Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Park Tour of Hong Kong

Today started out with promising weather and after being cooped up for a day, we decided to head out to an area of Hong Kong called Happy Valley. This was our first time there and we managed to hit three parks and a restaurant. All within a few hours. We met up with our Texas friends (and personal Hong Kong tour guides(:) and started our day at the Happy Valley Racecourse.  They race one night a week and it is open to the public during the day. There is also a playground here, which was our intended destination. It took us quite awhile to get to it, but it was worth it. This was another well done park in the middle of congestion. Before we started playing, it was sunny enough to apply sunscreen to the kids. Within about 20 minutes, the ponchos were on and the umbrellas were out. We took shelter for a few minutes and then decided to move to an indoor play area not too far away. This was a padded room similar to what we found a few weeks ago and the kids were loving it...until they closed for an hour to sanitize it. I am finding that they do that very often here...just close down a place in the middle of the day to clean it. The kids were disappointed, but we had no choice and had to move on.  After finally finding a place to eat - this proved more difficult than it should be - we went to another park and had a pizza picnic (nothing says picnic in 90 degree heat more than hot from the oven pizza). Everyone continued having fun despite our numerous setbacks...this vacation is forcing the girls to become more "go with the flow" type people. In the long run, this ability to be flexible with plans will be of benefit to them.  I try to remember that as I feel like I am traipsing all over town - and frazzled - with three kids, one of which is a wannabe independent and, turns out, quite stubborn, little two year old.  Ahhhh...I'm enjoying the peace and quiet now as I reminisce about our daily Hong Kong Adventures....time to unwind...Have a wonderful Thursday!

This picture of a soccer pitch is for my nephew, Trevor. He is what I think about anytime I see or hear anything soccer related. And look at how I used the terminology correctly!

Cole and his 2 1/2 year old buddy. Could they be any cuter?

It was neat being on the field as people were training. We were dropped off at the wrong entrance  and had to walk through the entire park to get to the playground.

A lot of the parks here include an area with exercise equipment. This was almost more fun than the playground.

This is for my sister in law, Christie. It's hard to tell, but it's an elderly Chinese lady doing Tai Chi in the park.

Working out!

Cole and his buddy found the only dirt at the park. I caught Col trying to take off his shoe a few times to fill it up. Not a chance!

Five minutes of fun at the indoor play area.

This Pizza Hut had no indoor seating and just a walk up window. I felt like I should be ordering a soft serve cone, not a pizza...mmmm...soft serve...wonder if they have that here? Must find out.

Our pizza picnic.

"How many times do I have to tell you to stop putting your pizza in the drinking fountain?" Reason number 1,052 on the "how boys are different from girls" list.

Syd was a stellar big sister today and played with Cole for quite a while at the park. Not an easy task.

This man sat and watched the kids play for a long time and was quite animated about it and was interacting with the kids. That was fine until his helper asked to take a photo of the girls...then, it turned a bit creepy.

 Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are off to see the world's biggest sitting outdoor Buddha via glass bottom cable car.  I will be resting my clicking finger in anticipation of the beautiful sights!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bye Bye Bubbles, Hello Wet Season

Noelle is flying over the ocean somewhere between Hong Kong and Chicago right now.  We were all sad to see her go. Noelle is an amazing person. She is compassionate, intelligent, sensitive, strong, patient (this was tested over and over by a certain 2 year old), responsible, and wise beyond her years. I have really enjoyed getting to know her on a whole different level and truly enjoyed her company.  She is such a good role model for my girls. As sad as we are to see her leave, we are just as excited to see her take her next step in life...she'll be off to college in about a month and has loads of planning to do before she leaves. I know we will think of her as we are experiencing the rest of the vacation, whether it's when we see bananas, broccoli, or tomatoes, hear Jingle Bells from our dryer, cross a spider's path, or yell out a  "bugism" like "plant it, hola muchacho,  home skillet, or darn it, your butt's not free." So, to Noelle, have an awesome rest of your summer and thanks for embarking on this trip with us. The best is yet to come.

One more time playing the pretending to be asleep in Noelle's bed game. You would be surprised how long this game can keep them entertained.

This morning's view from Noelle's room. It seems wrong that Cole will now have a room to himself with a king size bed and private bathroom. Anyone want to come to Hong Kong for two weeks?

We were well aware that the summer months here in Hong Kong are considered the wet season. Sometimes, it's easy to forget - when you're in the midst of the hustle and bustle and skyscrapers - that we are on a tropical island.  We were quickly reminded of this the last 2 days. It has consistently rained, sometimes in just the little spurts that are annoying yet not significant and other times, like buckets of water being poured over your head unexpectedly. Unfortunately, yesterday and today were rainy ones. We planned on going to Ocean Park for Noelle's last day. This is a combination zoo, aquarium, and amusement park and is supposed to be amazing. This was not meant to be. We didn't want to let the rain spoil the whole day, so we headed outdoors, anyway. Our day began with brunch at our favorite 24 hour diner, The Flying Pan.  This was our third time's just good American style breakfast food and always makes our bellies happy. From there, we went to Hollywood Road to see the Man Mo Temple. Although pictures were not allowed to be taken inside, I was able to get a few before we entered to capture a sense of the temple.  It was built in 1847 and was architecturally fascinating. There were coils of incense hanging from the ceilings and people were in there lighting more incense as they prayed.  As much as it made me sneeze a bit and made my eyes burn, it really added to the ambience.

