Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hong Kong

Song of the Day: Johnny Cash, covered by Brandon Flowers, Father John Misty, and Local Natives.

I get unnerved by travel, especially when the local language isn't English. Moreso when the government isn't democratically elected. Even though Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region, I had a moment of "holy heck, what have we done" when we landed. Fears don't have to be rational. 

My face must've shown, because Kenz asked what was the matter. "...I'm scared of China" was the only thing I could come up with. I felt like the opposite of Heehaw Jones

There really was nothing to be scared of. In fact, the two of us had been looking forward to this trip ever since we booked the tickets in January. But, I don't share the same sense of adventure that those we were about to visit do. Not only do Sandy, Tony, Sam, Quin, and Zora live in Hong Kong, but they've been all over the region - various places in mainland China, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and Macau - in just fifteen months. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but listening to the stories of their family travels - sweating in overnight train cars while traversing countryside - are wild. It helps me realize I may not be nearly as adventurous as I'd like to imagine. 

We basically lost a day in travel. We left London on Monday night and arrived in time for dinner on Tuesday night. The family met us at the last stop of the Airport Express, a delightful, peaceful twenty-five minute train ride from the airport. 

Signage will be an ongoing theme throughout this post. 

Temperature check requires the removal of a hat.
The airport wasn't busy at all. 

The welcoming party! 
I was so taken with the city - and where the Sanders/Mitchell crew live - that I forgot to take any more pictures for the remainder of the night. We didn't last very long, though. After dinner, the kids went to bed and the adults stayed awake for a short while, catching up. My fears had long since vanished, aided by what felt like a homecoming. 

Wednesday morning was my first opportunity to get up with the kids. Watching their morning routine was something I'd been looking forward to. Not for any particular reason - just that I'm pretty invested in being a "part of." 

They - like most humans - aren't very responsive at 6:30am.

Once the kids were off to school and Sandy was off to work, Tony took us out to show us the ropes: how to get in and out of the building, how to use our Octopus Cards (I called it an Oyster Card all week; old habits), how to get on the MTR (Tube), where to exchange money, where to get cash, and how to return. You see, Hong Kong island (where they live) is one big hill. In order to get to the MTR (and most of the "stuff" on the island as well as the harbor), you need to descend, which means returning can be one big uphill journey - unless you have Tony to show you the way: he took us a few blocks down the main road and showed us the Hopewell Centre. Back in the 80's, it was the tallest building in HK. Primarily office and retail, the center of the building is a series of super fast elevators which everyone uses to climb about 17 stories from Queens Road East to Kennedy Street - the street they live on.

So, each day, we walked down the stairs to leave and returned via a big, crowded, public elevator. It's like sledding downhill all day.

Down the stairs.

It rained all day; Wan Chai market

Bamboo scaffolding

Kenz loved the signs. She stopped every five minutes to take pictures of 'em.

Considering that our priority for the trip was to hang out with family and the fact that we had ten whole days in the city, neither of us had made a huge point of planning out each day's activities. This is quite rare for me; not so much for Kenz. So, for the first day, we did the exact same thing we had done on our first full day in London: walked, giggled, took in the city, got lost, got found, ate food, and walked some more. It was glorious.

I was in awe of the city. It felt like walking through a futuristic movie. Kenz kept looking for flying cars.

This won't mean much, but we walked north from Wan Chai toward the harbor. We then turned east and walked through streets, alley ways, and food markets all the way toward North Point. The journey took about five hours, and then we took the MTR back.

Before I forget: the MTR is considerably better than the Tube, mainly because it's air conditioned. Sure, no one queues "correctly" and no one lets you off the car before they try and get on (both of which got on Kenz's nerves), but it's so comfortable not to sweat while stuffed in like sardines at rush hour. And it's hardly underground. Whereas the (the newer) Tube (lines) descends deep, the MTR is often only one or two flights underground, which makes for much faster transitions.

Despite the rain, we took a trip through Victoria Park (like Central Park in NYC or Hyde Park in London). Not too many people were out, but it's massive - we got through about one third of it. 

