Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Return of the Parents

It is with great joy that I announce the return of BOTH sets of parents. Oh what a difference it makes!

Malcolm's parents joined us to watch Elliot's soccer match, a top of the table clash. Elliot's team, unfortunately, could not muster a victory and went down narrowly by 3 goals to 2. The in-laws then took Elliot and Jonah to pick Lara up from ballet. They were headed for a sleep-over. This equated to freedom for the rest of Saturday. Hallelujah!

Exciting people that we were, the first thing we did was to have a late morning nap. Then we decided to rectify our poor cinema-going record. I was given a choice of Pirates of The Caribbean 4 in 3D or The Hangover 2. I chose the former. We gorged ourselves on some Japanese for lunch. Sushi and sashimi were so much more enjoyable when you didn't have to fight your children for it! Borders was open for one last day and so we ducked in to pick up some books for the children at 90% off. Unfortunately, most of the good books were already gone by then but we were still happy with our haul of 5 books for $8. We had just enough time to purchase ourselves some blueberry bagels, caramel du leche frappuccino, and a taro pearl milk tea before the movie started.

The movie was enjoyable, probably because I had no expectations. There was fun, action, romance, and a great soundtrack. I rather enjoyed the lack of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly for I thought they were rather stiff in the first movie. We headed home very relaxed and had another nap. I fear that I am making myself sound geriatric...

When we woke up, it was time for dinner to celebrate Malcolm's mother's birthday. A hearty Italian meal provided much comfort on a cold windy day. Cake and coffee finished off a wonderful celebratory evening and we returned home to enjoy our books in bed. Pure bliss....

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Back to Reality

We are home safe and sound! It didn't take us very long at all to crash back into reality...I am ready for my next holiday!

Our last day in Hong Kong was one of last minute shopping. We had plans to visit the Pixar exhibition but we had to change MTRs too many times for our liking and couldn't figure out which bus to take. My parents, AKA our trusty guides, had already left for Singapore early in the morning.

So we decided to be brave and return to Sogo! It was slightly better than the previous day as most Hong Kong locals don't start their day until later. I can't even remember anymore what we bought! All I knew was that we spent 2 hours back at the hotel trying to rearrange everything in our suitcases. The rest of the afternoon flew by and we left for Hong Kong airport in the same weather condition as when we arrived...grey and rainy. We were grateful to be able to fit into the one taxi and the ride didn't take long at all.

The Qantas check in counters at Hong Kong International was better organised and more efficient than the one in Sydney. Despite the long line, it moved quickly and the staff were friendly and helpful. Immigration and security were likewise efficient and quick.

We made our way to the wonderfully LARGE food court that they had. We had to spend the last of our Hong Kong dollars. Our first stop was Cafe De Coral for some last minute BBQ pork, duck, rice and noodles, as well as my favourite Hong Kong milk tea. It was a lot cheaper than expected. So we moved on to what has become a bad habit at airports for us...McDonalds! We filled ourselves with taro pies, sundaes and milkshakes. Again, we still had money left over!

It appeared that I was destined to go into the Disney Store...we finally finished our last dollars.

A last minute dash later to purchase a man bag, and we were on the plane flying home. The flight home was not as smooth as the flight over but we were glad to be home nonetheless. We also welcomed Chloe into our home, who will be staying with us over the next 10 months. She had also arrived that morning from the UK.

I realised that I had forgotten to add photos to my last photos so that problem has been fixed!

Friday, 20 May 2011

More Shopping

We actually managed to sleep in today. Woohoo! It was then a leisurely and scenic bus ride to Stanley markets. We caught the number 6 bus right outside the hotel. The journey took us past Ocean Park, the beachside area of Repulse Bay and then to the famous markets themselves. We had a really great time shopping as a family. There was something for everyone. We bought clothes, footwear, homeware, toys, heat packs and much more! I need to stop buying clothes for the children...

