High-heeled glamour at Pacific Place

By Carolynne Dear for Hong Kong Living

V&A curator Helen Persson launches Shoes: Pleasure & Pain at Pacific Place, Hong Kong

Pacific Place is partnering with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum this month to present Shoes: Pleasure & Pain. The exhibition arrives in Hong Kong after a six-month tour of China and features 140 pairs of shoes, both old and new, from around the globe. Included in the collection is footwear that dates back to the first century BC, as well as modern day designs by Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Vivienne Westwood, as well as shoes worn by Elton John and the Queen Mother. Exclusive to the Hong Kong leg of the tour are 14 pairs from the private collection of actress, singer and fashion icon, Karen Mok.

“Every shoe in the exhibition has a story to tell,” curator Helen Persson told Hong Kong Living. “But one of my favourites is a pair of gold painted shoes by French designer Andre Perugia. They date to about 1940 and the design is spectacularly modern. They were worn by socialite and pilot Cecile Tonge Stuart, one of the world’s first female aviators.”

One of the most dramatic exhibits is a pair of ‘qabqabs’ – or sandals worn for the baths during the Ottoman Empire. At 28.5cm tall they are the highest footwear in the exhibition and were a potent symbol of wealth and status.

The Asian leg of the tour has been co-curated by Swire Properties and included stops in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. Pacific Place will be the final venue. The exhibition will be returning to London at the end of October for a well-deserved rest – and no doubt to put its feet up.

Shoes: Pleasure & Pain runs until October 28, with free entrance, 10am-9.30pm, Garden Court, LG1, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong. shoes.swireproperties.com

Multi-generational holidays – the survival guide

By Carolynne Dear

Autumn mid-term break is almost upon us. Yes, it’s granny season, and as Hong Kong temperatures drop to a slightly more liveable level, waves of relatives will shortly be making the long trip east.

But as any frazzled expat mum can tell you, hosting elderly parents plus your husband’s bossy older sister and her kids in a Hong Kong apartment is no walk in the park. In the interests of #selfkindness and #givingyourselfabreak, booking a large, fully serviced villa and getting out of town is often a no-brainer. Welcome to the world of multi-generational holidays, the latest travel industry ‘buzz’ word.

As a concept, multi-generational travel is brilliant. Meeting extended family on neutral turf and perhaps a few hours closer to home – preferably in the sunshine and near a beach – rather than a full-blown long-haul flight followed by camping out in the mother-in-law’s chilly guest bedroom or – shudder, hosting everyone in Hong Kong – has got to be a good thing. The stop-off options between Hong Kong and Europe, or Hong Kong and the US, are numerous and aspirational. Think Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Middle East; the world really is our oyster.

According to research in the UK, almost 12 million Brits alone were estimated to have taken a holiday involving at least three generations in 2017. Reasons for holidaying with extended family included making up for lost time due to busy schedules and living apart, while splitting the cost of accommodation was also a motivating factor.

But how do these ‘dream’ breaks really pan out?

“We did a lot of trips when my daughter was younger and the grandparents still willing and able to do long distance,” says Janet, a mum-of-one and long-term Hong Kong resident. “In a way they all had the same needs – endless questions, regular stops for the loo, and an early dinner that wasn’t too spicy. I think those of us in the middle end up becoming the parent for everybody.”

It seems the age-old ‘a view, a brew and a loo’ formula remains a winner.

Many report mostly positive memories. “We do a family holiday every year with my mom, brother and our children,” says Aparna. “We’ve done everything from a chilled beach resort in Boracay to more adventurous trips to Iceland and Australia.”

Preparation and communication are the name of the game pre-departure. Grandparents may be looking forward to spending lots of time with their grandchildren, or they may be dreading having their precious relaxation taken up by demanding toddlers. Equally, parents expecting some decent ‘downtime’ alone as a couple might be surprised when family members are slow to step up. Either way, expectations need to be discussed before stepping on the ‘plane.

“I must admit, I was nervous when my daughter-in-law suggested we meet in Thailand last year,” says Margaret, grandmother to six grandchildren between the ages of four and 16. “We were holidaying with her, my son and their two children, aged 10 and four. Thailand is a long and reasonably expensive trip for us and I was worried I would be expected to be on-hand for babysitting duties when all I really wanted to do was relax by the pool. Fortunately this didn’t happen, my son and daughter-in-law were on-hand the whole time and it was nice to be able to enjoy the children in a warm, exotic and relaxed location.”