Lunch was about two standard deviations from our norm. We were the only gweilos in the restaurant, feeling a bit adventurous, ordering things we didn't recognize. It didn't turn out so hot for either of us. At least we had a magnificent, albeit foggy, view.

Lunch at 29 floors up.

We got back to the house in time to hang with the kids, watch them do some homework, watch them skateboard, do some roughhousing, play with hair, listen to stories, and watch them eat dinner.

Zora loves Kenz.

Uploading pictures has made me realize that I barely got any pictures at the house. I think the main reason is that we were too busy just hanging out and being family. The plus side is that we were busy hanging out and being family - the down side is that I don't have many pictures. It's one thing to be an aunt and uncle - it's another to be and aunt and uncle shoving a camera in your face all the time. At some point, you just gotta be present.

Sandy and Tony took us to the chillest Spanish restaurant afterward. Patatas bravas, rosemary bread, fried crab claws, seafood paella, and bon bons for dessert. 


Weather in Hong Kong changes by the hour. I haven't done extensive research about it, but it seems like the harbor plays a role in it. One moment it's a downpour, the next is fog so heavy that you can't see the tops of buildings, and then it'll be sunny for an hour. And then the rain will start again. Rinse, repeat. We kept raincoats and a (loaned) umbrella with us each day. I thought I was used to rain because of London, but London rain isn't really rain. Hong Kong rain is like East Tennessee rain, which is to say it's rain - like get your feet wet rain. 

Looking at the HK Island side of the harbor from the Kowloon side.

Kenz was stoked to have a plan for the day. She'd done lots of online searching for good museums and had an itinerary for the two of us: we were going to start the day by going to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, opting for the Ju Ming - Sculpting the Living World exhibit.

We arrived to see some of the sculptures outside in the public space.

And got so excited to go in to see more - that is, until we saw that the museum is closed every Thursday. Classic Kenz - comes up with a big plan, but misses one tiny, significant detail. We decided to walk down Nathan Street instead. Nathan street is known as "The Golden Mile" for all its stores - most of which are quite high-end. In fact, most of the heavy shopping areas and malls in HK are high-end (Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.); Tony said folks from mainland China like to come down and gobble up all the name brands to show their wealth back home. We spent most of our time window shopping. 

But, being flexible and willing to take several detours, it wasn't long until we hopped into Kowloon Park to see what it had in store. 

The Avenue of Comic Stars (not to be confused with the Avenue of Stars).



We spent half an hour walking around a free public bird sanctuary (in the rain).

Back to Nathan Street.

A more "conservative" sushi lunch.

After another six or so hour day of walking and walking and walking, we returned to the house for some family dinner. And some roughhousing. And skateboarding. And homework.

After the kids went to bed, Tony and Sandy introduced us to a new time suck: Grey's Anatomy. We'd effectively missed it for ten seasons, but I'm pretty sure we're about to embark on a months-long catch-up on this show - despite ourselves.

We stayed up late into the night doing what we do best: talking about everything under the sun. The four of us are a good blend. I won't go into a multitude of examples, but I'm half of Tony and Sandy and Kenz is the other half of the two of them. It's kinda like:

Sandy: blue + red
Tony: black + orange
David: black + blue
Kenz: red + orange

The colors don't represent anything; it's just an example of what I'm trying to say.

This is how we watch TV.


Friday threatened sun, so we opted to take the ferry across the harbor and try the museum again. Afterward, we'd planned to walk down the actual Avenue of the Stars. 

Once more down the stairs!

I never got over the bamboo scaffolding. Skyscrapers - 40 stories high - had bamboo scaffolding.

The Kowloon side of the harbor has an observation deck.

The old clock tower.

Photographers getting some Ju Ming sculptures.

Folks love some selfies here.

The museum is open!

First room of the Ju Ming exhibit.

Kenz and I don't often see eye-to-eye when it comes to art. By "don't often," I mean "rarely." By "rarely," I mean "I don't think we have ever seen eye-to-eye. But, this time, we both enjoyed it, which is to say that neither of us "finished" before the other - we both meandered at the same pace (rare). Of course, Kenz did have some problems with "how it was curated." Ever the critic...

