09.05.2014

TWO FAMILIES, FOUR KIDS: WAIT FOR US HONG KONG!

TWO FAMILIES, FOUR KIDS: WAIT FOR US HONG KONG!, Neslihan Kanlıcaoğlu Demir | 09.05.2014

For our first trip as two families, in 2012 during the semester holidays, we planned on going to Hong Kong. Why not? After all, the city is home to Disneyland and Ocean Park. With us were four children, and keeping them entertained was a priority.

Even though all our friends were asking us where on earth we could go with all of these children, once they figured out that they could order IPADs, IPhones, Ipods, cameras, and all varieties of electronics from us then they were more than happy to send us on our way.

Without a four-seat middle row available for our small children to fall asleep in, we started our journey hoping the 9-hour 40-minute flight would pass quickly.

We landed and got through passport control at Hong Kong International airport at around 4:30-5:00pm. Our hotel had already written to us, so we went to arrivals desk and the Regal Kowloon service shuttle brought us right to the hotel.

There are two areas to stay in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Island (more of a business center) and Kowloon, which is, as our hotel name might indicate, where we chose to stay. Our hotel was right on Kowloon’s seaside Mody Road. The kids slept during the flight (trips to the Far East and southern Africa from Istanbul leave in the middle of the night, and this is one reason why I love these flights). They hadn’t eaten and by the time we got to the hotel they were hungry like wolves. Therefore, we immediately left our bags in our room and surrendered ourselves to the Hong Kong streets.

Because it’s quite a busy street, we didn’t have to walk far before spotting a Starbucks. Coffee is nice, but we were hungry and were looking for a place to eat. So for our first bitter and involuntary taste of Hong Kong, we dived into a restaurant. Of course our children can eat anything before we even know what we’re getting into. In fact, as soon as we entered and saw the elegance of the diners (we had gone out in gym clothes) we knew this place would cost us. Two large chickens, a seafood risotto, four spaghettis for the kids, and eight soft drinks rounded out our order. The servings were quite minimal and we left the table still a little hungry – yet we had an 850 TL bill to pay! Needless to say we wouldn’t be stopping by this particular establishment ever again.

 It was quite expensive, both for ourselves and for our friends who saddled us with orders for all sorts of electronic devices. Quite a bit of our electronics shopping list was chopped before our eyes. So we got our Starbucks coffee, went back to the hotel, and fell asleep, ready to wake up full of energy for the next day.

The next morning we got up fairly early, called a taxi, and headed straight for Lantau Island and Disneyland. In fact, Hong Kong has a developed metro network and we could have reached Disneyland by subway if we wanted to. However, between us and our small children, the price was only about 20% less so we decided on going by taxi.

As you know, Disneyland in every country is a much-frequented place by families like us traveling with small children. Ah, but we let our kids be happy first and once again bounce around the magical world of Disney. Hong Kong Disneyland has seven sections. Enough to keep us entertained until evening and our entire day was pretty enjoyable. We got our picture taken with Buzz, drove a car, explored fairytale worlds, watched 3D movies, drilled with the soldiers from Toy Story, went on safari, rested, ate something… And as the day got dark we took a taxi back to the hotel.

As dinner time got near, and yesterday’s unfulfilling and expensive restaurant experience still in our hearts, we discovered an Italian restaurant but 20 meters from our hotel. We lament not having seen it yesterday. We settled around a huge table and ordered ourselves from the brink of famine. The food was delicious, we were still hungry… embarrassingly, we each ordered an extra portion. While waiting for our dessert, we asked our waitress to thank the cooks for us. Guess what happened? The chef himself served our dessert! Apparently, he wanted to meet the customers who so relished his food. On this occasion, we scored a first in our lives: the cook congratulated us. We promised to come back the next day and went back to our hotel to prepare for tomorrow.

Our second day in Hong Kong started with my husband’s back trouble, but with the hotel manager’s advice and some medicine, the problem was quickly sorted. After breakfast, we got into a taxi, and off we were to Ocean Park.

