Cheung Sha Beach, South Lantau

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We first took a trip to Cheung Sha beach in South Lantau a few months ago, in the blistering and often unbearable heat that is Hong Kong in August. We had an amazing day and absolutely loved it – but it was too hot. I remember the trip home feeling like it took many hours, when in truth it must have taken under one.

Yesterday was a gorgeous October day, not a cloud in the sky and a lovely breeze to offset the 29 degree temperature. We wanted to spend the full day together as a family before I jet off for a couple of weeks (it’s a nice feeling actually, to be the one jetting off for a change!) and decided to head back to South Lantau for a beach day.

This is one of my favourite spots in Hong Kong. I could live here, and would if we weren’t planning to make a small sea change when we eventually return home. You travel just a little to the north west of the city and feel like you have escaped to Thailand for a beach holiday. There are little restaurants on the beach which all serve fabulous food and will bring you coffees and beers to your beach towels. There is a big, wide beach for kids to play on and lots of tree coverage means you can really stay all day, unlike the beach in Australia where I can usually only last a couple of hours at best.

To get there, you need to do one of two things – take a ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo, or take a train to Tung Chung. From either of those locations you take a bus to Cheung Sha. We’ve taken the ferry there both times which is a lovely 25 minute journey and much nicer I find than rabbiting down into the MTR – we have taken the train home once though and it is of course (being Hong Kong) very easy. Anyway, from Mui Wo you need to take the Number 1 bus to Tai O and alight at Chueng Sha, where there will generally be a mass exodus of white people with beach balls and flip flops. Yesterday we missed the bus and managed to get a taxi, which is apparently near impossible in South Lantau.

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When we arrived we found a perfect spot next to a little children’s play area and underneath some big shady trees, and J being J he decided to hire a giant inflatable lobster to muck around with the kids. We spent the first few hours swimming and splashing around, and Heike and I took a walk to the other end of the beach to collect shells (it is an excellent beach for shell collecting!). Once we’d worked up an appetite, which frankly didn’t take long, we decided to eat at Lantana which was basically the closest restaurant to our towels. Last time we ate at the new fancy looking place near the car park (sorry, forgot name) which was lovely and they even let us lay on their sun beds before and after lunch. We would also like to try the Thai restaurant which comes highly recommended – but back to Lantana.

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Lantana is an Italian restaurant with a very simple menu, mostly pizza and pasta with a few sides and salads to choose from. We ordered the bolognese for the kids to share with a side of garlic bread, the puttanesca to share and a Greek salad. J then decided he couldn’t live without the mussels and decided to order those too (I don’t eat them). We also got three juices, a beer and two coffees, and the bill came to $720HK which I thought was pretty reasonable. The quality of the food was amazing! The pasta was al dente, the salad ingredients were fresh (not to mention they used about half a block of feta!) and apparently the mussels were delicious. I would highly recommend Lantana.

After lunch J took Walter for a long walk to get him to sleep while Heike and I had a long swim. It’s always so nice to spend one on one time with her, I realise how little we get to do it and how easy she is to talk to. When Walter went to sleep J and I took turns having naps of our own while Heike played with other children on the beach. It was so relaxing and just what we all needed.

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Getting home was less fun, due to the taxi/bus situation I mentioned earlier. We headed to the bus stop only to find a huge queue and full buses driving right by. Every time a taxi came there would be a mad dash to see who could hail it, which I thought was really unfair – whoever was at the front of the line should have been first to get a cab. As I always do in these situations I started to get on my moral high horse and began throwing death stares, eye rolls and moans at those who were trying to beat the line. When we were finally at the front of the line, a taxi came past and a sixty year old, single man literally darted in front of me, jumped in the taxi and slammed the door. I was furious of course and screamed DICKHEAD as loud as I could (which is loud, trust me), much to the delight of the various parents with children around me I’m sure. BUT as karma/luck would have it the car behind the taxi stopped and offered us a lift!

Turns out he was an Aussie himself and described the taxi stealer as a p!@#k which made me laugh very loudly. How nice to meet a friendly Aussie just when you need one! He had his little boy in the front seat, and they were actually on the way to pick up his mates for his birthday party! He was having a sports party and was very excited and gorgeous, if a little grumpy that his Dad was picking up strangers instead of his friends on his birthday – we actually passed his friends (one of them named “Safe”, which I am mentally adding to the list of very “Hong Kong” names) and his Dad rolled down the window and shouted that he “just had to drop some people off” and would be back. Such a funny experience and so worth the wait!

We got dropped at Mui Wo where we made the ferry by three minutes *fate* and I had to sing The Wiggles the entire journey back or Walter would inexplicably burst into tears. When we got off at Central and entered the taxi line there, we found ourselves standing behind…the taxi stealing man!!! Which I loved of course, giving him a really big smile every time he glanced in my direction. Oh life, you are a funny old thing!