I was surprised we were allowed to take photographs.

This is his most famous piece, usually displayed in a public park; it's a group practicing Tai Chi.

The second room of his work was new stuff (he's gone from colored sculptures to just black and white). This section of the exhibit is about choices individuals make that lead to heaven and hell within the here and now - the Living World.

We toured around the rest of the museum for another hour or so, but didn't find too much that snagged our attention. 

"This handle is disinfected 8 times a day"

Avenue of the Stars

Kenz: For them to put a sign up about all this stuff, that meant it had to be a problem at some point, right?

10 year-old me just about lost it when we arrived at the statue of Bruce.

By the end of our time at the harbor, we noticed a few guys eyeing us. I'd grown somewhat used to it during our stay - folks had been staring at me since we arrived. Kenz and I agreed that it was the beard; there aren't many in HK. We had our suspicions confirmed (about this group, at least) when the third in their party rounded the corner: he looked just like me. The three of them came over to us and asked if they could get a picture with my beard. These Ukrainians wound up taking every iteration of picture possible with me, Kenz and me, each one of them with me, all of them with me, Kenz and me alone - all while a busload of mainland China tourists stared with expressionless faces.

Tony, Kenz, and I went out to meet up with Sandy later that night. In an effort to pick a spot that would give us tourists a good view of the harbor, Tony took us to a restaurant/bar down in the financial district of the island. We climbed some ridiculous amount of floors in a high-speed elevator and stepped into the venue. Tony and Sandy had been here once before - around Christmas - during the day. Once the sun goes down, however, the venue attracts a specific type of patron - and expects a specific kind of dress. Our host looked us up and down, gave a mild frown, and said we could stand out on the patio for a few drinks. We followed, checked out our surroundings, and stayed quiet for about five minutes until Tony broke the ice: Am I the only one that feels a bit uncomfortable? We all exhaled, laughed, and agreed that this may not be the place for us to spend our evening. After all, none of us were managing big hedge funds or masterminding mergers & acquisitions. We ate some finger food, finished one drink, and told Sandy to meet us at a different bar closer to the house. But the views were great!

It wasn't until the four of us were walking home that we realized what time it was. We only checked our watches because of the surprising lack of open bars and people; we'd stayed out until 1:15am - much later than any of us had been out in a long time. 


Saturday morning was a pretty classic "family" Saturday morning:
Tony & Sam went to Odyssey of the Mind practice at 9am. 
Quin, Zora, and I went to wrestling practice at 9:30am.
Kenz & Sandy came to meet us at wrestling to take us over to OM practice afterward.

Harbour School Wrestling Club!

Proud Uncle watching from the sidelines!

Once practice was finished, we all went over to another of the school's buildings to witness one of the final dress rehearsals of Sam's OM team. Tony's the coach and had been there, directing, since the start of the morning.

Sam in his villager costume

Sam in his space travel costume.

Investigating the problem!

It was great fun to get to be a part of something each of the three kids were doing. After all the Saturday morning school stuff, Kenz and I departed to collect Emily at the Airport Express. Longtime readers will remember our visit to Paris with Emily as our tour guide way back in August of 2011. Kenz and Emily have been friends ever since second grade. She has since moved to Taiwan in order to teach English and stated, when we'd booked our tickets, that you're not going to make it all the way to Asia without seeing me! We were happy that she was willing to make the trip for a few days (and that the Sanders/Mitchell clan were gracious enough to let her couchsurf). 


Catching up on the ride back to the house.

The plan for the afternoon was to trek out to the Shing Mun Country Park and hike the Pineapple Dam Nature Trail. Why? Because, when Kenz was reading the Sanders/Mitchell Hong Kong tourism books, she found out that you can see MONKEYS on this trail. One way to get a singleness of mind and focus out of Kenz is to promise her an opportunity to see some animals. After dropping off Emily's bags and hanging with the family a bit, we headed out to the last stop on the MTR - to the New Territories - in order to find the Shing Mun Country Park.