But for some, it’s a not-to-be-repeated experience. “We did a multi-generational holiday this summer,” says Anna. “It involved four generations, including my 101 year old grandmother. We stayed in the middle of nowhere in the Yorkshire Dales (an area of outstanding natural beauty in the north of England) and I nearly lost my mind. I promised myself, never again.”

Finding a location that everybody is happy with is key. While a desert island in Indonesia was an amazing experience with the kids one year, a return visit with grandparents in tow the following autumn was a disaster for one family. “We’d completely not factored in my father-in-law’s hip replacement,” says mum-of-three Jane. “He walks with a stick and the eco-resort was all sand-based. He really struggled and I felt terrible. It was a good holiday but not as fun for everyone as it could have been. I regret not discussing destination options in more detail.”

“Kids are pretty flexible,” says Janet. “But grandparents are a mixed bag. We once got locked out of our hotel rooms in Singapore for several hours. While my daughter just headed for the pool, it turned out my mother-in-law needed to take medication at specific times of the day, and her pills were locked in the room.”

“If you’re sharing accommodation, it really has to be big enough that you can’t see or hear other people if you don’t want to,” adds Anna. “Also, be clear about shopping or splitting costs. And trying to sort out suitable excursions for such varied age and interest groups is not easy.”

Organising a trip through a professional tour operator can often guarantee a much smoother landing. Lightfoot Travel, which has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, has a heap of destination suggestions to suit varying age groups.

“I’d always recommend a villa holiday over a hotel if you have young children,” says Lightfoot Travel co-founder Lucy Jackson. “If you’re in your own space, it’s way less stressful and means you can run the day to your own timetable.”

Jackson also recommends inviting travel professionals to tailor the group activities. “Perhaps teens are looking for adventure, while mum and gran might enjoy trying some gently yoga on the deck. We have local experts on the ground who can recommend all sorts of add-ons to make your holiday a success.” Jackson also stresses that professional tour operators can ensure the nitty gritty elements of a holiday – like flight connections and pick-ups – are seamless and as stress-free as possible. “Things like having the local car come and pick you up fully prepared with baby seats and boosters after a long flight is invaluable.”


Make or break it

Flashpoints to think about pre-departure:


Accommodation – a villa offers more freedom and communal space to relax, a hotel more facilities and privacy.


Money – will you organise a group kitty, or are people happier to pay as they go? What expectations do family members have with regard meals out or day trips? Plan for varying budgets.


Babysitting – are family members willing to step up? Or would pre-booking a professional babysitter be a better way to go? If you’re in a hotel, is there a kids club?


Catering – how many evenings do individuals expect to eat out? Would booking a local chef to come in for a few nights help?


Amenities – do you have enough bedrooms and bathrooms in your accommodation for everyone to be comfortable? Will you need a cleaner to pop in?


Parenting – clarify if, and which, treats are acceptable for grandparents to be lavishing on the children. And discuss behavioural expectations with the parents of similarly-aged cousins to your own brood.


What the experts recommend

Marianne Rogerson is a travel blogger and mum-of-two

Hyatt Regency Danang

The Hyatt Regency Danang is ideal for family groups, with a choice of two and three-bedroom residences, and also three-bedroom beach villas. There’s a kids club, a large swimming pool with a water slide and sandy play area – but also a quieter pool where the grandparents can escape to if they need. There are food and cultural tours locally, plus fabulous restaurants and shopping. And there’s also a golf course down the road.

The Andaman Langkawi

The Andaman boasts an enviable location on one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia and as it’s also a private beach, it’s always quiet. The resort has a beautiful swimming pool with water slide and a fun kids club – leave the kids while you treat the grandparents to a round of golf at the Ernie Els designed course next door. There’s a good choice of easy day trips, including mangrove boat tours and a cable car ride to the Skybridge.

