Sunday, 6 May 2018

Getting around Hong Kong on Public Transport with a Child


Hong Kong is made up of over 200 islands, and so it can be easy to think that navigating the country with a child in tow could prove problematic. I'm here to show you how that doesn't have to be the case! Here are some hints and tips that will help you get around Hong Kong while keeping the kids entertained and accounted for!


>> Airport Transport

So you have landed at Hong Kong Airport on Lantau island. In order to get to either Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, we recommend jumping on the Airport Express. This leaves the airport every 10-12 minutes and takes from as little as 24 minutes to get right into the heart of the city.

At the airport, we picked up two Octopus cards for the duration of our stay. These simplify payment across all forms of transport, including the Airport Express! It is a contactless smart card (just like the Oyster card in London), and is mostly used to pay for rides on the MTR, buses, minibuses, ferries, trams and on a few taxis equipped with Octopus readers. We bought the on-loan travel passes for 150 HKD for an adult and 70 HKD for a child. These prices include a deposit of 50 HKD, so the balances loaded on the cards are 100 HKD and 20 HKD respectively. You are able to go into credit on these cards, but only once and only to the extent of your deposit. As soon as the balance is negative you will need to top up before using again. Therefore, note that after one trip on the Airport Express, you will need to top up your cards at the terminals available in MTR stations.

The Airport Express was clearly signposted and swiftly took us to Hong Kong Island where we would be staying. Blue flashing lights let us know how far along our journey we were, and announcements in English were plentiful. The hazy red sunset that came through the window was just the icing on the cake.

TIP: If you do take the Airport Expess, there is then a free shuttle bus option from Kowloon or Hong Kong stations to all major hotels and transport links. This works in both directions. 


>> Out and About

MTR (Mass Transit Railway)

If you've managed the Airport Express, you'll do just fine with the rest of the MTR. We were staying in Causeway Bay and so Tin Hau was our local station. The machines that are used to top up Octopus Cards are intuitive, and my son loved swiping himself through the barriers
with his very own card.

The stations and transport itself was extremely clean and felt safe - and there wasn't a day of our week long trip that we didn't use the MTR. It can get you to a lot of the main sights - including Hong Kong Disneyland, which has its own stop! Head for Sunny Bay and jump on the MTR with the Mickey Mouse shaped windows. AMAZING!





Trams

While this mode of transport may not be the most effective at getting places, it was certainly one of the most fun for my son.

The Hong Kong Tramway goes along Hong Kong Island and is one of the oldest forms of transport in this area -- and even better, each trip costs only 2.30 HKD, which equates to about 23 pence! E and I found ourselves jumping on the tram for fun and gliding through the neon lights and swathes of people crossing the busy roads - no destination in mind, just a ride on the lines. The front windows slid down and you could feel the warm air on your face as you were swept along.

You have to jump on through the back doors. Make sure you have the right fare, or a topped-up Octopus card, because you pay as you exit through the front. The trams were pretty busy at various times of the day, so sometimes we would stand until we could sneak our way to our favourite front row seats. If you are six foot or more, standing upstairs is likely to be uncomfortable.

We highly recommend these for a fun adventure - however, you may find other forms of transport easier to navigate with children. I can't imagine jumping on one of these with a buggy!

TIP: The stops are numbered and go up twos. Evens are in one direction, odds in the other.



The Star Ferry

I'm sure you've heard of the Star Ferry - it sails back and forth across Victoria Harbour. This crossing was named one of the "fifty places of a lifetime" by Traveler in 1999. It's pretty impressive. Climb aboard the double decker ferry and sit near the open edge for the best views of the harbour lights and views, day or night. Once again a very cost effective way to get from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central with each ride costing less than 40 pence. They're also extremely frequent, running approximately every 10 minutes.

TIP: We spent a while looking for where to catch the Star Ferry. Don't end up in the China Ferry Terminal further along the coast... although both are in Tsim Sha Tsui, it's not the right place.



 

Ngong Ping Cable Cars


A glass bottomed cable car, need I say more? This is on Lantau Island (giving your children brilliant views of many things, including the airport!) and takes you up to the Big Buddha. The ride is just under half an hour, so plenty of time to sit back and relax, but not too long for the kids to get restless. Get the kids to keep an eye out for the Buddha which will come into view near the end of the cable car ride. 

The views are spectacular, and it's worth paying more for the glass floor option - not only for the views, but because the queues are far shorter on the way up and down! And boy will that be a big deal when you start to head back down. Our day wrapped up at about 4.30pm - and the queue was big. Unfortunately with children, offering yourself up as a single traveller is ruled out - there is a special (much shorter) queue for those travelling alone as they use this line to fill cable cars to capacity - which I believe is 10. If I was there alone, I would jump in that queue. 
The staff were very lovely and snuck E a snack when they saw him waiting patiently in the very long queue. Small gestures that make a huge difference! 

