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.

Seoul: Walking and Shopping 

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Tim wanted a birthday trip to Seoul. With his work schedule, we decided to go early instead of later in the summer. Pyeongtaek is much closer to Seoul than Daegu so our drive was about an hour and 15 minutes. We arrived well before check in so we just left everything in the car and headed out with the stroller. 

Tim wanted to check out Video Game Alley, which is part of an electronics market behind ipark mall. Many of the vendors had cool things, but the prices were way above retail. 

Ipark Mall is undergoing renovation so it was confusing to find certain sections. But we found some really cool things in the Gundam store, Lego Store, and the Studio Ghibli Collection on the third floor. 

We had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen before heading to Times Square Mall. The mall was nice, but expensive and did not have the electronics that Tim was looking for. But it did have some stores that Clarissa and I enjoyed for toys and stationary. 

We tried a different electronics market with no luck. It was funny because Tim had a list of places that he wanted to shop but wasn’t finding what he was looking for but everywhere we went Clarissa and I found something. 

On Tuesday, we headed to Olympic Park. It was a pretty park with random statues and monuments from the 1988 Olympics. I always enjoy seeing the flags from the different countries. It was cool because there was also a list of each event and who won each medal. 

Clarissa made a friend who was feeding fish. She enjoyed feeding the fish until the food was gone. Then she tried chasing pigeons. 

There is a nice playground in Olympic Park. Actually there are several, but Clarissa really enjoyed this one near the flags. 

You could see Lotte World Mall from the park, so we walked instead of taking the subway. 

Our first stop was the Aquarium. If we lived in Seoul, we would have annual passes. It was supposed to cost 29,000 won for an adult and 23,000 won for a child, but we showed our passports and received a discount so we only paid 63,000 won total. 

It was the best aquarium we have seen in Korea so far (we have seen 4). The tanks were all very clean. Ambient music played in the background. You could pay 1,000 won to feed fish or 2,000 won to give a bottle to some koi fish. 

The Aquarium is on b1 of the Lotte World Mall. The mall itself was great. There were several floors. Each of us could find things we were excited about. 

We read about a Teddy Bear Zoo. Once we got there, I realized it wasn’t really a museum, but a kid’s cafe. It cost 19,000 won for kids and 7,000 won for adults for two hours. Clarissa had a great time on the trampolines, in the ball pit, playing with Legos, climbing on the slide, and even riding a mechanical zebra. 

After the Teddy Bear Zoo, we headed to Coex Mall for dinner. We ate the best Mexican I have had in Korea so far at a place called On the Border. It was a little pricey, but so delicious. 

They have been remodeling the mall the past few years and it is finally finished. There were stores for each of us as well as a library. The YP Bookstore has a decent English section. Tim was able to find something on his list at the Gundam store. 

Our first two days in Seoul were really long. Clarissa did well with a late bedtime and Tim’s phone said we walked over 54,000 steps over the two days.