#wanderlustexperiences | Londongirlsabz

Travel tips for other mums and dads from real life experiences.

 

Hi,

I am a lifestyle/fashion/travel blogger who has a 23 month year old baby. We like to travel, try new places and new fashion and blog about it!

In reality, I have a PhD in Genetics and run my own medical communications business. I love blogging so I do that in my spare time and pretty much treat it as a diary of my life!

I have one baby girl and we (me and my husband) are Londoners who love this city and can’t get enough of it! (I mean who can? There is always something new!)

We hope our tips help other families travel happier with their kids!

In which country, region or city do you live: London

Website: http://www.citychiclifestyle.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/citychiclifestyle

Instagram: @londongirlsabz

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How old was your child the first time you went on holiday with them and where did you go?

First time she was 11 months and we went to Lanzarote in Spain

What important items do you always take with you on your travels?

Good question!

  1. Her bunny! (soft toy she sleeps with)
  2. 2-3 Books of stickers (each has over 100 stickers!)
  3. Colouring pencils and colouring book
  4. Ipad with all her nursery rhyme and cartoon videos uploaded
  5. Her usual bag (diapers, milk, calpol and baby Benadryl [just in case, change of clothes, wet wipes)
  6. Any interactive toy small enough to fit in hand luggage!

Have you ever forgotten something important at home?

Her bunny and we had a REAL hard time!

What was your favourite destination and why?

Last year when she was about 14 months we went to Crete. In terms of travelling with a baby, it was a really good destination

We stayed in Elounda at Princess Yaiza Resort. The town and hotel are super baby friendly and they even have a day crèche so the holiday was really relaxing with happy parents and a happy baby!

travel with kids children wanderlust experiences londongirlsabz venice st marcus square

Where would your child/children love to travel to if they could choose?

Difficult one as she is sooo young

She likes places where she can run around – parks and beaches are her favourite places right now

Definitely not a city-traveller!!

Do you usually travel on your own, with other family members (e.g. grandparents), friends or nanny?

Not really though we did have a family holiday with grandparents in Cannes last year

What do you think travelling abroad teaches your children?

I think it opens them up to new cultures and new experiences. They learn to accept differences and similarities amongst people, learn to eat new varieties of food, respect other cultures, understand their history, food, lifestyle, etc. Just opens up their mind, I guess. It also helps shape early education e.g. new languages, history, art, etc

There is so much of the world to see and so much to learn – they need an early start

Conversely, you learn so much from the child. Seeing new places through a child’s eyes can be a real experience for parents too!

Do you have any tips or hints for other parents that make your travelling easier and more relaxed?

  • Always travel with their favourite soft toy (one they sleep with)
  • Take loads of distractions with you on the plane e.g. colouring books/pencils, stickers, games, etc
  • Ipad was a life saver for me – it keeps her quite on the plane and in the buggy
  • Research the destination, and especially, the hotel carefully in terms of being child friendly
  • If the hotel doesn’t have anything re “childcare” or “families” on their website, AVOID!
  • Check the city you are going to is child or buggy friendly – we really suffered in Venice due to the lack of high chairs everywhere and all the stairs!
  • Plan activities for the child and yourselves so they can have fun too. Seeing museums all day will not be their idea of a holiday!

How long in advance do you book a holiday?

At least 3 months

travel with kids children wanderlust experiences londongirlsabz venice canal

What makes your holiday perfect?

Good hotel

Good destination

Relaxation

And a happy baby!!!

Do you plan all the activities and sight seeing in advance?

We try – as much as possible

Are you still one of those people that uses a travel agencies for all your holiday bookings or do you plan everything on your own?

We plan ourselves

What is your favourite activity as a family when you are away?

Beach definitely! Just building sandcastles, swimming, running around, playing with fish!

Thanks to Londongirlsabz for the insights and advise.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences about your travels with children, please feel free to email me at wanderlustplusone@gmail.com. I will then email you the questionnaire template and some other requirements for the post. I am looking forward to hearing from you…

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong | Wandering across the Rustic Island of Cheung Chau

Exploring another of the outlying islands of Hong Kong. Part 1

On a prior day we had enjoyed our hike across Lamma Island, one of the outlying islands near Hong Kong, so much that we wanted to explore more of these less well-known islands.  Cheung Chau once was a refuge island for pirates but has grown into a modest fishing port so this became our next target to visit. The island is slightly further from Hong Kong and the ferry also takes slightly longer to get there than Lamma. As the ferry entered the harbour of Cheng Chau it was immediately noticeable that the island was more densely populated then either of the villages of Lamma Island. Most of the buildings appeared to be built on the flat, narrow strip between the hills rising to either side. We were greeted by American convenience stores mixed with local souvenir shops and restaurants. The fisher boats were also much grander in size then the small ones we had seen at Sok Kwu Wan the day before. They also seemed to be much more prepared to go out for a big catch in the Chinese Sea.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong neon lights