A bit of lunch before departing Wan Chai.

On the MTR

New Territories

Searching for the right bus stop.

Don't feed the monkeys!

Just in case you were wondering.

We started the trail with high hopes. Well, they had high hopes. I spent the first half-hour worried that we'd come all this way to see some monkeys and that Kenz would leave disappointed having not seen any. It's kinda like being a school kid, seeing the prediction of snow, but waking up the next morning to no snow - and school. Alas, I bit my tongue and kept walking.

The reservoir

The early part of the trail was a bit crowded; Kenz was stoked, nonetheless, with camera ready.


Photo op
We rounded a corner to the first picnic area and saw a monkey. I was well ahead of them, so I held my breath, not wanting to startle it, and turned to the girls, gesturing that they "hurry up" to see it. I made sure to snap a quick picture in case it ran away before I got proof that we'd seen a monkey.

We stood in that picnic area for about five minutes, taking thirty-odd pictures, until the monkey got bored and left. Phew, I thought, at least we saw one monkey. The trip had been a success; we could go home knowing that we'd seen one. The trip was worth it. 

Little did I know that this was the first of about seventy monkeys we'd see that day. As we continued up the trail, I rounded a bend to see about three or four more hanging out on the trail about one hundred feet in front of me. 

Still nervous that this would be the last of them, I took another picture. 

By the time we arrived to where they were hanging out, it became clear that these monkeys weren't scared of humans at all. In fact, they were pretty disinterested in us. They were there for the trash cans, rummaging through them to find any discarded chips, hot dogs, and ice cream. We saw adults, babies, in-betweeners, bullies, and friendlies alike. The rest of the few hours that we were there were spent walking, stopping, taking pictures, fawning over the monkeys, walking a bit more, stopping, taking more picture, more Kenz faces, and walking again.

This really sums up the day.

There were no monkeys when Emily sat down. She got a little bit freaked out when she turned around to see these guys.

By the end of our time, we were returning via the Reservoir Trail instead of the Nature Trail. There were even more on this trail. At times, I'd get a bit spooked, walking down the pathway and, all of a sudden, getting passed by a gaggle of trotting monkeys. We passed (and were passed by) about thirty or so on this trail, all headed home for the evening. It was wild - especially since I thought we might see one all day. They'd made their way down to the base of the trail by the evening, collecting all the trash from the beginning of both trails, where the bus stop was.

Afterward, the three of us took our first 16-seater "public bus," which is a bit different than a traditional bus. These smaller busses don't have prompted stops - you gotta know where you're going (and where the bus is going) before you get on. Kenz and I had our necks on a swivel, keeping eyes out for the MTR station as the bus squealed around corners, descending into the town.

Riding with the locals

Monkey in a tree!

Once back in Kowloon, we followed Emily to Nathan Road in order to find the Lady Market. I thought we'd seen Nathan Road since Kenz and I had spent about four hours walking up and down it a few days prior, but I was wrong. I hadn't seen Nathan Road on a Saturday night. It's a party.

We developed a routine once we found Lady Market. Kenz and Emily were there to shop; I was there to people watch. The market is four (long) blocks long, so I'd go on ahead of them in the market but wait for them at the end of each street. Just like markets in many other countries, half the fun of shopping here is the "bargaining" (read: haggling). Both Emily and Kenz got a rush out of going back and forth with the merchants, finding themselves much more successful than originally anticipated. 

"I'm over here"

I spent my time watching street bands and the countless karaoke performers.

After all the shopping and walking were finished, the three of us called it a night over some Japanese teppanyaki.

Sunday was family funday, which meant all eight of us loaded up onto a ferry and headed over to Lamma Island. That was, of course, after a very civilized morning of cartoons and coffee (Sandy was nervous that Kenz, Emily, and I were eager to rush out of the house, unaware that the three of us were relishing the slower-paced morning).

Aunt time!

Uncle time!

