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In The Women’s Web ‘Travel The World With Kids’ series, we talk to mums from all over the globe who are interested in exploring their backyard attractions with their tiny tots! We hope you find them useful, if someday you choose to visit their part of the world. Presented in Q&A format, this one is with Brooke Chenoweth from Hong Kong (HK), who blogs about life as an expat at A Mummy In A Strange Land.
Hong-Kong, a city state with multi-cultural influences is one of the most vivacious places in South-East Asia. This is a place where elegant and upscale restaurants thrive as much as bustling street food stalls and designer malls vie for attention alongside crowded local markets. Brooke explains to us the kid-friendliness of Hong Kong.
I am a mother to 2 boys, a 2 year old and a newborn. We are originally from Sydney, Australia, and we moved to Hong Kong 5 years ago. I am a trained teacher and spent some time teaching in primary schools here before starting a family. After my first son was born I wanted to find a way to work from home and moved into freelance writing.
What are some of your suggestions for parents visiting HK with young kids to do?
The most obvious, and most popular, destination for families is Hong Kong Disneyland, and a stay at one of the resort’s hotels is highly recommended.
Ocean Park, on the south side of Hong Kong island is the only place you’ll see pandas in HK, and the giant aquarium and interactive exhibits are a big hit. There are 2 separate parts of the park, one with a playground for children under 5, and one for older kids. There’s also a cable car and train to get you from one end to the other and these are always the highlight for my son!
A trip up to the top of Victoria Peak is a must for anyone visiting HK, and again, getting there is half the fun when you take a ride on the Peak Tram.
For more general info on things to do when visiting Hong Kong, see my post!
What have been some of your favourite outings in HK with your kids?
Just outside the main gates of Disneyland is Inspiration Lake. There is a great playground, beautiful gardens and a track around the lake for walking/cycling. You can also rent paddle boats out on the lake. Entry is free and it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. We love taking the kids there on sunny afternoons, as parks like it are very rare in the city.
Every year the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts holds a month-long Kids Fest, in association with Dymocks booksellers. Each performance is based on a popular children’s book and this year we took our son along for the first time, as they were featuring an adaptation of his favourite book. It was a great production and he was completely entranced by it all.
For tourists visiting HK for the first time, do you have any particular tips?
One of the things I still struggle with is the pace of life here. Most shops, businesses and attractions don’t open in the morning until 10 or 11, which can be frustrating if you’re out and about early! Then all of a sudden the mid-day rush hits and it can be quite overwhelming if you’re not used to crowds. With small children we often find the best time of day to go out is usually early in the afternoon, to avoid queues and crowds.
Depending on the time of year you visit you might also encounter extreme weather. Typhoons and torrential rain are quite common in the summer, and it does get cold in the winter, especially around Chinese New Year. Even when it’s very hot and humid outside, it can be freezing in the air-conditioned buildings, so I am always prepared for all seasons, and you should never leave home without an umbrella!
Are there any particular restaurants in HK that you think kids will enjoy?
There are actually more than you would expect. Posto Pubblico and Linguini Fini (both in Central) offer great Italian food with an emphasis on homemade ingredients and local produce, and they are favourites of ours. Heirloom Eatery (Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan) has a great family friendly menu and a playground across the street. Frites Belgian Pub (Quarry Bay) has cooking classes and special activities for kids on weekends, as well as a tasty menu. Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Pizza Express and Pret a Manger are easy, go-to options with various locations across town. For a more comprehensive list see here.
Are there any particular shopping areas in HK that you think kids will enjoy?
Shopping is the national pastime! There are a number of mega-malls here with entertainment areas, movie theatres, ice skating rinks, playgrounds and amusement zones. For a complete list and details of the city’s malls check this out.
Some kids may prefer the laneways and markets, for a unique shopping experience. We took my 11-year-old nephew to Stanley Markets when he visited and he loved the cheap souvenirs and traditional Chinese handicrafts. The Ladies Market and Temple Street Night Market in Mong Kok are similar and are great places to pick up kids clothing, bags and shoes, as well as electronics, toys and souvenirs. Older kids might also like the chance to try out their bargaining skills!
Any kid-friendly day trips out from HK?
There are too many to list here! When most people picture Hong Kong they don’t normally think of beaches and country parks, but there are many on Hong Kong island itself and across the area known as the New Territories. We live on Lantau Island, which is the largest island in the HKSAR and also home to the airport and Disneyland. What most people don’t know is that we also have the longest beach in the territory, and 90kms of hiking trails, including 2 of the tallest peaks in the region. There’s the Ngong Ping Village, Tian Tan Buddha and a cable car to get you there. The rustic fishing village of Tai O is worth a look and Cheung Sha beach is a very popular spot with locals and tourists in the warmer months.
The islands of Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau are also great day trips. To the north on the Kowloon side (towards the Chinese border) there are numerous country parks and attractions like the Hong Kong Wetland Park and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.
The Special Administrative Region of Macau is only an hour and a half away by ferry and is a fascinating part of the region. On one side there are dozens of gaudy, Vegas-style casinos and resorts. The Venetian Hotel is a spectacle in itself, and its Cirque du Soleil show Zaia is on daily, and well worth the trip. The older part of the city houses the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, the old Macau Fort, and the Plaza De Senado are beautiful examples of Portugese architecture. To see it all you might want to spend a weekend, but it is easily done in a day.
How easy/difficult is it travelling around with kids in HK?
Sometimes the adventure is in getting to where you want to go. Public transport is great and taxis are cheap, so getting around is very easy. My son loves a ride on the Star Ferry or the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), whether we’re going anywhere exciting or not! Unfortunately it’s not a “stroller-friendly” place and most of the time we find it’s easier to go out without one, unless we’re going very far.
Public toilets are few and far between, especially those with nursing/change facilities, so it helps to know where you’re going and where those kinds of things will be before you venture out with small children. I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about my first experience of taking my son out in town on my own. It was a bit of a disaster, and fortunately we’ve refined things since then, but it’s a good example of the kind of trouble you can get yourself into if you’re not prepared!
Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences Brooke!
*Photo credit: Brooke Chenoweth
Previous Interviews In The ‘Travel With Kids’ Series:
Ellen Schmidt from New York
Anusha from Seattle
Neera from Chicago
Jo-Lynne from Philadelphia
Tiffany from Frankfurt
Subha from Zurich
Shalini from Norway
Nora from Morocco
Laylah from Riyadh
Lisa from Dubai
Sarah from New Zealand
Toni from Manila
Maid In Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur
Uma from Chennai
The Mad Momma from Delhi
Lakshmi from Hyderabad
Sunayana from Kolkata
Sunita from Pune
Anuradha from Mumbai
Artnavy from Bengaluru
Leonny from Singapore