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Family Travel: Take the Kids to Hong Kong

Dragon Masks, History of Hong Kong Museum (Scarborough photo)I recently had the opportunity to take my daughter to Hong Kong; it’s my favorite city in the world since I made my first Navy port visit there in 1985.

I’ve seen it before and after the vaunted turnover to the Chinese, and it’s still the same sparkling, colorful urban jewel.

Think of it as sort of a Chinese New York, with all of the energy and verve and excitement which that analogy implies.

We visited along with my intrepid 20-something nephew on a Go-Today package; just the airfare and hotel because I said “no thanks” to the included tour. I already knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. The package was a Hong Kong-Tokyo combined deal; you’ll see the rest tomorrow when I post the link to my article about Tokyo in the San Antonio Express-News. (Update: here’s the link to my post “Navigating Tokyo with a ‘tween” including a link to the article plus other good Tokyo info.)

With a package, you are limited to a menu of hotels at different price ranges, but we weren’t going on this trip to admire our hotel. The Stanford Hillview on Kowloon side was fine; rooms were comfortable, staff was helpful and breakfast was OK.

Speaking of breakfast — I have now had a traditional Chinese breakfast and a traditional Japanese breakfast and I prefer….the traditional Norwegian breakfast! (smoked salmon, yogurts, cheeses, pickled herring in tomato sauce, fruit, meats, hearty bread, good coffee.)

Anyway, just getting around Hong Kong is half the fun. Assuming you arrive at Hong Kong International, grab your MTR Pass at the tourist desk and kick back as the Airport Express train whisks you efficiently into town in 20-40 minutes. Getting you and your family around is easy on buses, subway trains and fun double-decker trams.

The best transport, however, is the Star Ferry, which in just minutes takes you back and forth across the narrow strip of water that separates Hong Kong Island from the mainland (Kowloon side.) No extra charge for the spectacular views.

Star Ferry Terminal on Kowloon Side, Hong Kong (Scarborough photo)

The city is wonderfully walkable, so go to the well-designed tourist Web site, figure out what you and the kids would like to do, and take off.

My top recommendations for Hong Kong family travel:

** See the nightly laser light show at 8 p.m. from Kowloon side, either standing at the Sidewalk of the Stars or sitting (with a Shirley Temple or Coke for them and a good gin and tonic for you) in the lobby bar of the Intercontinental Hong Kong Hotel.

** Check out the options under the Tourist Board’s Cultural Kaleidoscope program; how would your kids like a (free) morning tai chi class overlooking the harbor?

** While exploring Wan Chai and Central, visit the original Shanghai Tang store in the Pedder Building. Wildly expensive and wildly imaginative and gorgeous. We haunted the sale rack till we found something we could afford.

** Ride the Mid-Levels escalators up the Hong Kong hills, then hop off and wander some side streets.

The Mid-Levels, Hong Kong (Scarborough photo)

** There are several very good museums; we liked the Hong Kong Museum of History for a comprehensive look at the city’s origins and development.

** Wander through the Kowloon/Nathan Road big branch of Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium (check out the snake wine, with snake included, in the food store, plus colorful packaging on Chinese herbs and medicines one floor up.) Rubber ear with acupuncture spots noted in Chinese? Great inexpensive souvenirs.

** A nighttime tram trip up to Victoria Peak (in clear weather) to admire the city laid out before us.

For more info, check out Frommer’s Favorite Experiences in Hong Kong, MSN Travel’s take here and this excellent article on GoNOMAD.

For serious shoppers (poking, browsing, buying and schlepping is a serious sport in HK) my personal favorite shopping Bible is by Suzy Gershman: Born to Shop Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing (Suzy includes some teen-oriented shopping tips from her own young son Aaron.)

Get your family going to Hong Kong; it’s worth every jet-lagged minute.

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Technorati tags: travel, family travel, Hong Kong, China, Asia

Costumes, Hong Kong Museum of History (Scarborough photo)