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore

For a city-centre hotel, it doesn’t get much better than this. With three different wings, grandparents can choose if they would like to be close by or prefer their own space. Parents with young kids should opt for the dedicated family floor in the Tower Wing. There’s a fabulous kids club with outdoor water play area and playground, a gorgeous swimming pool and several restaurants. All this and just a 10-minute walk from Orchard Road, or an easy taxi ride from all the family attractions Singapore has to offer. mumonthemove.com


Lucy Jackson is co-founder of Lightfoot Travel and mum-of-two

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

This ticks all the boxes for a multi-generational trip. Adults get to enjoy the stunning surroundings, the luxury beachfront villas and amazing spa, while the children can dive into The Den – an incredible kids playground with eight-metre tall pirate ship, DJ corner, mocktail bar, cooking classes, Lego room and teenage lounge. Meet up in the evening at one of the restaurants or enjoy a picnic on the sand.

Meda Gaedara private villa, Sri Lanka

This is a seven-bedroom, colonial-style villa in Dikwella which will keep the whole family happy. Step through the antique double-fronted doors to discover a bright living space, followed by a tropical garden and killer ocean views. The kids will love the villa’s own water slide into a private plunge pool, while the adults can stretch out and relax. There’s space for a game of cricket on the lawns and there’s a private chef on-hand to cater for all tastes. lightfoottravel.com


Foodie Bhawna Shetty shakes up the party table


The Green Platters founder Bhawna Shetty - "There had to be a healthy buffet table alternative"
The Green Platters founder Bhawna Shetty – “Hong Kong needed a healthy buffet table alternative”

So what’s the big idea?

The Green Platters is a meat-free grazing alternative to traditional party catering. We create delicious vegan and vegetarian grazing tables and sharing platters using local, artisanal foods wherever possible. We are also Hong Kong’s first grazing company to provide eco-friendly, biodegradable packaging and I’m very proud to say our business is 95% plastic-free. And a percentage of our profits are also divided between a charity in Hong Kong and another in India.

How did you come up with the idea?

In the lead-up to my daughter’s birthday party last year I was trying to come up with ways to entertain guests other than traditional catering. I wanted to make sure everyone’s dietary restrictions were taken care of. I’m a trained baker and event stylist and I’ve been aware of the growing trend for grazing tables, so I thought it would be a neat idea to be able to create a meat-free, environmentally sustainable alternative to the traditional buffet table.

How tough was it getting the business up-and-running?

I’m really thankful for the lovely network of people in Hong Kong. Everyone I came into contact with was so open to meeting up, answering my questions and referring me on to others. This made things so much smoother.

Where do you source your ingredients?

I place huge emphasis on sourcing organic, healthy produce that has been sustainably and locally produced. We work with some great Hong Kong-based vendors to source great-quality seasonal produce.

Every platter is vegetarian and loaded with seasonal produce

Do you have a favourite platter?

I love them all! I’m lucky because I have the opportunity to go and meet my customers and help them create a stunning, customised table to wow their guests. We’ve also now introduced platters and boxes for gifting and entertaining on-the-go. I must admit I’m really liking our pallet picnic grazing table and also the large areca-leaf platter it has five artisanal cheeses and gourmet savouries and has become my go-to plate!

What are The Green Platters eco-credentials?

Being “green” is one of our core values. We use bio-degradable and compostable packaging options. Our areca-leaf platters are put together using fallen palm leaves that are 100% chemical-free. And we are also committed to using minimal plastic – we’re the first Hong Kong-based grazing company to offer eco-friendly packaging.


Email: hello@thegreenplatters.com
Instagram: @thegreenplatters
Facebook: @thegreenplatters

Hong Kong’s secret beaches – how to escape the tourist trail

Contrary to how it likes to advertise itself to the rest of the world, Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls. As a coastal territory it has beaches a-plenty, and if you venture off the well-beaten tourist trail, you’ll be richly rewarded with golden sands, clear waters and (often) not a soul around.

Larks a-plenty at Yau Ley (High Island) in Hong Kong’s New Territories


Yau Ley and Millionaire’s Bay, New Territories

Both beaches require boat transportation, although it is possible to hike to Yau Ley from Sai Kung Country Park (however it’s a challenging hike and we wouldn’t recommend it in the heat with little ones). Haggle a deal with the sampan ladies on Sai Kung Pier or book a speedboat through High Island Seafood restaurant on Yau Ley. The restaurant is the draw-card here: it lays on a fabulous seafood feast, after which the kids can enjoy jetty-jumping off the small pier or playing on the sand next to the restaurant. Glorious Millionaire’s Beach is just around the corner in the next bay, and if you ask nicely the restaurant is usually willing to drop you off after lunch for an additional charge.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Yau Ley turn-off inside Sai Kung Country Park East


