Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our First Family Christmas in Hong Kong (plus Weekly Wrap)

We were so happy that it wouldn't just be the two of us for Christmas again this year. Having two out of three kids here with us in Hong Kong is just about the best gift ever ---> if only oldestC could have more time off work.

Planning for Christmas in tropical Hong Kong was obviously different than we are used to (like having a tiny tree), but it was fun being able to do things that we probably wouldn't do back home.

We kicked off the festivities with a Christmas Eve hike on the Lookout Loop trail. We thought middleC might be feeling tired on his first morning in Hong Kong, but he looked as if he hadn't traveled 10 time zones at all. And littleC was finally getting over her bad case of jet lag. Lucky for us it was a popular morning to hike and a nice man helped us with a Santa hat photo on the top.

Later, since the weather was just spectacular, the kids took our iSUP boards out for a paddle. The water was cold, but a calm bay was too much to resist. mrC and I took our turn too, and it was really, really nice to be out on the boards in December.

We loved having the kids with us for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was super crowded (that will happen when you normally have four mass times), but we found seats and enjoyed the joyful service.

After opening presents on Christmas morning, we had a big breakfast with pumpkin pancakes ---> I saved the Trader Joe's mix just for this occasion. Wrong season, but totally delicious! We FaceTimed with our family back in the US and enjoyed a lazy afternoon. For dinner, we went with some friends and their kids to Cucina. This restaurant was the perfect place for Christmas dinner. They put party hats on the table (more like New Year's Eve style, but what the heck, it was Christmas!) that added a fun and festive vibe to the evening. Nothing could beat the amazing views of Victoria Harbour though.

mrC and I were thrilled to give the kids a surprise gift to Disneyland Hong Kong! Neither had been to Disneyland before (and often teased their dad about it) and since we live so close to the park, it just seemed like a great time to get them there. Finally! I have to admit, I'm not a big Disney theme park person, but we had a TON of fun. If you're ever in HK, you should definitely go. (We did wait until two days after Christmas though, because the day after Christmas is a public holiday in Hong Kong.)

That's how we celebrated our first family Christmas in Hong Kong!

Here's my Weekly Wrap and I'm linking up with Tricia and Holly:

Monday - Christmas Day!

Tuesday - Took the kids on the tram up to Victoria Peak to catch the views over Hong Kong (evidence below).

Wednesday - Big day at Disneyland.

Thursday - Dragon's Back hike (post coming soon)

Friday - Bodypump and beach time, again!

Saturday - Tiger's Head hike (post coming soon)

Sunday - Church, shopping markets and Pier 3 Bar New Year's Eve Party to watch the fireworks over Victoria Harbour ---> it was cold but super fun!

At the Peak!

For fun, I'm sharing this Never Have I Ever from Run to the Finish! (directions: you get 1 point for each thing you have done)

What was your score? Mine was 11

Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We're All About Fitmas Here in Hong Kong!

With two of the kids now visiting us in Hong Kong, it's been hard to find time to blog. We've celebrated Christmas and have been filling the days with all the typical tourist stops and tons of fitness activities too.

Before her brother arrived on Christmas Eve eve, we took littleC on a couple of hikes. We started her off on the short but intense Discovery Bay Lookout Loop. She did amazing considering that she and I had actually gone to Bodypump class in the morning, so we were hiking on tired legs. On top of that she was suffering from a bad case of jet lag.

Still we made our way up the 733 steps to enjoy the amazing views of DB. It is so much nicer hiking in the cooler temps this winter. It's basically perfect.

The next day we hiked with one of my DB friends on the South Lantau Country Trail to Mui Wo. This hike was much longer but way easier than the day before. We had fun hunting for waterfalls (we only found a few small trickles) and soaking in the views of the China Sea. In Mui Wo, we met up with another friend and her family for a fun lunch at The Kitchen.

We were back for more Bodypump on Friday morning ---> it's a lot more fun to be there with littleC to chat with between tracks. And I love have someone to walk to and from class with.

We met up with some friends on Friday night and littleC had her first late night in Hong Kong hanging out in Lan Kwai Fong with some other expats. We took her to the Ladie's Market in Mong Kok on Saturday for some shopping. The vendors were a little late getting opened up, but we found some good deals.

I'll end this post with one of my new favorite photos. I think you'll understand why.

I hope to post again soon, but in case I'm late, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

We picked up littleC at the Hong Kong International Airport on Monday evening. After only 4 hours of sleep, she was ready to take on Hong Kong the next morning. We headed to town to join the AWA group tour of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.

Finding Buddhas in Hong Kong is not surprising, but seeing more than 10,000 in one place is quite impressive. To get to the monastery (this term is used lightly, as there are no actual monks living here), we had to walk a path known for monkeys hanging around (we didn't see any) and then climb about 430 steps completely lined on both sides with golden buddhas.

These buddhas all had very different facial expressions meant to demonstrate the various states of enlightenment.

