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Archive for the ‘kids and hong kong’ Category

A great hidden treasure to do with kids is to head to the Aberdeen/Wong Chuk Hang public pool – official name Pao Yue Kong Swimming Pool. It’s located on Shum Wan road (this is the same road as the back entrance to Ocean Park, Aberdeen Marina and Boat clubs, and the Singapore International School).

A friend brought us for the first time 2 years ago and we keep going back. Why is it so great? It has a separate children’s section with 2 small pools each with slides, water spouts, ride on toys – all in shallow water so even the littlest tyke is relatively safe (with adult supervision of course). For $19HKD for adults and $9HKD for children (under-3 is free and you can pay with coin or octupus card) it is a great, cheap, fun activity that the kids LOVE. My kids call it the “water park” and say it’s their favorite (which is saying alot as they’ve swam at a lot of fancy pools at clubs and hotels).

I recommend going in the morning, especially on the weekend, as it can get hot and crowded.  When we’ve gone during the week we’ve often had the pools to ourselves from 10-12 and even on the weekends it’s not so bad. (NOTE: The pool closes from 12-1 everyday for cleaning. ) And if you want to make a day of it, and include a little adult fun, why not hit the pool on a weekend morning and then walk down the street and catch the ferry to the Jumbo for brunch.

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01102009On October 1 we decided to hike to the famous Tai Long Wan area in Sai Kung Country park.  We decided to do the easier option of a 45 minute hike in by starting at the Sai Wan Road Pavilion. There were some steep sections on the way in but as we observed – it would be much worse on the way out (and it was, especially considering we’re each carrying a child).

It was well worth it. The hike itself was beautiful and the beach was stunning – probably the best we’ve been to in Hong Kong so far. When we arrived at the beach (a sliver of which you can see from above at about the 3/4 mark of the hike) we ate some lunch and then took off for the water. There are four beaches that make up Tai Wan and the most famous, Tai Wan, is popular with surfers but has a dangerous rip tide. So even though we weren’t at that beach M was very cautious with me taking F too far out.

There were about 15-20 people there, some who also hiked in, the majority of which were from the two junks moored just off shore, and who swam or took small dingy’s into shore. It felt like a deserted island. After we swam, we walked along the beach, drew pictures and messages in the sand, and enjoyed the scenery. After a few hours we hiked back out and had a great dinner in Sai Kung town.

We got home at about 7:45, and myself and the kids rushed into the shower. Being China’s National Day there were fireworks scheduled in Victoria Harbor at 8pm and we can see them from our roof. We got up there at about 8:05 and it was such an amazing experience to watch F and T watch their first fireworks show and gasp or say “wow” or “whoa, that was a big one!”

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31052009(002)Last Saturday, when the rain stopped and the weather cooled, we decided to head to Pui O for our first family camping trip. Within an hour, E had two back packs packed, I had the girls fed and dressed, and we caught the 1:15 pm ferry to Mui O. Our friend Annie picked us up and drove us up and over the hill to Pui O beach, where she, her husband and 3 daughters put up their massive family-sized tent for us that took up nearly the entire sandy plot.

Pui O is a long beach that is set deep within a bay so the water is extremely shallow and calm. Our one extravagance was an LL Bean bag stuffed with sleeping pillows and stuffed animals–it was an official sign that we, in effect, were car camping. Pui O is a tiny mountain village. The beach is quiet and scenic with steep, jagged ridges in the background and giant gray water buffaloes roaming the nearby rice paddies.

The girls were fascinated with the tent–they spent the first 30 minutes running around inside. We told the girls to wipe their feet to keep the sand out. After the third warning within the first five minutes we stopped enforcing it. Annie, Ben and their kids came by with a bucket of beers and some cook out stuff. We chatted, gave them some cookies, and then they left for the weekend.  After a few hours of roaming the beach and rice paddies, it was time to cook supper in our fire pit.

Getting the fire going took a long, long time. The charcoal was more wood flake than bricket. I tried arranging them in an ingenious, flame inducing pattern but the fire wouldn’t catch. We didn’t have newspaper so I tried toilet paper. None of it worked. I went to the beach store and grabbed a Chinese newspaper and bought a tiny little cylinder that promised to get my fire going. From the box came a flaky charcoal sphere the size and width of my index finger with a bit of string spooled at the top of each half. Damned if this thingy, along with the news print, didn’t finally get some gray burning into the charcoal.

F helped cook some of the hot dogs that we slid onto our long barbecue prongs, a few of which she rested on top of the coals to cook faster. I ate those ones. E had everything organized so that when the dogs did finally started cooking we could quickly serve them up. Despite our efforts, T skipped this meal. All she at were buns and graham crackers.