What a day, what a weekend. But for now it’s bye HK, Hello AUS! I’m so excited I have butterflies.

Z

Happenings

So much has been happening in our little Hong Kong world, it’s sometimes hard for me to keep up. Front and centre, we are busily preparing for our trip home to Australia next week! That’s right Aus, we are coming for you. I am going to dive into that fresh clean Pacific Ocean with the biggest smile on my face, you have no idea. I’m going to call it, Australia might just be the best place in the world to live. But Hong Kong is pretty good too!

I am highly organised when it comes to things like travel or just generally planning for things so the suitcase is out, and each day I top it up with little things thinking “Ooh, I won’t wear this again before we go,” and so on. I have bought special Halloween candy to take home and little presents for loved ones and am basically just counting the hours. You know how as soon as something is really close (4 sleeps!) it suddenly feels really far and you just want to press fast forward and forget about the time in between? That’s where I’m at.

One thing that’s impacting my day to day ability to basically just move (and sit down – oh how I long to sit down with ease!) is a certain tailbone injury that was sustained in a very embarrassing way. Think bowling alley, bowling shoes, running after a particularly active little boy. I basically took a fall akin to those old cartoons where someone slips on a banana peel. It wasn’t pretty! I had to go to the Emergency Room for X-Rays and was just very red faced and sore, but sadly almost two weeks on I am still in a lot of pain. Apparently these injuries can take ages to heel! So my advice is, just say no to bowling. No deal! Or if you’re me, say no to any physical activity that may end in embarrassing injury because history has shown, it will happen.

I am so excited to have a little break from the school routine again. I said to J this morning, how is it possible that I am up at 5.30am every day yet still consistently running late for the 8.25am school bus? And he just shrugged and said, because that’s the way it is. So yes, that’s the way it is my friends, me shrieking “You are four years old you can put your own shoes on we’re going to be LATE” every morning for the last six weeks.

Walter is just busy being a mini front row forward, spending 50% of his awake time running, 40% playing with trucks and 10% eating. He does sometimes throw the odd tantrum or dance in there depending on his mood. Oh to be a boy and just be uncomplicated!

J and I watched a movie last night and afterwards he questioned me about some dialogue. “I didn’t hear that bit,” I said, “Sometimes I just get the gist of what they’re saying and move on.” “Move on to what?” he asks. “Just thinking about what’s going to happen next or what the ending is going to be.” Cue biggest eye roll ever – “That sounds like a very complicated and non-relaxing way to watch a movie.” Hello! I’m a woman. It is impossible for my mind to be on just one thing at one time. But as a consequence, I will never quite enjoy playing with trucks the way Walter does, and I will never enjoy watching a movie in quite the way J does. (The movie was pretty average to be honest so I was probably thinking about what else I needed to pack in my suitcase!)

What else? We tried another really great restaurant on Saturday night, Carbone in LKF, which was in J’s words “The Best Italian Food I’ve Ever Eaten”. It was probably enhanced by the slightly inappropriate amount of cocktails we drank but was really very good. Sore heads all round Sunday morning. This Saturday we are planning to try the “So-Hot-Right-Now” Aberdeen Social so will let you know what we think!

Being Hong Kong every day is full of Mandarin lessons or gymnastics or music and Heike wants to learn the violin (!?) so that will be the next thing, which I think is why time just whizzes on by. Our days and weeks are full. Our lives are full. We are happy but could slow things down. I’m looking forward to long Spring afternoons watching the kids play on the grass and having a wine with loved ones.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Dynamics

Without doubt the hardest thing about adding a second child to our family has been the sibling dynamics. At first, the dramatic decline in Heike’s behaviour as she realised she was no longer the centre of our world. The hitting, the smothering, the staging of dramatic tantrums the moment her brother needed attention. It was expected, but worse than expected.

While that has eased now that Walt has grown, it’s still a constant juggling act. We went to Disneyland with a friend and her kids last week, and when our younger ones fell asleep we joked that it isn’t only twice as easy looking after just one – it’s three, four times easier. Hard to explain but so true. I am not even at the point where I can begin imagining what three, four kids would be like! I’m guessing at that point you just embrace the chaos.

Some days I feel like they are always fighting. He took my fairy, she took my drink bottle, he’s in my room, she won’t let me play in her room. Hitting, biting, pushing, punching. Sometimes I feel like locking them in a room and letting them tear each other apart. But it’s usually at that point that they dissolve into laughter and go back to being best friends.

Because that’s the other thing. They are best friends. I honestly don’t know what they would do all day without each other to play with, fight with, learn with and just generally torment me with. It’s fun to watch them, to see how different they are and yet how alike they are, with their big voices and their green eyes and their mousy hair.

