|Hong Kong (Sep 23 - Sep 30, 2001)|
Culture shock! Salad, brie cheese, followed by spaghetti and an excellent bottle of red wine for supper on our first day. Swims in a club pool, super markets, liquor stores, expensive cars, views of windsurfers and Hobie Cats sailing in an ocean that was a Mediterranean blue.
Hong Kong is not what I was expecting.
To be sure, it is a big, modern city. However, they have been very good in their zoning - areas are either built up with tall apartment buildings, or it's green space. There is not the urban sprawl of single family dwellings that you see in Canada.
We were very lucky to be staying with Fergus Wilmer and Jennifer Normand and their two children Morgan (4) and Cameron(2). Fergus and Jennifer live in the Redhill Peninsula near Stanley. It is largely an ex-pat community, and we all settled in to the quasi-North American lifestyle. With a host of english DVD's available, it was disappointing to see the kids fall back into their old TV watching habits so quickly!
Our first afternoon in HK was spent relaxing by the pool trying to recuperate from our sleeper bus ordeal. The next day, the kids did a bit of home work and journals in the morning and then swam in the afternoon. Jennifer took Sarah & I to Stanley market in the late afternoon. The market was so civilized - air conditioned stalls and no one saying 'HELLO HELLO' as we passed. Clothing was quite inexpensive, and Sarah bought two bathing suits for the kids for $10HK each (about $2 Cdn).
That evening, we took Fergus and Jennifer to dinner at Lucy's (a local restaurant in Stanley) while Gloria, their Filipino nanny, looked after all the kids.
The next day was certainly our highlight in Hong Kong. Fergus had arranged to borrow his boss' boat for the afternoon. After traipsing around the Stanley market with the kids in the morning, we made our way together to the boat in the afternoon.
Calling it a boat is a misnomer - it was a yacht at least 75 feet long with a permanent crew of three. We cruised for about 45 minutes to the secluded 'Snake Bay' on one of the outlying islands where we dropped anchor. The adults and Mark ate a gourmet lunch of whole shrimp, crab and grouper while the younger kids watched Wallace and Grommit for the 145th time inside the air conditioned cabin. We swam in the very warm South China Sea. Cameron and Morgan were very quick to jump in, while Heather and Mark eyed the water suspiciously for the sharks that they had heard about. They eventually jumped in (and right back out again), but Chloe could not be convinced. Fergus, Jennifer, Mark and I all went water skiing behind the Boston Whaler that had been tied up behind the yacht. Mark, to his credit, did very well and dropped a ski even though he was using adult skis that were far too big for him.
It was the beginning of the Mid Autumn moon festival, and we joined a lantern parade with the other Redhill Residents on Friday evening. The moon festival is the second most important holiday season celebrated in China (the first being New Year's) - it is similar to Thanksgiving.
Fergus left for a trip to Canada on Friday afternoon, so on Saturday, we went for a hike with Jennifer and the kids. The Dragon's Back walk (8.5km) is along the top of the mountain ridge across the bay from the Redhill Peninsula. It was hot and we didn't have quite enough water but Morgan walked (and talked) the whole way and Cameron did very well for a 2 year old. Our gang walked the whole way with a few grumbles - they may be up for a trek in Nepal yet! I found a new pair of Ray Ban sunglasses just off the side of the trail - a piece of good fortune that I credit to my throwing a coin into the small box at the big Buddha on Friday. We spent the rest of the day at Shek O beach. The kids swam and body surfed happily... inside the shark nets.