A Family Trip to Hong Kong
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invited readers to pitch us ideas, and we sent five of them on assignment. This writer, her husband, and their two kids headed to Hong Kong for a week.
About the author
Amy Koller, 32, is a finance coordinator who lives in Yucaipa, Calif., with her husband, Robert, 39, a special-education teacher, and their two kids, Christian and Cassidy. "My husband and I have been blessed with two children who are willing to eat more than chicken nuggets, and we're wasting that by not discovering new places. We've cruised in Mexico, and we're on a first-name basis with Shamu in San Diego, but it's time for these would-be world travelers to see the world. We'll go anywhere, and we'll try anything."
Once we hear we'll be going to Hong Kong, we scream and high-five. Then we rush to the Internet to learn more about the city.
The center of Hong Kong is Hong Kong Island; to the north are Victoria Harbour and the mainland, where Kowloon and the New Territories are located. We decide to stay in Kowloon.
I look for air/hotel packages on Expedia, double-check on Kayak, and scour TripAdvisor for feedback on the hotels. Then I visit the airline and hotel websites to make sure I have a deal. Our package, with L.A.–Hong Kong flights on United and five nights' hotel, is $5,905. We'd have to pay about $1,400 per ticket if booking the flights separately—so this way, it's like getting the hotel for free.
Days One and Two
For the 15-hour flight, Robert and I enlist an army of video games and other shiny objects to hold the attention of our 9-year-old son, Christian, and our 8-year-old daughter, Cassidy. Our imaginations help, too. We gape at frozen rivers that resemble albino snakes and look for polar bears sitting on icebergs.
Ten AA batteries, four movies, and one change of clothes later—don't ask—we land. We take the Airport Express train to Kowloon and the free shuttle to Harbour Plaza Metropolis, overlooking Victoria Harbour. We drift off, dreaming of dim sum.
I'm nervous about getting everyone out the door by 8 a.m. for the Jetway Express half-day tour of Hong Kong Island that I booked on Expedia, but we're all up early. We hop on the hotel shuttle to Tsim Sha Tsui, the heart of Kowloon. We're happy to learn that only a few other people are on our tour.
The first stop is Victoria Peak, where we survey our temporary domain and vow to conquer it. Next, we board a water taxi that putts around Aberdeen, the floating "island" in Aberdeen Harbour. Enormous yachts are docked within feet of the disintegrating shelters that "boat people" have made out of old fishing boats. I look at my daughter, curious about how the inequality is affecting her. "Mom," she says, "did you see the dead ducks at that restaurant? I think they're going to eat them!"
Around 1 p.m., we find our way to the open-air Ladies' Market in Kowloon. When we're a few feet in, the clouds part and a ray of sun pokes through. I follow the light and the faint sound of angels' voices. It's then I see them—LeSportsac knockoffs. I drooled over one of the bags at LAX, but couldn't justify the $100 price. Unable to stop myself, I buy six for $60.
At Jade Garden Restaurant, we're overrun by small baskets filled with rolls, cakes, and dumplings. It's like Christmas, and each dumpling is like a present, its contents a mystery. Our favorite is the char siu bau, a delicious steamed barbecued-pork bun.
We planned on visiting the Hong Kong Science Museum, since Christian is all about the hands-on experiences (and Wednesdays are free). But there are hundreds of schoolkids at the museum's entrance. Our hearts sink, as we know each exhibit will be packed. So we walk over to the Hong Kong Museum of History, where there are only a few visitors. Amazing life-size displays represent different periods of Hong Kong history. The museum even corrects some of our misconceptions. I, for one, was shocked to learn that opium was an English import to China (and not the other way around).
The mall attached to our hotel has a food court with all types of inexpensive Asian food. After a few laps, we decide on a buffet of Thai noodles, sashimi, Korean fried pork, Japanese udon noodles, and boba milk tea. Christian masters chopsticks pretty quickly, but we grab extra plastic forks whenever we see them (as not all restaurants have forks).
Then we go to the Goldfish Market—blocks and blocks of small stores selling pets of all kinds: fish, reptiles, puppies, and kittens. Instead of tanks of fish, they have walls of fish, hanging in bags on hooks. Not just small fish—big ones, too! And there are buckets of baby turtles. (We're glad we didn't buy one when we later spot a "No turtles" sign at the airport.)