Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Visiting Hong Kong

After our first week in Macau, we used Michael's first available day off to visit Hong Kong. We lived there six years ago when the boys were 1 and 3, and after an intensive week of learning to navigate Macau, it was so nice to return to our familiar haunts.

Though our home in Macau is fully furnished furniture-wise, it lacks all the little things like trash bins, towels, sheets, pots and pans, knives and forks, plates and glasses. In our luggage we brought one set of sheets for our beds, and one plate, cup, and place setting for each person, a can opener, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, and four towels to get us started. We shipped over more sheets and towels, but they won't arrive for a month. And we shipped over the boys' bunk beds, but not their mattresses. We intended to buy mattresses here (less expensive than shipping the old ones), but all the mattresses in Macau come in one level of firmness: rock hard. So the options for making the mattresses sleepable are to purchase a mattress topper, or head to the IKEA in Hong Kong to buy mattresses which cost the same amount as a mattress topper. The IKEA in Hong Kong delivers to Macau, which is terribly convenient! So off we went to buy twin sized mattresses and fit our kitchen with all the things one needs to make a house a home.

We had a great whirlwind day that I'll share with you in photos. Enjoy!

The taxi from our house across the harbor to the Macau Peninsula had these flowers hanging in lieu of an artificially scented air freshener. I took as many sniffs as I could during the short ride! Smelled so wonderful.

 The Ferry Terminal, flying the flag of Macau and of the People's Republic of China.

 On the ferry to Hong Kong. It's a one hour ride, and due to the stormy weather it was quite bumpy. Nobody got seasick, but Nathan happily modelled the complimentary Vomit Bag.

There are two ferry companies that leave from the Macau Peninsula going to Hong Kong every 30 minutes from 7:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. We took First Ferry. It rained most of the way to Hong Kong, obscuring our view of all the tiny islands dotting the route. When the rain cleared a bit, we could see a fishing trawler with its net out and the competing ferry company's boat, racing alongside our ferry.

As we pulled into Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, we had a great view of our former home on Hong Kong Island. You can see the block of buildings up on the hill above the electric blue billboard which make up Parkview. Yes, we had a pretty awesome view there, too. 

Here's the ferry that brought us from Macau to Hong Kong's China Ferry Terminal. We're standing in line to go through immigration, which you are forbidden to photograph. We had official Hong Kong residency when we lived there, and could breeze past the long immigration lines whenever we travelled outside the country. Now we get to wait in the long lines filled with tourists from mainland China.

Our first stop in Hong Kong? Chicago Bar & Grill inspired Dan Ryan's. The menu warns that they serve "American-sized portions."

And they do! We used to eat there on Sunday afternoons. They give every kid a balloon attached to a Dan Ryan's key chain. When we were packing up to move here to Macau, I came upon a box filled with their key chains, which I think got donated to a thrift store. The boys have officially started up their collection once again.

After lunch, we took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island. The Star Ferry dates back to the 1890's and just goes back and forth on the five minute trip all day. The cost to ride across the harbor is about 27 cents US for adults and 16 cents for kids. When the kids were little and being cranky bugs, I used to come down and take them for a ride on the Ferry. Cheap entertainment!

Then we hopped in a taxi for the Windsor House shopping mall, home to a cinema, electronics shops, and of course, Toys R Us.

 We let them spend their allowance on toys and goodies as a way to bribe them into good behavior when we went across the street to our next destination, an intense shopping spree at my own personal toy store, IKEA.

After we dropped a load of cash and arranged for everything to be delivered to our home, we sought shelter from the heavy rain and terrible heat by catching a movie. It was in English with Chinese subtitles. During funny dialogue, the four of us laughed about 5 seconds before everyone else.

I don't know about the rest of the United States, but the Los Angeles area is in the midst of a frozen yogurt frenzy, with shops on every corner. Generally they serve two flavors, an original tart flavor and one other, generally a fruit or green tea. We were regular customers at several of the shops in our old neighborhood. One thing that has thrilled us about our new home is the brand new fro-yo shop just around the corner! We saw several in Hong Kong, and stopped in at this shop to get our fill of icy green tea goodness!  

After our long and productive day, we took the MTR to get back to the China Ferry Terminal. They are in the midst of a big safety campaign, with signs featuring this happy face everywhere. We stopped to take a photo of Benjamin with his face through the sign and a load of other people stopped to take his photo on their cell phones as well. Notice he's looking at them, not me!

