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Hong Kong – Day 1 – 4

Written by LouiseElizabeth

3rd March 2019

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Hong Kong – The Start of Our Family Travel Adventure

After months of planning and preparation, our long-awaited family trip had finally arrived. Two days after giving birth to our second child Orla, we booked our flights to Hong Kong, with no set return date or agenda! It’s something that we’d been planning to do before we had children. But kept putting it off because of business and work commitments. We decided during my second pregnancy, that my maternity leave would be an ideal opportunity to trial an extended travel trip. However, we didn’t actually book the flights until we knew everything was okay with Orla.

Flying from London to HK
Virgin Atlantic from London to Hong Kong
don't leave without me
Don’t leave without me!!

We had already traveled to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico the previous year with our son Dylan. That was just for a holiday and a whole different ballpark in terms of preparation and packing! To see more information please check out our ‘Planning and Preparation – Getting Started‘ post.

When we booked the flight through Virgin Atlantic, we requested a bassinet for our 3.5month old daughter. As otherwise, she would have to sit on our laps for 12+ hours. Virgin (like most other airlines) won’t allow you to check in online with a baby. Therefore, we were also unable to confirm the availability of the bassinet. We made sure that we arrived with plenty of time to check-in on the day, also giving ourselves the best opportunity to nab the bassinet first and luckily, we were given one. Hoorah!

The Flight – London to Hong Kong

We had plenty of time to kill at the airport (because we’d arrived at the airport so early) which can be hard with a toddler. However, at Heathrow Terminal 3 a newly refurbished play area for children was available. This includes a soft play area, sensory room, breastfeeding and changing rooms. This was an excellent distraction and a great way for children to burn off any excess energy before a long haul flight!

Virgin travel baby bassinet

The flight went really well and the Virgin Atlantic staff were very friendly which we knew from previous experience. They also set up the basinet for Orla shortly after take off and what a lifesaver it was! Our flight was a night flight anyway, but she slept for almost the entire 12hr journey in her basinet.

Travel Tip: For those who are disciplined, a great way to save money on flights is through earning air miles. One way we have been able to do this is through the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card rewards. Over the last year we have been refurbishing one of our rental properties. With all expenses going onto our credit card to earn miles. Unfortunately, if you are not disciplined with your money, or have trouble keeping track of your payments, some of these credit cards do have large interest rates.

Day 1 – Hong Kong – Ross’ Birthday

We arrived into Hong Kong on Ross’ birthday. With an 8hrs time difference, it meant we had lost most of the day travelling. Transport throughout the airport was pretty easy with the children in tow, which made life a little easier. Firstly, we were handed the buggy as soon as we got off the platform instead of waiting until baggage reclaim. Also, there are handy train links between baggage reclaim, passport control, etc.

We were staying in Wan Chai, on Hong Kong Island and chose to catch the train from the airport to Hong Kong International. The train was a great way to travel as it was free for the children and really easy to navigate. When we arrived at Hong Kong International, we could have waited for the hotel’s shuttle bus (which was free). However, after a long flight, we decided to catch a short metered taxi to the Dorsett Hotel Wan Chai.

A Warm Welcome

Arriving at Dorsett hotel
Free Goody Bag From Dorsett Hotel

Our arrival at the Dorsett Wanchai Hong Kong Hotel was amazing! As Ross checked in, Dylan got whisked away by the staff, over to the “Sweet Corner” to fill up a cup of sweets. Which was the perfect sugar high to keep him awake a little longer! They then presented him a Dorsett teddy bear, bag, and various other goodies… What a lovely surprise and warm welcome!

Directly across from our hotel was Happy Valley Racecourse. Happy Valley is a famous course in Wan Chai, with a long history, recording its first race meet in 1846. Every Wednesday evening horse racing takes place, with an entrance fee starting from 10 HKD. Unfortunately for us, to enter you had to be 18 years old or older. Luckily upon arrival, our room was upgraded by the kind staff at the Dorsett Hotel and overlooked the racecourse. As our arrival coincided with the evening racing we were able to take in some of the experience. All from the comfort of our room. However, with only 4 days in Hong Kong, we were eager to get out and explore the city. After asking reception for a good place to go and grab a bite to eat. The hotel recommended we visit Times Square.

Dorsett Hotel staff
Birthday Cake from the Dorsett WanChai Hotel

My first experience of Hong Kong with a buggy and a two year old in tow wasn’t toooo bad. The streets were very busy due to the horse racing taking place. And after few wrong turns we finally found Times Square, Hong Kong. With the name Times Square, we knew we were heading towards a potential tourist trap. With food and drink prices inflated. We settled on a Dim Sum restaurant we found in a food court. Unfortunately, it was getting late and we felt rushed and never actually received any drinks that we ordered. Overall we felt disappointed with our first experience. At around £25 for 3 dishes, we felt it was slightly overpriced. Mind you, the Pork Buns (which I’ve renamed the “little clouds”) were lovely and were to be a continued highlight of our trip!