The monastery was spread out over two levels. To get all the steps out of the way, we went right to the top level. We saw some of the most beautiful temples (there are five in total). I loved the colors in this one.

The different buddha statues continued. It was fun trying to figure out the significance of what they were holding.

The reclining buddha was a big hit. His toes were so big, I kept counting to make sure there were only ten.

The ivory white Kwun Yam statue riding a dragon was a stunning find in the farthest corner of the upper level. With a waterfall behind her, she seemed to be looking over the other buddhas and the village of Shatin far below.

On the main level of the monastery we found the nine story pagoda that is featured on some $100HKD bills. Rumor has it that you can climb up for great views, but it was closed when we were there.

On this level there were several pavilions, more and more buddhas and the main temple with more than 10,000 buddhas inside (no photos or video were allowed inside).

This place was just so interesting! We might have rushed a bit because winter temperatures have arrived in Hong Kong and we were really cold.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Great Santa Night Run 2017 (and Weekly Wrap)

It's definitely starting to feel a lot like Christmas here in Hong Kong. Temperatures started dropping about mid-week, which made for a very chilly but totally appropriate Great Santa Night Run on Saturday.

But first, my weekly workout wrap-up:

Monday I hiked with the AWA hiking group. Since mrC was finally back in Hong Kong, he joined us.

On Tuesday I did hill repeats on the treadmill. I really, really love this workout for days when I want to run, but don't feel like doing sprints. The workout is basically a 20 minute repeat of 2 minute walk 15% incline, 1 minute run 5% incline, 2 minute walk 5% incline with a 10 minute warmup and 15 minute cool down ---> that I decided to do as a run.

We spent Wednesday running around Central getting things for Christmas and the kids coming visit. The first one arrives tomorrow!!! AHHH! I am so excited.

Thursday was an unintentional rest day. In the evening we walked to the international school for Carols on the Pitch and felt very festive listening to traditional Christmas carols while sitting on a blanket.

I pulled out an at home strength workout on Friday and finally used my new resistance bands. I liked that they added some exercise options for when my hand weights are too light.

On Saturday it was time for a holiday run just like the ones we did in New Hampshire. I admit that I am a sucker for holiday themed events. The Great Santa Night Run was held at Hong Kong Science Park, Charles K. Kao Auditorium (aka the "Golden Egg").

When I registered us for the buddy race, we had the option of Santa suits or Santa tees. Sadly, they were already out of our sizes. Too bad the tee was an extra small because it was super cute and I would have totally worn it.

We had plenty of time to wander around the venue before our race. They had fun photo ops set up like a couple of Santa Clauses, decorated tricycles and a Christmas tree. We didn't miss anything.

The first "cold weather warning" was issued for the weekend (which in Hong Kong means when temperatures will drop below 55 degrees) and we were freezing. I think we might be getting used to the tropical weather. Thank goodness I wore my capris! (affiliate) The combined low temperature and crazy wind made it feel like that fake snow could be real!

We stayed inside the building until we had to line up for our event - the buddy 3K. I even had time to FaceTime with my mom when she called and show her what we were up to. When it was time, mrC checked our bag and we corralled with the other runners, most dressed in their Santa suits.

The course basically followed neighborhood walkways for a crowded out and back. We had to dodge other runners/walkers and some areas of sidewalk construction, so there was no fear of going too fast. In fact, I think we were running a comfortable 11:22 pace (I started my watch about 4 minutes too soon at the start, so it's not completely accurate).

After crossing the finish, we hurried over to reclaim our checked bag and put our jackets back on. Then we realized we missed the finisher's area, so we headed over to grab our goodies. It was mostly Chinese-type swag, aside from a pair of earbuds and the cute stocking.

Today I made chili - because that's what you do when it's 50 degrees in Hong Kong ;)

Have you joined the Santa run fun?
Do you have guests coming for the holidays?
What do you like to make on cold winter days?

Today I'm linking up with Tricia and Holly for the Weekly Wrap!

Hiking: Lantau Trail Stages 11 & 12

The Lantau Trail in Hong Kong is 70 kilometers long and divided into 12 stages. I wish I was writing this post about my big finale after completing stages 11 and 12 with the AWA hiking group, but I missed a couple hikes and still have four stages to go.

Stage 11 starts at the catchwater off Tung Chung Road ---> the same catchwater from stage 10. Instead of traveling all the way to Mui Wo (from Discovery Bay) to meet the group coming from Central, I did a little research and took the chance that I could find the correct bus stop. It helped that I had mrC and a friend tagging along for moral support. We took the 3M bus and easily made it to Cheung Sha Catchwater.

Once the rest of group arrived, we followed the catchwater for about 3km with nothing more to see than concrete and trees lining the route. One member of our group lives in the area and told us how popular this section is for running because it is flat. The prettiest sight on this section was this waterfall with the mountains in the background.

After following the trail downhill for the last 1.5km, we reached the end of stage 11 and passed through the village of Pui O. This looked like an old village but we spotted some newer housing developments as we made our way to the start of stage 12.

