Two Sundays ago, just after 1am, I picked sleeping Joan out of her car seat and carried her into our bed. She re-settled easily while I lay awake staring at the roof. After two weeks living the Hong Kong life, it suddenly seemed so big.
I don't think I've ever been happier to be home. The flight to and from Hong Kong is not particularly long, but it's not short, either, and in the final few days of our holiday Joan and I caught a bug. We've been taking it easy ever since arriving home - resting, making broth, doing laundry and pottering in the garden. And when it appeared we were both almost better, Joan developed an ear infection with a perforated ear drum. So, more rest. I've been saying no to a lot of things and keeping life slow and simple. It's what we're all needing right now. We had a wonderful time overseas and also a hard time. I found it physically exhausting, as Joan insisted on being in my arms for practically the entire trip. As it turns out, our daughter loves to travel and experience new places, just so long as she can be in my arms the entire time. I understand why, of course, as she found herself in a new and intensely stimulating place where people lavished her with love. While that may sound enjoyable to some, Joan has never been fond of receiving attention from people she's not completely comfortable with *insert "Stop looking at me!!!" gif*, so she stayed close. I grew extra arm muscles and the two of us became skilled at fitting into tiny toilet cubicles (because she even insisted on joining me in the toilet). Although to be honest, I liked the extra cuddles. That wasn't the hard part. For personal reasons that I don't feel like going into right now, our time in Hong Kong was also emotionally exhausting. And yet even so, we had such fun gallivanting around the city. That's life, isn't it? The good is so often intertwined with the bad.
The family wedding we attended was a blast and we were able to spend some really great quality time with loved ones, many of whom we haven't seen for years. Joan loved walking around the busy city streets and observing the different places and people. Watching her take it all in reminded me that, even at a young age, there are immense benefits to being exposed to new cultures, new sounds, new sights and new tastes. In addition to playing with her cousins, Joan's favourite activities were catching the Star Ferry, visiting the Big Buddha, eating "dumpAlings" and going to Disneyland to meet Minnie Mouse. The three of us shared some magical moments together in Hong Kong. Here are some of them.
Staying at an airport hotel the night before our morning flight.
I love flying and was hoping Joan would find the experience enjoyable, too (she's flown to Sydney a few times but nothing very far). And she did! We read loads of books, played with stickers, drew pictures and ate snacks. Joan watched episodes of Angelina Ballerina (the original one, the best!) and Playschool on the iPad, plus some Mickey Mouse on the screen in front of her. But she refused to wear headphones (even the cool, comfy pink ones we bought her), which surely made it far less interesting for her. Our intention was for Ben and I to swap Joan care/entertainment every hour, but because Joan developed a strong desire to be with me (thank goodness she was able to sit on my lap with the infant seatbelt during landing), that didn't really pan out. Though the 9 hours went faster than I expected and I was even able to watch some shows myself.
This nap wasn't long, but oooooh it was good while it lasted. On the way to Hong Kong, I watched about 4 episodes of Broadchurch, season 3. On the way back, however, they weren't showing it (BOO!), so now I'm left wondering, who assaulted Trish!?!?!?!?! I'll have to wait for it to come to Netflix at last, or just buy the episodes on iTunes. We flew with Cathay Pacific, as we wanted to fly during the day and they are one of the carriers who offer that option (the thought of a night flight with a tired toddler made me shudder). I wasn't impressed with their service on board, to be honest. When Joan was upset, I wasn't given any eye contact or a check in to see if I needed anything, which surprised me. Though their beef stew was mighty tasty... I hear good things about Virgin airline (as in, they actually acknowledge your existence and even give kids special snacks), so next time we'll check them out.
The view from my SIL's apartment.
Wandering around Central the morning after we arrived.
Breakfast at Tim Ho Wan. I'd been dreaming about their sweet BBQ pork buns ever since my last visit 4 years ago. Joan surprised me by eating the beancurd skin roll dish. When she's home, Joan generally eats whatever we put in front of her, but when eating out (whether on this trip or back home in Australia) she tends to, like many kids, get distracted by whatever is around her and eat very little (unless there's cake in front of her, that is). So I didn't have high expectations as to what she would eat, but many times she surprised me. If her mood was good and she wasn't tired, she'd have little tastes of things. And if there were veggies or omelette on the table that weren't cooked with a lot of oil or sauce, she'd eat them. Mostly, though, it was plain rice.
