Hong Kong: Dim Sum and Friends

We were sad to leave Vietnam because we were leaving friends behind. However, we arrived in Hong Kong to MUCH colder weather and a fancy hotel.  It was a win-win in our books! In my mind I was thinking Hong Kong would be hot and tropical.  I was completely surprised when it was in the 50s most days!

We had planned to stay in a modest AirBnb while there. But, the owner cancelled a week before our arrival, so we splurged on adjoining hotel rooms at the Dorsett in the Wan Chai neighborhood.  This was a huge treat for all of us! The kids smooshed together twin beds and slept three across, like peas in a pod.  They never complain about it and I’m really going to miss tucking them all in in one bed when this year is over! The hotel also offered free breakfast and a candy bar in the evenings! The kids were in heaven with the candy and James and I were delighted to be able to wake up and enjoy our coffee while the kids went back and forth to the buffet for endless croissants and xiao long bao. 

In his previous job, James travelled frequently to Hong Kong. He often brought home books on Hong Kong for the kids.  One of them was an alphabet book that had a different Hong Kong attraction for each letter.  Manji was obsessed with this book when he was younger.  While in Hong Kong, we had a fun time trying to recall what all the letters stood for and mentally checking them off as we went.  For example, D was for dim sum (which we had lots of!), P was for Peak Tram, and S was for Star Ferry.  Surprisingly, I think we found most of them!

The boys in Kowloon, after our Star Ferry ride!

On our first day in Hong Kong, we walked around the streets, caught up on school, and then met James’ friend, Rob, for an evening hike.  Rob was so kind to take us around some of the neighborhood as we made our way to the trail to hike Victoria Peak.  The kids were troopers in the windy, cool weather, all uphill.  When we made it to the top we enjoyed pizzas and a beautiful view of the city below.  We made it just in time to see the choreographed light show of all the buildings.  A beautiful sight!  After, we took the Peak Tram down, which was a fun ride after such a brutal uphill climb.

Pizza with Rob!

The following day, we took public transportation around the city, taking in the busyness of it all. Our favorite was the ding-ding, a double decker tram, with views throughout the city. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few snacks and while there, James and Goose stumbled upon Chungking Mansions.  James was familiar with the buildings from his previous trips to Hong Kong and having read the book Ghetto at the Center of the World.  It is a melting pot of immigrants, with the ground floor dedicated almost exclusively to money changers. It has a very storied past and is often the first stop for refugees and immigrants arriving to Hong Kong.

Goose has collected various currencies during our trip and was having difficulty exchanging some of the more obscure ones.  He had made it his mission to check every money changer in each country we’ve been to in hopes of finding someone who could exchange the less desirable currency.  When they walked into Chungking Mansions, there were so many money changers, and Goose was elated to finally find one that worked! He came out of the building with a huge smile on his face and pocket full of Hong Kong Dollars!

On Saturday, James’ friend, Graham, his wife, Lizzie, and kids, Austin and Alex, met us for the day to give us a tour of their Hong Kong.  Graham told us all about his life growing up in Hong Kong and Goose peppered him with questions!  We perused the markets, which were busy that morning, despite the cold drizzle.  We saw pigs’ feet, all types of animal organs, and different kinds of fish.  Graham shared that to show a fish is fresh, the shop owners will slice open the fish and lay it on ice so you can see the beating heart.  Not five minutes later, we walked into the wet market and saw the fish exactly as he described.  It was shocking! 

At the wet market

We followed our market tour with dim sum brunch at Tim Ho Won in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon.  James and I got to snuggle newborn baby Alex before he went home for his naps.  Graham then ordered the whole menu and we enjoyed a feast of dumplings, sticky rice, bao buns, and much more.  We left stuffed and Graham and Lizzie left with a few days worth of leftovers!

By then the skies had cleared and we enjoyed a stroll to the bird market with their son, Austin, who quickly became Goose’s sidekick! It was a little disheartening to see all the beautiful birds in small cages, desperate to fly.  I’m not sure who purchases them, but clearly there must be a market for it since there are so many sellers advertising birds and cage accessories. 

At the bird market

As we left the bird market, the boys were telling Graham how excited they were to play all the claw machines in Japan.  Graham imparted his claw machine wisdom on the boys. He shared that one secret is to use the claw to tap the toy towards the chute, not pick it up directly!  Not too long after, we stumbled upon a store of claw machines and had to give it a try.  Unfortunately, no one was successful, but the kids have their sight set on Japan for more attempts!

Lastly, we ended our day at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong to take in the beautiful view of the island.  The restaurant is on the 118th floor of the ICC building and has stunning views of Hong Kong Island. We sadly said good-byes to Graham and his family.  We had a wonderful time with them and are so grateful for their tour of Hong Kong!

Sunday, we met James’ friend Jonathan and his family at Hong Kong Country Club for dim sum.  The club overlooked the water, and our kids had a great time hanging out with Jordan and Coby.  It never ceases to amaze how quickly the kids warm up to other kids.  The five of them took off and enjoyed an afternoon running around the playground and playing air hockey.  James and I enjoyed the most amazing dim sum we’d ever had! We loved our time with Jonathan and Joan and learning about what life is like for them in Hong Kong.  We’re also really enjoying the book, Hong Kong Past & Present, that they so kindly gave us. Many thanks to them for a wonderful afternoon!

After our lunch, we had a quick rest, and then headed to Rob’s house for a cookout.  He invited us out to the New Territories, where he lives. It’s only a few miles away from the city center and right on the water.  James and I always like to play the game, “where would you live if we had to live here?” Well, I can say that I’d live where Rob does! He’s right on the water, surrounded by lush, green hills.  It was gorgeous!

Afternoon with Rob in his neighborhood

Rob has three dogs- Popeye, Austin Baby, and Pluto, which our kids were nervous about meeting.  Since we don’t have any dogs of our own, it always takes us a while to warm up.  It took an hour or so, but the kids quickly befriended them. And, Rob patiently answered our kids’ questions about the dogs.  Even Bingo, our kid who is most wary of animals, found a friend in Pluto!

Rob was an amazing host, showing us his neighborhood and allowing the kids to choose records to play.  As we sat around the table enjoying the grilled burgers and hot dogs, we felt like we were back in Charlotte! It was a sense of home that we all needed after being on the road for eight months. Rob, thank you so much for all the kindness you showed us in Hong Kong! I hope we can return the favor some day when you visit us in Charlotte!

Bingo with Pluto

On our last day, I was begging to do some hiking! James kept selling Hong Kong as city meets natural beauty.  About half of the island is a protected natural park and I was eager to see it all! We took the bus to Dragon’s Back hiking trail and started the three-mile trek.  The trail starts at a prison. So, we spent the first 15 minutes of the hike convincing Manji that no prisoners were going to escape.  The kid has the wildest imagination! 

The top of Dragon’s Back

Sadly, it was very foggy, but we still enjoyed the lush surroundings.  The trail boasts beautiful views, which were completely socked in with fog while we were hiking.  When we finished, we took the double-decker bus back to our hotel.  We loved riding on the top of the buses while in Hong Kong.  Such an amazing view around the city from so high!

We loved the double-decker bus rides!

Hong Kong’s history, diversity, and natural beauty made it a special place to tour, but what will always stand out on our visit was the hospitality of all of our friends!

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