Print supplies vending machine outside a ferry station because why not.

The plan was to take the ferry over to Lamma Island and enjoy a nice stroll from one side of the island to the other. We could pick up a different ferry on the other side of the island and come right home. We'd stop somewhere to have a tasty seafood lunch on this fishing island. The plan was, in other words, perfect.

Of course, though, the thing about Hong Kong weather...

It changes quite rapidly. By the time we'd arrived, the rain had started. We took our time looking at all the fish outside the restaurants, waiting on the rain to pass.

But, the rain didn't pass. We opted for some cheap ponchos. 

But, by the time we had all put on our ponchos, the rain wasn't really rain any more. It was a storm. It was one of those "grin and bear it" moments. We chose to go ahead and sit down for some lunch to wait out the storm.

The kids weren't super impressed, but the adults were loving it.

Tony & Sandy were happy to have folks to share "new" foods with.

We feasted.
Afterward, the rain...didn't let up. We decided to try the hike anyway - just so that we could say we tried. We made it ten minutes.

Yea, screw this.

Ferry ride home!

Today was a "treat day."

We took the rest of the rainy Sunday to do rainy Sunday things. 

Like play Mahjongg.

And eat burgers.

And take pictures.

And tickle fight.

And play more Mahjongg.

Probably the best rainy Sunday we've had in months. 


Monday morning saw the departure of Emily back to Thailand. We were sad to see her go, but happy that she had made the trip. We said our graceful goodbyes at the Airport Express. 

Afterward, Kenz and I spent a few hours at the local Buddhist temple. Yes, hours. Kenz had her camera and I was uncharacteristically relaxed. And it was a nice, peaceful change of pace from the bustling city.

We eventually made our way out to the Hollywood Road area, known for its antique shopping. We wound up spending tons of time going in and out of little shops and stalls here and there on various roads running parallel to Hollywood as well.

Western Market was a dud.

Soldiering with a blow torch and hot iron.

A cat on cat street.

Tony mentioned an escalator in the area that we should check out if we made it out there. "Some say it's the longest escalator in the world," he told us. I didn't know what to expect. How long is a long escalator? I mean, the one at Angel Tube Station is pretty long...

We found it late in the afternoon. It certainly is the longest escalator in the world - the map itself showed the escalator covers over thirteen streets - but - and this is a big but: it's not one continuous escalator. Kenz and I were mildly disappointed, but it didn't stop us from riding it for a while!

You can read more about it here.

At least it's covered!
We eventually returned home and spent the evening playing some more Mahjongg with Sandy and Tony after the kids went to sleep. That night, Sandy said, "I'm really tired trying to keep up with you two. These late nights are getting to me," to which we replied, "we're trying to keep up with you!" We wound up going to bed at a more reasonable time that night and the rest of our time there, thank goodness. A 1am bedtime takes its toll when the kids wake up at 6!


Tuesday morning, we surprised the kids. Instead of going to school, they were allowed to play hooky with Aunt McKenzie and Uncle David and go to Disneyland! Their parents had been in on the plan all week, but no one had spilled the beans. Excited, the kids got in costumes, and used up all their "screen time" while waiting on the park to open (which was good timing since they'd be going to bed right after we got home). Eventually, though, it was time for us to head out to the park. 

This was the first time Kenz and I were responsible for more than one kid on our own (as a couple). Neither of us was sure how the day would turn out, but we were friggin excited to get to go to Disney with these three! 

Taking the MTR.

Disney has it's own line and stop...and train cars.

They got bored on the commute (45 minutes).
We had a solid twelve minutes, upon arrival, of no rain. Twelve.

We spent that twelve minutes walking to the park, getting into the park, and going to the bathroom once in the park.

But, by the time we hit Main Street, the rain had settled in. It wasn't too bad, though, so we persevered.

Sam made sure we saw the neat animation exhibit on our way to the rides. 

Tomorrowland was the first stop we all agreed on.

And Buzz Lightyear was the first ride we took.