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong old ladies

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong fishermen

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong fisher boats

After landing we wove ourselves through the crowd of locals who were going about their daily lives as usual, completely unaware of the few tourists that de-boarded with us. A fisherman sat on the harbour wall repairing one of his nets and Jerome curiously watched him. A shop sold live fish and other sea creatures in water tanks, ready to be fished out and cooked for lunch or dinner. While cycling is also great option for exploring the many temples and beaches we planned on walking some of the many trails that criss-cross the island.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong restaurant

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong fresh fish

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong architecture

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong new years decorations

The colourful Pak Tai temple was our first stop along the walk, set behind a football pitch it is the focus of the annual bun festival. Cheung Chau is well known for its steamed, savoury buns, and you will not fail to notice them when visiting the island. They can easily be recognised by their red stamp and you can even buy their form in all kinds of souvenirs, from pencils to pillows in the shops throughout the village.

Pak Tai temple is the oldest on the island, dating back to 1783, it was recently renovated and is back to is full splendour now. Two rainbow coloured dragons adorn the temple’s roof, however, do take a closer look, especially children might like to discover the little details underneath, where little wooden figures show scenes of the daily life. Inside the familiar scent of incense surrounded us and we could see a few courtyards leading off to either side. Stepping through a moon gate we reached a beautiful, mosaic picture of a tiger with its cub. Jerome really liked the mosaic and the bright colours of the tigers. We then ventured into the other courtyards looking at the details of some of the colourful wooden carvings before leaving the temple.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong pak tai temple

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong pak tai temple dragons

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong pak tai temple decorations

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong pak tai temple moon gate

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong pak tai temple

Our walk continued from the end of the football pitch, along the road next to the shoreline. We passed some residential apartment blocks and run down buildings, before reaching a small beach with the cemetery on the other side. Just past a public toilet and the entrance to a posh villa complex we turned right, walking on the tarmac road up the hill.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong architecture

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong cart

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong old umbrella

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong residential housing

After a short incline we reached a viewpoint with a Chinese looking pavilion. We could just make out the skyline of Hong Kong in the mist and had wonderful views of the town of Cheung Chau below. We realised just how narrow the town was, built between the two hills, with the harbour to one side and a long sandy beach to the other.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong view

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong beach

The path led us back along the islands family trail towards the town. This time we passed the top of the cemetery and as I am always interested in visiting them we made a brief stop to look at the graves. Most of them had photos of the deceased, some were obviously urns buried behind plates of marble whereas the other graves were in the ground and had proper graves stones. Past a playground and down a few steps and we were back at the temple where we had started from less than an hour before having completed one loop of one side of the island.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong cemetery

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong cemetery

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong flowers

To cross the town this time instead of walking on the harbour front we headed for Pak She Street, which goes through the centre of town, parallel to the harbour and the beach. There were lots of small shops, selling all kind of goods, including a small toyshop where we had to stop. Jerome was browsing through the array of toys, mostly cheap, plastic goods before continuing our stroll. Once we reached the end of the road we turned left and ignored the little shed, called Lock of Love, consisting of nothing else but a fence with thousands of lovelocks and heart shaped plates latched to it. The idea was probably taken from one of the many love locks bridges found all over the world these days, a concept I have never been able to fathom at all.

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong buns

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong souvenirs

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong cat

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong kong dried octopus

travel with kids children cheung chau island hong shrine

To be continued in my next post…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamma Island, Hong Kong | A Hike along the Island’s Family Trail … continued

Our walk across the island with a break on the beach and sunset view on the ferry ride back into town.

For the first part of our walk across Lamma Island please read here.

From The top of the hill, we could see the sandy beach at Hung Shing Yeh. Jerome could not wait to get there and almost ran ahead, down the hill. Considering the last few days in Hong Kong had been a pleasant temperature of around 20C but certainly not warm enough to go for a swim in the sea, we were lucky that on this day the actual temperature was much higher and warm enough for us to change into our swimming costumes and laze on the beach. The beach was equipped with changing rooms, showers, toilets and a convenience store. The boys played in the water, while I watched them and the other people on the beach. The beach had a different designed lifeguard tower in a happy go lucky pink, with a stripy sunshades, a contrast to those on our previous walk. No lifeguard in sight though, most local people would probably not consider it swimming season yet.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island hung shing yeh beach

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island hung shing yeh beach sand castles

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travel hong kong with kids children lamma island hung shing yeh beach lifeguard tower

There also was a man with a straw sunhat and a rake pulling a basket behind, raking up the dirt and rubbish from the sandy shores. I went to put my feet into the water, which was pleasant, but not warm enough to tempt me to rush in. To the left side we could see the huge power station, which is responsible for illuminating Hong Kong and the outlying islands. Some people might be concerned about coming to an island that is home to a coal power station like found on Lamma, but checking websites and forums, everyone agrees that the pollution is pretty much the same everywhere in Hong Kong. The water quality on the beaches of Lamma is also always rated as very good and if you fancy a beach away from the tourist trap of Hung Shing Yeh, head to Lamma Power station beach only a few minutes walk away. Lots of locals come here to avoid the tourists or to walk.

