With Sam’s aunt in town we thought, what better way to spend a three day weekend than taking a quick trip down to Hong Kong to do a little sightseeing and get another couple vaccinations for Charlie. We took a leisurely approach to the trip and while we didn’t see all the sights, we had a lovely time and look forward to going back someday soon.
Crack of Dawn Departure to Hong Kong
To make the most of our time in Hong Kong and avoid taking vacation days we opted for an early Saturday morning flight which meant that Friday after work was a bit busy as we put together a “what’s in the fridge dinner” and got packed up ensuring that we had Charlie’s vaccine documentation and all health information needed as the impetus for the trip was for his vaccinations. With a 6:30 AM departure, and a smooth check in, immigration and security line we made it to our 9 AM Cathay Pacific flight. We’ve mentioned it before but traveling in Asia with a baby on Asian carriers like Cathay make a world of difference – they are family friendly and ensure that family travel is as easy as possible.
Airport Express & Hong Kong Metro
After a quick 2 hour flight we opted to take the cheaper and faster Airport Express; it was 30 minute train ride into the city which was followed by a 20 minute subway ride. The Airport express was super easy and we were able to purchase one-way tickets at the airport exit – and we highly recommend it as an easy way to get into the city. However the transition to the subway was a little more challenging with the stroller, luggage etc, but within an hour of clearing immigration we were in our hotel lobby and had dropped off our bags until we could check in.
For this trip we looked to utilize some of our Marriott Rewards points and were able to stay for 2 nights on points which made the quick trip even more budget friendly. It was a great downtown location and had all the basics we needed. We lucked out with a room upgrade and had a fantastic view of the water and all the boat activity. The room was well appointed and had enough room for the 3 of us and as per usual for Marriott properties in Asia had a really solid breakfast buffet.
Feather & Bone
One thing we have learned since traveling with baby is to have a good food option close by the hotel so that we don’t have to rely on room service or convenience store dinners. We totally lucked out that our hotel was across the street from a Starbucks and right next to a fantastic cafe which we first visited for lunch while waiting for our rooms to be ready for check in. Feather & Bone is a butcher – deli – grocery cafe with an interesting and delicious selection. To fuel us from our early morning we started with delicious cappuccinos and then both Sam and I ordered lamb burgers and IPAs while Sam’s Aunt ordered a delicious prosciutto, fig salad which she said was divine. The lamb burger was amazing and we returned to Feather & Bone 2 more times for quick pick-me-ups and our last meal before heading back to Shanghai.
Once we had checked in to our rooms, we quickly changed and took a taxi up to Victoria Peak to explore and experience the iconic views of Hong Kong. During our drive and walk we saw firsthand the substantial damage that Typhoon Mangkhut had done; & while it was nothing like the damage & loss that the Philippines experienced, we saw lots of uprooted trees and areas blocked off for cleaning and repair. Upon arrival we set off for the long loop and enjoyed a leisurely pace so that Charlie could stretch his legs and explore to his heart’s content and we enjoyed seeing Hong Kongers out for Saturday runs around the peak. The views were truly astounding; I had never visited Hong Kong before but had seen iconic photographs of the stunning cityscape and seeing it in-person was really special.
While touristy at the top, the views and the chance for little legs to run free makes it a “must-do” in Hong Kong. Looking to avoid crowds, we opted to skip the sunset and took the tram down a bit early and this was a smart decision as while we were in line we saw them set up for the long queues that we were able to avoid. The tram ride down was super fun albeit QUITE steep at times but a nice chance to see a bit more of Hong Kong in a unique way. For anyone traveling with kids or older folks, we highly recommend a taxi to the top, then explore by foot and tram it down. A nice mix of activity and easy travel.