Hap Mun Bay, New Territories

Another sandy destination that can only be reached by sampan, Hap Mun (or “Half Moon”) Bay is a beautiful crescent of a beach on Sharp Island. Approach one of the sampan ladies (or kaito – small ferry operators) on Sai Kung pier – a round trip should cost about $40-50 per person. Hap Mun is the smaller of the two beaches located on Sharp Island, while Kiu Tsui stretches along the western edge. The water quality is generally good at Hap Mun and there are handy family-friendly facilities including toilets, changing rooms, showers, kiosks and barbecue pits. As with all Hong Kong beaches, mid-week is much quieter than weekends.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, taxi to Sai Kung


Trio Beach, New Territories

Beloved by Sai Kung’s locals, this beach can get crowded on weekends, but as it’s reasonable challenging to reach (a five-kilometre hike from the Sai Kung branch of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club or a sampan from Pak Sha Wan Pier), it tends to be quieter mid-week than many of Hong Kong’s more popular beaches. There is parking on Pak Sha Wan pier, from where you can catch one of two sampans that chug backwards and forwards all day to little Trio. Once you’ve disembarked, you’ll find a kiosk, BBQs (charcoal is available from the kiosk) and a children’s play area. The swimming area is protected and boasts a dive platform, and the beach is lifeguarded until the end of the summer.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, taxi to Pak Sha Wan


Turtle Cove, Hong Kong Island

Slip through the gap in the barrier just past Pak Pat Shan Road at Redhill Peninsula on Tai Tam Road and be transported to Hong Kong’s version of The Beach. The steep path winds through mountain-side terrain, gurgling streams gush seawards and you aren’t rewarded with a glimpse of the golden sands until you round the final bend. This is not a walk for strollers, so make sure you bring a carrier or sling for tiny tots. The beach itself boasts a small kiosk, lifeguards and a protected cove for swimming. Be warned, though: parking is practically non-existent up on the road, so a taxi is probably your best bet.

Nearest MTR, Ocean Park or Chai Wan, taxi to Redhill Peninsula


St Stephen’s Beach, Hong Kong Island

Head through Stanley on Wong Ma Kok Road and take a sharp right turn onto Wong Ma Kok Path (St Stephen’s College is also signposted here). There are a handful of metered parking spots at the bottom of the hill by the water. The sandy little beach has glorious views stretching back towards Stanley and The Twins hiking trails – it also faces west so expect fabulous sunsets on clear days. The beach is lifeguarded and the shallows are perfect for tiny beachgoers, so don’t forget your bucket and spade. There’s also a protected swimming area for those wanting a more substantial dip.

Nearest MTR, Ocean Park or Chai Wan, taxi to St Stephen’s Beach


Chung Hom Kok, Hong Kong Island

This tucked-away neighbourhood beach is a beauty. It’s just around the corner from Stanley but its sands are a lot quieter. Head down the leafy steps hidden on Horizon Drive. It’s a steep descent and not particularly stroller-friendly (take a sling if you have non-walkers), but it’s totally worth the effort. At the bottom you’ll find a children’s play area, barbecue pits and a compact stretch of life-guarded sand. There’s only one little kiosk serving small snacks and drinks, so if you plan on a picnic or barbecue you’ll bring your own supplies. The kids will have a ball splashing in the shallows.

Nearest MTR – Ocean Park, taxi to Horizon Drive, Chung Hom Kok

Blue sky days in Clearwater Bay, New Territories

Clearwater Bay First Beach, New Territories

Clearwater Bay 2’s less-well-known little sister, pretty Clearwater Bay First Beach sits nestled in the northern crook of Clearwater Bay. The sand is clean and there is protected swimming to be had in the bay. Reached the beach from the main road by heading downhill by foot on Tai Wan Tau Road. There is some parking off Clearwater Bay Road by Shing Kee Store, otherwise park at Hang Hau MTR and grab a taxi. Expect crystal-clear waters, fewer visitors and a lifeguarded stretch of sand. There is no kiosk so bring your own supplies.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau, taxi to Shing Kee Store, Clearwater Bay Road


Hoi Ha Wan, New Territories

Lovely Hoi Ha is hidden inside Sai Kung East Country Park, which means you can’t drive there. The strict permit rules at the Country Park gates at Pak Tam Chung make green taxis (about $100 for a return journey) or the number seven minibus from Sai Kung Pier the order of the day. The beach is part of one of Hong Kong’s Marine Parks so it’s worth bringing the snorkels along. Hop off the bus at Hoi Ha Village and make your way past the village and towards the restaurants and beach. The bay boasts 64 of the 84 species of stony corals found in Hong Kong and the area has been a site of scientific interest since the 1980s. Kayaks are also available for hire, and when the tide’s in this is a fun way to paddle out to the corals. Please note dogs are not allowed on the beach on weekends. On an environmental note, corals should not be touched or taken away – stick with the adage “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories” (although the odd photo is fine).