After our time lazing we went for lunch at the restaurant behind the beach. We luckily grabbed some free seats on the terrace, overlooking the walking trail and the beach with the sea shining through the trees. The restaurant does not deserve to praised in any kind of form for the taste of its basic food, but it surely must be in line for the longest French fries in the world.

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Leaving the beach behind we wandered on towards Yung Shue Wan. The trail winds its way along, beneath the shady canopy of trees and past the lush green hillside. There was the odd residential house perched in between. We reached the outskirts of the village fairly soon and the path turned into a wider road. Children on their bikes passed us, there were locals returning with shopping bags and woman hanging their washing out onto the line in the sunshine or on the balcony. There are no cars allowed in the village, which makes it a very pleasant stroll but watch out for some crazy cyclists rushing around the corners.

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Hung Shue Wan village itself is slightly bigger than Sok Kwu and in the street behind the seafront we could see a selection of shops selling daily essentials and there also were plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from if anyone wanted to stay on for dinner. We made a little detour to the village temple, Tin Hau, with its two stone lions and the signature incense spirals slowly burning under its roof. Opposite the temple was a playground and sports field and we watched some of the kids playing football for a while.

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Walking back down the main street that follows the curve of the bay to the other end we found the pier for the ferry. The walkway to the pier was decorated with red Chinese lampions and colourful bunting. There were bikes upon bikes parked all the way down the pier, which was no surprise as this is the easiest and fastest way for locals to get around the island.

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Some people might consider returning to Sok Kwu Wan for dinner, which is definitely a possibility, as the return four kilometre walk would only take about an hour or so if you just keep on walking non-stop. The other option is to take one of the ferries to Hong Kong Island.

With children in tow Lamma makes a great day out, away from the city, especially if it is warm enough for a swim in between. The Family trail is paved the whole way and there are no steps which would make it possible to take a pushchair, but I personally would advise against it as it is not too far for little legs, but that is just my personal preference.

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The ferry came shortly after and there were plenty of people disembarking, returning home from a day of work in down town Hong Kong. I have to say the island feels like being in a different world and yet it is so close to this vast city. People living here, surely must have a better way of life than being cramped into one of these huge tower blocks on the main island. We enjoyed our ride back on the ferry. The sun was just setting behind the skyline of Sheung Wan and Central, which made the window fronts of the buildings glow like gold. The perfect ending to a beautiful day in the city state.

 

 

Lamma Island, Hong Kong | A Hike along the Island’s Family Trail

The first part of our walk across Lamma, through a charming little fisher village and with amazing views across the island and the Chinese Sea.

A hike on the Lamma Island Family Trail had been high on our list of things to redo during our stay in Hong Kong. We remembered walking the popular route last time and had especially liked the mixture of charming villages on either side of the island with a stop on the beach in between away from the traffic of the main city. We went to the Central ferry terminal straight after breakfast for the short boat ride to the island. We had packed some snacks and water and very important, our swimming stuff into our backpack to take along. Many tourists do not venture outside of the main Hong Kong and Kowloon areas but visiting the other islands and districts gives a very rewarding experience and I can certainly recommend finding the time for that if you are there.

The walking tour can be started either by taking the ferry to Yung Shue Wan or Sok Kwu Wan village. We did the latter, the time before we had taken the walk from the other end of the island. We decided to start at this end of the island, as the ferries from Yung Shue Wan were more frequent. Having boarded our ferry at pier number 4, we chose seats on the deck outside, to get some fresh air and enjoy a window less view during our ride. There were a number of other hikers and a few locals with us on the boat when we left the pier. The skyline of both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was still shrouded in misty clouds as we chugged out of the docks, but we could see that further away from the city the sky was blue and the sun was shining, another benefit of escaping the high rises in the centre. We admired the soaring buildings and tower blocks from afar, with “The Peak” rising up behind and Jerome took a special interest in the passing boats.