Ahead of our arrival at the hotel, I’d cheekily emailed the hotel asking if they could do anything to make Ross’ birthday a little more special. I did this previously on a trip to Dubai. And it was a great surprise for Ross when we arrived with balloons and a cake in our room. The Dorsett hotel generously said they could provide a complimentary cake. Which they brought up to the room when we got back from our evening exploring. Everyone sang Happy Birthday, the staff lit a candle and wanted a photograph. Unfortunately, we all looked a bit jet-lagged and tired!


DAILY SPEND (ROUGHLY):

  • $170 HKD on train from airport HKD
  • $60 HKD on Taxi
  • $250 on Dinner

Day 2 – Hong Kong – Valentine’s Day

After years of being together, two children and trying to live as minimalists, Valentine’s day whilst traveling was a great excuse for Ross not to have to buy another ‘waste of money’ card! Luckily, I had felt the same about his birthday the previous day! lol. And after about 3hrs sleep (due to jet lag) we decided to hit the breakfast buffet at 6am. Breakfast options included some assorted dim sum… little bit strange at 6am, but hey… when in Rome 😉

As we’d woken so early, we tried to find a play area for Dylan to burn off some energy. We found a cute little area (Morrison Hill Road Playground) and was right across from our hotel. Local children were playing before school and a few people were practicing Tai Chi. Which must be working as the flexibility of some of the elderly in Hong Kong is truly inspiring!

The New Central Harbour front (which has the Hong Kong Observation Wheel) was a 2.5km walk from our hotel. Which meant a walk through the city centre. As Chinese New Year had just finished there were still a lot of decorations on the streets which looked amazing.

Things to do in Hong Kong
AIA Observation Wheel

On route to the harbour and right in the city centre, we found another fantastic park (Southorn Playground). It has a great children’s play area, a football pitch and busy basketball court. Which was the perfect way to break up the journey for Dylan.

Completely unaware that the area (Central) we were heading to was renowned for its elevated walkways, we tried to navigate our way there with a buggy. Generally, the city is not set up well for disabled access or for people with buggies. So Ross spent most the journey having to carry the buggy up and down flights of steps with no other ways to cross the highways, than using the elevated walkways. It was a nightmare, but definitely worth it, as the views across the harbour were amazing.

Walking past the ferry ports there were lots of street entertainers and buskers that kept Dylan entertained. In particular a clown making bubbles made a huge crowd with kids all enjoying the show. After the crowds disappeared we seemed to have our own emerging. With Dylan being blonde haired and blue eyed he got the taste of what it would be like to be papped with people taking photos of him and giving him a lot of attention.

Things to do in Hong Kong with kids
Street Entertainers

AIA (also sponsors of the Observation Wheel) held a European Carnival at the central harbourfront from December to the middle of February. With an entrance fee of 50 HKD for each adult (Dylan & Orla went in free). Tokens were also required for rides, so this started to become more expensive than we anticipated. Rides for Dylan’s age/height started at around 30 HKD and some also required “adult supervision” which then incurred paying double the cost and took some of the enjoyment out of the evening.

You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)

The walk back from the pier turned out to be even worse than the way there! Mostly due to the fact that we found a crossing through a shopping mall, got disorientated and lost our bearings. Totally unaware, this caused us to walk back on ourselves and after about 10 minutes, we started noticing landmarks we had already passed!

So after an exhausting walk back and two tired children, we ended up having a western dinner and going to Five Guys. Which turns out to quite the valentines hotspot! So it was super busy there. In the end we gave up waiting for a table and took it back to the hotel!


DAILY SPEND (ROUGHLY)

  • $220 HKD on carnival tokens & entry 
  • $255 HKD on Five Guys Dinner

Day 3 – Hong Kong – Monkeying Around

After yet another terrible nights sleep Ross ended up getting up at 3am, going to the gym and being told off by security for the fact it didn’t open till 6am!!

We planned to go to Hong Kong Zoo & Botanical Gardens. This is one of the oldest zoological and botanical centres in the world and stretches across 5.6 hectares. Once again, it was an awful walk there with so many steps to contend with. But at least we’re building up our muscles and especially as Ross had got chucked out the gym earlier! lol.

Free things to do in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens

On the way, we walked through Hong Kong Park. Hong Kong Park features an aviary, a greenhouse, fountains, lily ponds, playgrounds, a restaurant and even a marriage registry. The children’s playgrounds had lots to offer for different age groups. However, they were stretched across different levels, which was yet another challenge for us with our buggy.

When we finally made our way up the billionth step of the day, we found the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Although it was a little tricky to find (and we had to ask someone working at the tram station for its location). It was a great find, especially considering it was free entry! Dylan really enjoyed seeing the gibbons and the orangutan. There were also turtles, tortoises, avaries and meerkats (although we didn’t see any on the day). The fountains and gardens were really pretty too. Where you could sit and relax whilst taking in the sights of the city’s skyline.

We found the walk back A LOT easier. After an active day, Dylan spent most of the journey back kneeling on his buggy board, half asleep on Orla.

