I received many comments from friends and family when I left the UK second time round to continue travelling; “wow I wish I could do what your were doing?” “I’ve always wanted to travel!” Best bit of advice anyone can get is to just do it. Travelling is such a precious and privileged experience that anyone can do, you just need to put your mind and heart into it and go for it.
I was unbelievably nervous when I chose Africa as a first place to travel, but I wanted to be different, to live in an alternative culture away from our tightly, snug, first world country. Africa has shown me a different culture, their way of life, a passion for kids, an awareness of the shocking problems the continent suffers and a huge addiction to travel.
A year later I have landed this fantastic opportunity of au pairing; a great little family, in one of the best cities in the world (not that I would agree with that claim!) that take me away with them on their business trips. My first one being Hong Kong and Shanghai; 15,000 miles travelled in the space of a week.
Leaving a Sunday evening and flying through the night meant Kristen and John could get straight to their many meetings the following morning, leaving Toby and I to explore Hong Kong. We were set up in an apartment up in the mountains beyond the city, a complex called Parkview, which included all lovely things. Two huge pools, whirlpools, a gym, a spa, kids play area, a park, beautiful fountains, great restaurants, room service and a supermarket that stocked Waitrose food! Luxury. Each floor and the lobby were lined with artwork and sculptures, including many masterpieces by Dali, worth millions. Parkview is predominately for long-term residents with just a handful of rooms available for a holiday. What a way to live in Hong Kong, as Kristen and John say they would love to move here.
Our first day was spent around the pool, relaxing after a rubbish sleep on the plane the night before.
Toby and I headed into the city in the afternoon and came across a beautiful park in the centre of the city. It’s amazing that Hong Kong is so built up, yet 80% green. Skyscrapers and towers stretch out for miles and miles into the thick smog. The park held an aviary, which was impossible to find the entrance to. I ended by quickly giving up in the searing heat and humidity and alternatively found some cool fountains and lakes to relax around, watching tiny terrapins sunbathe on the rocks. I loved that in amongst this bustling, smoggy city lies pretty, historical parks that can quickly make you forget you’re in the middle of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, being a huge hub for financial business globally, is set up for the rich lifestyle; streets are lined with flash designer stores; Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry…the list goes on. Super cars roaring through the streets, beautiful yachts the size of mansions sat in the harbours and petite women and suited men fine dining through lunch hours and into the afternoons with champagne the price of my flight home and more! A very extravagant, elegant, glitzy lifestyle, that honestly is not for me. It’s too much about appearance and who can show off the most money, a reality (for many) of the rich unfortunately.
Anyway an amazing way to see and experience it through the eyes of my host family. With the luxury of everything included in exchange to keep Toby happy during the day time, meaning great site seeing and exploring for me. On possibly one of the hottest days we headed to HGK’s famous theme park, Ocean Park, which was enormous and completely rammed with Chinese tourists flocking in from the mainland.
A very irritating but sad part of mainlanders is that they live in amongst a controlled communist society, and it really does show. I am told by locals they are taught to only think for themselves, so when it came to turning up with a toddler in a pram they would push and shove me out the way, and let doors slam in front of me, yet they were happy to demand photos to be taken of Toby and I, seeing Toby with blonde hair, known as a Gweilo baby was something very unusual. It was shocking to see how much attention he was getting. Hong Kong itself and the people are very different to mainland China though, having established itself as a British Colony, giving it a rich blend of cultures and a unique character. Shanghai on the other hand was completely different.
We headed to the skyscraper filled city the following day after arriving in HGK. Staying in the Four Seasons hotel in the district, Pudong. An area that has recently been developed as a free-trade zone, meaning access to social media sites are lifted, unlike anywhere else. It felt very different in Pudong though, despite free trade. I think we were the only Westerners in sight the whole time we were there.
Taking a trip to the Aquarium and climbing The Oriental Pearl Tower was exciting but tiresome in the heat and crowds. Luckily Toby dropped off to sleep before having to queue for an hour just to take a lift up the tower. Yes the views were pretty spectacular but not worth it for the money and people when you can always go and climb the second tallest building (Shanghai Tower) in the world just a few blocks down.
I had the wonderful privilege of joining my host family to celebrate Toby turning two over the weekend before returning to Sydney. It is widely popular to go out on a Junk (boat) trip in China, sailing around the islands in Hong Kong. John hired a huge boat for the day, invited friends along and made a fantastic day out.
Stopping off by a cove to jump into the cool, refreshing sea, before and after a delicious seafood lunch at this restaurant by the sea, Ming Kee, on Po Toi Island. Rich ex-pat families pull up in their millionaire yachts and walk down the cobbled steps, to what looks like nothing special, with a kitchen that appears to be riddled with disease, actually surprisingly serves some of the best seafood I have tasted. Choosing a fresh fish from the tank, that was so simple, delicate and delicious, holding a relaxed atmosphere, with diners chilling around in their swim gear and toasting with their own alcohol bought in. Such an amazing, very popular, tucked away restaurant. It really was a day to remember.
Our last day I was invited along to a goodbye brunch to HGK, in the very fancy, corporate bar and restaurant, Zuma, raved about all over the world. Free flowing champagne, oysters, prawns, lobsters, cured meats, salads, breads and cheeses, cakes of all sorts, on top of your main meal. I cannot believe how much food I have eaten over this trip, and planning to make use of the sparkling fancy gyms everyday turned into once!
Both cities were an incredible experience and I would highly recommend a visit if you are into bustling, light filled cities, with delicious street food, buzzing markets that run day and night selling authentic Chinese goods, fantastic shopping malls, and a huge amount of sightseeing for any age. I loved every minute of my days, and have realised how amazingly lucky I am to have landed such a great little job in Australia.