Lay Off Vacation: Hong Kong

I didn’t intend to write about our lay off time since it was our vacation.  We spent the first week with our family relaxing by the pool in Pattaya, Thailand, and the second week in Hong Kong.  We saw so much that I really felt I needed to share our experiences.

I had always wanted to visit Hong Kong.  Our following city would be Macau, so it made sense to grab this opportunity since Macau was only a short boat ride from Hong Kong.

The flight into Hong Kong was a beautiful sight as both the city and mountains came into view.  It was instantly my favorite image from a plane.  The airport was modern and just seemed to sparkle clean in comparison to the one in Bangkok.  As we walked through immigration, they checked the girls’ temperature. We had never seen that happen before.

Our hotel was on the shore of the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour.  It was a wonderful hotel with the largest bed we had ever seen. I think it was the equivalent of two king size beds together.  We could easily lose each other.

The head carpenter from the first part of the tour, Tim, lived in Hong Kong within blocks of our hotel. He had offered to show us around.  His guidance made our visit so easy. We were able to see this city traveling as a local would.  I’m sure we saw much more than we would have on our own and he seemed to love teaching us all about the city he now calls home.

Tim advised us to buy Octopus cards.  They’re used for all public transport, but you can use them for many other things too, such as shopping and even museum entrance. The public transport in Hong Kong is clean, reliable and covers the city well.  We only needed to take a couple of short taxi rides our entire time there.

The area around our hotel felt like somewhere we could live. Actually, it was very similar to where we live since we’re next to a harbor overlooking NYC. There were plenty of shops and restaurants. I was able to get the best manicure I’d had since we left the US.  There was also an awesome kids play center in the mall.  This was the only hotel we didn’t eat at.  There were just so many options close by and we really wanted to try everything authentic.

Tim and his wife, Mimi, took us to two of my favorite dining experiences.  Firstly, Chinese tea, which was Dim Sum.  When I was still living in the UK I used to go to a Dim Sum restaurant in Southend.  My favorite dish was Char Siu Cheung Fun.  I hadn’t found it in NYC, but when I explained it to Mimi she knew exactly what I meant.  When the food came, I was so happy to taste that dish again.  Olivia and Eliana really liked the dumplings which had soup in them.  They loved the experience of this restaurant, but when I asked if they would like dim sum any other time on tour they always said no.  Their favorite was easily the hot pot restaurant and from the moment they tried it, they wanted it every day!  You’re given a pot of broth, meat and vegetables.  You cook them on the stove in the middle of the table. It’s delicious and a really fun way to have a meal.

My friend Phil, who I had known since my early twenties in the UK, also currently lives in Hong Kong.  He was only home for one of the days we were there, so we met him for dinner.  He took us to a restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.  This area was not too far from our hotel. It’s the bustling center on Kowloon with lots of shopping and restaurants.  There happened to be a Smurf village on display which Eliana almost flipped over.

When Olivia was in the Sound of Music, I used to spend hours entertaining Eliana in parks while Olivia was rehearsing or performing. At that time, Smurfs 2 was in theatres. We saw that movie quite a few times and then we would search for the Smurf portal in the parks.  Obviously we never found the portal despite the hours in Central Park in the place the portal was meant to be. At least Smurfette was kind enough to send Eliana a card for her birthday. Finally, when we saw the village, Olivia and I cheered that we had found it at last. Unfortunately, Eliana is now three years older and was not falling for that at all! She loved it anyway.

Onto some of the magnificent sights we saw in Hong Kong.  First up, a trip to Lantau Island and the Big Buddha.  We took the cable car onto the island.  You have the option to upgrade to the Crystal Cabin.  I absolutely suggest doing this.  The floor is glass, so you initially feel like you’re going to drop out of it. A little thrill, but you get used to it quite quickly.  This was definitely the longest cable car ride we had been on. We  traveled over endless mountains and couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to do it. There were low clouds that sat just on top of the mountains.  It was just stunning and through the clouds appeared the Big Buddha.  It really took my breath away.

We disembarked the cable car to take a short walk to, guess what? A whole bunch of steps to the top of the Buddha! We climbed to the top and walked around the observation landing.  I can’t even put into words the feeling of awe and peace I felt being there.  Of course then there was the nerve wrecking walk down those stairs.  At the bottom we visited the Po Lin Monastery.  We each lit incense which we placed in containers thinking of our intentions. We walked around the beautiful monastery before taking the cable car ride back.

I had a small list of things I wanted to buy in Hong Kong.  Chop sticks, bowls, our name written in Chinese framed, and a Chinese dress.  Tim took us to the Stanley Market to hunt for these.  It was quite an excursion getting there.  We took the Star Ferry which goes from TST to Central. From there we hopped on a bus.  We drove through some really lovely areas.  There’s just so much variety in Hong Kong, from tall buildings to mountains to beaches.  The market was fabulous. It had everything I needed and more.  It was crazy hot, so we didn’t shop for long.

Another “must see” sight while visiting Hong Kong is The Peak.  We took the tram to the top.  You can walk, but I wouldn’t, even without kids. I’m all for killing two birds with one stone, and getting in my exercise, but that’s a bit much, especially in the heat.  The tram ride was all part of the experience too!  We’ve been to the top of quite a few tall buildings, but this was something else.  You could see the entire city in all it’s glory.

One place you probably wouldn’t get to if you only had a couple of days in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Museum of History.  It’s definitely worth the trip.  I knew this wouldn’t be something Eliana would really enjoy, but Olivia loves learning and don’t forget, I’m still homeschooling. I had made a large part of our curriculum based on the places we were visiting.  It turned out, Eliana did in fact enjoy this museum.  It was small enough to not be overwhelming and she liked learning about where she was.

We visited another couple of markets, but Stanley was definitely our favorite.  We also saw a wet market which kinda made the girls feel a little sick. However, they had no problem eating fish in the evening. We took buses, trams, ferry’s the cable car, and the metro. We had spent five days in which we fully explored this terrific city and we loved every minute of it.  Only one day left and we would be spending it celebrating Olivia’s 10th birthday at Hong Kong Disneyland.

As I had mentioned earlier, I wanted to go to Hong Kong for such a long time.  It was at the top of my bucket list of places to go.  In my head I had planned to spend my 40th birthday there, but the girls were too young and I didn’t want to leave them to go on vacation.  My family met us in Orlando that year and we went to Disney World instead. So here we were in Hong Kong, not for my 40th, but for Olivia’s 10th at Disneyland.  Funny how things work out.

There’s a Disneyland Metro Line.  The cars have Mickey Mouse windows, so you already feel the magical buzz of Disney before you’re even there.  Hong Kong Disneyland is relatively small, so we were able to go on all the rides we wanted in eight hours and that was with taking some breaks to get out of the heat.  Olivia had a 10th birthday she will never forget and Hong Kong Disney was celebrating it’s 10th birthday too!

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