travel hong kong with kids children central ferry pier

travel hong kong with kids children central ferry pier view kowloon

travel hong kong with kids children victoria bay ferry ride

travel hong kong with kids children central skyline view

travel hong kong with kids children first ferry watching

On the way out of the main harbour we spotted the Star Ferries, some junks sailing up and down the harbour and the fast ferries to Macao, lifted up in the air, overtaking us at superfast speed. There also were some car ferries, laden with trucks and huge container ships waiting to enter the massive container port at Kowloon. After a short while we left Victoria Harbour and the bay of Hong Kong behind and were out at sea where we could see some of the outlying islands on the horizon. Lamma Island can easily be recognised by the three tall power station chimneystacks towering over the islands hilly landscape. After sailing past a lush, green hill with a winding road the outskirts of Aberdeen were visible to our left. Ocean Park came into sight, where we had spent some fun times on the crazy rides a few days before.

travel hong kong with kids children fast ferry macao

travel hong kong with kids children car ferry mamma island

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu fisherfolk village

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu fisher boats

Shortly after the boat turned into Picnic Bay. We could see the stilt houses of Sok Kwu Wan village and the fishing rafts of the Lamma Fisher Folk ahead of us. After exiting the ferry we walked past the many restaurants that are raised over the water here and make the village a popular food destination. I particularly liked the row of restaurant with their checked tablecloths and plastic flowers but we have yet to have the chance to enjoy lunch or dinner there.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu restaurant

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu restaurant terrace

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu restaurant chefs recommendation

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu early lunch

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu dried mushrooms

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu restaurant menu

After a short walk through the village we soon had come to the end of the small settlement and reached Tin Hau temple, which dates back to 1826.

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travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu advertising

Once outside the village we got a better view of the Fisher Village on floating rafts in the bay. Sadly the number of traditional fisherman in Hong Kong has been on the decline for years now but here at Sok Kwu the community has set up a new concept to attract tourists and therefore help to support the local fisherman and their families. Unfortunately the set up for the Fisherfolk Village was not yet finished during our stay but I am sure it would make a great addition to the Family Trail on Lamma Island to learn more about the history and daily life of the people here on these floating rafts.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu fisherman

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu fisherman rafts

We crossed a little bridge, with residential houses on either side and walked along the trail next to the shoreline. Jerome had remembered the caves and soon enough we could see the dark entrance to one of them. These caves, also called “Kamikaze” caves date back to WWII. Jerome and I ventured into one of them and were slightly disappointed to find they looked just like any ordinary cave, dark and damp. They were built by the Japanese occupying forces and were supposed to house motorboats loaded with explosives to disrupt allied shipping during the war, however, these were never used. From here on the path slightly inclines and passes a modern pavilion next to a rubbish-strewn beach. This is one thing we noticed during our entire stay again and again in Hong Kong in different places that rubbish would just be left everywhere.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu architecture

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu flowers

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu local architecture

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu kamikaze cave

Higher up we strolled through the small settlement of Lo So Shing, consisting of a few houses and some locals working in their fruit and vegetable gardens.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island lo so shing village

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island lo so shing village farm

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island lo so shing village field

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island lo so shing village shop

The higher we got the better the view of the bay, with the many boats and rafts and the houses below. Once we had reached the highest point of the trail we finally got a view of the chimneystacks poking out behind the hills and with the outline of Cheung Chau, one of the many other islands in the calm waters of the South Chinese Sea. We could also see a deserted beach, which is accessible from the path by a longer detour but as we had not brought a full picnic and lots of drinks with us we gave it a miss.

We walked a bit further and found a quiet spot where we had a break and ate some of the dried mango and refreshing water from our knapsack looking at the view.  Perhaps we should have waited slightly longer before resting, because as we turned a corner and reached a Chinese style pavilion, there was a lady with her cart, selling fresh pineapple and coconuts in the middle of no where. We bought a fresh coconut and an ice-lolly for Jerome.

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island sok kwu village view

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island lo so shing village view

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island landscape

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island hung shing yeh beach

travel hong kong with kids children lamma island chinese pavilion

Part two will follow very soon, I decided to divide the post into two parts, as I had too many photos…

Kowloon, Hong Kong | Afternoon Tea at the Ritz and a Ride on the Star Ferry at Night

An afternoon with tea at the Ritz, a stroll through the busy streets of Kowloon and a ferry ride back to Hong Kong Island.

This is the follow up post to our morning wandering through the many markets of Mong Kok.