Dinner was another western one at Shake Shack!! Yes, we know we’re bad but it kept Dylan happy too!


DAILY SPEND (ROUGHLY)

  • $225 HKD – Dinner at Shake Shack

DAY 4 – Hong Kong – Ferries & Not Many Stars

After another morning of dim sum breakfast, we set out for our day across the ferry, to see the Avenue of Stars.

The Star Ferry departs from the Central Harbour front and getting across the city centre is now finally getting easier! Yes, we have steps to contend with, but we’re getting smarter at how we approach the other side of the city and like they say ‘knowledge is power’!

Star Ferry Crossing
Star Ferry Crossing – Hong Kong

Purchasing the tokens for the ferry was pretty simple, using a self-service machine located at the Harbourfront. Mind you we actually managed to get across for free, as when we were rushed through the wide aisle (for the buggy) no one took away our tokens!! Now I’m not the biggest fan of boats, ferries or generally anything that sails on water, mostly due to suffering from sea/motion sickness. However, after a bit of a whinge and feeling anxious it was surprisingly pleasant. I parked Orla’s buggy in the disabled area of the boat and stayed with her whilst Dylan and Ross went to check out the views. The ferry lasted around 10 minutes and was extremely calm.

Missing Stars

We headed to the Avenue of stars once we had disembarked, along with everyone else who were pushing and shoving us along. This was obviously a popular attraction as it was really busy. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see. However, I wasn’t overly impressed if I’m honest. Also, I’m pretty sure I only saw one statue with the faint resemblance of Bruce Lee, conveniently situated outside Starbucks! Mind you there is a well-equipped children’s park (Middle Road Children’s Playground) really close by which Dylan really enjoyed playing in.

With it being one of the hottest and most humid days during out time in Hong Kong, we didnt stay for too long and chose to catch the ferry back after a couple of hours… using the tokens we hadnt used on our outbound journey 🙂


DAILY SPEND (ROUGHLY)

  • $160 HKD Ferry
  • $100 HKD Snacks – Ice Creams
  • $300 HKD Dinner

Day 5 – Leaving for Chiang Mai

Our flight to Chiang Mai was an early morning flight on the day that the Hong Kong Marathon was taking place. So there were going to be a lot of road closures on the way and we’d need to allow more time to get to the airport. We decided to catch an Uber to the airport (for 365 HKD), as this would be the quickest way to arrive and even got to see some of the marathon runners on route!

Pushing The Scales

Traveling with children at HK Airport
Bye Bye Hong Kong

When we arrived at the AirAsia check-in desk, we realised we hadn’t paid for any baggage. My Osprey Falcon backpack is light so we only needed to check in 1 bag and the lady on the desk stated that it would cost us $100 HKD. We agreed to this payment and presented our Monzo card for payment but never provided a signature or pin to confirm the transaction. A little confused, we walked away and then received a text notification for a payment of $800 HKD (£78 GBP)!! As we had never agreed or authorised this payment we went back to question this. All the manager could tell us was that it was non-refundable and that she would look at training her staff better in the future. Ross was absolutely fuming!

Overall it was a very frustrating and costly experience, costing over half the original price of our flight to Chiang Mai. If we had the choice or knew the real cost, we would have reduced the weight and put more into our hand luggage.

Anyway, moving on… Hong Kong airport departures, similar to arrivals again is very wide and spacious making it easy with our buggy with access to trains and lifts to departure gates.

Hong Kong Summary

We were surprised at how much we enjoyed our time in Hong Kong and with plenty of parks and play areas it was a hit for Dylan. We tried to keep our costs to a minimum as we knew that Hong Kong was going to be one of the more expensive destinations on our travels. However, we really enjoyed our time in Hong Kong and without having to break the bank! It’s a great city to explore and the harbour really comes to life in the evenings with the lit up skyscrapers and illuminated skyline. Hong Kong does provide some challenges when you have a buggy and a two-year-old. Some of the hills feel like they are verticle, some of the paths are very narrow and some of the pavements have no slopes to go up or down.

Chinese New Year - Year of the pig
Lee Tung Avenue

One way we were able to keep costs down was to take full advance of the hotel breakfast. Our only downfall was from eating so much DimSum and fried rice at 6am, that the last thing we wanted in the evenings was more of the same thing. Apart from a diet of orange juice, toast and bananas Dylans hasn’t yet taken to the local cuisine. Like a true Brit he has acquired a taste for chips (French Fries) for his evening meals.

Due to jet lag and humidity we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. We planned to go to Disneyland originally, but we had plenty to see in the city and felt that maybe our children would appreciate it more once they are a bit older.

Unlike the rest of us, Orla has slept right through and had no problems with jet lag! The Koo-di Popup travel basinet has been absolutely brilliant and is pretty easy to assemble/dismantle.

In summary, I think Hong Kong is a great place for children for a short break. Just a little bit of a struggle with a pushchair and we may have been better using a sling at times!!

Next Stop – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Family Travel Thailand, Chiang Mai
Family Travel Adventure – Chiang Mai, Thailand – Second Stop

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