After riding Lightyear and getting fast pass tickets to Space Mountain for Kenz and Zora, the rain got heavier. We stopped for some lunch under an awning.

Real rain.

We all had time to ride Buzz one more time before the girls had to go check in for Space Mountain.

I rode with Zora.

As the girls rode the Mountain, the boys went to drive some cars. It's only rain, right?

Quin drove me.

Sam rode solo.

We got soaked! 

But, not as soaked as we were about to be. After we reconnected with Kenz and Zora, everyone thought it'd be a good idea to ride the cars again. Sure, it was raining a bit, but that meant no line! Well, by the time we got to the front, people were turning back, abandoning the ride. We hopped in our cars, unafraid, and sped out to the (long) track. About halfway through, I could see the look on everyone's faces. Defeat. Misery. It was pretty awful. The rain came down so hard, that we five got stranded out on the track and the employees came out to us, telling us just to walk back in.

So, drenched - down to the socks - we splashed through puddles back to the start of the ride. There was nothing we could do. Cold and wet, we headed on toward Fantasyland.

At least there, we'd find some indoor rides, like It's a Small World.

Time to dry off!

I'd only been to Disney once - at about 3 or 4. I didn't remember this ride until were actually in it.

Despite good discretion, Kenz and I hooked the kids up with their choice of treat at the ice cream stand. We hung out under another awning as the kids licked, spilled, and slurped their way through ice cream and slushies.

With a belly full of dairy, we headed to the spinning teacups!

And Sam and I did some carousel action as the others went to find popcorn.

Then it was high time for a jungle safari.

The rain had finally stopped, so we decided on a few outdoor rides in Toy Story Land.

We capped off the day with a visit to Winnie the Pooh.

But, apparently no visit to Disneyland is complete without some cotton candy.

I'd been nervous at the beginning of the day - about not losing a kid, about kids getting into fights, about being the "substitute teacher" in their eyes - but, really, it was smooth. Aside from the rain (which didn't bother them at all), it was a glorious day. They had fun; we had fun. Sandy and Tony took the opportunity, while we were still feeling competent in our skills and happy with how we'd done that day, to get us to commit to taking them for a week next year. I'm pretty sure Kenz committed us. We'll keep you posted.

As if that wasn't a full enough day, Sandy and Tony took us down to the harbor that night for the light show. Each night, from 8-8:20, the HK harbor has a light show, set to music, that a variety of the buildings participate in. There were several hundred people down on the observation deck we'd visited a few days prior.

There's no easy way to capture a light show on camera. 

Just take my word for it. It was good. 

Afterward, we snuck into a hole in the wall sushi place that is likely going to go on Kenz and I's Top 10 sushi restaurant list (if we had one).

Yet another evening of good conversation and company. 


The sun finally made an appearance on Wednesday, which was lucky for us. Sandy and Tony had both recommended we take the cable car up to the peak if the weather was good enough. It hadn't been since our arrival, and we were getting nervous that we wouldn't have a day of good views for our entire stay. Alas, we woke to sunny skies and got ready to climb to the top of the Island. 

Half of the view from Sandy and Tony's place. I know. (The aforementioned Hopewell Center to the left)

I don't know what Kenz and I were expecting, but we were quite surprised when we arrived to see the extended queue at the tram station. It took over an hour just to get tickets.

The queue wrapped around the fountain - and that's a five-time switchback snake of a line under the awning.

Kenz couldn't be bothered to stand in line; I was probably getting on her nerves.

Once we got tickets, we had two more holding patterns before getting on a tram cart. 

But, at least they had some historical stuff to look at/read while waiting.

The view leaving the station.

I grew anxious, knowing we'd be getting steep...and high.

Next time you see Kenz, you can ask her to reenact some of my faces and postures while up on the sky bridge at the peak. Really, it wasn't just being on top of the peak that was bad - it was the escalators we had to take to get to the top as well. I had full body shivers every other minute for the entire duration of our time up top. I would say how long that was, but I have no real concept of time while in the grips of a crippling fear of heights. It could've been thirty minutes. It felt like an eternity. Kenz was loving it.