Kaum at Potato Head
Sam’s aunt had originally planned to have Indonesia on her Asia itinerary but due to the earthquake she had to modify her plans, so instead we decided to capture a taste of Indonesia in Hong Kong at Kaum which they describe as “an in-depth experience of traditional Indonesian ingredients and cooking techniques and tableware is all custom made by ceramics producers in Bali and the walls are adorned with Indonesian art and textiles.” The cuisine was super delicious and we had what we thought was an early reservation but a lively birthday party was seated next to us which thankfully wasn’t too rowdy. I think we are accustomed to later party start times in Shanghai so were a bit surprised but we had an enjoyable dinner and the staff was amazing with little Charlie. They took him on little adventures to see chefs cooking and ensured he had a delicious dinner as well. So while not Bali, it was a definitely a delicious Indonesian adventure
Looking to explore the city a bit more we took the double decker trams all over town – it was a fun throw back to Hong Kong’s colonial past and was an easy an inexpensive way to get around the city. While often crowded, we were usually able to secure at least one if not 3 seats so that the baby was always safe and secure. From the top of the tram we had a great views of the city and almost felt like we were in London!
Sad Dim Sum
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a proper dim sum outing and I wish I can say that we were blown away by our dim sum experience. My first choice for dim sum didn’t exactly work for our location/schedule so we looked for a relatively close-by option that was highly recommended on TripAdvisor – but we were pretty disappointed in not only the selection but also the flavor of the foods. I think we have become pretty spoiled in Shanghai as we have some amazing Cantonese dim sum places – that combined with limited research and some self-imposed parameters made for a less than optimal experience. Nevertheless we still enjoyed introducing Sam’s aunt to the idea of steamed seafood dumplings for breakfast and next time we’ll do more research and planning. However, the steamed buns with sweet pork were delicious but not enough to warrant a second visit.
Whenever we travel we try to visit a local religious site to learn more about the area as well as to pause to be thankful for all that we have in this life – it can be a church in Europe or the US or a temple in Hong Kong. For this trip we chose to take the tram to Man Mo Temple which is “a picturesque tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), both of whom were worshipped by ambitious students looking to succeed in the civil examinations of Imperial China” – so aside from that it is a beautiful and peaceful place were I lit 3 sticks of incense and prayed for the healthy, happiness, and safety of our friends and family. The only limitation is that they were restoring part of the temple with some non-kid friendly chemicals and the kids play area across the street was closed due to some pesticide spraying; if those two situations had been different it would have been a great place to linger and let Charlie play but instead we kept our visit short before heading off to our next adventure.
Star Ferry and Victoria Harbour
High on our “to do” list was a trip across the bay in the Star Ferry and it did not disappoint. We were able to secure seats at the front of the ferry for gorgeous views of the water and skyline. Charlie enjoyed being able to look outside and it was much more fun way to get to the other side; we saw locals and tourists alike enjoying the quick ferry ride across the bay and the views of the Harbour were unmatched by any other mode of transport!
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
Once we arrived on the other side it was a sea of people as we made our way to the promenade to explore. Charlie found some local karaoke singers and enjoyed dancing to the tunes for a few minutes. He was a total charmer and the singers even gave him a few snacks to take away. They also offered this mama as turn at the mike, but with only coffee fueling my potential singing I politely declined. We explored the promenade but it was hot and sticky and soon started our walk to the Kowloon Park.
Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula
En route to the park, we crossed the street in front of The Peninsula Hong Kong and decided to pop in for a bit of cool air and refreshment. This was not on our agenda but in hindsight it totally should have been. We arrived shortly after 1 PM to a relatively empty tea area and had our choice of tables. We picked one near a large window and a beautiful floral arrangement and settled in for a bit. I ordered a fresh melon kiwi juice while Sam and his aunt ordered an afternoon tipple and after a bottle, Charlie was asleep in the beautiful environment and cool air conditioning. Around 1:45 we noticed that the tables were really beginning to fill up and quickly realized that the Peninsula Classic Afternoon tea service began promptly at 2 PM.