Exploring the quiet streets of TST while hunting for coffee one morning.
Mak's Noodle. Their noodles and wontons were good as we remembered. Also, we brought paper and pencils with us where ever we went.
Ben's cousin, Ven, took us to Repulse Bay for a beach break and a Western-style breakfast.
This is how Joan would nap when we were out and about - strapped onto me in the Ergo carrier. She used to nap like this all the time as a baby, and although it took her a few times to get used to it again, before long she was falling asleep like a pro. Luckily she's not too big and could still fit in it. Our Pognae carrier (which we were kindly gifted) would have been better, but it's a bigger and we didn't want to take up more luggage space. Also, coffee coffee coffee. This photo was taken the morning after a hard, heartbreaking day, and all I wanted was IV caffeine. The Cupping Room came through with the goods and Joan woke just in time for some croissant.
Last year, the three of us did some modelling for a company that is distributed in Hong Kong by Ben's Uncle. It was so weird to stumble across some of the boxes in a shop window.
Up on the peak. We found December to be a great time of year to visit Hong Kong. It wasn't humid or too hot, and the air felt much cleaner compared to when I've visited before. I highly recommend it.
THESE DUMPLINGS WERE SO GOOD! My brother-in-law tipped us off to Cheung Hing Kee, which was close to our hotel. This was a pre-dinner snack.
Exploring together and generally making my heart burst.
As I said above, Joan would mainly eat plain rice at meals. To add extra nutrients and variety to her diet, I kept vegetable juices in the fridge and made meals and snacks out of ryvita, natural nut butter, preservative-free dried fruit, chickpeas, canned fish, bran, yoghurt, and fresh fruit and vegetables (I steamed broccoli when we were staying with family, at at the hotel carrots worked well). Most of these things I picked up at City Super, Marks & Spencer Food Stores or Market Place. The juices were from Genie Juicery and they were delicious.
Catching Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back again was possibly Joan's favourite thing to do.
Occasionally we needed a break from eating out. This was dinner one night when Ben was at a bucks party devouring pork chops with spinach rice from Delicious Kitchen. Chickpeas, broccoli, avocado, corn and tuna.
Walking around The Peak with Ven. I adore this kind, clever and beautiful woman.
Ben's seafood birthday dinner, cooked by Ven's mother, Ivy (with delicious wine). We were truly spoiled by our beautiful family. We stayed in their gorgeous home for 5 nights before moving to a hotel on Kowloon side to be closer to the wedding and Ben's sister.
Our view from The Park Hotel. Watching the world come to life and deciding what to do with our day.
Breakfast at Hung Lee, a classic and popular cha chaan teng restaurant that serves food like congee, noodles, fried dough, french toast, scrambled egg sandwiches and Chinese milk tea. This was around the corner from our hotel. Cha chaan teng isn't my favourite sort of meal, but you've got to try it. Ben loves it.
Wandering Tsim Sha Tsui.
In my arms + eating snacks. Classic Joan. We didn't bother bringing a pram, as we knew Joan would likely tolerate it 10% of the time and probably only for 30 minutes, before we'd need to carry her AND it.
Breakfast at our hotel was usually Genie Juicery vegetable juice plus plain yoghurt (with bran for Joan. She loves the stuff, it's hilarious), banana and peanut butter. We'd eat some variation of this in our room while waiting for the coffee shops to open. On the occasions she didn't eat much at dinner, Joan would also eat something like this in the evening.
Visiting the Tian Tan Buddha statue. When we first decided to come to Hong Kong, I wanted to show Joan pictures of the place we'd be visiting so she became somewhat familiar and the culture shock wouldn't be so big, so I borrowed a guide book from the library. The thing that most grabbed her attention (reinforced by a book on Hong Kong that her grandparents bought for her), was the Big Buddha. So we knew we had to visit it. Getting there is a bit of an effort; you have to take multiple trains and then ride a gondola (which is, quite frankly, terrifying), but it is so worth it.
This is one of our most favourite, peaceful spots in Hong Kong. The nearby Po Lin Monastery serves a delicious vegetarian lunch, which, based on the way she devoured it, appeared to be the meal Joan most enjoyed on the entire trip.