Ocean Park is in south Hong Kong Island. The taxi got us there through an undersea tunnel. The taxi dropped us off and we needed to take a cable car to get to Ocean Park. The view from up high nearly killed us. As we got closer to the oceanarium we became more excited.

For travelers with young children, I recommend renting a stroller from the Guest Services’ bureau at the entrance to the park. It’s a good thing I did for my youngest son; a walk in the park is no walk in the park for young children: it can be very tiring. We found two and immediately set out to explore.

  • We visited the zoo first.
  • Then I mustered up some real courage to ride the Hair Raiser roller coaster; I must have been out of my mind.
  • From there, we came to a Luna Park sort of area. Here, with some well-placed basketball shots, our kids won nearly every toy there was to be had. At least we didn’t go back to Istanbul empty handed and had something from Hong Kong to give our dear friends.
  • Then we headed to Pacific Pier, for the seal and dolphin show. Keep in mind that there’s a park tramway, if you’re tired or the next place you need to go is a bit far away on foot.
  • We took a boat ride at the Rainforest section and got nicely wet. It wasn’t enough so we went again. I do recommend buying or bringing a raincoat.
  • For some spectacular views of the park, check out the Ocean Park Tower. It’s 72 meters high up from the ground and you’ll get a bird’s eye view of your next destination.
  • Want to drop 20 stories real fast? Then I suggest you try the Abyss. Hearing the screams of terror, will you still want to? I don’t know.
  • For some more spectacular views, there’s a Ferris wheel
  • For you adrenaline junkies out there, the Mine Train is what you’ll want and crave. The 85 meter drop at an insane speed will have you stuck to the seat, definitely an adrenaline rush you should try.

Tired but happy, we ended our second day in Hong Kong as it got dark, called a taxi, and headed back to our hotel. As you might have guessed, we went back to that Italian restaurant from the other day and ate our healthy fill.

By the evening of this second day, everyone was plenty tired but the ladies still had one place to visit for sure: Stanley Market! We called a taxi and set right off. This is where you’ll find everything from toys to clothing, from shoes to luggage. It’s a bazaar with all sorts of souvenir things, plenty of food, and it’s a popular tourist destination. Whatever you try to buy, you must bargain. I advise starting at half the asking price.

We saved our last day in Hong Kong to visit Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Unfortunately, getting to Big Buddha is a bit troublesome. After the subway, you have to get on a cable car. This was our last chance to ride the subway in Hong Kong. Two recommendations: avoid the long line up for cable car tickets by buying a return trip from your hotel (same price); and dress warmly! The cable car ride, especially early in the morning, can get quite cold. The ride is slow and takes a bit of time (30 minutes), but you’ll see some unparalleled scenery on the way. It’s not for those with a fear of heights.

Seeing Big Buddha appear in the distance got us pretty excited. We thought that since he looked so big from so far away, he really must be big.

We got off the cable car at a place called Ngong Ping 360. While walking up along with the rest of the crowd, we for sure didn’t pass up hitting up the cute shops on both sides for some shopping. If you come during the winter months and don’t have your scarf, these shops have you covered. We got some for the kids.

We got closer and closer to the world’s largest open-air Buddha statue (26 meters high). After climbing hundreds of steps to get a closer look (285 steps if I recall!!!) we earned a little break. I’ll take this opportunity to congratulate the kids, who made it all the way up taking only two breaks.

At the top, we got our picture taken with Big Buddha and enjoyed the view – seeing people meditate and the bird’s eye view of the landscape left us astounded.

Getting off the cable car on the way down, we saw a lot of famous brand outlet stores, but we had to catch a plane and we couldn’t check them out.

Since these four days in Hong Kong turned out to be another problem-free city vacation with children in tow, we got on the plane to Istanbul in peace and tranquility. Our memories are of the places we saw, the spotlessly clean streets, the impossibly high skyscrapers, the theme park fun we had, the delicious Italian food we ate although we were in China, the shopping for electronic gadgets we did, the bright lights of the cityscape by the sea… Good thing we went! 

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