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Hoi Ha inside Sai Kung East Country Park


Long Ke Wan, New Territories

Secluded Long Ke Wan can only be reached by foot or boat. Visually stunning, the beach is a long way from the bustle of the city and is arguably one of the best beaches in Hong Kong. On weekends the bay fills with junks, but its silky, icing-sugar sands tend to stay relatively quiet. If you’re hiking, catch a green taxi from Sai Kung or from the Country Park gates at Pak Tam Chung to East Dam. With the South China Sea on your right, you’ll soon see a sign to Long Ke Wan, from where you hike down to the beach. This walk is a section of Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail. Please note there is no kiosk or restaurant on the beach so do bring plenty of water and supplies. If you’d rather travel by water, head to Sai Kung Pier and charter a speedboat. Last summer drivers were charging up to $800 one way.

Nearest MTR – Hang Hau or Choi Hung, red taxi to Sai Kung or green taxi to Long Ke Wan turn-off inside Sai Kung East Country Park


Turtle time

One to avoid this summer, and with good reason, is beautiful Turtle Beach on the southern coast of Lamma Island. The beach is a regular turtle-nesting site for endangered green sea turtles, and it’s currently their breeding season. Environmental groups are asking hikers, beach-goers and junk boats to steer clear of the area to give the little fellas a chance.


Sumptuous summer afternoon teas you won’t want to miss

Peach & Cream Afternoon Tea 4
Life’s peachy at the Island Shangri-La this summer

Whether you have guests in town or just fancy an afternoon in the air con, afternoon tea is the perfect summer holiday respite, says Carolynne Dear. Pinkies out

The Kerry Hotel

The Kerry Hotel has invited award-winning French chocolatier Christophe Renou to design an exclusive Kerry Chokolate Afternoon Tea. Sweet treats include a decadent Tout en Choc – a chocolate torte whipped up using an exclusive chocolate recipe developed by in-house chefs with chocolatier Valrhona; a rum-soaked baba-boule with pineapple and vanilla whipped ganache (I have to admit a personal weakness for rum baba); and a cute little pot of verrine dame blanche. Savoury bites include bitesize rolls of king crab, yuzu aioli, cucumber and caviar; smoked poached baby pear with goats cheese; semi-dried tomato and foie gras terrine on brioche; and delicate poached organic chicken wraps . And of course there are plenty of fresh scones (both traditional and with candied orange) with lashings of clotted cream, berry preserve and apricot jam to complete the feast. 

The tea is available until September 3, 2.30-5.30pm daily, $538 for two. lobbylounge.khhk@thekerryhotels.com

Island Shangri-La

The Island Shangri-La has unveiled a limited-time only Peaches & Cream tea (pictured above). Pick your way through a smorgasbord of lavish ingredients, including air-dried Wagyu beef and peach on bruschetta, poached scallop and shrimp with lemon confit on spinach bread, plus a selection of delish sandwiches – white tuna mayonnaise is served on rye bread, while cream cheese is served between toasted walnut bread. Peach tart, Champagne mousse with peach, peach melba eclair, white peach and red currant mousse and peach mint macaroon polish things off beautifully.

$338/person, $558 for two; Mon-Fri, 3-6pm; Sat, Sun and public holidays, 2-6pm; until Aug 31; shangri-la.com

Kowloon Shangri-La

The Kowloon Shangri-La is pulling out all the stops to celebrate its 37th birthday with a pink-infused tea. And you can add sparkle to the event with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose in honour of the 200th birthday of the first blended rose by the formidable Madame Clicquot. The tea includes hand-crafted raspberry, sakura and Champagne jam with cranberry scones, pink rose Champagne and lychee jelly, plus savoury treats Balik-style salmon on blini, and lobster salad and beet sandwiches. Additional extras if you’re enjoying a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose include yellowfin tuna tartare brioche with ricotta cream and pink pepper-blanched peaches, goat cheese tortilla wafer served with blackberry compote and confit orange zest, and watermelon and rose petal shooter with white chocolate palmier.

