Travel Tales: Hong Kong and China, April 2018

I’m writing this blog recap over one year after the event, and after another family holiday to Hong Kong! Forgive me if details of precisely where and what we ate are patchy at best, or if recollections of our itinerary are somewhat inconsistent.

Alright, preamble over.

Hubby, Matilda and I, along with my father and stepmother, took a two week trip back to Hong Kong and China in April 2018, with the express purpose of showing off the baby to my extended family. I was only halfway through my maternity leave at that point, and Matilda was just five months old and still exclusively breastfeeding.

Tip to future parents – it’s so much easier to travel with a baby when you don’t have to worry about bottles, sterilising, pumping, formula, baby-appropriate solids, etc.

We started off with a visit to Cixi, my mother’s village in Zhejiang province in China. The visit was always going to be fraught with emotion – not only were my grandparents going to be meeting their first great-grandchild, but they would also be meeting my stepmother for the first time.

To my surprise, it went better than expected. Though there’s some language barriers as my stepmother doesn’t speak their particular dialect of Chinese, my grandmother had purchased some gold jewellery to gift to my stepmother as a wedding gift and to welcome her to our family. I know this act of kindness and inclusion would have been difficult given the emotions attached to the situation.

It certainly helped however, that we had a baby to defuse the situation! As the first great-grandchild, Matilda was doted upon by my entire extended family. From my aunts and uncles, to my grandparents and many great-aunts and great-uncles, Matilda was cooed and clucked over, usually with the comment “Lucky her father is mixed race, they are the most beautiful, so she will grow up beautiful”.

(Unfortunately, my Chinese isn’t quite good enough for me to try to articulate my feminist child-rearing approach of emphasising brains and character over beauty – anyone know how to say feminist in Chinese?!)

It was also our first visit back ‘home’ where we had easy access to a vehicle, whereas previously we had been very reliant on public transportation to get around. As a result, my uncle insisted on driving us to these different locations to see cherry blossoms, to view an old town, to see a lake, to see a reservoir…all the while punctuating each visit with “I bet you don’t see these amazing views in Australia!” I’ve mentioned it before, but life in regional China can be quite insular. World views are dictated by media produced by the Chinese Communist Party.

Our week in Hong Kong was marked by food, food and more food. An eggette a day was my motto, and I tried eggettes (egg waffles) from multiple different stores. My pick? Mammy Pancake, which has multiple locations and more importantly – multiple flavours! Their signature cheese eggette is just beyond!

Other food highlights include regular tofu pudding (tau fu fa) and yum cha, takeaway pork buns at Tim Ho Wan, our fancy meal at Bo Innovation, Tenren Tea’s oolong tea soft serve, and a meal at a Harry Potter-themed cafe where my not-so-hidden fangirl lost. her. shit.

We caught up with family regularly for meals (mainly yum cha!), and my cousin also accompanied us on a day trip on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, and a visit to the Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and the traditional Tai O Fishing Village. I don’t think I’ve done that day trip since I was a toddler myself, so it was actually nice to do something a little touristy!

A reflection – I had concerns that travelling with my dad and stepmum would end up being suffocating, as travelling with family can often be if everyone has different ideas about what they want to do. In the end, it wasn’t at all – their presence actually just made things a lot easier for us as they could look after Matilda for three hours while we went for a fancy birthday lunch, or help to share the burden of carrying her on the days we went out without the pram. We spent a few days apart doing different activities and just meeting up for breakfast and dinner which also worked.

Would I travel with them again? Yeah, probably. They have a good sense of when to give us space, and when to pitch in and help, which I think a lot of families don’t necessarily get right. I can definitely see us doing something like a trip to Singapore and Malaysia together in the future – and while they entertain Matilda in the evening and take her somewhere small and local for dinner, K and I could go and have a fancy date night meal at a hatted restaurant like Waku Ghin or similar.

Since this 2018 trip, K and I have been back to Hong Kong with Matilda for a short stay tacked onto a longer trip to Taiwan. Things are very different in Hong Kong now, as most of you are probably aware through the news.

It makes me wonder about what the future will look like. I am still a Hong Kong citizen, who holds a Hong Kong ID card alongside strong views about the importance of democracy and accountable leadership. My family left Hong Kong in 1990 because of concerns of what Hong Kong would become under Chinese rule after 1997. I hold those same concerns now.

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