12 years after their first (and only trip) to Hong Kong, my parents flew out to visit us in February for their 40th wedding anniversary. Which was nice, because 40th is a ruby anniversary.
We’d ended up staying in Hong Kong longer than we’d anticipated, having arrived in November. We’d always promised to stay until Chinese New Year, but my parents decided they wanted to come out to visit us again, which is great because it had been about a year that we hadn’t seen them (in the flesh).
My parents one and only long haul flight was in 2004 when they flew out to Hong Kong to visit us when we lived here as English teachers. Back then, they got bumped up to business class! No such luck this time.
To make the visit more comfortable, Suewan booked an Airbnb in Wan Chai for 11 days. This was the first time we’d stayed on the island side, and it made a nice change from Tai Shui Hang, where it felt a little disconnected from the rest of Hong Kong. We also had Liz staying with us which was lovely.
Mum and dad arrived on the Tuesday, and Roobs and I were waiting for them at the airport. When she saw them Roobs went running past the barriers to greet them. I think I saw a tear in Nanna’s eye. It was lovely to see them again, although it pains me to see how my dad struggles with his knee more and more these days. They seemed to have got through the flight ok, and didn’t seem overly tired.
We’d booked my parents into the Best Western hotel as an anniversary treat, just a short walk from our apartment. Turns out they liked it so much they decided to stay there, which worked out pretty well for everyone. On our first night we ate at the congee place below our apartment.
On Wednesday I’d booked for everyone to have breakfast at the hotel, so we wheeled Liz over there and squeezed into the tiny breakfast room to have a passable English breakfast buffet. After that we went to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in the New Territories and met up with Suewan’s dad, brother Don, Christine and their daughter Alexsia. I was looking forward to showing dad the Bruce Lee exhibition. I remember my dad introducing me to Bruce Lee films when I was young, sparking my interest in martial arts.
We went for lunch in Shek Mun, right below the place where we meet for church, then Suewan cooked in the evening. At lunch, mum and dad had their first taste of “dong owateen” (iced Ovaltine) and dad especially got a taste for it.
The next day we met up with Suewan’s family again for yum cha in Ma On Shan. Suewan and Roobs went for a homeschooling trip to the sewage works(!) whilst I took Liz and my parents to Sai Kung, for the famous Honeymoon dessert.
On Thursday night Suewan flew to China to meet up with her Yoli colleagues. So it meant I had to look after Liz and Roobs as well as entertain my parents on Friday. We ended up in Times Square, struggling to find somewhere to eat. I made Liz do laps of the square pushing her wheelchair so she’d burn some energy before her flight home!
In the afternoon, mum and I took Roobs to her gym class in Tsim Sha Tsui – we were nearly late because we couldn’t find the path to Wan Chai ferry port amongst all the construction work! I ended up taking mum by the arm and whizzing her along, which I don’t think she appreciated.
When we got back it turned out Liz and Dad had spent an enjoyable few hours setting the world to rights (even though for some reason Liz insisted on calling my dad Bill!). Liz requested chips for her last meal in Hong Kong! So we went out and got a takeaway McDonalds, then I took Liz to the airport and saw her off safely.
Saturday came and perhaps I planned a bit too much walking for us all, which must have been a struggle for dad, although he was quite proud of the fact that we did about 15,000 steps according to my Fitbit. We started off with breakfast in Times Square again, as it was close and I think mum was getting a bit tired of local food by then. We then made our way to Wan Chai ferry, and across to get the train at Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po market, where dad bought a gorilla pod for his camera.
After trekking around a bit more (and finding somewhere to stop and drink more Ovaltine) we were all getting pretty tired. We made our way back to Tsim Sha Tsui and sat in a posh shopping mall for a bit, watching the sun set and drinking Starbucks, before taking a ferry back to the island.
On Sunday there was no let up. We set off for the harbour again and got a ferry to Cheung Chau island, which is probably one of our favourite places to unwind in Hong Kong. We wandered around for a bit, saw the temple and got distracted by a forensics team examining a dead porpoise.