Enjoy the tea between 2 and 5pm, Monday to Friday, $498 for two without Champagne, or $698 for two with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose and special items. http://www.shangri-la.com

Chocolate treats for two at The Kerry Hotel


Quarry Bay-based hotel EAST has launched a floral-inspired afternoon tea. Waft in on a weekend and enjoy beautiful blossoms infused into a sumptuous summer spread. Delicacies include a lychee rose chiffon, blueberry butterfly pea tart and cherry blossom macarons, as well as fruit scones (naturally) and triple cheesecake. Imaginative savoury bites including lobster treasure box, goose liver creme brulee, Hokkaido scallop tartlet and beet pesto crostini.  

The afternoon tea set is available between 3 and 5.30pm on weekends and public holidays, $368 for two and an additional $240/extra person. reservations@sugar-hongkong.com


Grand Hyatt

Cool off at Tiffin in the Grand Hyatt with a scoop of ice cream alongside your tea. Following a campaign earlier this year inviting Hong Kongers to come up with some inventive new flavours, the hotel is now including six of the best as part of its afternoon tea set. The intriguingly named Pigs can Fly, Frozen Lederhosen, So Thai and Royal Fantasy feature ingredients as diverse as salted egg yolk and pork floss to mango sticky rice and coconut. Meanwhile, the tea-stand is host to decadent salted caramel chocolate cake, raspberry cheese tart, pistachio profiterole, apricot jelly and Greek yoghurt mousse with honey lemon.

The tea is available 3.30-5.30pm daily, $298/person or $596 for two, and on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays at $328/person or $656 for two. www.hongkong.grand.hyattrestaurants.com



How it all began – or how a suburban family-of-six bagged a party lifestyle in Honkers

‘The Call’ comes through while I’m at the dentist, breastfeeding the baby, trying vainly to stop the toddler from sweeping all the magazines off the reception coffee table and overseeing the preschooler stutter through her reader. The seven-year-old is snuggly ensconced in the dentist’s chair watching Ice Age while I am being earnestly told that she needs a filling.
“Oh my goodness, I make sure she brushes her teeth every day!” I protest weakly, hooking the phone under my ear as I switch the baby to the other side.

It’s my husband on the line.

“Seriously, this is not a good time,” I mutter, trying to smile winningly and confidently at the dentist – I am a mother who knows what she is doing, not a rubbish mummy who forgets to wash and clean her children (not every day, anyway).

“My boss John’s resigned,” comes the hushed reply.

“What, Hong Kong John?”

“Yes, I’ve been offered his job.”

“Oh, that’s great!” I’m mentally calculating whether the promotion and subsequent pay-rise will be enough to pay for a new kitchen. “Hang on a minute, but Hong Kong John’s based in – Hong Kong?”

“Um, yes…”

The penny, or perhaps the dollar, drops. In my mind, I travel back in time to a hard-won few days off to visit to a friend in Singapore the year before – the maid, the driver, the spotless apartment, the swimming pool, the beautifully cooked dinners, the immaculately ironed laundry, the cocktails, the fancy restaurants, the fun… I think of my own home, the breakfast detritus still on the table, the dishwasher unloaded, the Cheerios stuck to the walls, the overflowing washing basket. I won’t go on.

“Sign the contract!” I squeak. “Have they sent it through? Sign it! Get it sent though now!”

“Why don’t we sit down and talk about it over the weekend?” suggests my level-headed husband. “It’s a big decision.”

“Sign. The. Contract. Now.” I demand through gritted teeth as the toddler sends the receptionist’s latte flying.

Three weeks later and the house is packed up, the furniture either sold, given away, donated to charity or left on the nature strip, six one-way business class tickets have been purchased, and we’re on our way.

Now, I realised we would be landing at Chek Lap Kok late at night, so of course it would be dark, but I still entertain elaborate visions of swimming pools and cocktails and elegant waiters serving me afternoon tea on arrival. Meanwhile, back on board CX100, the toddler has vomited up the Chuppa Chup kindly given to her by the air stewardess and the seven-year-old has locked herself in the bathroom. (Note to self, never, ever travel with kids in business again).