F devoured her hot dog, perhaps because she was starving, perhaps because she knew it was a means to an end: Smores. Nobody out here has heard of Smores. But F has, and it’s one of her most favorite things. “Dad, can I do it now? Can I do it?” At this point, the sun had set and T was muttering “I cold. I cold” (she wasn’t) and “I wanna go home. Wanna go home. Wanna go see Ya Ya.” We were prepared for the worst in terms of getting her to sleep in a tent. The only way to make this happen was to separate the girls. So after some fidgeting and flopping, both kids fell asleep for the night.

The only noise was a group of young men and women, probably in their early 20s, camping next to us. They didn’t have a speck of beer or wine or anything else at their site that may have led to things getting rowdy. But they were giggly and a big group, and through most of the night they huddled in one tent, laughing, telling stories, laughing. But they were fine.

E and I took some cookies to the beach and a little bit of red wine we brought and chatted amidst a starless night.

Without a sleeping pad and with an antsy 3.5 year old,  I was up at around 3:30 a.m. E came in at one point to get warmer clothes for T. It did get a bit chilly, and all I had was a t-shirt, shorts and part of F’s blanket. Even though the waves that rolled onto Pui O beach were tiny, their crashes were loud. I fell asleep an hour or so later.

F and I were up at 6. I made a desperate attempt at a coffee run. We walked into Pui O village, only to find a handful of Chinese restaurants, that not only most definitely didn’t have coffee, but were closed. The beach restaurant was closed until 1030. T was awake when we came back, so the 3 of us walked up to where the river enters the ocean and went shell collecting.  Every time I scolded T for throwing sand she laughed harder. F played the game we play every day now.

“I’m the mommy, your the daddy, and T is the baby. No, wait. Her name is Sophia.” E was walking down the beach now. “Mommy will be Granny.”

“No. I Emma,” T replies.

“No. You’re Sophia and I’m, ahm…, I’m Kulah (she makes up names).”

“Oh yeah,” T says. She says this a lot.

Five minutes later, F.

“Keelah. Dad, she is Keelah. Her name is Keelah and she’s the Mommy and your the Daddy and I’m the baby. “

“No. I Sophia,” replies her sister.

“No T. You’re Kay…No…Kees. Wait. Dad, what’s her name again?”

“Keelah.”

“Oh, right. Keelah.”

“No I Emma. I not Keelah.” And so on.

30052009(021)At around 10, the four of us did an ocean kayak trip, just along the shallow shore. F sat in front looking for treasures, T sat on E’s lap and I paddled from the back. A strapping, old Aussie swam way out from shore with his two dogs. The water was dirty in some spots. We paddled over to the rocks along the far end of the beach and floated up next to the shark net that arcs along the beach (there haven’t been any shark incidents. Most beaches here have these).

After 30 minutes or so, T started to get tired and asked to “go home.” (Her new thing is:  “I wanna git goin’.” “Git goin’ mommy. Git goin’”)

So I paddled in, trying to ride a mini wave. On the walk back, we asked F if she liked the kayak trip and she said No.

“It was too rough. The waves were bouncing me around.” They weren’t. The biggest wave we encountered would have been knee high on the beach. Oh well. It was a good and safe family excursion.

The rest of the morning was spent goofing around on the beach. F and T adore the water. F wore floaties and did back strokes and “Starfish floats.” T got tired of the water and dug holes in the sand.

On a breakfast of 2 granola bars, juice boxes and stale buns between all of us, we welcomed the restaurant’s opening, and treated ourselves to a kebab lunch–chicken fingers for the girls. We caught the 2:20 p.m. ferry back to Central, just as the heat was picking up. All of us fell asleep on the way home.

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IMG_1114To all mother’s – I hope you had a very wonderful day to celebrate all the amazing things you do!!

For my Mother’s Day we headed to Big Wave Bay Beach and what a treat it was. We have been trying to go for over a year now but for some reason or another we kept getting foiled but we finally made it. It’s a gorgeous beach with rock formations on either side and surrounded by beautiful green mountains. It reminded me of beaches in northern California. The kids loved playing around the rocks and tide pools – there’s a bit of everything for children of all ages. And while the surf was somewhat sizable the waves break pretty far out so the water is shallow for a good stretch allowing them to safely play at the shoreline. After lots of playing and swimming, we fed the kids at the little cafe right on the beach and by the time we got home they were wiped out, fell asleep quickly, and slept soundly. For those considering it it’s definitely worth the trip.

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veggiesWith the title of this I’m sure most people will think of the awful melamine scare with china milk supply.  However my food dilemma here started the day we landed, nearly a year ago. Before we left new york we had a great routine of buying as much from the local’s farmers market as possible and the rest from the supermarket, where I would check labels and buy things with the smallest carbon footprint, in terms of both where it was produced and whether it was organic. I felt like I was feeding the family fairly nutritiously, affordably, sustainably and responsibly. Well I fear all that has gone to the wayside.

