Tuesday at Ocean Park

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Tuesday was a really chill day for us. The only thing on our agenda was Ocean Park so we didn’t set an alarm. We woke up, had a lazy morning, went to McDonald’s for breakfast on the way to the subway, and arrived to the park about 11.

They opened at 10 but there weren’t lines for anything. I really liked the set up of the park. It reminds me of Busch Gardens in that there were themed areas. Each area had food, animals, a gift shop, and rides. Because everything was so spread out, the animals all had huge areas, which was great to see.

We started with the aquarium. The thing that I most liked about it was that the viewing started at the floor so Clarissa could see everything. I didn’t have to lift her to see.

Our next stop was Asia to see golden monkeys, pandas, and red pandas.

There was an area for the history of the Goldfish. We also got to see some turtles and watch an otter eat this lunch.

We went to Whisker Harbor for some rides that were Clarissa size. We tried a carousel and a train. Both times we were the only ones on the ride. She also played in a bounce house and on a playground.

By this time it was almost 1 PM and we were getting hungry so we decided to take the cable car to the other side of the park for lunch. We literally had to go over the mountain to get there. But the view along the way was amazing.

After lunch we saw Spurgeon and sharks.

We also saw dolphins, seals, sea lions, walrus, and penguins.

Along the path we would randomly see amazing views.

We saw an arctic fox, cruised the Amazon rainforest, and finally ended with a visit to Australia.

We were at the park for about 6 hours and saw all of the animal exhibits. It was very windy and overcast most of the day so there weren’t many people there. Roller coasters and other thrill rides are available for older kids and adults.

Tim read about a Thai restaurant that someone claimed was the best in Asia so we headed there for dinner. The Spice House Restaurant, located in Wan Chai had decent food, but it definitely wasn’t better than anything we normally have. And the service was not great either.

We saw a cool street display on the way back to the train station.

We passed Wan Chai market as well so we stopped there on the way back to the subway. It was mostly flowers and food. But there were random stalls of clothes and toys.

When we arrived at our train station, we went to customer service to return our octopus cards and get a refund of our balance on the cards. They charged about $1 USD to do this, but it was definitely worth it because we got about $25 USD back.

Monday in Central Hong Kong

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Clarissa slept in on Monday so we got a later start than we thought we would. We took the MTR to Central Station and followed the signs to the Peak Tram. It was probably a 20 minute walk, and most of it was uphill.

We bought tickets online at a discount and thought that we would be able to skip the long line forming. Nope. We waited in line for over an hour to take the tram up to Victoria Peak.

Our tickets included admission to the Sky Terrance 428 (428 meters above sea level). We took several flights of escalators to the top and were not disappointed. The views of the Harbor from Victoria Peak were amazing.

There was a big heart at the top. Clarissa had a fun photo shoot with that. She even took a picture herself. (I will give you a hint, it’s the one with the fingers in the picture…)

After seeing the view, we had lunch at Fujiyama Mama a few floors down. Our view was still beautiful and the food was delicious. Tim had a sampler of four kinds of sushi and I had California roll with edamame. Clarissa wouldn’t eat the sushi itself, but loved the fish eggs on the outside.

On our way to the exit, they had a 3D art area, which reminded me of the Trick Eye Museum that everyone goes to in Seoul. It was free so we decided to check it out. Tim was the photographer and Clarissa and I had a great time being silly.

Then, we headed toward Clarissa’s most anticipated activity of the day, the chocolate museum! The Art of Chocolate was located across the street from the Peak Tram terminal. We found a cool shop to buy souvenirs on our way there.

We bought tickets online for admission to the museum and unlimited chocolate tasting. The museum looks small on the outside, but we probably spent 20 minutes looking at these sculptures made of chocolate. I was surprised at how detailed they were. All of them had signs with history, ingredients, and ended by saying that you could order each edible creation. Clarissa kept saying, “It’s so beautiful!” I wonder if she would enjoy visiting an art museum?

At the end were some items made of chocolate that you could touch and play with. I even found the letters for all of our names.

There was a gift shop where you could make your own edible creation or buy one pre-made.

There were a few samples of milk chocolate and white chocolate at the end. We were going to be disappointed that we paid for unlimited chocolate tasting until the girl came over and told us to sit down.

She brought out two trays of chocolate. There were nine different flavors to try. She instructed us which order to try them (we were to end with the dark chocolate). She brought us a pitcher of water, three cups, three plates, and three spoons. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Clarissa’s favorite was the strawberry, I liked the salted carmel, and Tim liked the combination white and milk chocolate best.

The wait to go down the tram was not as long as the line to go up. We headed back down the hill to central Hong Kong. Tim navigated us to Landmark Mall. We saw a few toy stores and a book store. We even found a store called Oliver’s Delicatessen that reminded us of Whole Foods. We were excited to find a few things we can’t get in Korea. Tim picked out his birthday cake flavor and I bought a mix for gluten free gingerbread for Christmas.

Then, we headed to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We had to go uphill again and there were plenty of stairs. We tried three different streets before Tim decided to push the stroller in the street while Clarissa and I took the steps.

We splurged and got special drinks with our meals, which were all delicious. Clarissa loves to dance to the music.

We headed to Causeway Bay and Tim found something at Razer, a gaming store. It was 7:00 so we decided to make our way to the Symphony of Lights at 8:00. It was complicated to find our way there. We made it just in time. The light show is supposed to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. But we were honestly disappointed. There was music and a few lasers. But that was it.