Catching a train and reading a book. We kept many books in our backpacks to entertain Joan while taking public transport or waiting in lines (side note: when taking transport, usually I'd strap her into the Ergo carrier as her "seatbelt". Not ideal, but that was our solution). She's a normal two-year-old, though, and sometimes the waiting would get to her and she'd delight those around her with a symphony of whining. Also, sometimes I would feel faint (which is not uncommon for me) and be unable to carry her. But because she'd prefer to sit on the ground and wait for me to pick her up again rather than have anyone else carry her, I'd crouch down with her while she cried her feelings out. I would tell her that I understood what she wanted and that it must be frustrating, and eventually either she'd get up and walk or I'd feel well enough to pick her up again. #ToddlerLife. Having said this, more often than not, books were a happy distraction.
We ummed and ahhed about taking Joan to Disneyland, as we were uncertain she'd be able to fully enjoy it. But then she received and fell in love with a Minnie Mouse toy, and my niece told us that there were indeed a number of rides suitable for two-year-olds, so we decided to go. And thank goodness we did! We had the best day. Joan met Minnie and Mickey, waiting patiently in line for a photograph then running up to them for a cuddle. We went on three different rides, twice each (the spinning teacups, carousel and Dumbo ride), as well as the "It's a Small World" boat tour (where you see creepy, dancing dolls) and a 30 minute stage show featuring Disney characters (where Joan spent a large portion of the performance yelling, at the top of her lungs, "Where's Pluto? Where's Mickey?"). We bought her Minnie mouse ears and a pluto toy, and she even ate a Mickey mouse waffle. We lived the good life that day.
More waffles back in TST. Hong Kong egg waffle, hot off the press. We all loved these.
Delicious Indian food at Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant.
On the final night, Ben's birthday, we checked into Hotel Icon. This hotel is so good! The rooms were huge and sleek and comfortable, the dining options were brilliant and the view from the rooftop pool was stunning. We only wish we splurged a little more and stayed two nights.
So thankful to have this guy as my partner in life. We created the most amazing human being, too.
ACCOMMODATION: For the first half of the trip, we stayed with family on Hong Kong island. Afterwards we moved to Kowloon side and stayed at the Park Hotel, as we wanted to be close to family and the location of the wedding. This hotel was great, the rooms were pretty big and included a bath, and the staff were very helpful. We also loved the location! TST is a busy, exciting place and we had easy access to Star Ferry, as well as good food, good coffee (N1) and Western-style supermarkets (for veggies and other snacks, as per the photograph above). We then moved to Hotel Icon for one night and that was SO AWESOME (see photographs above for more notes).
ACTIVITIES: our favourite things to do with Joan in Hong Kong (besides spending time with family) were catching Star Ferry; going for a walk around The Peak (alas, we never caught the tram up to the peak as the lines were too long); visiting Big Buddha and Disneyland; hanging out in Central, Causeway Bay and TST for all the shops and colours and activity; buying sneakers from Mong Kok (Joan chose pink ones, of course) and eating noodles + dumplings. Really, there is so much to do in Hong Kong, and getting around by public transport is so easy.
FOOD: we ate some delicious meals at the following places.
M&C Duck: we loved this restaurant and visited twice for their amazing pork buns, spring onion pancake and shanghai fried dumplings. It's clean and big, the dishes taste fresh and they have a great outdoor seating area with a view of Hong Kong Island.
Mak's Noodle: this place is an institution, with various locations across the city. Visit for a bowl of their signature wonton noodle soup.
Cheung Hing Kee: delicious dumplings. Great for a take-away snack.
Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant: I wish we could have visited this restaurant more than once. The food was so good! If only we had a place just like this around the corner from us at home. We'd be there twice a week, I have no doubt.
Mak Mak: we met friends at this restaurant for lunch and the food was really good.
Ruamjai Thai Restaurant: we went here with family. Kowloon City have excellent thai restaurants and the food here was fantastic. Joan drank out of a coconut and then mixed rice with coconut flesh. She had a blast.
Po Lin Monestary Vegetarian restaurant: after climbing the steps to the Big Buddha, we love visiting this place for their set meal.
COFFEE: The Cupping Room, Noc and N1 were our favourites.
VEGETABLE HIT: besides the vegetarian restaurants above, to get a good dose of vegetables (as we are used to basing our diet around them and crave them!) we would buy fresh veggie juices from Genie Juicery and visit supermarkets like City Super, Marks & Spencer Food Stores or Market Place, favouring the expensive, imported organic produce.