The next adventure

The next family adventure is scarily just around the corner (8 days to be precise). As I type M has settled himself into a hotel in the city we will soon call home. It’s officially “official”, we’re moving to ‘the home of the mythical merlion’, ‘the lion city’, ‘disneyland with the death sentence’, ‘the ‘fine’ city’, call it what you will….Singapore.

Having known this for some time our approach to Hong Kong has stepped up a gear. Indulging in more meals out, weekends away, spa days, beach days and as many moments with friends as we can. Suddenly all the opportunities/experiences we’ve failed to do in the previous 22 months are staring us in the face. The weather, although hot and humid, has been sunny and blue skied (with little pollution) making the joy of Hong Kong all the more intense. How will we cope with the move? To leave our friends? To start again?

Here’s the highlights from the last few weeks:

Our weekend in Sai Kung (many thanks to the Neale family for making this possible) and a trip to the secluded beach of Wan Hoi. Sadly our Sunday excursion to Tai long Wan (the most talked about beach in HK) was halted thanks to a typhoon warning.

Wan Hoi view from the coastal pathbeach to ourselves top dads

Our indulgent meal at the infamous and beautifully styled (with an equally stunning HK view) Hutong (so dark that barely one photo came out).

dimly lit Hutong

And our return visit to Disney. Yes it was busy, yes it was hot, yes it was sweaty but yes it was fun. Perhaps the best day ever for a certain three year old.

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A tail of two markets

PMQ

The PMQ is becoming something of a design hub in fashionable soho. The redundant Police Marital Quarters has been transformed into a vibrant collection of shops and design studios. It’s a beautiful building and the renovation (which took years) has been well done. With an array of small shops with interior products, fashion, jewelry, artisan bakers, cafes etc etc. Everything to meet the needs of the design savvy consumer in Hong Kong. To celebrate it’s opening it’s been holding a series of night markets where it throws open it’s doors, welcoming visiting food, drink and craft vendors to it’s open air courtyard and beckons in the crowds. It was a balmy June night when we visited, we wove our way around the premises, soaked up the vibrant atmosphere and enjoyed a local artisan brew.

glowing a social courtyard retaining original features

On the same weekend our favourite local scooter venue, ‘fire dragon path’, held it’s own artisan market. Using the ever popular ‘ticket’ scheme where you buy a book of tickets to use as payment to purchase things from vendors (a scheme which means you’re left with a couple of tickets in your pocket and the organizers a couple of tickets richer). The street fair offered delicious local food and drink made locally and on a small scale. Every vendor passionate about their product, every visitor happy to accept free tasters and most people happy to exchange some vouchers for some treats. Remarkably the quaint eating area (think trestle tables, wooden chairs, gingham table cloths and pretty pot plants) which lined the entire length of the 100ish yard lane stayed just as it was overnight – only in Hong Kong. A special thank you to Lola’s Ice Pops who once more (first tasted at Clokenflap) tantalised our taste buds.

Lola's

The underground mosaic

While the London Underground is old and dark, the Hong Kong MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is light and airy. While the London Underground trains work to a rather erratic schedule suffering many delays, in HK they’re punctual and efficient. In London it costs an arm and a leg to get anywhere, in HK you get change from ten dollars (77p) to travel from our house (Tin Hau) to the city centre (Central).

Hong Kong can boast about its efficient, clean and reliable underground train system, it is indeed a dream to ride, however where it lacks is on the creative front. This is where London can boast, with its variety of historic stations, many are far from formulaic and dull. Hong Kong sticks to simple primary colours, in the iconic small mosaic tiles, to differentiate between stations across the whole city. Tiny mosaic colours frame large advertisements, not art, if indeed they haven’t been stuck over them.

Central is one of the busiest MTR stations on HK island and it’s here that you’re unusually greeted with a pretty example of chinoiserie in the form of a mosaic.

central station MTRbirdlargely ignored

Although most people head straight past it as they lead busy lives, some possibly notice it. Stop and look and you’ll pick out some of HK’s iconic landmarks. It sparkles in the station yet is subtle in its execution. It might be unnoticed my many but I am glad it’s there to brighten up my underground experience.

Farewell friends

It’s July in Hong Kong and the weather is beautiful if not a little too humid. It’s sunny most of the time, the pollution appears to be at bay and we witness stunning sunsets from the living room window if we’re lucky. From the BBQ area of our apartment block you can just about glimpse the tops of the Kowloon skyline opposite and the trees of the nearby Victoria park.

