Hong Kong is everything I love about Asia wrapped up for me like an early Christmas present that looks so interesting and full of colour I need to tear it open quickly!
Our friend Andrew, who had lived in HK for over 8 years, warmly greeted us at the airport. Now, many tell me that I am a 'high energy' person who never stands still - well next to Andrew I sometimes feel like I am motionless while he moves on a super charged treadmill.
Andrew led us down to a bus terminal where we caught a public bus to our hotel located in downtown West Kowloon, and the area can best be described as 'a bit dodgy'. However, it is located conveniently close to the Nam Cheong train station that services our 'big ticket items' of tourist spots, and as we walked to the hotel I scoured the surrounds for some points of reference for future train travel so I could find the hotel again. A long street lined with jackfruit trees and apartments with washing hanging out the windows make a left, and next to the shop with the hundred old washing machines out the front where a pocket-sized dog lives in a shelf make a right. Check!
Despite the dubious location the hotel is great which was a relief as finding a property to take 3 kids was no mean fete. It is a little boutique hotel called 'The Ovolo' and our tiny 3 b/r apartment is on the 25th floor with sweeping views of Kowloon and across to the harbour.
Bags thrown into the room, a quick beer from the free mini bar (!), and Andrew suggested we catch a ferry over to Hong Kong Island, and we commenced a long trek which started off with us pushing through 5000+ Kowloon locals towards the local train station, big hands gripping little hands tightly and Henry sitting in the pram with his eyes popping out of his head at the sight of more people than he had ever seen in his life. We eventually found the train, then the ferry across to Hong Kong Island, and the kids marvelled at the great expanse of water that joins the two main island, and considered analysis from Oscar who noted that the Chinese Junks were indeed proof that the pirate ship business was alive and well in China.
Day 2 Marco and I parted ways on two very different forms of extreme exercise. Marco joined Andrew for a leisurely 23km run which included hiking the 'Twin Peaks' with a 1700metre climb - roads, hotels, parks, tram tracks, harbours and cross-country. I decided against Marco's advice of staying in the small apartment with the 3 kids (!) and armed with a stroller, ergo (baby backpack) and Oscar and I in our new walking shoes we hit the road. We caught ferry's, trains, plodded through mazes of shopping centres and found our bearings in this enormous city. I was delighted to find that most HK residents were not (as I often am) horrified my the DF trio's behaviour but entertained - and I was assisted at every turn by people willing to help me lug the pram up and down stairs or help me find my way.
Our experiences with food have been a mixed bag, partly because for us traveling with small children means that often culinary planning is made quickly and 'emergency like' in comparison to travelling without kids where careful planning and consideration is easier to manage. We also need to choose places that are suitable. As we have found out for a family of 5p we can eat 'cheap and cheerful' for about AUD$40 a meal consisting of a mixture of dumplings, noodles and drinks at local Cantonese cuisine which I can describe as edible and average. For an extra $20 or $30 we can have a truly delicious experience and far preferable.
Our day trip to Disneyland was of course the highlight for the kids, especially Henry who was delighted with the street food Disney had to offer and demolished an entire smoked turkey leg on his own. Toy Story Land, 'It's a Small World' ride and Adventure Land were the biggest thrills for the older kids, the river cruise on Adventure Land life like- kids literally jumped out of their seats and threw themselves on the ground in fear at the robotic elephants and tigers! Poor Isabel stalked the Disney Princesses all afternoon and continually missed out on a photo due to the long lines of eager princesses fully decked in 'Queen Elsa' outfits who outranked Isabel in both attire and parents who dutifully followed directions like ladies in waiting for where princesses could be located with ample time to get a photo.
Christmas Eve we headed to Lantau Island on the train and headed to see 'Big Budda' on the Ngong Ping 360c Cable Car which was fabulous, all 5.7km's of it with superb views.
Possibly embarrassing to Marco (but heh, what the hell)…the fluctuating temperature changes have had him in a constant state of -hot/cold/hot' which has required him to remove and reapply his thermal wear constantly. None were more surprised than the lone elderly Chinese woman who shared the cable car with our family who was visibly shocked by Marco removing his entire shirt so he could put on his thermal top as the temperature plunged. I can't speak Cantonese but I am pretty sure 'WTF' in death stares translates across all languages…
Tourist behaving badly indeed L
We visited the Po Lin Buddist Monastary, and we all climbed the 260 odd stairs to Budda. I had the task of carrying all 13kg of Henry in the backpack, which I told myself at least partly made up for the 1,000 dumplings it feels like I have eaten in a few short days.
We have finished our stay in Hong Kong with a wonderful Christmas Day, despite it being cold and wet the kids loved travelling on the tram to 'The Peak' where we managed a hazy view of Hong Kong.
Christmas lunch at the Michelin 1-Star Din Tai Fung, feasting on spicy dumplings was always going to beat traditional turkey, and the bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (St Petersburg vintage) back at the hotel was a lovely finish to a wonderful week.
Tomorrow we head to Beijing to commence our travels through mainland China, the thermals are packed and the kids are hoping for snow. Forbidden City and Peking Duck here we come!
Merry Christmas to all xxx