Category Archives: For toddlers

A hike from the Wong Nai Chung reservoir to Violet Hill

It’s getting quite warm now in Hong Kong so hikes need to be done early in the morning or on a cloudy day. On Sunday morning we got bounced out of bed for a hike up to Violet Hill at 7.30am.


We got the taxi to drop us off at Wong Nai Chung reservoir, which is on the left of the road towards Parkview. From there, walk around the reservoir’ path (stop to look at the terrapins in the water if you wish) and follow it to the steps just beyond. This is the trailhead.

Our Violet Hill hiking route – start at reservoir, end at Parkview
 It starts off nice and green. You will see the steps amidst all the foliage.



After a few minutes uphill, we came across a rest hut. Stop here if you need to catch your breath. But there isn’t much to see so the girls decided it was best to carry on.


Up and up the steps, very quickly we were up looking over the buildings.


And the foliage gradually changes.

Pine trees up on the hill

There’s a mild uphill for a bit on a meandering path. Walk slowly here to admire some flora.

Twisted tree trunks that look like gnarled fingers
Baby fern emerging

This walk has some unpaved bits, but it’s not hard for children. We had an 8 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old and an 8 month-old with us (in a sling).

Rocky path or just a deteriorating stone stair?

Spot the flowers and bush fruits on the walk, keep your eyes open as there really aren’t many of them. The flowers are often found low to the ground, easier for pollination by crawling insects.



There were also a few fungal fruiting bodies among the dead leaves. Not sure if any of these are edible so please leave them where they are.


Then up a long stairway into the mist.

Young bamboo sprouts

On the way, look out for bamboo sprouting their new shoots, beautiful stars on a trajectory. I think each little star can become a bamboo plant.

After another bit of foliage, you get to the trigonometry point.


Well, trigonometry points usually have views but it was a very misty day and we couldn’t see anything beyond 20 feet. So after a brief hangout, a bit of orange eating, water drinking and sitting on the trig base, it was time to continue.

The Violet Hill Trigonometry Point, Hong Kong


Then it was downhill on a dirt path, a little rocky but nothing a four year old in a dress couldn’t handle.

Panoramic view of Violet Hill trail

You can see the wonderful view I had. White mist..! The bright side of it is that there was a fantastic breeze and so so cool. For anyone with acrophobia, it’s the perfect day to go hiking. Couldn’t make out the ravines at all.

Down, down, down we go
Down we went back into the subtropical foliage

Subsequently, it was a bit flat then a slightly rocky uphill again.

Along this path, there were some interesting objects and flowers.

Beautiful lonely purple blue orchid
Whose glasses are these?

Then the uphill ended at an intersection, whereupon we went towards Parkview.


After a short flat open path, it was downhill again, we met our first big group of hikers coming the other way. We stopped briefly to let them pass.


The slope became flat and open again. We saw a mango tree in bloom, a small centipede and a tree that was devoid of leaves and possibly dead.


About 5 minutes after that we went past some huge rocks and got to some stairs leading down.



We descended down into a paved path and a long stairway which put us on the main road just outside Parkview.


You might like to use this ordinance map to get a feel for the terrain. I’d highly recommend it for kids 3 and above. It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the circuit (maybe 2 if your kids keep stopping to check out the views or dig for quartz).


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Wan Chai Gap Road Playground

Some of Wan Chai’s playgrounds are tucked away in little hidden areas, almost like private courtyards for in-the-know residents. It’s nice that these spaces are reserved and gazetted as public parks, though I wish the local district council would consider upgrading them (not just maintaining them) as a matter of routine.

One example is this playground at Wan Chai Gap Road. Not many would know of its existence unless you’re a regular commuter along the Wan Chai Gap Road, or have a habit of ducking down narrow alleys for a look around.


There are two access points to the playground, one down a narrow alley off Stone Nullah Lane (past popular drinking spot Stone Nullah Tavern), the other is via the steep Wan Chai Gap Road off Queens Road East. That’s the steep little road just by the old post office. Then down some stairs to the left.

Playground entrance

It’s surrounded either by high walls or buildings on all sides, and there are steps for both entrances, so this isn’t one that I recommend going with your monster stroller.

Play area for children 2-5years old

It does open up to a fairly wide concrete area, with very small facilities for young kids. By that I mean that the age catered for is 2-5 years old. There are three little ride-ons which can provide a ten minute respite, and a tic tac toe grid if you fancy a quick game. I thought it was a real pity the very large under-utilised space had no swings or slide.

Instead it serves more as an air well  and walk through connector for residents. Not much of a playground is it? 

Wanchai Gap Playground “Connector”

I suppose kids could take their toys there to play… but if that was the idea then a ramp should be made in place of steps.

Hong Kong needs to step up a notch in playground design. As one of the top financial centres in the world, the public playgrounds are lagging behind Tokyo, New York, London, Singapore. 