There was an upward breeze just over the rail. I did not feel it because I didn't get that close. Kenz, on the other hand...

That's me mid strange-fear-noise-making while trying to take a selfie for us.

I know this is a lot of the same type of picture, but I was really impressed with this skyline.

We took a pic for strangers; they reciprocated.

There's an entire village on the top of the island, complete with two separate malls, filled with tourists and tourist traps. Bubba Gump is one of those traps - it snarled Kenz who wanted some "American cocktail sauce."

We switched seats because the air conditioner was blowing down on her...

...I was happy to get out from on top of the ledge.

This is two-thirds of the escalators. I was not loving it.

We spent all day walking around on top of the island. It was glorious weather and we were happy just to be outside.

Riding the tram down.

I tried to represent the incline with a picture, but this doesn't really do it justice. It was the steepest incline I'd been on.

Folks waiting to get on the tram we were exiting.

We got back in time to hang with the kids while they ate dinner. 

Sandy had work colleagues in from the States and had been planning on taking all of us to the Happy Valley race track for some Hong Kong Jockey Club action. Long story short: if you're ever in Hong Kong, visiting this track for some races is a must. The races are every Wednesday night during the "season," running ten races every half hour from 7-11pm. Granted, I've never been to a horse race before, but this has got to be as good as anywhere. The seven of us met up with some of Sandy & Tony's parent friends at the race track and spent the evening gambling, eating, drinking, taking pictures, mingling, and watching races. It was the best way to spend our final night in Hong Kong.

Lots of entrances! 

The public entrance (HK $10 entrance fee - about US $1.30)

We got there early enough to stake out a sweet spot right by the track. This was everyone's first time at Happy Valley, so we didn't even really know how good we'd done until the track filled up later in the evening. We could've reached out and touched the horses as they trotted by while warming up. We were so close that my allergies started acting up. It was awesome.

Hong Kong: where you can feel like you're a baller better for only US $6.45.

Warming up.

Kenz and I hadn't really planned on betting per se. At least I hadn't really planned on it. But, the combination of the currency exchange coupled with Kenz winning her second bet meant that we got pretty invested in the different types of betting, acting like we "knew" something (the fact that there was a half hour between each of the races didn't hurt, either). Kenz kept her nose in the complementary pamphlet most of the night as well, doing "research."

Sandy's colleague, Jim, put himself through law school while working at a Delaware track, so he became our de-facto coach all night. 

Races were 3 different lengths; the longest meant that the horses started right in front of us.

Jim won serious money.

Kenz spent most of the night asking for money.

The background of the course was just as cool as the course itself; we were surrounded by skyscrapers.

Where else can you find a venue like this?!

Coach and pupil, consulting.

Another race starting right in front of us.

Tony won big money as well.

Our final day was spent in a relaxed effort to find a few souvenirs for gifts and whatnot. We felt pretty good that we'd done most of everything the city had to offer, which made for a nice last day - no pressure to run around like chickens with our heads cut off. 

Stopping for Kenz's Diet Coke fix. 

Late afternoon was spent doing homework with the kids so that they could get to the pool to play.

Homework is much more fun when you know the answers! 

Ready for the pool!

Hopewell Centre

Kenz in her natural state: sleeping underneath the sun's rays. She's part reptile. 

The view from the "bottom" floor of their building.

One last bit of "screen time" before bed.


Can you believe we traveled that entire distance, stayed ten days, and didn't get a single picture with the entire family? Shameful. I mean, really shameful. Apologies.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. We were looking forward to it, but I had no real idea how much I'd like Hong Kong. It's easy for me to see why Sandy and Tony (and the kids) like it there. Kenz, not so much. She loved the family time but doesn't see herself moving to a city like that any time soon. Well, maybe if she got to be Aunt McKenzie a bit more often...

Many thanks to the Sanders/Mitchell clan for putting us up for ten days, feeding us, entertaining us, letting us play hooky with kids, and for showing us all around the city. And another thanks to Emily for making the trip up from Taiwan to visit!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!