Hong Kong + Macau

For Memorial Day weekend, we decided at the last minute to check HK + Macau off our Asia to-do list.  This hastily planned trip was also Prince Henry the Navigator’s maiden voyage (outside Japan, that is) and a BIG learning experience for all of us 🙂 If we flew by the seat of our pants before, we now trudge by the soles of our clodhoppers.  Every trip has a low point, right?  And somewhere between the cries and frustration, once you identify,  “okay, this is our lowest point!”, you can laugh and move on, knowing that everything else is bound to be awesome.  Some trips we’ve made have been glorious.  This one- while neat and stuff– had a disproportionate amount of low points.

We learned on this trip that- !HELLO!- we should probably plan ahead a little and be more responsible.  Before, I may need a duffle bag for a 3 night trip (that I probably packed at the last minute), but after spending the night before packing up diapers, baby food, and all of Henry’s gear, (and only allowing myself a few clothes, 1 pair of birkenstocks, and zero hair gear) my bag was just a couple of kilos shy of being overweight!  I was proud of myself for having-once in my life- gotten things together well in advance with plenty of room to breathe, but when morning rolled around I nearly panicked trying to get out of the house, realizing I had entirely forgotten to pack baby dishes-(bottles, sippy cup, spoons) and wondering what else I had forgotten while trying to get through our usual morning routine. So despite my best efforts, my peaceful, orderly start to our mini-vacay still turned into a rushed chug-the-coffee, lets-get-out-the-dooooor! kind of morning after all.  We didn’t even remember to lock our door.  I don’t know how people with lots of kids ever get anywhere.  Maybe by the time we have a second, we’ll have a system. Before having a baby, I used to judge people who let their babies crawl up and down the dirty aisle of an airplane.  Now, I’m like, “Could you please walk around my tiny tot, but don’t step on him please!”  Alas, we’ve missed the window of time where we would have been able to travel with a stationary “lap child”.  Henry is happy as a clam as long as he has plenty of pastures to graze.  We were lucky enough to get a surprise business class upgrade (more room for moving!) but disappointed that it didn’t come with a baby gate.  Oh, and real dishes and easy to grab tablecloths on an airplane are hardly enjoyable with Hank-the-Tank within reach.

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What he lacks in manners, he makes up for in charm!

We stayed at the Butterfly on Hollywood Hotel.  It was a great boutique hotel in a cool area (maybe in a previous time we envisioned ourselves bopping in and out of all of the ex-pat bars on the strip).  The first night we were awakened by the sound of Henry screaming.  We turned on the lights and his crib had COLLAPSED!  Why, on earth, is there any reason why a crib should be designed with hinges on the side? The Chi-Com crib, as Travis named it, was missing a few screws and the mattress had fallen out onto the floor with Henry clinging to one side.  Assembling a crib with missing parts at 4am was not Travis’ idea of  “vacation” but he managed to fix the dern thing enough to get us through the night.

It was raining cats and dogs (+ a few lizards and rats) in Hong Kong.  Sadly, we didn’t take a ton of pictures there because it was enough carrying all the baby gear + umbrellas, and the image was always foggy because of the balmy air.  We were determined to not let this hold us back and proceeded with going to “the Peak”-  HK’s most popular tourist attraction.  When our grandparents envisioned a trip to “the orient”, chances are the picture in their head was somehow influenced by postcards of British colonials being carried up a steep hill in a sedan chair by barefoot Asian men with pointed hats.  Or something like this: Image Our experience wasn’t quite so exotic.  We took the same rail that’s been in use since the late 1800s to the top of the peak.  And this was our lovely view: Image Then we did decided on something really tacky that I thought I would never do- but hey, there were a lot of firsts on this trip.  We purchased the tourist trap photoshopped family photo that was taken in front of the green screen to show what the view could have been like.  Image I have no idea why this picture is showing up sideways, but you can tell it’s much better, right? 🙂 Henry thought it was hilarious. I paid close attention to what the guy was doing, so at least I got a free photoshop lesson out of it. We decided to stop by the historic Peninsula Hotel for high tea, per Travis’ parents recommendation.  It’s a colonial style luxury hotel, much like the Raffles in Singapore.  Travis knew I would love it, and he was right. The hotel was  ornately beautiful inside and out, the string quartet playing was in-tune and beautiful, and the tea and treats were delightful. But Henry (who had been so good up to this point)  turned into an ungrateful little toot the moment we sat down!  To make matters worse, there was a gorgeous, thin, beautifully dressed, high-heeled lady with long, luscious straightened dark hair (that wasn’t at all affected by the humidity) sitting next to us with a docile little 5 month old.  After a few of Henry’s cries, she  turns to us and says, “For a minute, I thought he [her baby] was crying, but I thought, ‘that can’t be right’ because he never cries!  See how good he is?”  For someone who just had a baby, she really had it all together, it seemed.  Is this what high tea mamas in HK look like?  Moments later I realized she was the sister-in-law and the real mom emerged from the bathroom in jeans, flats, no make-up and an Ergo carrier, (and looking a little bedraggled) .  I felt loads better about our disruptive situation.  But no more tea parties for the Tank. IMG_2337 IMG_2338IMG_2355

