Hong Kong: Of Pink Dolphins and Kung Fu

Q.

Hi Shalome,

My husband and I are travelling with our eight-year-old daughter to Hong Kong and Macau at the end of April. I have a few questions about the trip.

Regarding Hong Kong:

Can you suggest which area I should stay in that is central and also easy to get around from?

We will be visiting Disneyland. Do you think a day is good enough or two?

Here is a list of things I am planning to cover:
Ocean world
Lantau Island
Clock Tower
Stanley Market
Victoria Peak
Victoria Harbour
Beach / Nan Liam Garden (optional)

Do you think there is any other thing that I should be doing or covering or have missed out on?

About Macau: I was planning to stay at The Venetian for a night. Any suggestions of a must do?

We’ve been given a lot of conflicting advice. People are saying that 5 days are way too much for Hong Kong. But my daughter loves spending a lot of time in the pool or by the beach so we generally like to do things at a slower pace. Also, we like to concentrate on one place so that we see it properly. What do you think?

Thanks a ton for all the help.

Sujitha.

Hi Sujitha

SEE & DO

  • Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
  • Hong Kong Science Museum
  • Harbour Tour aboard Star Ferry
  • Pink Dolphin Sighting Tour
  • Pool and beach time
  • Eat an egg tart (Macau)

Honestly, I think your family is the best judge of how many days you will need and even what you want to see. Please feel free to decide what you want to do with my suggestions.

Travel isn’t maths: there are no right or wrong answers.

Hong Kong and Disneyland

While I spent some happy, tummy-filled days in Macau, I haven’t visited Hong Kong. So I asked my old colleague from Lonely Planet Magazine, Alisha Wadia, for her advice on where you should stay in Hong Kong and how many days you should spend in Disneyland. This is what she had to say:

Tsim Sha Tsui is one side of the river and just across on the other side of the river is Central. TST has local shopping and eating and is well-connected by metro to the night markets, the Walk of Fame, etc. Central is really the most central area of the island with the banks and bars and you can climb up the steps or take the tram up to Victoria Peak.

Regarding Disneyland, she feels one day is enough to see everything but I would still advice you stay there two nights just so you’re not rushed.

As for what you should see in Hong Kong, here is my list of what sounds interesting:

Symphony of Lights: You can watch them light up the sky over Victoria Harbour from next to the Avenue of Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront or board the iconic Star Ferry and take the Rs 23 (upper deck for adults) ride across the harbor from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central.

Star Ferries have operated since 1888

Harbour Tour: You could also do a longer ferry ride and take in all the sights of the harbor. You could either do this in the beginning to help you orientate yourself around the city or save it for the end when you are all walked out.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens: I always find that if you’re travelling to a city with kids its good to keep a good park or garden in mind that you can let the children loose in if they get stir crazy. (Actually, I think its always a good idea to pop a squat in a park or botanical garden when you travel so that you can rest your feet for free and people watch to your hearts content.) And this one even has orangutans and tortoises! The Old Garden also has a children’s playground.

Pink Dolphin Sighting Tour: You can try and spot these pink-white coloured, fast-disappearing inhabitants of Hong Kong from a boat. These beautiful mammals are plagued by Hong Kong’s rampant construction and land reclamation, which can make sightings difficult. Some operators offer a Go-Again Guarantee in case of no sightings. Lasting an average of five hours these tours can be a bit of an effort. However, this may also be your last chance to see them in Hong Kong and by buying a ticket you’re helping to convince the government these dolphins are important.

Museums: You may take or leave this suggestion based on what you think your child will enjoy. You may find that museums are a good option when it’s hot or rainy. Hong Kong Museum of History has a free permanent exhibition called ‘The Hong Kong Story’ which may offer an interesting contrast and insights into the urban jungle outside. The Hong Kong Science Museum looks like an exciting, interactive space, which also houses the cool ‘Energy Machine’, a four-storey machine which features balls spinning, looping and falling to demonstrate energy conversion. It’s best to avoid the museum on Wednesdays when it is free and therefore bursting to the seams with visitors.

Beaches: TimeOut has a good list of Hong Kong’s many (who knew?!) beaches. Looking at your itinerary I think Cheung Sha Beach on Lantau Island could be a nice, quiet option for you; or the busier, Golden Sand Beach, which you can easily get to from Tsim Sha Tsui.

Kowloon Park (on a Sunday): This park has a Kung Fu corner! Whoop! And on Sundays between 2:30pm to 4:30 pm you can catch martial art and lion dance performances at the Sculpture Walk of the Park. Oh, and yes, they’re free!

Macau's unmissable egg tart

Ocean Park: Personally, I’m not a fan of training animals to perform in a show. However, the Ocean Park is definitely something children enjoy. And the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) is doing some good conservation work by donating upwards of 1 million US dollars to research, funding and conservation.

Some useful blogs about travelling to Hong Kong with kids:
La Jolla Mom
Where’s Sharon

MACAU

I really really liked it but I didn’t do any of the big hotels. I ate some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in Macau, both off the street and in Michelin-starred restaurants. In general, it is a lovely, small, but interesting place. I think you have a different experience in mind for Macau this time, which should also be fun. Especially since you’re only here for one night, I would suggest you spend most of your time at the hotel in order to get your money’s worth.

DO sample Macau’s famous egg tart while you are there. The bakery that was the first to improve and elevate the standard custard tart to its current gooey, caramelized heights is Lord Stow’s Bakery. Luckily for you they have a branch inside The Venetian.

The Venetian plays host to a number of impressive performances. April features Bruno Mars and St Petersburg Ballet performing Swan Lake(!).

In general, I find less is more when it comes to travelling with kids. Most children are happy as clams to just sit in a pool, especially if there’s a pool restaurant nearby that serves fries. And, honestly, the happier they are the more of a holiday it will be for you.

Happy travels!

Shalome

All photos: www.123rf.com