The train was standing room only, but we've seen it way worse. Nathan had a tough time getting the hang of riding the train, with it's quick turns and accelerations. You have to bend your knees slightly and hang on to a pole or handle. Nathan kept falling into all the people around him. We kept having to issue apologies! Ben was an instant pro. He'll make a great surfer.

After a day of perfectly navigating a place we haven't been in six years, we got overconfident and overshot our train station, ending up on the wrong line to get us near the China Ferry Terminal. Once we got above ground, we found ourselves in a maze of a closed shopping mall with no way out that we could find. The final daily ferry from Hong Kong to Macau departs at 11:30 p.m., but you have to be at the terminal at least 30 minute early to get a ticket and pass through immigration again and make it down to the dock before the ferry departs. At 10:30 p.m. we realized we might not make it since we were about a 20 minute walk to the terminal! We finally retraced our steps back to the MTR station to ask at the info desk where the nearest taxi stand was (we had been so close!). We raced to a taxi which got us to the ferry terminal just in time to snag tickets on the final ferry. As you can see, we were the only ones there!
The boys fell asleep on the boat ride home, practically sleepwalking through Macau immigration.

It was a pretty great day, especially the last couple of hours. One of my favorite things about travelling happens only when you get lost. It's a thrill to try and find yourself again, discovering things you never would have seen had you stuck to your original plans. At one point during our frantic search for an exit to the mall, we noticed the boys were downright panicked, fearful we wouldn't make it. We took a moment to teach them to play "what's the worst that can happen." What is the absolute worst thing that would have happened if we couldn't find our way to the terminal and missed the last ferry? Well, we would have had to check into a hotel, sleep in our clothes, not brush our teeth, and take the first ferry back in the morning. They went from panicking to kinda hoping we'd miss the boat!

Our next trip to Hong Kong is planed for next month, when old friends of ours who currently live in Manila will be in town for a birthday celebration. We'll meet up with them, spend a night or two, and visit our friend Mickey at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Oh! One more thing. About my toe... I had the electricians over to deal with the crazy wiring in this house, and when I went to show them a plug on the wall, I kicked a laundry basket out of the way. Only my foot never made it to the basket, instead it connected with the door frame. Hard. There was a nasty sound, I briefly saw fireworks, and my eyes watered like mad. Sadly, there is nothing to be done for a broken toe except to keep it taped up. Kinda puts a damper on the wandering part of wandering Macau, yes? It could've been worse, though. Glad it wasn't my ankle!


  1. I think you are way more adventurous than I. I love IKEA as well and was just there this past Monday buying Billy Bookshelves :)

  2. OK! I am loving reading this. I liked the portuguese words on the ferry terminal in Macau. I could understand those! :) And what in the world are those Chinese people looking at in the picture on the ferry? They are sitting behind the boys pointing out of the window and the man looks very disgusted. Classic picture! Take care of yourselves. You are living the adventure for all of us. -Clay

  3. All that and this is what I choose to comment on: it's funny that frozen yogurt is making a come back. Is Penguins still around out there? I haven't seen one in like a decade at least.

  4. You and your family are living quite an adventure. I'm enjoying reading along as the adventure unfolds. Sorry to hear about your toe. I broke mine this past weekend. Went to the garage to retrieve bottled water from a small refrigerator, turned around too quickly and jammed my little toe right into the frig. Ouch!

  5. Dear Argon(one),
    At least I know I'm not the only one limping around, feeling ashamed over such a ridiculously silly injury! I can't even claim it was something awesome...

  6. Michael, this fro-yo is very different than the sugary sweet frozen yogurt at Penguins (and yes, there are still a couple standing in the South Bay!). This frozen yogurt is more along the taste of actual yogurt that has been frozen. It has a tart flavor and a texture that isn't as creamy as it's more milky counterpart from the 90's. Generally only comes in a couple flavors. Instead of toppings like caramel syrup or choco chips, they have fruit, mochi, breakfast cereals, and more fruit. Way less sweet than what you are thinking of! And you know what? I'm glad that's what you commented on because when asked the next day, the boys said that was their favorite part about Hong Kong. Silly kids!

  7. Clay - I'll have an upcoming post about all the Portugese around here! You would love it. It's actually an official language of Macau though not many people actually speak it (some polls estimate less than 3% of the population). But ALL the signs and forms are in both Chinese and Portugese.

    The Star Ferry was pulling up in Wan Chai which is right alongside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center which was the site of the handover back to China. They were pointing at that, though I have no clue what would make that guy have such a sourpuss expression!

  8. What a super adventure of a day! Although I would not have enjoyed getting lost while under time pressure to get on a ship!

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