It’s not a bad place to invite friends for a bit of a knees up. Occasionally a breeze blows through and the heat becomes slightly more bearable (it is topping 36 degrees by the way).

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Friends came from all across Hong Kong, they brought delicious food, bubbly and gifts. We cooked boerewor sausages (or rather our veteran South African sausage chef did), prawns and chicken, ate salads, munched on baguette (finally we’ve found the real thing in HK) and drank coconut water, Tsingtao and bubbly (the favoured beverages in HK). There was Lego, trikes, tantrums and tears. A fitting farewell to our dear friends of Hong Kong.

1600 pandas

 

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1600 papier mache pandas are making an impact on HK after doing the same in cities round the world including Paris, Rome, Grenoble and Taipei.  As the South China Morning Post put it: “it’s panda-monium!”. The clever people at WWF teamed up with French artist Paulo Grangeon to help raise awareness of their dangerously low head count. Scarily only the same number (1600) remain in the wild. Amazingly the tour has taken 8 years to get to HK.

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The pandas did a little tour of several hotspots of Hong Kong (TST, Victoria Park, statue square) and even had a ride on a ‘ding ding’ (tram). They finally settled fro three weeks at the newly refurbished PMQ (see pervious post). The cute little things (for the majority were no more than 40cm long) are attracting steady crowds and doing exactly what the WWF set out to do. Just how many Chinese can ignore one of their national treasures (and resist 1600 cute faces)? Apart from being told off for sitting on the tiny barrier (nothing new in HK) E and O enjoyed their encounter with the paper animals. E perhaps a little disappointed when she found out they weren’t real.

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Promenade

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On beautiful sunny days when you don’t feel like trekking across the island to the beach or taxiing to yet another park there’s nothing more satisfying than a stroll along side Victoria Harbour. The simple view of it is like Hong Kong slapping you in the face. It’s ‘fragrant harbour’ IS what makes it stand out from all the other world cities and even after months living here you never tire of it’s sight.

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From home a short tram ride takes us to North Point where we catch the ferry across the harbour to Hung Hom. On the water the views are the best. Even in this hectic, busy and polluted city once on the water you feel away from it all.

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Once at Hung Hom in East Kowloon a long promenade greets you and leads all the way to Tsim Sha Tsui and the ‘Star ferry’ back to Wan Chai.

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Every so often we make this journey. It’s simple to do, costs very little and is immensely satisfying.

Easter bunnies

Not just one Easter bunny visited Tai Hang this year but a family of eight! All chocolate and wrapped in gold with red bows and jingly gold bells. One of the many highlights of having a visitor from the world of Lindt.

easter egg hunting

Our two guests (E & J) arrived on Saturday and had barely got their feet under the table before they were hitting the town for an evening of cocktails and nibbles at Cafe Gray at the Upper House. Cafe gray with it’s chic decor, impressive views and beautiful cocktails proved to be the perfect place to kick back and catch up. 

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A true Hong Kong institution is the BBQ – the beach BBQs being the creme de la creme. Not wanting to miss out, this is a Hong Kong must after all, we booked one of Liu’s BBQ pits at Shek O beach with E’s best friend Lily. HK$225 for a BBQ with coals (lit by Liu herself) and a fine grill for the top, even a wind break when a breeze struck. As most barbecues are, it was a true meat feast, however with prawns, squid and veggies on the grill everyone was happy.

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It opened our eyes to the assortment of items one can barbecue; every possible cut of meat, noodles, vegetable parcels, scallops, mussels and giant prawns. It seems Hong Kongers but anything on the BBQ.

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After gorging on a feast the best place to head is the sea. Then as dusk fell the pits got louder, music boomed, beer swelled and it was certainly time to get two little ones to bed.

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From the glitz of high rise bars to the grunge of local late night noodle shops we had a ball. Traveling on the faultless and efficient MTR (underground) followed by the rickety old trams. Indeed this is the true Hong Kong, a melange of old and new, east meets west.

Once more we feel lucky to have friends prepared to make the long journey to see us. Once more we see Hong Kong through visitors eyes as we venture to places new.

 

http://www.cafegrayhk.com/cghk_en.html

Liu’s Barbecue, Shek O – +852 2809 4579