Next to the entrance to King’s Park on Nathan road we visited the atmospheric temple of Tin Hau. This small temple is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the ever-present incense smoke could be smelled and seen from outside of the building. Underneath the open centre were rows of coiled incense spirals, slowly burning beneath the grey Hong Kong sky. Outside on the square we saw beggars and fortune-tellers with their tarot cards. We knew what our immediate future and started to walk through the Temple Street Night Market, where the vendors and food stalls were just starting to set up for the afternoon and evening.

hong kong with kids children kowloon tin hau temple

hong kong with kids children kowloon tin hau temple

hong kong with kids children kowloon tin hau temple incense spirals

hong kong with kids children kowloon tin hau temple

A few blocks west from Tin Hau Temple we found the Jade Market.  A covered market hall, with around 400 stalls selling jade and other semi precious stones in forms of pearls, necklaces and braces.  We did not want to buy anything at the stalls but it was certainly a different and interesting sight so see.  Unless you are familiar with stones it might be advisable to not spend too much money there as you can never be sure you are actually getting the real thing justifying the price you would pay.

hong kong with kids children kowloon tin jade market

hong kong with kids children kowloon jade market

The Night Market is a great place to try some Chinese Street food. Seated at one of the tables on stools under the chain of bare light bulbs we had had dinner here on our last trip.  It is a popular location for an inexpensive dinner with authentic food and the possibility to share a table with locals from the area.  It is perhaps an experience no one should miss on a visit to Hong Kong.

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hong kong with kids children kowloon street market stall

hong kong with kids children kowloon street market shopper

hong kong with kids children kowloon street market stalls

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hong kong with kids children kowloon street market seller

After a brief pause here and then walking on to the corner of Jordan road we turned right towards the tall and modern towers of Austin and Kowloon metro station. It is incredible to see how many flats are squeezed into these skyscrapers and such a foreign concept for us, being used to live in low storied apartment blocks or detached houses in London.  Imagine the amount of people living in these blocks, thousands…but I guess with the ever increasing demand of housing in these vast cities it is the only way forward and maybe many of the world cities will follow suit over the coming decades.  We soon reached the complex of buildings of Union Square, with the ICC Tower as the main stand out super skyscraper on Kowloon’s side of town.  The ICC tower is the highest building in Hong Kong, 469m tall and it serves mainly as an office building with an exclusive designer shopping mall on the first three floors, the Sky 100 observation platform and the luxury Ritz Carlton Hotel on the top six floors.

We were meeting a friend for afternoon tea at Café 103 of the Ritz Carlton.  After a walk through the maze of shops in the malls we ended up at the posh lift lobby for the hotel. We were guided into one of the lifts by a friendly staff member and whizzed up to the 103 floor, which almost felt like being back on a roller coaster at Ocean Park thanks to its fast ascend.  We received a very warm welcome and were guided to our table in the luxurious café, overlooking one of the restaurants on the floor below.  Sadly we were not able to get a table next to one of the windows to enjoy the amazing view but the food made up for that.  We had a delicious chocolate themed afternoon tea, with plenty of cakes and savoury bites with our friend who lives in Hong Kong.

The brief journey to the toilet afterwards was almost more rewarding than the meal itself as the floor to ceiling windows gave an impressive view of the harbour and Hong Kong Island.  The sunrays shone though the gaps of the clouds and reflected on the sea and the boats below, it incredibly beautiful to see.  If I would have the chance to stay in the hotel, I probably would never leave the room and just enjoy the changing views from its window, what a sight it must be at sunset and night time with the colourful neon lights shining on the other side of the bay.

hong kong with kids children kowloon highrise architecture

hong kong with kids children kowloon highrise architecture close up

hong kong with kids children kowloon ritz carlton restaurant

hong kong with kids children kowloon ritz carlton view

travel hong kong with kids children kowloon ritz carlton hotel view

We could have taken the metro from below the complex but Jerome wanted to take the Star Ferry back across to Hong Kong island side.  We strolled through Kowloon Park past the indoor and outdoor swimming pool, the Aviary, pretty lakes with flamingos strutting along the shores and at the Kowloon Mosque at its far corner.  Once we excited the park, which is a great place for a refreshing escape with children away from the hustle and bustle of Kowloon’s hectic streets, we found ourselves on Nathan Road. This part of Hong Kong is much more commercial and less authentic than the parts we had explored earlier that day.  We saw plenty of Asian and western shoppers on the hunt for the next retail fix, outside some of the designer shops we even saw long queues.  We ignored all the stores and dodgy men approaching us, trying to sell us fake designer goods, heading for the quay.

hong kong with kids children kowloon park pavillion

hong kong with kids children kowloon park flamingos

When we finally reached the Star Ferry terminal the sun was just setting and we could watch the lights across the bay light up one after another. We waited until it was completely dark and then took the next ferry across Victoria harbour to the New Wan Chai Ferry Pier. Jerome has always loved a ride on the ferries, any child or adult would and no trip to Hong Kong is complete without having taken a ride on one at least once. This wonderful fleet of electric-diesel ships with their unique green and white design have been a long-standing institution since 1870 so remain a must see site for any traveller and especially with children. To get the most dramatic ride, take the short ride across the bay at night from Kowloon to Central like we did, grab a seat on one of the wooden seats or benches on the upper deck next to the window at the front and enjoy the ride – if you are lucky, you might even see one of the junks with their signature sails gliding past. To use the Star Ferry use your Octopus Metro card or purchase tokens at the Star Ferry Terminal.

