that literally lives on the water, and is an absolute dream to photograph for its sheer intricacy and detail.

Tai O Fishing Village in Lantau Island
Tai O Fishing Village in Lantau Island

A new manually-operated drawbridge was built to replace an old-fashioned, rope-drawn ferry that had been operating for over 85 years. This drawbridge spans a small creek that divides the town. After visiting the village, we took a short walk in the local dried fish market.

We then set off to visit the Big Buddha. We went with Paul up the high 268 steps, and were immediately rewarded with an up-close look at the statue, as well as a majestic view of the mountains and the vast sea. We were not alone during this part of the trip, as this incredible Buddha is a magnet for pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.

Just a hop and a skip away, Po Lin Monastery, known as ‘the Buddhist World in the South’, is known for its beautiful gardens, devoted monks and richly-detailed manifestations of Buddhist iconography. Just stepping into the monastery gave one a feeling of peace and serenity—truly a highlight of the trip!

We were able to depart from the island and take the cable car back to Tung Chung by 3 p.m, so we enjoyed a late lunch of flavorful Hainanese chicken at the Citygate Outlet food court—and it was so filling that we were only able to manage a light dinner at McDonalds near our hotel, where we promptly called it a night.

Day 3: Harbors and High Points

We first had late lunch at the Citibank Building to fuel us for the long day, then headed to Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station at 2:30pm to go to Central Station—our objective that day was to take a ride on the famous Peak Tram and get a sweeping view of the city. The Peak is a Victorian-era train which conveys travelers all the way to the highest peak on Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, the area was quite crowded when we arrived, so we opted to go to Harbour City for an equally wonderful view. Harbour City is the largest shopping area in Hong Kong , where one can admire the harbour and the city’s soaring skyscrapers.

Victoria Harbour at Night
Victoria Harbour at Night

As the sun set, we lingered at the Victoria Harbour, where we snapped photo after photo of Hong Kong architecture dipped in the evening light. We capped off the day by going for a night market spree and dinner at Mongkok.

Day 4: Trams and Tussaud’s

This was our free day, with no fixed destination, so we decided to go back to The Peak and try our luck again. Though it was still quite crowded, we were informed that if we availed of the HK$320 package, we would only have to wait 10-20 minutes to get there. We still had to wait for almost an hour just to get into the Tram, in the end.

Bruce Lee at Hong Kong Wax Museum
Bruce Lee at Hong Kong Wax Museum

I was worried that we were going to waste our time in a tourist trap, but I was surprised to feel that everything was still worth it when we reached the top. The view of the Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor from The Peak was truly spectacular. Before heading to the Sky Terrace, we also dropped by Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum to take some photos—and yes, selfies—with life-size wax depictions of famous celebrities and historical figures. Definitely a great way to end our Hong Kong journey!

A Journey To Remember

Upon the fifth day, it was time to leave Hong Kong. Coach Parc was able to be so helpful during the entire experience that I was able to pick up a few lessons from him. He was definitely a great source of advice to Paul as well, and I was definitely inspired to cultivate my budding love of photography and attend a formal class soon to get a better grasp of the fundamentals.

All the contenders are done with their shoot, and there are quite a few incredible photographs awaiting the voting public. Check out once they’re uploaded. Voting will be open to everyone on Aug. 20, 2015—and some lucky voters will have a chance to win BIG Points from AirAsia, as well as awesome Nikon cameras. Stay tuned, as the 2015 AirAsia Travel Photographer Search Grand winner will be announced on Sept. 11, 2015!

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