We returned home seven months ago and I’ve been procrastinating on writing about the final stop on our trip around the world. Perhaps I haven’t wanted to come to terms that the fact that it was over.
Since coming home we’ve returned to ‘normal’ life, going back to work and school, playing sports, and socializing with friends and family. That ‘normal’ was turned upside down recently with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the 14 months that we spent together (homeschooling along the way) did prepare us for our current situation of being confined at home nearly 24/7.
Recent events also make us all the more grateful that we went on our journey when we did; there is no telling how long it will be until people can travel freely across international borders again. We had planned to go to Banff for spring break but canceled at the last minute, just as resorts began closing and immigration restrictions were going into place.
With travel plans on hold for the foreseeable future, we’re reflecting on past travels and visiting new places virtually. What better time to write about the last chapter of our journey. If you’re stuck at home too, we invite you to join us on a visit to Hong Kong!
The Final Chapter
Departing Hoi An, we took a 45 minute shuttle ride to Da Nang, then hopped on a HK Express flight to Hong Kong.
We spent a fair amount of time in the Hong Kong International Airport when we lived in Hong Kong from 2005-2007. We found that it hadn’t changed much since then.
On our first full day in Hong Kong, we took the MTR to Ocean Park.
The park consists of two areas separated by a mountain. Getting from one side to the other requires a trip over the mountain by cable car, or underneath by train. The cable car definitely offers better views!
As the name suggests, Ocean Park features a large assortment of sea creatures including walruses, sea lions, seals, sharks, tropical fish, and more.
One building is full of different species of jellyfish. It is mesmerizing to watch them propel themselves through the water.
Ocean Park doesn’t just have sea animals; there are land animals including Pandas and a good number of rides. We spent a full day there and had a great time.
The following day we decided to visit the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Science Museum. As we made our way to the history museum, we spotted a stand selling traditional Hong Kong egg tarts so we had to stop and try them.
Hong Kong Museum of History
The Hong Kong Museum of History tells the story of Hong Kong from prehistory to the present. The boys pondered what it would be like to travel the seas in this junk.
Part of the museum is focused on local customs and culture. We parents could have spent a whole day exploring the exhibits, but the kids were ready to move on after a couple of hours.
Hong Kong Science Museum
Fortunately, the Hong Kong Science Museum is just next door. This museum has loads of hands-on exhibits and the kids were eager to try them out.
During our visit there was a special exhibition about the work of Jane Goodall.
By the time we finished with both museums it was dinner time. We ate a meal at a German restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui then watched the light show from the Avenue of Stars.
Early the next morning while the others slept, Wes got up to go run/hike the Dragon’s Back trail on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
When most people think of Hong Kong, crammed urban cityscapes come to mind. In reality, 75% of Hong Kong is made up of green space and there are hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails.
The Dragon’s Back trail is along the top of the ridge, which provides awesome views of villages and islands down below.
After Wes finished his hike we all went out for a ride on the Peak Tram, a funicular railway that connects the lower part of the island to Victoria Peak. This tram has been operating since 1888!
Once at the top, we went for a walk around a path that circles the peak. Fortunately the air was clear and we had some great views of the city.
As we made our way to the other side of the peak we were surrounded by trees and nature sounds, and we felt like we were in a different world altogether.
Following our walk, we took the tram back down the mountain and explored Hong Kong Park, a green space in the middle of the city. This park has a large aviary and several ponds stocked with koi.
As we reached the Pacific Place shopping mall, we stopped to watch a sea of black-clad protesters marching along one of the main thoroughfares. Pro-democracy protests were in full swing, and so far they were mostly peaceful.
That evening we ate dinner at a brewpub on the West side of the island. After dinner we headed back to our hotel by the MTR and as we exited the station we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by protesters.
We decided to make a break for our hotel nearby, but as we rounded a corner a huge column of protesters appeared. Things felt a lot scarier than the march earlier in the day. There was an odor of tear gas in the air and our eyes started to sting. In the rush we were separated for a while (fortunately no kids got lost by themselves!).
Apparently the main clash between protesters and police was happening right in front of our hotel. After some tense moments we were able to regroup and get back safely to our hotel. Back in our room, we reassured the kids that things were going to be OK and we talked about why the protests were happening. This was a memorable and educational experience for sure!
Hong Kong Disneyland
The next day we took the MTR to Hong Kong Disneyland, which felt far far away from the events on the previous evening. In contrast to our freezing cold visit to Disneyland Paris, we sweat it out as we explored the various themed areas of HKD.
We were excited to find out that Star Wars had taken over Tomorrowland. The kids were trained in the ways of the Jedi before battling against Darth Vader!
Who doesn’t love a teacup ride? Wes. Wes doesn’t love a teacup ride. Everyone else had fun though.
A fun souvenir to bring back from Hong Kong is a ‘chop’, a handmade seal that is used (or was in the past anyway) to prove the authenticity of a document. Chop makers can be found on Man Wa lane, a narrow alleyway in Sheung Wan. We browsed the different booths before settling on one that looked good, and our daughter had a chop made with her name in Chinese characters along with a small image of a cat.
Later we took the MTR over to Kowloon and did some more shopping at the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street. This is a good place to pick up reasonably priced t-shirts and other souvenirs.
Next we walked to the nearby Yuen Po Street bird market. This market is set in a peaceful Chinese garden. Here we found many species of colorful birds for sale, and quite a few old men who had brought their birds in cages to hang out and chat with each other.
Next we made our way to the Star Ferry Pier.
When in Hong Kong, taking a ride across the harbor on the Star Ferry is a must. At HKD $2 (about 25 cents US) this is one of the cheapest experiences as well!
On our final evening in Hong Kong, we packed up our bags one last time. The next morning we were off to the airport and arrived early enough to take advantage of a Priority Pass lounge.
Though we were sad that the trip was coming to an end, we were excited to get back home and see our family and friends again!
The 16 hour flight from Hong Kong to Newark was the longest of our trip. The first 13 hours were uneventful enough, but the wheels began falling off after that when a lady sitting behind us had a medical emergency. The crew called for doctors and nurses to come help out, and this led to an argument over the course of treatment. Around that time our daughter got sick unexpectedly and wasn’t able to get the paper bag out of her seat back pocket in time. By the time we landed we had decided we’ll never take a 12+ hour long flight again.
After a layover in Newark we boarded the final flight of our trip, which fortunately went a little more smoothly. At 10pm we arrived in New Orleans were greeted by Annette’s mom and sister. And with that, our 14 month journey had come to a close.
The End… for Now
Well, that’s a wrap on this journey. Reflecting on our trip brings back countless emotions, memories of good times and struggles, and a longing to revisit some of our favorite places. In retrospect, the 14 months went by in a flash. We’re so grateful that we were able to go on this journey and wish we could do it all over again.
We want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who followed along, and especially to our family that helped us spot and correct proofreading errors!
In the coming weeks and months we’ll be putting together additional posts to summarize our trip, and hopefully we’ll be able to post about some new adventures once the COVID-19 craziness is over. Until then, stay safe and healthy everyone!