Find the playground here if you need to get off the busy streets and catch a breather.

Location of Wan Chai Gap Road Playground

Bicycle & Scooter shop – The Bicycle World 

Giant Bicycle shop (aka the Bicycle World, but Giant clearly has marketing monopoly here) has the rudest staff but the best collection of bikes and scooters in Wan Chai. Be prepared that if you walk into that shop speaking only English, you’re generally going to get ignored. If you’re going in to get advice on what to buy, be prepared to be given the advice in a somewhat insulting manner. 


I’ve been to this shop at least ten times to  assist friends acquire various items and accessories but the service has never improved. Some of the guys in there are a tad more genial but it isn’t at all often that you get a smile. There was once I went in to buy a kid’s helmet for a friend and a gweilo (Caucasian) guy was leaving in a huff, swearing and cursing saying “don’t treat me like that just because I’m a foreigner”. I almost stopped him to tell him that they treat everyone like that. Those guys are in need of endorphins, or maybe happier girlfriends. Or maybe a pay raise.

Notwithstanding the stinking attitude, the shop does carry high quality bikes, scooters and accessories at competitive prices. The helmets and scooters are at least 20% cheaper than toys ‘R’ us and you get 10% off if you pay in cash. 

We were there to pick up a micro scooter for a friend’s daughter. Her Christmas present. It was a Sunday and we stood outside at 11.30am. It wasn’t open.


Okay, so another half an hour. Off to the swings round the corner. We came back at 11.50am. Nope. Still shut. 

At 11.55am, one of the guys showed up, unlocked the shutters and lifted them just high enough for him to slip in and lower them down again. At 12.08, another guy showed up and that’s when they lifted the shutters entirely. The first guy brought out two incense sticks as a prayer offering to the small shrine on the outside of the shop, usually to appease dwelling spirits and pray for lots of customers.


The shop has a range of children’s bicycles and adult bicycles. 


But we were there for the scooters.


Here they sell the “Micro” brand of  scooters. Designed in Switzerland but owned by a Hong Kong company apparently. Genius marketing as most people I speak to genuinely think it’s a European brand and product. Maybe it was once. Price ranges from HKD 700+ to 900+ per scooter for kids. Adult scooters go for HKD 2000+.


Don’t forget to buy a helmet for your kid. They have various sizes, measure your kid’s head before heading over. Helmets go for HKD 400+ depending on the size and design. The ones with the cartoon characters are a bit cheaper but they only fit one year olds. 


Find them at 15 Wood Road, Wan Chai. About a 15 minute walk from Wan Chai MTR, already accounting for the time you need to weave in and out of human traffic on narrow pavements, unless you go on Sunday.

Summer activities for children and adults at Lee Tung Avenue

I enjoy living in Wan Chai very much. Not only is it one of the most convenient neighbourhoods in Hong Kong (it’s flat!) but it’s got a lot going on in all the hustle bustle. Add to it the latest transformative development, Lee Tung Avenue with good marketeers and the place on this side of Wan Chai is an attraction for families and young (or slightly older) hipsters.

This summer has been scorching hot, now with the holidays on, families have been scratching heads as to what to do with restless children. 

Lee Tung Avenue has a Saturday evening activity for kids which could be fun to check out.

According to the poster, it’s based on the Shakespearean Midsummer night’s dream in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary.


On until the 27th of August 2016, the activities of kiddy face painting, fairy dancing workshop and the fairy flash mob dancing take place conveniently around dinner time… Great for parents who want to grab a meal and let the kids roam on a pedestrianised street mall for a bit out of the air conditioned environment.

A friend who lives in Wan Chai also told me about her recent visit to Ophelia, the latest “it” place for younger hipsters. She described it as very opulent and glamorously decorated. For that corporate event, there were dancers and lots of drinks going around, undoubtedly making the place even cooler. My friend said that it’s a place you can only get into if you have a reservation, the bouncers are very strict at the street entry level. If your name isn’t on the list, you can’t even get up there.

Then while waiting for a medical appointment, I read about it in a magazine called Crave.


And decided to see where it is located.

A temporary signboard marks the lift lobby location (more or less near the Elephant hairdressers, nearer Le Pain Quotidien).
When I checked again later on, the signboard had been removed, so I guess the staff only place it out when they are expecting guests. 

Here’s a write up on Ophelia’s in the SCMP. Unfortunately I doubt they’d let me in with a toddler in tow… Although Mr Sutton should allow this during the day as part of his fairy story legacy for the younger generation. Is it all linked to the fairy promo going on in the central piazza? Maybe.

 

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool Opening Schedule

It’s been crazy crazy hot in Hong Kong recently, too hot for long outdoor walks and “too hot for scootering” my toddler tells me.

So we’ve resorted to swimming. Not to Shek O beach which is our usual weekend morning hang out (it’s also way too hot even at 8am now and the water has been filthy the past 3 weekends), but the swimming pool in our building and the public pool 10 minutes down the road. 

