Long Haul to Hong Kong

Baby girl and I just got back from our first holiday together and I only flipping went and took her to China. Hong Kong to be precise. It was certainly an adventure for both of us. I don’t think anything will phase me as a Mum from now on – in the space of 6 months I’ve given birth, separated from my husband, adapted to single motherhood, sold and moved from my house, spent a night in A & E with baby girl and then went long haul to a very different climate and culture with a baby. Some stressful, and others, a breath of fresh air.

Hong Kong was the latter. Just what the doctor ordered and it confirmed to me that life doesn’t have to stop when you have a baby. It just changes. I’m now the queen of adapting and seemingly, like mother like daughter. Baby girl took to the culture change with ease. You could tell she knew she was somewhere new and exciting and that the people around her were different and she absorbed all the new sights and sounds with a smile and a curious glint in her eye. She was even a well mannered dinner guest, who simply wanted to join the table and the conversation by sitting on someone’s lap. She is a sociable little thing. I had visited Hong Kong 10 years earlier to visit the same friends I stayed with this time, so I had already done the city slicking, hussle bussle, nightlife and tourist attraction holiday. This was very different and perfect for me and baby girl. So, what did we do and see?

Well, I mainly stayed around Sai Kung, where my friends live. It is like the equivalent of Brighton if you live in London: cool, one hour commute to the city, by the sea, great if you want to raise a family (I’m not sure about it’s gay credentials, unlike Brighton!). We took strolls along the promenade and explored the restuarants, temple and shops of the town. On one of the clear and sunny days we too a junk boat ferry over to an island and to Hap Mun Bay. It was baby girls’ first boat trip, first experience of sand and sea. However, the facilities at the beach were not fantastic and the showers did not work so sand got everywhere. Trying to change a nappy and a baby out of her swimming costume whilst trying to wet wipe off sand was mission impossible. After a couple of minutes of squirming and crying she didn’t seemed to mind to much. She needed a good bath once we were home though!

We also went to Mong Konk and explored the shops and the Ladies Market for a spot of haggling and souvenir buying. I got a rather nice fake Mulberry handbag and a sweet pair of Chinese pyjamas for baby girl. Cute! Baby girl was not too phased by the crowds but using a stroller around the busy city was a bit like an obstacle course.

I was also privileged enough to hang out with my friend’s friends, some of which also have babies. It was great to see how the other half live and it was very relaxing to just hang out and chat to people who call Hong Kong their home. I think if it was not for baby girl and the stifling climate it would be somewhere I could live – you could do the work hard play hard life on Hong Kong Island and be carefree. With a baby? Not so much. And the climate is a killer – when we arrived it was 31 degrees, with 97% humidity. I didn’t know you could get sweaty babies but it turns out in that heat you can. I also experienced a ‘black weather’ warning. In the UK it would be the same as a ‘snow day’. Schools are cancelled and people are advised not to go to work. It meant I couldn’t do my sightseeing trip to the Star Ferry on my last day but at least I could say I saw the coolest thunder and lightening storm and by heck did it rain.

I have to also say you can’t get a bad meal in Hong Kong and the variety was fantastic. Amongst other things, we ate Thai food, awesome Indian curry and great sushi where baby girl was mesmerized by the conveyer belt delivering dishes. A revelation was fermented tofu. My friends ordered it as a sauce over water spinach. It tastes like blue cheese but without the clacky finish in your mouth. That was served as a side to Wanton Mein noodles. All washed down with a refreshing Tsing Dao beer. Mmmmm, nom nom nom.

Having done long haul for the first time there are some things I would do the same and some a little differently. So I thought from my experienced I would compile a list of top tips for traveling somewhere hot with a baby.

  1. Book night flights – especially if flying long haul.
  2. Buy a UV black out sun-screen for the stroller/pram. They can be protected from the sun and you can Jedi mind trick them into thinking it is nighttime so they can sleep whilst you are out and about.  You can also get UV umbrellas.
  3. Never go out with your baby in the midday sun. Always put factor 50 sun block on even if they are shaded and remember a hat.
  4. Take a light-weight baby sling with you. Some times strollers get in the way. I found this especially in a busy city atmosphere like Hong Kong.
  5. Don’t be a slave to routine. Follow the baby’s cues for naps etc, especially if you have traveled long haul. Go with the flow and see it as a holiday for both of you.
  6. Buy a natural bug repellent like Citronella, which comes in sticker form that you can stick onto the baby’s clothes or on the stroller to ward of bugs. This was especially useful as you weren’t rubbing horrid stringent stuff onto their delicate skin.
  7. If your baby is weaned make sure they drink plenty of cool boiled water.
  8. Investigate the travel infrastructure – this is where a sling comes into it’s own if there are no lifts to help you from a subway system or places to stand with a stroller on a bus. In Hong Kong I was also prepared to ride in taxis with baby girl even though there was no car seat available and she had to sit on my knee. Sometimes it’s just easier but others may feel it is too risky.
  9. Don’t forget your jabs and travel insurance! (Obvs!)