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hong kong with kids children kowloon central skyline

hong kong with kids children kowloon skyline by night

On our walk back through Wan Chai and some of the seedier parts of town with clubs and bars we were transported straight into the atmosphere a Wong Kar Wai film.  The brightly lit, rainbow coloured neon lights were shining up on us from everywhere. We did not know where to look, completely overwhelmed by the buzz of the lights.  This is another mesmerising side to Hong Kong that should not be missed.  We could so easily get lost in the streets and admire the signs.

hong kong with kids children wan chai by night neonlights

hong kong with kids children wan chai neon lights

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A short hop on the tram back to our hotel left us with a complete set of Hong Kong modes of transport for the day.

Kowloon, Hong Kong | A Walking Tour through the Colourful Markets of Kowloon

A visit to the Flower, Bird, Goldfish and Ladies Markets of Kowloon.

With a full week in Hong Kong and after a fun day out at Ocean Park the day before, we had some more sightseeing on the program with Kowloon side in focus for the next day. We took the metro from Wai Chan to Prince Edward station on the Kowloon side of the Hong Kong harbour. From there it is a short walk to the famous Flower Market Road. We found the street to be lined with shops and stalls filled with fragrant and colourful flowers and potted plants. There was everything on sale from tulips, to roses to expensive and rare orchids. Some of the flower heads were individually wrapped in foam to protect them from being damaged by transport. They reminded us of the carefully packed fruit we had seen on our trips to Japan. I thought about buying a bunch of flowers but then again I would be carrying it around with me all day long so contented myself with looking. Jerome liked the look of the decorative bamboo plants and the decorations for the New Years Celebrations as well.

hong kong with kids children mong kok flower market lemons

hong kong with kids children mong kok flower market roses

hong kong with kids children mong kok flower market carnations

hong kong with kids children flower market orchids

hong kong with kids children mong kok flower market stall

At the end of this street is the entrance to the Yuen Po Bird Garden. Seeing the birds in their elaborately carved cages, made from teak or bamboo always make Jerome sad. He would like to buy the whole lot and set them free…as it seems a shame to keep birds in tiny cages in the local tradition however beautiful the cage. We could see old man seated in their stalls, reading newspaper or chatting to each other. There was no client in sight when we were there, it is believe that these birds bring good fortune to the keeper, which is why they are still a popular feature in many households throughout the country. Walking past these tiny cages we could see that some of the birds were bright yellow, while the feathers of others were a more subdued hue. They definitely sang melancholy melodies as we moved on.

hong kong with kids children kowloon yuen po bird garden

hong kong with kids children mong kok yuen po bird garden

hong kong with kids children kowloon yuen po bird garden shop

Having left both the bird and flower market behind we walked back into the direction of the metro station. We turned left into busy Tung Choi Street and after passing a few bike shops we were immediately immersed in the many shops selling goldfish – the goldfish market is also famous and a fascinating place for children (of all ages!).

Lined along the walls of the stores we could see rows upon rows of plastic bags with live fish inside. The sight of these poor creatures was even more depressing in a way than the birds in their cages. Some of the bigger fish had barely enough room to turn around and swim in the bag. There were thousands of them…Who would buy all these fish? Surely not every household in Hong Kong has an aquarium? Some of the fish were obviously goldfish but there were other more exotic and weirdly shaped fish for sale too and some of the rarer varieties demanded extortionate prices. Few of the shops actually had the fish in aquariums or tanks, like you would find in the fish shops in western countries. We walked along the road and discovered that some even sold other animals beside fish, there were turtles, some albino frogs and even cats and dogs for sale. Most children will probably love the sight of all these animals, it is a bit like being in a zoo, where all the animals on show are for sale. However, Jerome has always had a sensitive heart, cares for all living things and does not like any animal cruelty and he was trying to rush us to move on at times.

hong kong with kids children kowloon goldfish market

hong kong with kids children kowloon goldfish market

hong kong with kids children kowloon goldfish market

hong kong with kids children kowloon goldfish market albino frogs

We left this somewhat sad part of the market behind and strolled along the busy road of downtown Mong Kok famous for its many different markets and a popular shopping destination for locals. A few blocks further down the road, we arrived at the next street market, Tung Choi, also known as the “Ladies Market”. There we found stall after stall crammed onto the street, most of them selling cheap clothing and bags, but also a selection of other tat from toys to household items. Some of the items very distinctively copied of famous designer items. The quality was according to the low price tags and we dismissed any efforts of the shopkeepers to try and sell us anything.