TIP: Make sure you book your tickets in advance. We used Klook which offers out discounted tickets and an express lane and we found it extremely reliable. If you book your tickets on the day, the queue is phenomenally long.
 


 
Peak Tram

The iconic view of the city from 'The Peak' - one that is featured in so many photographs - can be reached using the Peak Tram. This is a funicular train that takes you to Victoria Peak - but be prepared to wait in line.

TIP: The entrance to the tram is right opposite the entrance to a beautiful children's playground right on the outskirts of the wonderfully expansive Hong Kong Park, so stop off there before or after your ride to the Peak! The kids will thank you.


Bus

We couldn't visit Hong Kong without a trip to dip our toes into the South China Sea. Shek O caught our fancy and so we started researching how easy it would  be to get there.

Shek O is located on the south-east corner of Hong Kong Island. There are showers, toilets and changing rooms plus some locals renting umbrellas for approximately 70 HKD. While slightly expensive, there is little to no shade on the beach - and it was extremely warm with a little one. They put up the umbrella for me and we were set for the day. 

In order to get to the beach, take the MTR on the Island Line to Shau Kei Wan Station, exit A3. The Shau Kei Wan bus terminal is right outside and you need to take the number 9 bus. It's a nice scenic trip that takes approximately half an hour - and Shek O is the final stop on the line. Bus 9 is clearly sign posted. And don't forget, you can use your Octopus card on buses too!

TIP: After you get back to Shau Kei Wan from the beach, don't jump straight back onto the MTR. Have a wander and you'll find yourself in one of the Hong Kong wet markets. Definitely an interesting experience for kids!

TIP: Bus number 9 is the bus you need to catch if you want to hike the Dragon's Back. That had been our original plan - but in the heat, I thought heading straight to the beach would work better for the six year old and I.



Have you been to Hong Kong with kids? What transport hints and tips do you have? Share below!













Sunday, 29 April 2018

Dunraven Bay, Southerndown with Kids

Dunraven Bay with Kids

"Please can we go to the beach Mum?"

I have this thing where I don't like going to the same place with E more than once. I feel like there are other new adventures waiting out there. One day I will realise that this is silly. However, until then - Google came up trumps and pointed me in the direction of Southerndown. We hadn't been to Southerndown together. I hadn't been since a school trip in the 90s.

Google maps took us there. Google maps allows E to be chief navigator, as long as he doesn't forget he is navigating and turn the radio up, so that I am unable to hear him or the phone. Sometimes he does the opposite and navigates me down the M4. "Slight left Mum... and a bit right... Yes, you're still on the blue line. Good job."

Parking

Parking for 1 hour is £1. Parking for anything more than an hour is £5. Parking meters only take coins, however there is an app that can be downloaded (PhoneAnd-Pay) and payment made by card through that. Somehow that resulted in the parking costing £5.70 as I was fined for never having coins on my person. There is a car park right down by the beach, but I always turn off at the first sign of a P sign and we ended up at the top of a cliff overlooking the water, with a 5 minute downhill walk. The views were beautiful.


Facilities 

There are toilets down by the beach, and also a shop selling drinks, and most importantly for E, ice cream. Can't ask for more than that really!


Beach




The tide was out and so the sandy beach was vast. E had been adamant that he wanted a sandy beach - and was initially unimpressed when I told him that there was both sand and rocks. However, he then proceeded to spend most of our time there being a "real rock climber" and clambering over the larger rocks. So we climbed and clambered and climbed some more - and then sat on a ledge and ate our snacks. 

Down by the waters edge, E darted in and out escaping the waves, watching the crabs roll in and then back out with the tide. He took his finger to the sand and drew lorries, and cliffs, and sharks. We poked around in rock pools and lazed on the sand with the sun taking very brief glances out from behind the clouds.


Wandering

The next stop was the top of the cliffs for some lovely views down over the beach. E turned from rock climber to mountain climber and set off up the hill. Hand holding was probably more necessary for my peace of mind rather than any real need, but we made it to the top and lay down on the grass taking in the views.

The cliff top walks form part of the Wales Coast Path; I'll definitely need to investigate more stages of the walk and see where other sections may take us.




Summary

We are definitely coming back. E declared it his favourite beach ever. We came away with plenty to research together, including the rock formations in the cliffs as well as identifying all of the sea creatures that we spotted.

There is a walk that connects Dunraven Bay to Ogmore Beach (leaflet) which we will definitely have to come back and try out.

For more info, check out these other posts about Dunraven Bay by Cardiff Mummy Says
and Tin Box Traveller.


Directions