Sleepless in Sai Kung

I couldn’t sleep last night due to thinking about my ex, my baby’s Dad. I was thinking about what an idiot he is. Since our break up (discover why in Bombshell), I have had to give myself a firm talking to on several occasions about my feelings towards him. I have to communicate with him with regards to our beautiful daughter and am keeping a lid on a myriad of emotions in order to be civil. But one emotion I vowed I would never feel is sorry for him, no matter how often he tries to make out his life is shit.

However, since coming on a long haul adventure to Hong Kong to visit a dear friend, I do feel pity for him. And that’s what I was thinking about last night whilst the aircon whirred in the background and my daughter snuffled in her sleep next to me.

Why pity? Well, I think I pity him because of his pathetic and short sighted choices. No one said being a parent and adapting to how life would change was going to be easy. But in the early days of baby girl’s life, when I was an anxious, sleep deprived mess and she was a screaming baby, I know he thought, ‘is this it?’, ‘life’s over!’. He never tried to persevere or play the long game that I knew parenthood was. But I knew that life wasn’t over but just different and a new adventure with our daughter was ahead of us. It was meant to be a new beginning not the end. I knew that then and I know it even more now, hence my traveling to Hong Kong. I used to go on such adventures with her Dad. Well, he didn’t want to come along for this new adventure in parenthood, so we will do it together the two of us in a different but no less exhilarating way.

It is a totally different holiday to one I have ever taken. I have to be careful about the heat because if I am overheating sure enough, baby girl is. I’m not out getting drunk and am in early doors, but that’s fine as I’m staying with friends and we can make our own fun by catching up. My friends live in an area called Sai Kung. It’s a lovely town by the sea and out of the hussle and bussle of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. It’s lovely for families and therefore perfect, for me and baby girl to explore.

Jet lag has not seemed to be an issue as I have just gone with the flow with her naps and sleeping. She has been curious and absorbed all the new sights and sounds around her. The locals are treating her as a celebrity with her blond hair and big blue eyes and she is charming the pants off them in return. She is smiling and giggling at them and has even learnt to wave on this trip as she has been waved at so often! ‘Hello!’ I say and wave and she waves with both arms too. So adorable! She has been no trouble at restaurants and will happily join us on my lap with little fuss. She has even learnt to drink more water from her cup because of all the heat – she must be thirsty! We also took her for her first boat trip to the beach, which was her first experience of sea and sand. Her first swim in the sea was in the South China Sea, no less and of course because she loves the water, she smiled the whole while, even though the sea was a bit chilly. Baby girl has excelled herself on this trip and I couldn’t be more in love with her.

So yes, I feel pity for my ex. Sure, she’s cute with him but he has her for such a limted time that he may never see the wonders and joy she brings to others and her alert, gregarious and sociable nature. All the wonderful things she does and her cute expressions he may never know because I have the time and unique relationship to bring out the best in her. It should have been shared. What an idiot. Pathetic. In the wise words of Mr. T: I pity the fool.

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Our Long Haul Adventure

The bassinette in front of me looks far more uncomfortable than the seat I am sat in, which feels like it barely reclines.  It’s not far off a box. Baby girl is squeezed into as she is a little too long for it. The itchy blanket the airline provides, lies underneath.  I am writing this because I cannot sleep as the air is hot and stuffy. Nothing seems to bother her at all, though and she is sound asleep.

The beauty of being a baby, hey? There I was, all concerned about her ears popping on take off and over-tiredness. There was no need to worry at all.  Once we were seated I zipped her up in her sleeping bag, plonked her on my boob for take off, which was at 21.55 and she was so stimulated and overtired with the excitement of the airport that she promptly fell asleep and has been that way ever since with sporadic moans that boobs help to soothe. I think the darkness and the constant white noise drone of the aircraft help too.

My experience so far of traveling alone with a 6 month old baby has been excellent. I flew from Heathrow and staff there could not have been more helpful. The security man, who I discovered in the space of 2 minutes was a Man Utd fan, helped me with sorting out my handluggage and bottles and collapsing the buggy. I was surprised that they would let me take the buggy all the way to the airplane. I was expecting to have to put it in with my luggage and was prepared with a sling for baby girl to be carried on. It was a pleasant surprise when I could wheel her everywhere with my handluggage in the basket of the buggy.  Once at the gate I was given fast-track treatment to get onto the airplane and they changed my seat so that I would have an empty seat next to me. That is proving a Godsend as all my crap and baby paraphernalia is on that seat and baby girl can sit up on it when she is awake.  I’m flying with BA. The last flight I took was with Easy Jet. The contrast is like day and night. The staff have been very helpful and the food has actually been yummy: Pad Thai for dinner with a chocolate pud for desert. Nom nom nom…..

Now the only issue left to concern me is jet lag. Baby girl and I are on a longhaul adventure to Hong Kong.  12 hours (gulp) on a plane and 8 hours time difference (double gulp). Next time she wakes I will keep her awake, I think…. But all my worries have come to nothing so far. Lets hope jet lag is also put to bed as easily as my daughter in that boxy bassinette.