Jerome did find a little stall with a large selection of Rubic’s cubes in all sizes and shapes. He had recently been interested in trying to solve the original cube, with a little bit of help and hints from Chris. It seemed more like Chris was actually the one taking the cubes off the table and trying to see how they might work. My brain has never been able to process the functioning of the toy and I wandered off to look t some of the other stalls.  Chris was very interested in the different versions on show as he had solved the original without any hints or instructions when he was a teenager and it first came out. In the end the boys bought two unusual cubes and I got some cute umbrellas, which are in a hard plastic case and look like Japanese dolls. If you plan on buying anything at these markets always try to haggle the prices down a bit as they usually ask for much more than they are in other shops at first.

hong kong with kids children kowloon street signs

hong kong with kids children kowloon goldfish market road

hong kong with kids children kowloon ladies market

hong kong with kids children kowloon ladies market

Tung Choi street ends at a hospital, straight behind is King’s Park, which is a great spot for a pause of the hectic streets of Kowloon and a very welcome break for kids of all ages to let of steam. Smaller children will enjoy the playgrounds.

Instead of going to the park we walked east along Dundas Road and then turned towards the Yau Ma Tei fruit market on Reclamation Street. The market was still how I remembered it from our first visit a few years before, the stalls selling delicious fruit in the crumbling building. On one roof nature had already taken over and we could see a tree growing from its wall. I always enjoyed watching the locals here, buying and selling their fruit. Some older woman sat on the pavement with their selection of goods, probably grown in their own gardens. We watched some older men play Mah Jong, the famous Chinese tile game, which we as a family like to play on weekends sometimes. The men, cigarettes casually in the corner of their mouths, played much faster than us. Despite their chatter they appeared to be absolutely engrossed in the game and not taking any notice of the happenings around them.

hong kong with kids children kowloon old fruit market stall

hong kong with kids children kowloon old fruit market oranges

hong kong with kids children kowloon old fruit market shoppers

hong kong with kids children kowloon old fruit market architecture

hong kong with kids children kowloon old fruit market mahjong players

Find out where we went afterwards in my next post, coming up soon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean Park, Hong Kong | A Fun Day Out with Crazy Rides and Incredible Animals

Our trip to Ocean Park in Hong Kong

Ocean Park had been on top of Jerome’s list of places to go back and visit during our stay in Hong Kong. He had enjoyed our last visit two years before a lot and would not stop telling us to go. Sometimes you get to the point where you give in, what did it matter to us if we went a day earlier or later?! Over excited we jumped into a taxi after breakfast and were among the first people to arrived just before the park opened. We bought our tickets and entered the park. The park is divided into two parts, the “Waterfront” and the “Summit”. It is a good idea to make a list of the rides you want to experience and then head to the most popular ones first to avoid long waiting times. Especially if like us you get there early to avoid crowds. Despite Jerome’s excitement none of us are really big theme park fans, especially the inevitable queues.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china entrance

Like last time we decided to make our way via gondola to the “Summit” before the queues would get too long. In case you do not fancy a ride on the gondolas you can always take the Ocean Express train, which connects the two part of Ocean park with an underground train. We walked along the fake old Chinese town to get to the gondolas and as expected were able to board immediately. The gondolas first took us up the hill, over some luxury villas with swimming pools and the alongside the coast with its little islands and boats breaking up the calm sea. Once we were over the hill we could see the hair-raising loops of the roller coaster and the end station of the gondola ahead of us in the distance.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china fountain

hong kong ocean park with kids children china cable car

Ocean Park

hong kong ocean park with kids children china gondola view

Jerome was keen to go on the Raging River water slides and we went there first as it was the furthest away from the top. We did a few rounds on the ride before we were too drenched and the waiting time got longer. Chris and I then went onto the Mine Train, a roller coaster train, which even the younger children can ride and probably put Jerome off roller coasters for life (not a bad thing perhaps!) after his ride on the train during our last visit. He said he did not mind waiting and watched us zooming by. We then went up the escalators and back via the motorboat pond to the Thrill Mountain.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china summit

hong kong ocean park with kids children china train roller coaster

hong kong ocean park with kids children china motor boat

There Jerome and I went on a Chair O Plane kind of ride, which was fun but nothing overly exciting. I then braved myself for an upside down ride on the “Flash”. A few screams later and some hairs looser from my ponytail we walked back to the crazy looping roller coaster, called “Hair Raiser“. The boys had dared me to go for a ride on it and I decided I was going to show them I could do it and would not chicken out. The boys went for a few rides on the bumper cars, as boys do, while I queued with other crazy people for the ride of my life. When we got to the front and I we were supposed to board the coaster I nearly decided I was too old for these kind of rides, I had always wanted to go on the rides at Fuji-Q in Japan, but in the end I went. I sat next to a shy Chinese girl who looked like she was about to cry, that’s how scared she was. I do not remember much from the ride, apart from the screams and how quickly it was over. I walked back to find the boys on my now jelly legs, they were still bumping each other in their cars.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china clown

hong kong ocean park with kids children china carousel

hong kong ocean park with kids children china flash ride

hong kong ocean park with kids children china upside down

Jerome wanted to go for a ride at a different water ride on the rapids. Close to the rapids is the Expedition trail which took us straight into the heart of a rainforest. There we saw some of the beautiful creatures that live in the rainforest, like toucans, frogs and beetles. The trail also informed us how important these vital forests are for life on earth and how to protect them.