It was cool to see the Victoria Harbour at night though. There were some boats lit up in different colors that went by.

Sunday in Kowloon

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Clarissa went to bed about midnight on Saturday (well closer to 1 AM Korea time), so I thought for sure she would sleep in on Sunday. Nope. She was up at 8, as usual.

We walked to Fortress Hill to christen our Octopus cards on the MTR (subway). There was a McDonald’s next door so we stopped in for a quick breakfast. Then we started down the stairs to catch our train. We could not find any elevators. Tim carried the stroller down the stairs and Clarissa walked and held my hand. We were surprised that her stroller didn’t even fit through the turnstile, we had to lift it over.

The transfer of subway lines was super easy. We only had to cross the corridor to the next train. We went to Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon. There were not elevators at that stop either.

The temple was huge! I don’t think that we have been to a temple on a Sunday before. It was very crowded with people buying things, burning incense, and offering prayers. It is still very close to Lunar New Year so there were some special areas set up as well.

People would rub the statues for good luck. I was trying to explain this practice, and a little bit about Buddhism to Clarissa. She was very confused about why people would rub statues or burn incense because those aren’t real gods. We just think some of the buildings look cool.

There was a cool fountain. Clarissa said it was “so beautiful!” She was also excited about the fish.

This was one of the largest temple complexes we have visited.

After the temple, we meandered the subway to explore a few electronics markets for Tim. He was disappointed by the selection. There were some nice items, but most were overpriced.

We then headed to Mong Kok to try a store called Mi Home. It was a pretty cool store room. You see what you like and then stand in line. An employee then comes by to “take your order,” which you receive when you get to the cashier. Tim bought some blue tooth earphones and Clarissa was excited about an LED flashlight. They gave us a bonus item and a catalog for the items in the store.

We went back to the MTR station and headed to Tsim Sha Tsui. I read that on Sundays from 230 – 430 there were dragon dances and Kung fu demonstrations at Kowloon Park. That was the main reason we arrived on Saturday, so we could see this. It was already after 2 PM and we still had to eat lunch. We grabbed some food and then headed to the park. It was 340 by the time we arrived and the exciting part was over. There was a lady teaching Tai Chi. Apparently, you need to arrive right at 230 for the high energy show.

Kowloon Park wasn’t a total loss for us though. Clarissa was really excited to see the aviary and to play on the playground.

We found some fun comic statues before we left.

There was even a Nepalese cultural show so we watched a couple of dances. Clarissa really liked it and asked me to take a video.

Mi Home gave Tim a catalog the first time we were there. That was dangerous. We looked through it and both found some things that we wanted. So we headed back to Mi Home after the park.

Our last adventure of the day was Ladies Market. They had some pretty clothes, toys, purses, and jewelry. Some of it was really nice but a lot of it was knock offs. I did buy a pretty robe.

Clarissa found a great Elsa crown and wig.

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We headed back toward the hotel and had some Chinese food for dinner.

First impressions of Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a very easy country to get into. On the plane, we filled out an arrival card. In other countries, there is usually a customs form as well. We went through a very quick line where they gave us a small paper visa to keep inside our passports. They didn’t take our pictures or scan our fingerprints. Then we picked up our bags from baggage claim and headed out. Very quick and painless process.

There are several airport shuttles to specific hotels and an airport express train that you can take. Because we would also have to pay for Clarissa, it was slightly cheaper to take a taxi directly to our hotel instead of taking the shuttle to several different hotels. So we did something we never do on vacation and took a taxi.

Our taxi driver was excellent. He was an older guy but spoke decent English. We would pass random things and he would give us the history or tell us about the culture. For example, he was telling us that it is normal for an apartment building in Hong Kong to be anywhere from 50 – 100 stories tall (in Seoul normal is 25). He also showed us the bridge you can take to go to Mainland China.

When we got to the hotel, Clarissa said, “This place is beautiful. There is so much to discover! I love it here. Let’s move.” And I am not exaggerating…

We dropped off our bags and because it was already almost 8 PM, decided to take a taxi to Times Square Mall for some shopping and dinner. Dinner was tricky. We tried three different restaurants that all told us there would be at least a 45 minutes wait when we could clearly see that there were tables available.

We did find some fun shops. The Lego Store had a lot of displays. Clarissa bought a Rapunzel set.

There was also an awesome English bookstore called Metro Kids. They had a ton of Usborne and other educational books and games. If I were still teaching or if Clarissa was farther along in her homeschooling, I think that I would have spent a lot of money there.

We found a Studio Ghibli store (read about our visit to a Studio Ghibili exhibit in Seoul here). But it had a different name. It was still fun to walk through. I tried on a Totoro hoodie, but I didn’t buy it.

We took another taxi back since it was after 10 PM. But this is taxi driver was boring and didn’t say a word.

On Sunday morning, we started our usual public transportation using our Octopus cards. I can understand why several people online said that Hong Kong is not stroller friendly. The MTR (subway system) does not have elevators in every station. We get around that… Tim carries the stroller up and down the stairs and I make Clarissa walk next to me. We only saw a handicapped accessible turnstile entrance at one of the stops. Clarissa’s stroller would not fit through the rest. So we would have her walk through and then Tim or I would have to lift the stroller over the turnstile. It made for a more tiring day.

There also seems to be a lack of public bathrooms. At least, I have not seen many in the metro stations. The people seem to be in a rush to go everywhere. They try to get on the subway car before everyone has had a chance to get off and don’t wait for the light to change for the crosswalk.