But what I hadn’t bargained for on arrival was the typhoon. Or the rain.

We are whisked to our serviced apartment in the pitch black, water streaming down the windscreen and lightning bolts streaking across the sky. We tumble out at Parkview and are taken to our rooms. A cot sits in the master bedroom (oh joy, sharing a bedroom with an insomniac nine-month-old is always such fun) and there is only one other room. The seven-year-old, the preschooler and the toddler will have to share the one other bed.

What follows are the toughest, funniest, most exhausting weeks of my life as we settle into Hong Kong life. My husband disappears off to work the following day and doesn’t return until midnight due to a mysteriously-labelled ‘black’ rainstorm (or possibly he discovered the Captain’s Bar; no doubt I’ll never know the truth), I am introduced to heaps of lovely ladies who all genuinely seem to want to have lunch or dinner with me (all suggestions are followed up with an emailed invitation the following day, something that rarely happens back ‘home’; “I can fit in a quick coffee in six weeks time?” tends to be the depressing norm), and what’s more, I actually go to all those lunches and dinners.

And the fun has never really ended. In the ensuing eight years, we’ve climbed mountains, kayaked the South China Sea, entered half marathons, gone to places we never would have anticipated visiting, made – and lost – a ton of friends, had posh brunches in hotels and enjoyed not-so-posh barbecues on boats and beaches. We’ve haggled in markets, investigated temples, stuffed ourselves with dim sum and drunk our own bodyweight in fancy French champagne. We’ve entertained guests from out of town, shown newbies around, celebrated landmark birthdays and anniversaries and enjoyed the longest of lunches. In short, we’ve had a ball.

Hong Kong grabs you like that. It’s sometimes not the easiest of places – I dream of the day the supermarket duopoly is smashed and a gleaming, competitively-priced Carrefour or Sainsbury’s opens up somewhere on the plains of Yuen Long – and some days it can be hot and sweaty and frustratingly you don’t achieve anything on your ‘to do’ list.

But mostly it’s fun, and ridiculous, and extreme, and fast-paced and alive. Which is why we hope to be here for many more years to come.

Oh, and the dentists are pretty good, too.


Cruising the Mekong


Sail away down the Mekong on board Gypsy

If you’re looking to make some family memories this summer but you want to try something a bit different, maybe a break that’s a little bit off the usual holiday trail, a brand-new Southeast Asian cruise could be perfect for you.

Gypsy is a 41-metre, two-cabin, private river boat that launched last month on the mighty Mekong. The lavishly refurbished cruiser sails in great style between Thailand’s Golden Triangle in the north and the ancient Laotian capital of Luang Prabang in the south, taking in a heap of sights and sounds along the way.

With space for four people, it’s ideal for families who want to enjoy a dose of cultural immersion as well as some serious downtime together.

The privately tailored tour meanders between Chiang Rai and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang over four days and three nights, taking in the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort in Chiang Rai, myriad temples and the languid, lush countryside of the fabled Mekong Delta. Shore excursions include guided jungle treks, mountain biking, freshwater fishing, craft workshops, Laos whisky-tasting and a visit to the Pak Ou limestone caves.

Back on board, there’s a host of wellness and cultural options on offer, including yoga, folk dancing, Lao language classes, a weaving workshop and cooking classes. And when you’re ready to kick back and enjoy the scenery, there’s always the Champagne afternoon tea on deck.

The carefully thought-out spaces on the vessel include two cabins, a mid-ship lounge, a bar and dining area and a separate veranda-style lounge with al fresco panorama deck at the bow of the boat.

The interior design is the brainchild of Bangkok-based design consultant Jiraparnn Tokeeree, who has blended wood and thatch fixtures and fittings with woven leather seating, oversized bamboo daybeds and rich Thai silks and fabrics. Fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows ensure the spectacular scenery is always within view.

The air-conditioned cabins comprise one king and one twin room, and both have an ensuite shower and vanity.

Rates start from US$5,450 per boat for a four-day, three-night cruise, including all on-board meals, a welcome reception with canapes, soft drinks, water, beer, selected wines, coffee and tea, Wi-Fi, shore excursions, English guide, entrance fees and transfers, on-board activities and return airport or hotel transfers. Children under four travel free. mekongkingdoms.com