The temple is situated on a street full of antique stores. I cautiously entered one with Cole in my arms (he is quite squirmy when motivated by things he shouldn't touch) and stayed just long enough to see something I thought my mom would love. After about the one and a half minutes that I trusted Cole in the place, I headed outside with him where I was better equipped to perform damage control. Cole and I ended up catching a taxi to go home for nap time (ok, he hailed the taxi. Again. We crack up at the sight of him raising his arm when he sees a taxi. I will remember to snap a photo of it one of these days. One driver actually stopped for him). Todd, Noelle, and the girls continued to brave the rain and had a lovely afternoon.  That night, Todd and Noelle went out for dim sum. They described the place as a complete hole in the wall the size of our family room with the most outstanding food they've ever consumed. The turn over rate is incredibly fast as you have to order while you are waiting outside and the food is ready for you when you are seated.  It sounds like an experience that went beyond just a dinner.
There are loads of funny signs here...some are just oddly translated from Cantonese to English. I have enough pictures to fill up a whole post about's a preview.

This isn't a particularly good photo, but it does show how darn humid it was...I had to wipe off the lens of the camera every time I took a picture.

This is a door right inside the temple. This was the only interior picture I could take.

Wanting to go back in...but, desperately needing to stay out.

The humidity gives a nice haze to the photos...kind of fits with the Temple's atmosphere.

There was a tiny temple outside the door of one of the antique shops. It was also burning incense.  I don't know the significance of it.

These beautiful lanterns lined the streets.

Cole was convinced there was a train inside the temple. He did get the "stink eye" from an elderly Chinese lady that was closely watching him.

An example of one of the windows on Hollywood Street.

And a random shot...I mentioned before about Cole's wanting to be naked all the time...I asked Skye to help get him dressed before dinner. This is how he came out of her room...

The rain is supposed to let up tomorrow and we will head out to have some more outdoor fun. We were going a little stir crazy today being inside all day except for a little trip to the mall attached to our apartment building.  Friday is a no work holiday here and Todd is off for the Fourth of July. I've had all day to research what to do and have planned a busy four days including Ocean Park and riding a glass bottom cable car to see a giant Buddha on Lantau Island.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dim Sum and Then Some

If Frommer's wrote a guide called "How to Touch Everything in Hong Kong...and I mean every inch (or centimeter) of it", Cole would be the author. There are signs everywhere that boast the city's cleanliness. Most of them say that an area is sanitized 4 times a day. That doesn't put my mind at ease when Cole sticks his head in a garbage can, drags his hand on the railing walking to the Star Ferry, or decides the middle of the walkway is a good place to take a seat and rest for a while.  Not to mention having to change a stinky diaper four times today in various public restrooms - more like glorified outhouses. I started out a bit of a germaphobe and, I have to admit, I am lightening up about it as a means of survival...I would drive everyone nuts if I sanitized their hands as much as I would like...every 6 minutes is what I would prefer.

Today, we met a few of Todd's co-workers and their friends out for Dim Sum. This was our first true Dim Sum experience...waiters walking with carts of food, tons of choices...they stop, you look at what they have, pick something out and put it on a huge lazy susan in the middle of the table for everyone to share. The food was delicious and we enjoyed the new experience. After lunch, we headed to the Star Ferry to go over to Kowloon Park.  The kids, Noelle, and I visited this park before, but not like this. During the week, we were one of only a few in this enormous park. The weekends are like a whole different Hong Kong. Today, it was packed with people. We watched a Kung Fu demonstration and went to the children's park. Again, so very crowded. I have never been in a city that has hoards of people everywhere you turn.  There are approximately 300,000 domestic helpers in Hong Kong, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.  The average household has a nanny, even those that have a parent that stays at home.  You'll see the nannies out and about with kids during the week (sometimes with the mom and many times without).  Sundays, however, are their day off.  Since they are all live-in helpers, they congregate outside during their time away from the families. They are sitting in the streets, at the MTR station, lined up by the ferry, in staircases, on pedestrian walkways, and in the middle of streets that are shut down for this purpose. They're playing cards, doing each other's hair and nails, learning dances, and having jovial conversations.  I have never seen anything like it.  I don't think my pictures can do it justice.

The domestic helpers are in crowds like this EVERYWHERE!  I'm talking thousands and thousands of people lined up, sitting on cardboard boxes and blankets. For those of you that read The Help, I can't stop thinking that their lives here are a bit like those of the nannies in the book. I feel like it's a novel waiting to be written.

The girls braving the dim sum with chopsticks

Both girls loved the spinach dumplings.

I think Cole enjoyed stabbing the food more than eating it.

Of course, we had to stop at Starbucks before boarding the ferry. Cole loves to take sips of my chai tea latte

Yes, Cole wanted to touch the birds, too.

Kowloon park doesn't disappoint. We were in a different section of it today than we were last week.

Kung Fu!

Todd doesn't stand out at all, does he?

Cole is very weary about walking over any grates in the street. He will stop cold and nothing else stops him.  Ever. Today, he got up the courage to walk over one...

Thinking about it...

Woo hoo! Now, nothing will stop him...

The area of Kowloon park we were in is called "Sculpture Park." I'm assuming the nose on this particular sculpture has Lincoln's does in Springfield.

Todd and the girls are in there somewhere.

The sanitation crew!

The girls met an 8 year old that asked if they wanted to jump rope. They have briefly met kids from all over the world...mostly at our apartment pool.

Noelle has been sick the last 2 days and after a visit to a Chinese hospital, has medication that will hopefully kick in soon so she can enjoy her last 2 days in Hong Kong.  We hope to have a fun filled and packed couple of days ahead of us!