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.
- Book night flights – especially if flying long haul.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If your baby is weaned make sure they drink plenty of cool boiled water.
- 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.
- Don’t forget your jabs and travel insurance! (Obvs!)