I find my carbon imprint is huge here due to the fact that nearly all of my dairy is from abroad, as are a lot of the meat and fish. I’ve started getting the organic box from The Organic Farm so I feel better about that but I’m still a bit too nervous about the pollution to get fish from the wet market, and I’m still very conscious of hormone and antibiotic free meat. The organic box only contains vegetables so I still have to decide between conventional fruit, where I worry about pesticide levels, versus paying a lot for organic. We’ve been trying to eat more vegetarian but my 19-month old literally subsists on – in this order – cheese, bread, milk, meat and fish.  I have to hide all fruits and vegetables in various ways to get T to eat them – which makes it all the more stressful. Thankfully my 3yo is much better.

On top of all of this is the cost. It’s crippling us. I can’t keep up financially. I am so conflicted on so many levels. And while I’m focusing on the specific food related issues I face here in Hong Kong, overall I am so frustrated by the growing industrial food complex and the mass-production of food. For example the rampant salmonella scares in the US, the latest from peanuts. I do try to live by Michael Pollan’s credo of “if your grandparents wouldn’t recognize it it shouldn’t be on your plate” but it’s not always easy or affordable. Don’t get me wrong I’m not some crazy food nazi – when we’re out of the house most anything goes (including McDonald’s when necessary) but within the confines of the home I do try to make it as healthy and sustainable as possible.  So what do you do? What are your concerns about the state of the food industry? Any recommendations for Hong Kong?

For some interesting articles on the topic try:

opinion on melamine in all foods

michael pollan

– meat and emmissions

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wanchai_streetmarket_phot0226Yesterday my 3-yo and I went to the Wan Chai market to do some shopping. Once we got there she wanted to walk so I was pushing the stroller and we browsed. We needed to get several items, one being tights to match her dress for her upcoming school holiday concert. In a rare moment of preparedness I put her dress in my pocketbook to see if the tights matched. Well, we weren’t there ten minutes when we found some red tights. My purse kept slipping down my arm so I absent-mindedly put it on top of the stroller (in the fold of the hood). I turned for 3-seconds to look at the tights, turned back to get the dress from my purse, and it was gone. I worriedly said “my pocketbook!” and with that F proceeded to FREAK out. I mean she was hysterical. It was disturbing how upset she was. I picked her up, told her it was okay, and at the same time was looking around for any sign of someone running off with my purse. A woman working the stall called the police for me and F and I waited, she very upset, confused, and scared and I trying to comfort her and at the same time not be too upset myself. My only real concern was the loss of HK ID card, bank card, credit card, membership cards, and US drivers license. The mere thought of the hassle of canceling all of those items and the time to reissue them was overwhelming me.

After 5-10 minutes the police officer arrived and asked me all sorts of questions, which proceeded to scare me more as he was concerned about my keys and if I had my address in there and the chance of burglary at my home. I hadn’t even thought of that, and now, in addition to all the calls I would need to make, I would have to change the locks….

Well after a few minutes someone yelled and the police officer excused himself and ran over (all of this was in Cantonese so I have no idea what was said). Needless to say, the purse was found – minus my mobile phone, cash, F’s dress, and her snacks. Intact were my wallet with all cards, my keys, and other miscellaneous items.  Not sure why they took her dress, but after having her relatively calm for a while a whole new round of tears came on when I had to tell her the dress was gone. I told her we’d go straight away and find her a new dress, which we thankfully were able to do. We then went home and made cookies for the party after her concert – what a way to make you feel better after a terrible day!

The one thing I keep asking myself is how could I be so casual? We came from New York City, I’ve never been robbed before, and think of myself as fairly street-smart. The one thing I keep going back to is in someways I’m out of practice. I know there are signs throughout HK about theft, but honestly, I feel very safe here. Yes, I do frequent pretty safe places – Victoria Park, the library, I ride the MTR – but regardless of where I am I usually don’t have that “haunches up,” suspicious feeling I did in New York.  I guess I learned my lesson – I just wish F weren’t there when I learned it. I tried, on some small level, to use it as a teaching moment and we talked afterwards about stealing and how we felt after having our things taken and it’s never ok to take something from someone else. We also talked about being scared and that it’s okay to feel that way. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what else to do with our experience.  Randomly and unusually she woke up last night hysterically asking for blueberries and it took a while to settle her down – I’m only guessing this was some sort of reaction to the stress and fear she felt earlier in the day. Then today when I mentioned going to the Wan Chai post office to pick up some packages she got wildly scared and started to wimper – “Mommy don’t take your pocketbook! We can’t lose things again!” Unfortunately I think she’ll be afraid to go to Wan Chai for sometime….

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img_8545Since moving to Honkey Town in February ’08 we’ve been keeping a fairly consistent blog for family and friends back home. In the course of doing so we’ve realized that there is information, musings, and general reflections from our experiences that we think would be interesting to share publicly. So from here onward we’re unveling our public face for a wider audience. Below are posts we’ve altered for our new public life and we’ll add content as we go. Welcome and we hope you (if there are any you’s out there) enjoy!

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