Our indoor pool isn’t heated, it gets quite chilly in the evenings, the ventilation has got to be on to keep air circulation going but this ends up having a cooling effect whenever any part of your body is out of the water.

So, we tried going to the nearby Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool. It’s a horrible walk there from Queens Road East, unless you already live in the Oi Kwan Road area, we prefer to take the bus one long stop to Tang Shiu Kin Hospital rather than inhaling 10 mins worth of unrelenting traffic PM 2.5 excreta. 


The pool costs less than HKD 20 to enter. It’s pretty cheap and many people do use it.. We’ve been several times now and it’s been busy whether it’s day or night. 


The swimming complex has a number of pools; the main swimming pool for serious lap- lane swimmers, the indoor exercise and teaching pool, the outdoor training pool and the toddler pool. 


Upon entry into the complex, you are funnelled into the separate male / female changing areas, where there are lockers, benches and showers. Then a walk down a corridor to the rain showers to rinse you a little before the pool area. 

There’s also a family changing room but this is locked and opened only on request.


Lots of interesting little signs with advice…


The female changing room is pretty spacious, but it can fill up on weekends and there are half or fully naked women occupying almost every bit of the changing area. Don’t be intimidated, one just needs to find an empty locker and eek out a space.


After you’re changed into your swim gear and put your valuables away, it’s time to head over to the pool.


I’ve included here a way to keep your things dry while going through the shower… Hold your things out to the side as you walk through the curtain of water.

The first pool you get to is the main indoor swimming pool. Here, it’s filled with the experienced swimmers doing exercise laps. It’s all speedos, goggles and swimming caps in this pool. Kids occupy the far section near the bleachers, then it’s a few shared swimming lanes that you can join if you think you can keep up, and an open area where people are free to carve out their own lane. 


The outdoor training pool was the one our toddler liked best. Warm water with a view and lots of people packing it out at all times. Kids splashing, parents yelling, even adults learning to swim. You pretty much see it all there. 


The poolside deckchairs are by no means comfortable but they do offer a tired mommy a place to sit and watch if the weather is good. The benches in the shade on the far side are a lot less pleasant and I got bitten by mosquitoes there once.


There’s also a toddler pool at the very end, it’s very shallow and intentionally isolated. There was no one there in the evenings so I guess it’s popular mostly in the mornings and late afternoons.


After the swim, head back up to the changing room for a hot shower.

Then exit as you entered 🙂

Note that pool cleaning day is Wednesday, so the pool is shut.

Salsa Party in Wan Chai this weekend 12th March

 Thanks to the Sassy magazine of which I’m a regular reader, I now know that there’s a salsa party happening this Saturday. The forecast is for rain so I have no idea whether there’s a wet weather plan or if it will continue regardless. 

Update: it’s being held at Hej House, more or less directly opposite Le Pain Quotidien.

  
Outside Le Pain Quotidien, there’s a big music set up going on. A bit unclear if this will be leading up to it or if it’s their own launch party. 

I’ve been waiting for LPQ to open for a while…. Teething problems must have delayed them from the planned launch in February (website recently changed opening date to March). Many disappointed customers have stood outside, shaken their heads and headed elsewhere. 

  
How can you possibly advertise breakfast yet open for business at only 11am? Quite unacceptable.

Chinese New Year Festivities at the Blue House

The Blue House in Wan Chai is a historic site that serves the community as a place to gather weekly for an assortment of talks, view small exhibitions of Hong Kong’s past and a hodge podge of books and toys. 

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The event space is a small area of roughly 250 square feet, furniture and randomly placed bric-a-brac reduces it to roughly 100 square feet of walkable area. Pretty small. It’s up some stairs (possibly to avoid flooding in the old days) and this is certainly an inconvenience to the disabled or those confined to a pram. 

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The extensive renovations taking place behind this facade is estimated to continue for the rest of this year, but it looks like there’ll be some open areas and  rooms to hold yet more bric-a-brac.

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Of the four little rooms on the ground floor, the first and second are blocked off with simple plaster board and serve as a makeshift notice board. 

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The third is the current event space area and the fourth is often full of guys wearing white undershirts sitting around. I’m unsure of what they do in there but perhaps it’s a rest area of sorts. Maybe it’s where the mahjong table is placed. 

An open-air rectangular clear glass aquarium full of small koi and goldfish make a nice pit stop if you have kids in tow.

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The Blue House has its own decorations for this Chinese New Year. Red lanterns hang out front, a very cute knitting of a monkey couple adorn the corner street sign. 

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On the “notice board”, a range of announcements compete for attention. If you’re looking for something to do in Wan Chai, you might want to stop by and have a look. 

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You can volunteer to help out with the Southorn community during Chinese New Year (2016) though you’d have to speak Cantonese, or take part in the stamp making workshop later in the month on the 27th of February.