The market went right out to the waterfront, where we had a very un-chinese lunch of pizzas and fish'n'chips. It was relaxing soaking in the views in front of us. We stopped for an obligatory ice-cream for a respite from the heat and then caught the bus back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

Dinner was at a chinese restaurant with my mother's friend again. The food was delicious but I was constantly disturbed by a poorly behaved child. It was even more disturbing that the child was mine. Sigh...the waitresses, however, thought he was cute and hilarious and this made him even worse! In the end, we had five of them hovering around him and giving him various goodies.

We ended the day with more shopping, this time at the Japanese department store, Sogo. They had a sale on and it was packed. I mean PACKED! You wonder why Australia has such a huge difficulty with retail turnover. The discounts were not that big but everyone was going crazy. We purchased a tempur pillow which was 40% off, goggles, toys, underwear and more clothes. We had to give up at 9pm when Jonah fell asleep as we left the stroller back at the hotel. We extended our checkout for tomorrow until 5pm and retreated to our room.

The signs pointing us to the shops that we were seeking

Not sure why they were all pulling faces. Surely they could not be tired of my asking them for photos already?!?!

Looking for lunch along the promenade

The beautiful view of the coastline

At least one member of the family still loves to pose!

Ice-cream break whilst waiting for our bus home

Taro ice-cream perhaps not such a good idea

This was just to get into Sogo...

The Ring That I Had Been Waiting For An Eternity For...

Yes, it took me losing my wedding and engagement rings for Malcolm to move his behind into gear. I received this much loved replacement whilst at Hong Kong Disneyland two days ago.

Now I just need to work on getting one with real diamonds...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Braving the Big Buddha

We returned to Lantau Island today to visit the re-knowned Giant Buddha. It was back on the Tung Chung line but this time we went to the very end. From there it was a short walk to the Ngong Ping cable car station. We had to line up to buy tickets. I had forgotten to buy them beforehand online! Drats...and we got allocated booth number four. I hoped this was not a bad sign for the rest of our day. We opted to get the "Enlightened Journey" package. It was supposed to be a "best buy". For our money, we got return tickets for a crystal cabin cable car, and entry into "Walking with Buddha" and Monkey's Tale Theatre. The crystal cabin has a see through floor so we can see how far we have to fall should something bad happen...

Buying our tickets

The boys fascinated by the "Crystal" floor of our cabin

It was a LONG cable car ride, so it was definitely good value for money! What surprised me was the number of people who were actually walking on the path below. I later found out that the journey would take around 2.5 hours. The cable car gave a panoramic view of the mountainous island and of the busy international airport. The surroundings were so green. It was a shame that it was so hazy.

We arrived at Ngong Ping Village at the top of the plateau just after 11am. We decided to stop for a quick noodle lunch before proceeding through the Ngong Ping Piazza to the Giant Buddha. The Giant Buddha is the world's tallest, outdoor, seated bronze Budda. To get up close and personal, one had to climb many, many steps...but the whole family made it. What a magnificent outlook the Giant Buddha has!

We went into "Walking with Buddha" on the way home. It was a short "experience" based on the story of Buddha. We were given head phones with our language of choice and proceeded into various rooms to learn about Buddha. It was very well done and an attraction that could be enjoyed by the whole family. Monkey's Tale Theatre on the other hand was rather ordinary.

A cow just walking along the road...

At Ngong Ping Village

The Monkey's Tale Theater, essentially a cartoon short with a little bit effects thrown in. You won't miss much if you don't see it.

One of the many cute shops at the Village. We bought a pair of cute souvenir chopsticks for the in-laws

The Giant Buddha in profile

Entry to Ngong Ping Piazza

One of the "twelve divine generals" regarded as protectors in Buddhism, each one representing an animal of the chinese zodiac.

A close up. Did I take photos of the ones representing the animals that our family were? Nooo....

Before the climb...we know we can...we know we can...

At the top

The great view

THE only photo we have of us together!

Two very happy children...