The absolute best thing, the most rewarding thing, about being a Mum is seeing your kids get along. It makes it all worth it, to feel that they’ve got a friend, an ally in the big bad world. It definitely makes me want to reach out to my own siblings, for my Mum’s sake. It also explains why she gets so weirdly happy whenever my brother makes the seemingly herculean effort to pick up the phone and call me, and I’ve decided to stop teasing her about that.

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So yes, the dynamics between two kids are challenging and the arguments can feel neverending and apparently it only gets worse. But it is so, so worth it.

When Sickness Strikes

I am terrible at being sick. I have also gone through long periods where I’ve been constantly sick, because I am not at all resilient in that way and am asthmatic and for many years smoked and drank far too much (Hello, early 20s!) so I was a whiny, whingey mess. Thank God for J who puts up with me and is an excellent nurse (I am also a terrible nurse! Sorry family! You’ll have to turn to my Mum, Dad or Sister for that area of expertise).

I remember Mum laughing at me years ago – “Wednesdays child is full of woe! That’s so you!”. Because I was born on a Wednesday and such people are apparently woeful. I was mortified at the time, particularly as I see myself as a very upbeat, optimistic person, but I do get it now that I’m older. I’m very quick to look for sympathy and wear my heart on my sleeve. If I’m not feeling well you are alllll going to know about it.

So you’ve probably gathered by now that I’m not feeling well (insert crying with laughter emoji here). I’ve been battling a cold for weeks which turned into a bit of asthma which developed into a chest infection and possibly a spot of pneumonia. I actually approached the desk at the doctor’s surgery today to tell the receptionist I thought I might faint (seriously, I am so embarrassing! The drama!). I had basically convinced myself I had a collapsed lung, because I have issues. I am fine! On antibiotics and a few other fun medications that had J rolling his eyes (“Only in Hong Kong”) and they made me wear one of those masks out of the surgery which made me feel like a right local. I live in Asia now guys. I wear masks when I am sick.

Anyway, as I lie here in bed trying to think of something, anything to occupy my overactive mind, I got to thinking about people who are actually sick, and families who are dealing with actual, real, ongoing health problems. And I felt pretty sad because there are Mums out there who are losing a child, or have lost a child, or children who are losing their Mums.

I wonder what will happen to our family – because nothing’s happened yet. Do you ever think that? Nothing’s happened yet, so what’s going to happen? Will it be me, my parents, my brother? Will it be one of my sister in law’s, or one of their kids? And I hope and pray that our life follows the typical trajectory, that nothing steers us off track.

I think about how I would go in that situation. Me, who cries at the drop of a hat and laughs inappropriately and is just bubbling over with thoughts and feelings and noise. I’m not exactly the most stoic person in the world. But I do tend to oddly become calm in really serious situations. Like childbirth, for example.

I remember one time we were at Mum and Dad’s, and Dad hadn’t been feeling well. He was out in the yard and Mum and I were in the kitchen and he just let out this scream. I don’t think either of us have ever run so fast as we did. As we got to the door I turned and said to Mum, “Just stay calm”. And I was so calm. Turns out my sister had arrived and squirted him with the garden hose. Frightened the life out of us! Later over dinner we were all having a laugh about it and Mum brought up my Dalai Lama moment, and we all cracked up. But we did reflect that maybe I will one day prove myself to be okay in a crisis situation?

So it’s good to know that even when I am running a fever, texting my friends and family using a lot of capitals to convey HOW sick and MISERABLE and homesick I am, I can still manage to have a little bit of perspective. See, I AM optimistic after all!

Z

Hong Kong Restaurants: Favourites So Far…

I’m currently spending what’s left of a public holiday stuck in bed with bronchitis, which is definitely not where I planned to be today but such is life! I’ve decided to use the opportunity to catch up on computer related things, e.g. cleaning up all my photos and ordering prints. I’m thinking this will kill time and also be extremely satisfying once I’m finished. I love looking through old photos and also reflecting on all the things we’ve done and seen over the last few months. Also – all the places we’ve eaten! We’ve eaten out heaps since moving here, cheap babysitting and overexcitement proving great ways for us to become acquainted with the city’s food scene.

I thought I would share a few of my favourite places (and there are SO many so this is hard!!). The way I did it was just to write down the first restaurants that came to mind, and many are places we’ve been back to again and again and take friends to. I hope you are able to visit some if you come to Hong Kong!

Ho Lee Fook

This is modern Chinese at its absolute best – no reservations for small groups, but if you show up and have to wait they’ll take you to one of their affiliate bars in nearby Staunton St for an aperitif. Once your table is ready you’ll get a call and head downstairs past the wall of waving cats into the dark-in-a-good-way underground restaurant. The food is honestly amazing and will have you moaning with every bite – we loved the pork belly, duck and stir fried vegetables. It was very well accompanied by the Sichuan Spiced cocktail! We’ve only been here once but have recommended it to everyone and had nothing but rave reviews – a Hong Kong must-do.