One of the big differences of Ocean Park to Disney Land in Hong Kong is that Ocean Park is partly a zoo. This not only makes the trip more educational but also brings some variety into the visit. What child, big and small does not enjoy seeing some wild animals? We have seen some animal species here that we have never had the chance to see at other zoos or aquariums before.

Before leaving this area we went into the Polar zone to see the penguins, walrus, seals and a polar fox. Inside the building was much cooler, obviously to make the creatures feel more at home in their artificial habitat. Jerome has always admired seals, while penguins used to be one of my favourite animals. I am still always fascinated how fast they move through the water and love it when they dive in. No surprise that this exhibit seemed to be very popular with younger children and toddlers.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china water rapids

hong kong ocean park with kids children china polar bear

ocean park hong kong with kids children penguin

Back outside in the humid Hong Kong air we went for a few rides on the water rapids and got almost drenched again. Lost in time, we only realised how late it actually was when our tummies started to grumble. There are plenty of restaurants and food stalls throughout the park. We opted for the restaurant underneath the gondola station but there already was a long queue and we did not feel like waiting for half an hour until we could finally be seated. We then walked down to the eateries next to the big wheel, where we actually, sad to say, ended up at McDonalds. That way at least we knew what food we were getting and not much in the park is anything other than fast food.

After our rather unhealthy lunch we went for a few rounds of the classic chair-o-planes. Still one of our favourite rides and one, that brings back childhood memories for me.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china carousel

hong kong ocean park with kids children china chairoplane

hong kong ocean park with kids children china balloons

hong kong ocean park with kids children china lampoons

I mentioned earlier that Ocean Park has a selection of exotic exhibits and is part zoo. The jellyfish exhibition is one of those, as soon as we entered the dark rooms we were mesmerised by their beauty. There are many tanks with different species on display, I could do without the changing LED lights but I’m sure it adds to the atmosphere for some of the visitors. I could stand in front of these tanks for hours and watch these creatures slowly float by. Funny how we are usually scared of them when we swim in the sea and this way we can admire them without needing to worry about being stung. The moon jellyfish are still among our favourites and there are thousands of them to be seen.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china jellyfish

hong kong ocean park with kids children china jellyfish

hong kong ocean park with kids children china jellyfish

hong kong ocean park with kids children china moon jelly fish

Jerome by then was keen to get back to the other side of the park to see his favourite exhibit, the red panda. Unfortunately the queue for the gondolas was long and it took us about half an hour to finally board one of them.

The red pandas share a huge building with the giant pandas. Ocean Park is one of the few places in the world that has a pair of Giant Pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le are a delight to see. Giant Pandas either eat, which one of them was doing, or sleep, which the other one was during our visit. Jerome was more interested in the red panda running around his pen and climbing up trees. They have some cat like features and a cuddly looking bushy tail. Jerome said he would love to have one as a pet at home, he would be more than happy to take one instead of a cat.

We let him dream on for a bit and then wandered out and straight into the world of goldfish. There are many varieties of goldfish on display in the aquariums and ponds that fill the room. Goldfish have had a longstanding history in Chinese culture and we learned a lot about their importance and message they convey to the people. Jerome was looking for the goldfish that looked like his back home in our pond but ours were too boring to be found in more than one display. We found some of them to be quite ugly, with nobbles on their head and other disfiguring features, but especially these ones were considered to be beautiful in China.

hong kong ocean park with kids children china cable car

hong kong ocean park with kids children china red panda

hong kong ocean park with kids children china red panda

hong kong ocean park with kids children china giant panda

hong kong ocean park with kids children china giant panda laziness

For our final stop on out tour through the park we ended up in the “Grand Aquarium”. It certainly is a good aquarium to visit, with many incredible fish species, like the rays and sharks. The tunnel and dome add to the excitement of the experience but we had been to better aquariums before. Our senses were probably also overloaded from all the things we had seen and done all day and therefore did not take as much time looking at all the fish and other sea creatures as one could.

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 We were not the only ones leaving the park and there was a long queue for the taxis. We took the bus back into town and walked the distance from Admiralty Bus Station to Wan Chai. We had a quick dinner at the local Chinese Noodle restaurant, Wing Wah Noodles, opposite the Southorn Playground, next to Wan Chai station. Oodles of noodles to choose from, we went for a standard noodle soup with dumplings albeit the less exotic offering. The food was nothing special but was good value and served the purpose of filling our tummies.