 Henry’s mood was brightened when we took the Star Ferry Cruise across the harbor.  Some water, a boat, a good view of the skyline, and the cheap public transport was entertainment for the rugrat that cost 1/20th of our tea time at the Peninsula.  It made for a happy evening.
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 We ate well in Hong Kong.  Travis had researched a 2 star Michelin restaurant called Tim’s Kitchen that he was dying to try.  It was the top of Henry’s melt-down hour by the time we finally found the place, and we weren’t exactly dressed properly.  I was a little bit of a naysayer, but glad Travis talked me into it.  The menu was controversial, or should I say- heartless? (shark fin soup, birds nests, baby animals, oh my!)  but the crispy pork belly, eggplant with peanut sauce, and beef & vegetables that we ordered made it all worthwhile.  It was the fastest service that we’ve ever had- perhaps because they were trying to get rid of us!

Crispy pork belly.  That’s a century egg (the black thing) on the left. I had no idea what this was! It’s an egg that’s been preserved in a mixture of clay & ash for several weeks or months until the yolk is creamy and sulfuric/ammonia-like and the white is gelatinous. It was just as disgusting as it sounds. Everything else was delish!

All things considered, we liked HK. By the end of it, we even talked about how fun it would be to live there.  We decided it was a seedier, grittier, hillier version of Singapore with a little more history.

Part II of our trip was Macau.  It’s just an hour ferry ride from HK, on the Western side of the Pearl River Delta.  Both HK & Macau are the only two “special administrative regions” of China and so close geographically, yet they are worlds apart.  HK was colonized by the British, and still has a very English influence, while Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999!  (the last remaining European colony in China).

We thought Macau was much more picturesque than HK.  It looked just like Lisbon, only there were more Asians!

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Thankfully, the dinosaur teardrop rain had subsided by the time we made it to Macau.  It was hot as balls, but Henry didn’t seem to mind.  We did a walking tour (all of the historic stuff can be seen in just a couple of hours), stopped for one of their famous egg custard tarts, visited the Museo de Macau,  and decided to skip the old fort because I didn’t feel like climbing in that heat with 20 lbs of hot flesh napping on top of me. (and we’ve kinda reached the point of fort fatigue with all the forts we’ve seen from this same time period in the Middle East.)

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Ruins/facade of St. Paul’s Church
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Macanese egg custard tarts. I could eat these for breakfast every day the rest of my life!
Crowds of Chinese tourists! And me.. can you spot me?
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antique puppets at the museum
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A Macanese wedding dress from the 20s. Isn’t this beautiful?

By the time we made it outside the pinball-machine of a museum, we realized it had somehow spit us out on top of the fort, so we saw it afterall!  I’m glad we didn’t deprive Henry of his first fort experience. He thought it was hilarious to lay on one of the cannons.  He kept slapping it and laughing.  I guess there’s something innate about little men and their fascination with big weapons.

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Macau’s economy is mostly dependent on gambling, so we felt obliged to make a quick pass through the gaudy yet beautiful Grand Lisboa Casino, if only for a cold, air conditioned bathroom + cocktail break.