Since we hadn’t eaten lunch and that Charlie was still soundly asleep combined with tea sandwich towers looking amazing, it didn’t take long to come to a group consensus to order the tea for 2 and split it amongst the 3 of us. Serenaded by the strings quartet, we opted for the Champagne option because…why not? We informed our server and within minutes we were toasting to how an impromptu refresher became a full afternoon tea service. Our tower included a base layer of fruit scones with cream and jam, a savory layer of cucumber and salmon sandwiches and a top layer of all sweets including lemon tarts and macarons. The three of us could hardly finish it but we did our best and once Charlie awoke we took turns taking him on adventures around the lobby and up the stairs. The place was buzzing with families so we fit right in. Finally, after feeling VERY refreshed we headed to our true destination Kowloon Park.
Our visit to Kowloon Park was truly one of those magical travel experiences that just happen when you least expect them. Unbeknownst to us there was a local mosque nearby and the park was full of Muslim families & groups of women enjoying their day off. The park was a kaleidoscope of picnic spreads, music, laughter and chatter. Much to Charlie’s delight one group was playing music quite loudly near a fountain and he enjoyed dancing with them to the sounds of Espocito and his dance moves were a hit with the locals. After dancing with a few people and enjoying the sounds of the fountain we finally made it to the the Childrens’s play area which was quite full and while fun, a little overwhelming for our 15 month old. He played a bit with mama and baba but soon decided he had had enough so we decided to make our way back to our hotel.
Temple Park Night Market
On our way back to the Marriott we were able to explore a bit of the Temple Park Night market as they were getting set up for the night. It was shops and restaurants galore and made me wish that Shanghai still retained more of the marketplace feel – as many of the markets there have been relocated or closed down by authorities it was fun to feel the energy of an area gearing up for the excitement and deal-making of the night. We then caught the return “voyage” on the Starr Ferry, then waited in the conveniently located taxi line and made it back in for the night.
Matilda International Hospital Hong Kong
Finally on Monday morning (a Chinese National Holiday) we made our way to our most important destination. The Matilda International Hospital which was meant to be a 3 vaccination visit but ultimately only ended up with two. With the ongoing vaccination scandals in China, we have been fortunate to be able to mostly vaccinate abroad and this trip we intended to get BCG, Japanese Encephalitis (JE important for our regional travel) and Varicella. We were successful in getting the jabs for JE and Varicella but since Charlie was born in China and we did not plan in advance the 48 skin patch test to test for TB he was unable to get this vaccine. Given my failures to get this vaccine in the US (where it is uncommon and even calls to the TX Dept of Health proved unsuccessful), Taiwan (where they only give the vaccine to citizens) I was disappointed but not entirely surprised. However, lesson learned and now we know to better plan and get the patch test in advance. As TB is prevalent in China (but less so in Shanghai) it’s mostly important in case he attends school in Shanghai (as it is a mandatory jab). Overall Matilda International was easy from a scheduling and appointment point of view but getting down from “The Peak” proved a challenge as the taxi we had called took off before we could catch it and thus we had to wait for the complementary shuttle (which was 25 minutes late). The care at the hospital was top-notch and a solid option for anyone wanting a high level of pediatric care but my preference remains Taiwan Adventist for ease & location.
After a long morning at the hospital we made it back to the Marriott just shy of our extended 2 PM checkout time and packed up for our return flight. We left our bags at the hotel and ventured out for our final excursion in Hong Kong… shopping! We chose to go to an old school / police station that has since been converted into a mixed use arts and design venue called PMQ. It was full of cool boutique shops, designer studios, coffee shops, a cooking school and other cool eclectic storefronts. One of our favorites was a Jewelry design company called Emi & Eve that takes unexploded landmines from Cambodia and turns the metal into beautiful earrings and bracelets.
Return to Shanghai
We made it back to the Marriott with just enough time to make a pit stop at Feather & Bone to fuel up for the flight back and then took off for the airport. While quick, it was a great first visit and sure not to be our last!