...and in contrast

The view down from the cable car

Getting off

We stopped to walk around Citigate Outlets as Malcolm did not get to go the first time around. We somehow managed to buy three pairs of crocs. Then it was back towards Causebay Bay for a quick McDonald's dinner and back to the hotel for an early night. The children were obviously tired from the late evenings for the past 6 days as both Elliot and Lara wet their beds overnight! They had not done this for a LONG time and both were oblivious to the fact that their beds were wet! As awful as I feel about it, I was still glad that I was not the one having to change the bedding! Perhaps another low-key might be in order for tomorrow...

Citigate Outlets. You can just see the McDonalds where we had our snack the first time we were here.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hong Kong Disneyland

Our Disney day had finally arrived! It was the first day since we had arrived that the sun had come out. It must be a sign! I also discovered that my parents had never been to the Disneyland in Hong Kong! How could that be?!?!? We caught the free shuttle bus from our hotel to Hong Kong Station where we hopped onto the MTR bound for Tung Chung. We had to change trains at Sunny Bay Station, a station which appeared to be built specifically as an interchange. The Disney details started with the trains on the Disneyland Resort line. There was no mistaking where we were going!

It doesn't take much to figure out where this train was going!

Upon arrival at the Disneyland Resort Station, Malcolm sprinted off to get the remaining tickets for the adults. We managed to manouvre the stroller past the shoving and pushing crowds, and walked towards the sign that indicated that we were very close to our destination. I couldn't suppress my excitement when I saw Mickey surfing the water coming out of the whale's blow hole! By the time we caught up to Malcolm, he was already in the line for entry into the park. There were a lot more people than I expected for a Wednesday (not that I know how crowded it was normally!) And then, my mother announced that the family of the day had already been picked, and it wasn't us! So much for telling the children to behave and "look cute"...The front gates opened to allow guests in on the dot at 10am. We filed in to await the rope drop at 1030. Walking down Main Street felt a little strange. There was still the familiar music in the background but having just been to the one at Walt Disney World, it felt "miniature". I was happy nonetheless striding toward that castle!

The vast Disneyland Resort Station

We're here! Malcolm was off getting tickets

The water feature that greeted guests in front of the entrance

Malcolm had already started lining up when we caught up

You can just see the family of the day in the corner...

Main Street

We made a bee line for Tomorrowland. We headed for Autopia whilst Malcolm went to get fast passes for the HK equivalent of Space Ranger spin (the name escapes me). As it was, we had to wait about 15 minutes to get into a car. We pre-warned the children that there would be no second rides on this particular attraction! The children didn't care. They loved the ride. I have to say that the track was great. It was so green and scenic. It was also very smooth. I have to rate it as much better than the one at WDW. We popped into the neighbouring Space Ranger Spin next. It was always going to be good fun as well for the whole family. As luck would have it, who would appear but Buzz Lightyear himself. The timing couldn't have been better, I had just finished browsing the merchandise. We were literally third to say hello to the great toy. Jonah, however, did not share my excitement and enthusiasm. He could not get far away enough from Buzz. Sigh. He was instead content with the replica.

Our first ride of the day

The lush surroundings

Lara skipping down the exit after the ride


"I want that one Buzz"

It was off to Fantasyland for some lunch. For no particular reason other than that I wanted to walk through the castle! We stopped at Clopin's Festival of Foods for some Asian. The food was pleasantly delicious. I had wondered what the quality of food was going to be like. It was also reasonably priced. With our tummies full, there was no better time to go on the Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh. It appeared that the locals were not very familiar with the fast pass system. Admittedly the line was not super long, but the fast pass still let us on a lot quicker and there was no one else using it! Some tried to follow us in with no fast passes and were thankfully stopped by the CMs. This is when we encountered one of many "toilet" encounters. In front the line, a girl aged about 8, just dropped her pants, squatted and did a wee! The CM was yelling at the child's mother. I had never heard a CM be so stern before and rightfully so. Malcolm was in shock from disbelief for quite some time after that incident. I also saw a few ladies do their business in the toilets with the doors open and a mother catching her son's wee in a plastic bag whilst in the line of a ride. Well the Chinese are definitely not boring!