Finally we found a park bench to sit down and chill out for a while. I went off to get tea and cakes, and when I came back mum was in fits of laughter. Apparently she found the thought of a stray dog potentially savaging my dad somewhat amusing. Dad seemed to take it in his stride though.
On his first visit to Hong Kong, my dad famously said “whatever we do today, it’s going to be crap”. I remember I quipped back something like “that’s the spirit!” and it broke the tension and we all had a laugh about it. This time round though, my dad was a lot more chilled out. I think a year of retirement has mellowed him out a lot, and it’s rather nice, I must say.
It’s even more remarkable, when you consider the scrapes and bruises my dad kept getting:
- Squashed by the lift door x2
- Squashed by a train door
- Fell over in the toilet
- Hit his arm on the bed post and made it bleed
Whenever one of us gets trapped in a lift now, we refer it to as being “grandadded”.
Anyway, we finished the weekend relaxing at home. I gave my parents the choice of any film to watch on Netflix and they chose ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and went back to the hotel thoroughly depressed.
My dad’s well into his photography these days, so he was looking forward to going up The Peak in Hong Kong on Monday to get some good photos. We wasted some time in Central first and then took the bus the long way up the hill, finally reaching our destination. It was probably the best chance we had as most of the days were quite overcast, and we managed to get quite a good view.
Suewan had flown back from China, and Roobs was with Don and Christine, so I abandoned mum and dad at the peak and went for what I thought would be a rare date with my wife. Turns out she was very unwell and I spent the evening nursing her instead. My parents managed to find their way back down from The Peak but McChickened out of going somewhere exciting for dinner.
Roobs was still with Suewan’s family on Tuesday, so me and my parents headed to the History museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. Only that turned out to be closed, so we went to the Science museum instead.
After that we got the train to Tai Shui Hang and relaxed at the family home for a bit. On the way, we stopped off at the Secret Garden, a little cafe that had just opened in the village. They were very friendly, but it was all a bit chaotic as we tried to get them to make us tea with milk in, which wasn’t something they were used to doing! I ended up making it myself. And then they asked us to leave a donation rather than charging us, which was a bit strange.
That evening we all went to Ma On Shan had a fantastic family meal (the goose and pickled cucumber were favourites for mum and dad). Little Alexsia had grown quite attached to my dad (Uncle Grandad) and they spent some time “watching the whales”, as Alexsia put it.
I suppose we did spend a lot of the time revisiting the places that my parents remembered from their first trip, but I guess that’s what they wanted. On Wednesday we took a bus to Stanley Market and bought some traditional Chinese clothes for Beck, Ernest, Tendai and Orion, and mum bought some other little gifts. We had a little lunch in a very quiet Pacific Coffee before coming home again.
In the evening we’d arranged to meet up with our friends Jasper and Joanne, and their children and Jasper’s parents. Jasper and Joanne have always been incredibly hospitable to us, and they were very keen to take my parents to one of the oldest restaurants in Hong Kong: Lin Heung Tea House. It was lovely that our two families could eat together and we had an amazing meal. I don’t think we’ll ever forget the stuffed duck starter, and the lotus seed baked pudding to finish it off. My parents even went for a smoke outside with Jasper’s dad.
Thursday was to be their last day. The flight wasn’t until the evening so we had some time to kill, which for some reason we decided to do by going up a seemingly never ending flight of escalators (around 800 metres worth, apparently). I have photo evidence of us getting on these escalators from 2004, but I can’t remember whether or not we went all the way to the top back then. We did this time. And then got a bus back down again.
Mum and dad had been craving the cakes they’d seen every time they walked from the hotel to our flat, so we finally managed to visit the bakery and buy some (we probably overdid it, to be honest). But that was as good a way as any to end the holiday. We all had hugs and then mum and dad went back to the hotel to wait for their bus to the airport.
And that was that.
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