“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.”
– Nury Vittachi –
Tuesday 27th February 2018
Today was quite a long travel day. My flight was again via Manilla, Philippines, though knowing this time round how poor the facilities at the airport were, I was better prepared especially in the food department.
I didn’t arrive until after 11pm and unfortunately there was a slight delay with the luggage arriving at the carousel, meaning it was closer to midnight before I got through arrivals.
I am staying with Gail, Sebastian and their family who have recently moved here from Carstairs Junction. Having taught the girls, they knew about my travel plans and when they found out my itinerary included a stop off here in Hong Kong they very kindly invited me to stay. I am really excited to see everyone!
Gail met me at the airport and we took a bus out to their home in Discovery Bay. It is a residential area on Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong and is surrounded by sea and mountains. It is very peaceful, away from the busy city you imagine when you think of Hong Kong. Obviously, you don’t see the area quite so well in the dark, but it was lovely to catch up and hear how the well the kids were all getting on, though I was sorry to be keeping Gail up so late.
A sweet surprise was waiting for me when I got to my room. The children had all made little ‘welcome’ cards and pictures and left them with a chocolate on my pillow…super cute.
Wednesday 28th February 2018
My, how they’ve grown! It was great to see the kids at breakfast time. Charlotte said to me, “We’ve never had a teacher stay with us before.” Gail and I walked with the children to school and it was my first little peek around Discovery Bay in daylight. Their school is much bigger than at home. Lots more children in comparison to a small, rural school but it has wonderful facilities and has a lovely feel to it. It was quite a strange feeling to be back in a school after all this time of being off!
Like in Singapore with Deborah and Tom, the great thing about staying with people is that they have the perfect recommendations for things to do and you really get the best of both the tourist and ‘local’ experiences. Today Sebastian and Gail had very kindly offered to show me around Lantau.
In the morning we made our way to visit Po Lin Monastery and the ‘Big Buddha’. It is quite a remarkable statue and is thought to be the largest seated Buddha statue in the world. We took a cable car ride to get there and the glass bottom meant we had a great view of the beautiful mountainside below us. Walking through Ngong Ping village we passed some gift shops and stopped for coffee before making our way up the 268 steps to make it to the foot of the statue.
After walking around the statue and learning of its history, we had lunch in a restaurant opposite the monastery, sitting outside in the beautiful gardens.
Our next stop was Tai O; a small fishing village on the western side of Lantau. There are many fascinating, tiny houses built on stilts above the water. We spent time wandering the little alleys, admiring the fishermen and their boats and browsing the stalls in the street markets. You could spend all day there taking photographs…dried fish, every variety of tea imaginable and the perfect spot to get a taste for local life.
Time passed so quickly and it was soon time to collect the children from school. One of the things they really wanted to do whilst I was here was take me on a hike. There is a great route nearby to the house where we can walk from Discovery Bay to Mui Wo. We got to take in the beautiful views of the ocean and passed through some small village houses. It is really special to see a different side to Hong Kong I might otherwise not have explored. As always is with hiking, your efforts are rewarded with the view when you get to the top. There was a little bit of a haze clouding the view of the skyline though we could see it slightly in the distance as well as a gorgeous view of Mui Wo and the beach below.
Upon arriving at Mui Wo, it was too late to catch the ferry back and definitely too late for the children to walk back so we decided to have dinner before catching the bus. Great public transport systems in Hong Kong mean there is no need for a car, and in fact, many of the streets in Discovery Bay are completely pedestrianised. We enjoyed a meal at a traditional Chinese restaurant which was delicious. A lovely evening spent chatting the time away about the children’s adventures since moving and my adventures since leaving home.
Thursday 1st March 2018
Sebastian was on call for work so couldn’t commit to too much in the way of sightseeing adventures too far away today. Gail and I had planned a day on Hong Kong Island so after dropping the children at school we walked down to the plaza and stopped in for a coffee before catching the ferry where we bumped in to some of Gail’s friends who were also heading in to town.
We enjoyed a wander around some of the shops then went for food; Dim Sum…a Hong Kong classic. It was a delight. A lovely place, obviously popular with the locals and it was fascinating to sit and watch.
Afterward we made our way to Victoria peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. It is a popular spot for tourists, with beautiful walks and incredible views of the skyline, it is easy to see why.
On the way back down, we took the 125 year old Peak Tram which was quite the experience; looking out of the windows as it clanked down the almost vertical hill.
Gail had to head back to Discovery Bay to collect the kids so I stayed in town for a little longer to do some more exploring, managing to take in much of the Park, the Olympic Memorial and War Memorial.
I was able to navigate myself back to the pier to catch the ferry back to Lantau and shared a lovely evening, having dinner and playing with the kids.
Friday 2nd March 2018
After a week of rest post marathon, this morning was the first chance to stretch the legs for a short and easy paced run around Discovery Bay. Plus it meant getting that all important Strava post ‘Hong Kong Style’! The legs felt good and although it was pretty humid and a little sweaty, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This morning the children had a dress rehearsal for a school show and Gail had kindly arranged for me to go along to watch as well as have a tour of the school. In Hong Kong and in many other parts of Asia, especially within the expat community (for obvious reasons) many families have nannies. The children call them ‘aunties’ and all of the aunties were invited along to watch the run through too. Afterwards one of the Depute Head Teachers showed me around. It was really interesting to hear about the differences in curriculum design.
In the afternoon I walked down to the plaza to stock up on a few snacks at the supermarket for the start of the tour. The children and Gail joined me after school and we got an ice cream and then went for dinner at Pizza Express.
Saturday 3rd March 2018
Today I was making my way across to Kowloon to check in to the hotel with the G Adventures group for my tour in Mainland China. I enjoyed a last breakfast and lots of hugs from the kids before making my way to the ferry terminal via a little stop off at the Post Office to send all of the Tokyo Marathon memorabilia home.
I read that you can’t say you’ve ‘done’ Hong Kong until you’ve taken a ride on the Star Ferry and luckily today I would be doing just that. I caught the ferry over to central before transferring to catch the wonderful vessel to Kowloon on the mainland. The ferry itself is a double-decker and a big part of the city’s history. An unbeatable way to see the spectacular skyline, sitting downstairs, you’ll catch a glimpse of the staff in their traditional suits and if you’re really lucky, you’ll even see them throwing the rope on to the billhook to dock the boat in the traditional fashion that it would have been all those years ago.
I am so grateful to Gail, Sebastian and the family for making me feel so welcome and for their wonderful hospitality. Special times shared and special memories made.
Thank you x