The small but pretty castle

Fantasyland, beautiful as always

Our lunch stop

The little trouble maker posing

The offerings for lunch

The children waiting patiently, well two were...

The chopsticks and chinese spoon pack along with the obligatory chilli sauce


We decided to do the indoors attractions to avoid the heat and so went to the Golden Mickeys next. It was a variation of the show performed on the Disney Cruise Line. The music was as wonderful as ever and I still enjoyed it despite having seen it a couple of times. The best part of the show had to be Tarzan. What an amazing body he had! He came running up the aisle on our side and I was willing him to give me a high five or come close enough for me to touch those fabulous pectorals, but it was not to be. I had to be content with a jellyfish from a rendition of "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid.

After the show, we scooted over to the nearby Its A Small World. We thought the theatre would empty into the ride but we were surprised by a walk on into the attraction. The children had a lot of fun spotting the characters from various Disney films along the way.

Abu (excuse the bad photos)


Woody and Jessie

Taking a rest under the shade of a bridge

Next on the agenda was Adventureland. Our guide was Yo Yo. She was hilarious, half the reason being that we couldn't understand her! She was so animated though and periodically screaming and shrieking out loud. I have to comment here on how pretty Hong Kong Disneyland is. The surrounding scenery is so lush and green, it really adds a special feel to the place. It was also nice to be able to wander around a one day park and enjoy yourself without a plan of attack so to speak.

Trying to cool down before getting on the jungle cruise

Our boat and our guide "Yo Yo"

We had an ice-cream break and decided to do some shopping as it was getting hot and humid. To be honest, the rest of the day was a bit of a blur as we simply wandered around rather aimlessly! It was so unlike me!!!! All I remember was aiming to be in the shops whilst the parade was on. I squeezed myself in, ok I squeezed myself and three children in, and watched the shop empty as the parade started. I was in heaven. I had serious merchandise to purchase! We walked out with multiple bags at the end of the day, including T-shirts, camera strap, nail clipper key chains, key chain, pins, music box, two Dooney & Burke bags (yes two! One was 50% off!), cookies (I loved the tins they came in), hair accessories and other bits of jewelry.

Lara watching the parade from the shop doors as her cruel mother shopped...

A cleaner suddenly started to draw on the road with his broom!

The end result

Somewhere in the day, we lost my parents to exhaustion. They decided to return back to the hotel and we stayed on. We had a mix of Chinese and Indian for dinner. The plan was to eat early so we could go and watch the Festival of The Lion King. Jonah had other ideas. He woke up and threw the biggest wobbly. Needless to say we didn't make the show. We went around the park and went on rides that we have not been on instead. Space Mountain was awesome! The beginning was truly pitch black and you COULD NOT see where you were going. Definitely the best and most funky of the lot.

The calm before the storm...


Hainanese chicken rice

The very fun Tarzan's House. The view from the top was amazing.

The very lush surroundings once again. View of the loading station of the Jungle Cruise

A most beautiful statue of Aurora and her prince. Everyone else just walked past it without stopping!

Very happy children waiting for the carousel

Who would have thought that Jonah would love the tea cups!

The castle in the evening

The rest of the day went by very quickly. We stopped for a snack before heading home. I love it how you can get Hong Kong milk tea in Disneyland! The children had pineapple fleecy. It was actually very nice! We also bought the worst doughnut I have ever had in my life. You know its bad when ALL three children refuse to eat more! We left for home exhausted but very happy. Even though it is a small park, the Disney magic is still there. It is definitely a great park to start with, and a great park with younger children. We had the most wonderful day and we can't wait to go to the original Disneyland come September!

Lara's collection of stickers

Elliot engrossed on the MTR on the way home

What he was engrossed with

Jonah determined to put the stickers on himself

Our loot!