We’re certainly not used to a 4 day weekend in October but it would be rude not to accept it! The reason? Mid-Autumn Festival I believe. This basically means that every inch of every shop, restaurant and apartment building is decorated with lights and lanterns, there are of course the obligatory fireworks and dragon costume parades around the city but most importantly – a 4 day weekend!
I tried not to panic about the thought of not having a helper for 3 of these days as shock horror, they are supposed to be given the time off too. I swore I wouldn’t turn into one of those people who cannot function on a Sunday when it’s ‘helpers day off’ but THREE DAYS!!! What happens when we run out of plates? Or underwear? Is this some kind of joke?! The only solution was to get out of the flat for as long as possible and have as many meals out as we could to reduce the need for washing up and tidying up. This was fine of course, we were looking forward to taking some time to do some day trips.
Day 1 – Ocean Park. This is the theme park that we have annual passes for. Joshua could quite happily live in the aquarium they have there and we don’t mind humouring him as it’s a lovely respite from the heat outside. Joshua has finally reached the magic height of 120cm which now qualifies him for the more scary rides, not that he is that happy about that! He’s only interested in the dodgems and we tried to get him on a few of the scarier rides but he bottled out on several occasions. We didn’t push too hard as we didn’t want a repeat of Space Mountain at Disneyland! Not too far down the line is the time when Eden will without hesitation jump on the roller-coasters leaving her big brother watching from below. Maybe that will jump-start him. We’ve been to Ocean Park loads of times already but this time they had opened a brand new zone which is Polar themed. The penguin enclosure is kept between 8-10 degrees, not temperatures that the locals are used to seeing, well, ever. Somehow they knew to expect this and had all brought their hats, scarves, gloves, coats etc. It was hilarious. They were only going to be in there for a few minutes! It was pretty cold I have to admit but again, a nice respite for a bit. There’s also a very impressive housing for seals and a massive walrus that Dan & Josh both loved. He was really fascinating to watch. We happily spent a good 5 hours altogether at Ocean Park – definitely getting our money’s worth out of those passes!
In the evening we took Josh out for dinner. He loves it when we let him come out with us on a Saturday night and seeing as we’d been recommended an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant we simply couldn’t leave him behind and he didn’t disappoint in making sure that despite being charged half price, he ate twice as much as us!
Day 2 – we went to a Farmers Market that happened to be round the corner from where Josh does his Sunday football training so we thought we’d check it out. Farmers Markets in Hong Kong are few & far between and compared to English ones it wasn’t up to much but still, it was something different to do and we still had a good mooch.
Day 3 – Sai Kung. This is a little fishing village right on the outskirts of Hong Kong that we’ve been wanting to explore for a while. Turns out everyone else chose this day to explore it too as it was heaving! We took the train as far as we could go then got a cab the rest of the way which was a painful 45 minutes or so in traffic, grrrr. But once we got there it was fine and we had a lovely lunch in a fish restaurant where the fish is as fresh as it’s possible to get and we could barely get Joshua to sit down as all he wanted to do was look at all the fish in their various crates. It was impossible to drag him away!
After lunch we strolled around the promenade and the pier and found more fisherman selling their catches directly from their boats in the water below. It was a real eye-opener watching the fisherman negotiating with the ‘shopper’ above. I guess they were negotiating on price and which exact fish they wanted. Once everything was decided, the fish were put in bags and money and purchases exchanged hands via a fishing net that the fisherman extended to the person waiting above! One fish protested greatly about being shoved in a plastic bag. I was gasping for air myself just watching it. He managed to flap his way out of about 3 bags before he finally lost his strength, poor thing. Tasty though I’m sure.
Joshua wouldn’t write this himself in his own account but he declared that when he grows up he wants to be a fisherman with a big pool in his boat where all the fish can swim about safely. He wouldn’t kill them or sell them but would just put them all back in the sea at the end of the day.
Day 4 – Lamma. We had an arrangement to have lunch with one of Dan’s colleagues and his family. They live on Lamma Island which is a small quiet island about a 20 minute ferry-ride away. No cars are allowed on Lamma, it’s that kind of place, so Josh is free to whizz around safely on his scooter whenever we go there. When we woke up that morning to the news that there had been a fatal boat crash just off Lamma the night before with dozens of people killed, we couldn’t believe it. This seemed to be world news as we found it all over the BBC and Sky. However, Dan’s colleague said we should still come, the ferries were still running and the accident the night before had been a case of too congested waters due to lots of party boats watching the fireworks so we were prepared to risk it. We managed to protect Josh from the whole story otherwise we knew he’d get all worried about our journey. In fact it appeared that no one on the boat even seemed to know about it, they were all just chilled out and not bothered. It was all rather odd, as if we weren’t about to go past a massive boat wreckage. Then things changed – about 5 minutes from Lamma Island we went past the scene of the disaster. The smaller boat that had capsized was still sticking vertically out of the water like a small version of the Titanic and a swarm of recovery boats, police boats and press boats surrounded it. Everyone rushed to get a look. Then when we docked we saw the other boat involved in the crash moored in full public view with massive chunks taken out the front – not very sensitive parking. And standing on the docks were a huge amount of world press, cameramen, reporters, the works. It was very weird seeing all this on a tiny island and even more weird to think we had just sailed past something that was being projected around the world that day.
Despite the drama we had a lovely lazy lunch, followed by a mooch round the island to the beach where we enjoyed cocktails, beer and ice cream in the afternoon whilst the kids explored rock pools – a lovely way to spend a Tuesday afternoon!