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Our dinner experience was yet another lesson in traveling with a baby and our need to simplify things. Once again- my thoughtful husband had planned for us to go to the perfect place- the historic Clube Militar de Macau.  But sadly, our sweaty, frizzy selves with a baby-in-tow “did not meet the dress code” and weren’t allowed in 😦  We settled on another great Macanese restaurant in a Portuguese residential neighborhood.  The name of the place escapes me.  Travis doesn’t remember either.  It’s possible that we’ve forgotten because we’ve tried block out the entire experience!

We knew the melt-down hour was coming, so we chose an outdoor table and were seated next to an unfortunate couple on a romantic date.  Henry’s good spirits were waning as the sun went down and his protests gradually turned into full on screams. {Our child has never been much of a crier, but when his batteries die he suddenly goes off like a smoke alarm}  We tried feeding him, getting him to sleep, taking turns strolling him up and down the corniche.  Meanwhile we ordered the delicious African Chicken, some grilled fish (also delicious), and both the vinho verde (Porgtuguese crisp white wine) and a pitcher of sangria.  We took turns eating and double-fisting beverage while the other minded the baby. At one point I volunteered to change the diaper in his stroller under a tree.  I had just bragged to Travis that I was the more experienced diaper changer and I would take this one for the team.  It was a dirty one, and I successfully bagged it up in the semi darkness in under 2 minutes.  I proudly wheeled us back to the table, but Henry continued to wail.  Finally, I gave up on finishing dinner and decided to force him down in the Ergo carrier which works every time, even knowing I would probably have to carry him that way in our hour and a half trek back to HK via walking, ferry, taxi, and more walking.  When I picked him up, I was startled to find a big turd underneath his bum squished into the stroller!!  I had just changed him!  “Only our child is talented enough to poop outside his diaper,” Travis bragged to me. I have no idea how this mystery turd got there, but my best guess is that somewhere between rolling up his dirty diaper (which still had its contents) and sliding in a new one, he must have slipped one out.  No wonder he was so upset!  We offered to buy the couple whose date we ruined a beverage or dessert, but they were like, “Oh noo, that’s okay!” {subtext: “Oh please, don’t keep us here any longer!!”}

The only picture we got at this restaurant. Travis always thinks to take my portrait when the mood needs to be lightened. I was genuinely trying to put on a happy face here, but my face sums it all up. Over it!!

This blog is already becoming too long, so I’ll spare you the final low point of our return to Japan (you’ll just have to imagine what that would be 🙂 ) Sorry if this has seemed really negative, but it is an honest account of what having a baby has done to two very experienced travelers!  Despite the poor take off, the weather, the collapsing chi-com crib, the melt-downs in nice restaurants, the mystery turd, and the craziness upon return, we had some serious laughs out of this trip, and I would highly recommend visiting HK + Macau.  I will say the lessons learned from this trip made our trip to Bali a huge success, so you’ll have to read about that one when I eventually get it up on the blog.  🙂  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Aunt Lisa says:

    I adore reading your creative blog posts. You’re a pro. I wanna know what happened upon returning to Japan!

    1. Natalie says:

      Thanks Aunt Lisa!! Our irresponsibility got the best of us. We were about to catch the shuttle back to base (which is a 2 hour ride) when we remembered we left the car seat in a locker. Couldn’t remember where the locker was in that big airport. Finally found the locker but lost the little paper with the combination. Had to find the 1 person in the airport who is authorized to hack into the locker machine. Before all this, we thought we had loads of time, so we swanned around the airport, had dinner, and sat in the massage chairs. Meanwhile, I left my wallet in the massage chair. If it were any other country we wouldn’t have made the next shuttle but thankfully the Japanese locker man sprinted through the airport after making copies of our passports, and my wallet was easily retrieved- we had minutes to spare but by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins made the next shuttle!

  2. Aimee says:

    Natalie, I would not characterize your candidness as “negative”. I actually found it to be quite humorous! You are such a talented writer. I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Can’t wait to read about the trip to Bali. xoxo

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