Stage 12 was much more scenic right from the start. Coming out of the village we passed an inlet at low tide and spotted a little sign that Christmas is right around the corner.

We took a quick break at Pui O Beach. Unlike Discovery Bay which is surrounded by development, this beach felt like a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle. I would love to come back here and spend the day.

After leaving the beach, we began the hardest part of the hike ---> climbing approximately 260 meters up and over Tai Ngau Wu Teng. The higher we climbed, the better the views. It was amazing to look back and see the village of Pui O from above.

After passing the peak, we followed the trail down the mountain toward Mui Wo. Going up is tough on the quads, but going down is no fun on the knees.

Eventually we arrived at a perfectly placed pavilion to take a rest from all the down hill walking, enjoy the coastal views and get a great group shot (thanks to mrC).

We followed the last bit of trail right into Mui Wo. Glimpses of Silvermine Bay made our stomachs rumble knowing that lunch was coming soon.

Stages 11 and 12 took us just under 3.5 hours to hike the 11.75km. We always take our large groups to The Kitchen in Mui Wo for lunch. They treat us well, have great options on the menu for all and it doesn't take them long at all to serve us.

Now I just need to recruit some friends to complete stages 5-8 ;)

More posts from Lantau Trail hikes:

Hiking: Lantau Trail Stages 3 & 4 (Lantau Peak)

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Archery Lesson

I love when I get the chance to try something new. Just a month ago, I tried dragon boat paddling for the first time. Last week, I got to try my hand at archery through the American Women's Association. I signed up for the beginner's class being held at Golden Trust Archery in Lai Chi Kok and prepared to bring on my Katniss skills ---> just kidding. I only hoped my arrows actually made it to the target.

We met our instructor Anthony and the first thing we did was a little warm-up and stretching session for our arms, shoulders, and necks. After that, we put on arm guards and he walked us through the steps of how to hold, load the arrows and shoot from our recurve bows. We were given the beginner's short and sweet edition compared to the reminder list posted on the wall (thank goodness because that is a lot to remember!).

Since four people could shoot at a time, we took turns practicing for about 30 minutes. On each practice we had six arrows to shoot, just like in a competition ---> only later I would learn that my station actually had 7 arrows. I don't think any of us needed to be told that the goal was to aim for the middle of the target.

I really thought that it would be harder than it was, but I was pleasantly surprised that all of my shots made it to the target. As we practiced, Anthony would watch and give feedback to help us get better. Once I got the hang of lifting my elbow up, I did pretty good.

One of my best practice rounds

During a short break we were able to watch a young woman practicing on another course. She was twice as far away from her target as we were and she was hitting the center nearly every time. She was our inspiration!

After the break, Anthony explained how to keep score: Starting at the outer blue ring 6 points, red 7 points, 8 points, yellow 9 points, 10 points, and the center 10 points but scored as an X (this is used to break ties).

We had a little more practice and then it was time for a friendly competition: four rounds or 24 arrows and the highest score wins. This is when I learned that I had seven arrows and as a result had to give up my highest scoring arrow that round (a ten pointer, that luckily only changed my score by one point). At the end, I tied Maureen with most points, but she had more Xs to win! (oh to have that point back, haha!)

Even though we were using very light weight bows, this gave my upper body a good workout. We had a lot of fun and can totally see why archery is a popular sport.

Have you ever tried archery?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hiking: Tai Tam Country Trail

A couple of weeks ago I went with the AWA hiking group to hike Tai Tam Country Trail on Hong Kong Island. This 6km loop is a good hike for beginners looking to jump into trails that are a little more challenging and it also combines nature with Hong Kong history.

The good news is that the most challenging part, climbing 436 meters to Violet Hill, is in the beginning of the hike. Once you get to the top you can celebrate a little knowing the hard part is out of the way.

It was an overcast day, but we could still see down into Deep Water Bay and out to Lamma Island.

The second part of the hike merges into Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, one of Hong Kong's battlefield trails. Along this trail you will see remnants of the battle between Hong Kong and Japan in 1941.

There are nine stations marking the 18 day battle that ended when the British surrendered on Christmas Day. At each station you will find information boards describing the battlefield relics that have survived: battery, pillboxes, underground bunkers and anti-aircraft positions.

This part of the hike also connects to part of Sir Cecil's Ride, namesake of British colonial administrator who served as Hong Kong Govenor,  Cecil Clementi  ---> I think it was his favorite place to walk with his wife (there is another section called Lady Clementi's Ride).

I saw my first porcupine in the catchwater (that had sadly met its demise). Even though I've walked hundreds on kilometers on the trails, through country parks and up and down mountains, I still forget that wild animals do exist in Hong Kong. The East Asian Porcupine is one of them. I have to say, I'm glad that they are nocturnal and prefer to avoid the urban areas, usually.

At the end of the our loop hike, we caught bus #6 to Three Pacific Place for a rooftop lunch at Beef and Liberty.

Other easy to medium hikes on Hong Kong Island:

What wild animals have you seen on your outdoor activities?