Cat Wall!
Cat Wall!

Ho Lee Fook, 1 Elgin St, Central

Motorino

This is our go-to pizza delivery place as well as a very cool little Italian eatery in Wan Chai’s bustling Ship St. The pizzas are delicious Naples style, with a crispy outside and soft, doughy middle as well as minimal toppings. It’s very child friendly if you want to eat in, and if you choose to order from home (as we sadly do often) the pizzas always arrive hot and on time. The prices are also reasonable for such good quality.

Motorino, 15 Ship St, Wan Chai

22 Ships

This hip tapas bar, also on Ship St, has a great vibe and will have you dancing to the 50s, 60s and 70s music that blares from the speakers. I’ve always found the staff here to be exceptionally friendly (especially by Hong Kong standards!) and the service to be efficient. I can highly recommend just about everything on the menu as we’ve loved everything we’ve tried, particularly the green beans with miso dressing (yum, yum, so yum). The prices are very Hong Kong (aka $$$) but it’s worth it if you’re prepared to part with your cash. Again, you can’t book so show up early on weekend nights.

22 Ships, 22 Ship St, Wan Chai

Tin Lung Heen

Tin Lung Heen is part of the Ritz-Carlton, on the 102nd floor of the ICC in Kowloon. The views from here are the best in Hong Kong and so are the dumplings. This is definitely a special occasion, “sometimes” place but is absolutely worth it and essential to check out if you’re a lover of Chinese food. The duck! The duck! I’m salivating just thinking about it. If you plan on drinking, expect a crazily pricey wine list – but if you know Hong Kong you will have guessed that anyway. Make sure to book in advance for this one.

That's gold...on my dumpling...
That’s gold…on my dumpling…

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Tin Lung Heen, International Commerce Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui

Souvla

Souvla is an awesome Greek restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong. It’s a great location to take guests as it lends itself perfectly to after-dinner cocktails, and the food is perfect for sharing. The lamb stuffed eggplant with yoghurt and pomegranate is legitimately one of the best things I’ve ever eaten (I’m determined to try to recreate it at home!) and the Saganaki cheese is “OMG” good. With drinks it will set you back at least $500HKD a head and the one thing I would say about that is that it doesn’t leave you feeling exceptionally full for the price. But we love it and continue to go back!

Souvla, 1/F 40 D’Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong

Chilli Figara

This is getting a mention purely because it was one of the craziest eating experiences I’ve had and if you like spicy food – like REALLY spicy – then you have to go here! Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Head straight to Soho and eat the spiciest food of your life. This delicious Szechuan food is like tongue-numbing, mind-numbing, body-numbing spicy, with that distinctive Szechuan pepper flavour. I actually ate around the thousands of chilli’s and was still gasping for air. I ate there with four big, burly men and of course it was a beating-of-the-chests exercise to see who could handle the spice best. Sadly, they were all suffering the following day but I was fine!

Chilli Fagara, 7 Old Bailey St, Central

Stone Nullah

Stone Nullah is basically the fancy Hong Kong version of our local pub. We often meet friends here for a drink and one of our closest (and very first!) friends here knows the owners, so it’s a go-to place and also conveniently in Wan Chai. There’s a great area near the footpath where you can stand and have wines with friends and the food is sort of modern-American pub food done really well and with a bit of “zhoosh” added. Non-locals will find the food expensive but it’s fairly standard HK prices (especially as a lot of it is meat-based and meat here is pricey). One thing is that Justus often feels quest after eating here as the food is very rich. I of course can stomach an obscene amount of calories before reacting and have never had a problem!

Stone Nullah, 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai

Butcher’s Club

We are crazy about The Butcher’s Club and have experienced just about everything they have to offer (and there is a LOT) – The Butcher’s Club Burger in Wan Chai and Soho do the best burgers in Hong Kong, hands down. You can head to their larger restaurant in Aberdeen for lunch or dinner, and they often run special nights. We recently went to their Long Lunch for Australian Father’s Day, which cost $500 a head and included unlimited alcoholic drinks as well as food from a range of stalls they had set up on the roof. Heike and Justus have even done a sausage making class here!! We also often order meat from their online store, and it’s always amazing – highly, highly recommended.

Sausage Making at The Butcher's Club
Sausage Making at The Butcher’s Club

The Butchers Club, Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen

It’s almost embarrassing how many places we’ve eaten out (and how many times) in only four months, but hopefully it can be of use to someone!!! Certainly not our diets. But being an expat is nothing if not fun, and we need to make the most of it – right?!

Z