Harboring Contentment (Days 8 and 9)

An early in-room breakfast in Guilin followed by an intense round of re-packing occupied the morning hours of Sunday, July 6. A short 1½-hour flight took us to a dramatically different landscape. We found a city of densely-packed skyscrapers, fancy cars and a bustling harbor as we switched currency from Chinese yuan to Hong Kong dollars. 

Several years ago, Quinn wondered where Mommy was during one of her overseas business trips. She searched her memory for potential destinations and asked, “Is Mommy in Beep Beep?” It took us a moment to realize she heard “Honk Honk” whenever we mentioned Hong Kong and just had things a bit mixed up. Ever since, we have called the city Beep Beep in her honor.

Sisters say the darndest things.
Waiting for us in the lobby of the Renaissance Harbor View Hotel was a very special reunion with our good friend, Wen Ching, a classmate of Betsy’s from the Purdue Statistics department. We hadn’t seen her in seven years but we picked up right where we left off and had a nice afternoon together. She was especially excited to see the kids again as she was one of the first to visit Xander in the hospital and held Quinn as a baby the last time we were together. 

We ventured out into the blistering heat of the afternoon for a city stroll toward the tram that takes visitors to Victoria’s Peak for a reportedly spectacular view of the city. Unfortunately, we saw only a long line that drove us into a nearby air-conditioned mall and the comfort of a Starbucks for some refreshments. The kids were dragging from our non-stop sightseeing schedule, the rush of the plane flight and the dreaded - perhaps inevitable - onslaught of Mao’s Revenge. Yes, you can brush your teeth with bottled water, keep your mouth closed in the shower, avoid raw fruits and vegetables and walk around with a bottle of Purell but it it’s going to catch up with you eventually. Fortunately, two days and one overworked hotel restroom later, our box of Pedialyte packets were gone and everyone’s appetite was back.

ANYWAY, Wen Ching had just enough time before heading to the airport to join us as we met some friends for dim sum across the harbor in Kowloon. Evelyn and Ricky Chow and their boys, Kevin and Joman, were kind and informative hosts on two memorable nights in the city. 

Evelyn is the sister of Yin Wang, a second-grade teacher at Xin Xing Academy and our family friend. Betsy had visited Evelyn on a previous trip and both families were excited to meet each other. 

After we enjoyed a delicious array of snacks that touched our hearts and said an all-too-sudden farewell to Wen Ching, the Chows helped us find a taxi that took us back from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island via the tunnel underneath Victoria Harbor. Since the kids were exhausted, we called it a night but made plans to see the Chows again the next evening.


On Monday the 7th, as Betsy headed off for a day at the office, I gave the kids some extra time to rest before we explored the amenities of our hotel where, on the sunny 11th-floor concourse, we found a playground, tennis courts, a mini driving range and a pair of beautiful pools. We also wandered around an extensive art gallery located between the hotel lobby and the subway stop underneath that includes an intriguing Kids At Art studio that holds classes for young artists. Inspired, Vaughn drew the harbor's edge as seen from our hotel window.
You can see how construction continues to expand the city through reclamation of land from the sea. This has been going on for centuries with major projects having been conducted since the mid-19th century. Buildings that once enjoyed waterfront views are now several blocks inland. It was amazing to see (and difficult to ignore the incessant sounds of) new construction all up and down the shoreline. Boats dredge up sand and silt from far offshore and pump it into cordoned-off zones, then dump trucks and bulldozers add rocks, soil and clay before deep cement mixing makes the ground firm enough on which to build. It is reported that up to 25% of Hong Kong Island is reclaimed land; both HK Disneyland and HK International Airport were built entirely on areas that were once water. 

That night, we decided to try the ferry to cross the ever-shrinking channel to Kowloon for dinner and enjoyed the leisurely sunset ride. 

We met the Chows at a Thai restaurant for another marvelous meal with many new dishes introduced to us by Ricky. We are fortunate to have opportunities throughout our trip to dine with locals who can introduce us to the most interesting restaurants and dishes to sample. Not only might we have settled for closer, "safer" places to eat but there's no way we'd have been able to get as deep into the mysterious menus as we've gotten thanks to friends like these. 

I only stopped stuffing my face long enough to keep the camera still for a moment. 
We were glad that the kids had the energy for a pleasant postprandial stroll along the waterfront in the relative cool of the evening. The bright lights of Hong Kong reflected beautifully off the harbor and gave us the opportunity to take some great photos.

Also to appear in several other families' Kodak/iPhone moments.
Here Betsy gets the star treatment.
We said our goodbyes to the Chow family and confirmed our plans to host Kevin and Joman at our home in Edina, Minnesota later this summer. We can only hope that we show them as good a time as Ricky and Evelyn showed us during our first two evenings in Hong Kong. 


At breakfast in the hotel on Sunday morning, I met a Twins fan and got to talk a little baseball before getting in Olympic mode for the day. We had scouted out a prime spot along the course of the men's marathon and headed straight there once we had our morning's fill of beans and toast.

The course was a circuit that the racers ran three times and we found a spot in the shade on a two-way strip by which the competitors would pass six times during the marathon. We ended up situated next to a family from New Jersey on our right with whom we could root for the American runners but we stayed much longer than planned thanks to a quick friendship we struck up with the Western family from Essex. 

Father Guy and I found a lot of similarities with our mutual at-home dad/weekend warrior lives while mom Hayley, daughters Amelia (14), and Verity (10) along with son George (13) shared treats, stories and impressions of one another's countries that made the experience truly memorable. (Hit us up at bhuge@me.com, Westerns. We'd love to see you guys again someday!)

Our view of the race, the support vehicles, the media and the fans representing so many different countries gave us a great - and free! - Olympic experience.

We were able to follow the drama on Guy's phone and we were well aware of the battle for first throughout the race. Here's a shot of Ugandan winner Stephen Kiprotich as he passed by us for the last time with just two miles to go.

After the marathon we made our way back to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch that topped any I've enjoyed in the U.S. The kids are all now BBQ-pork-bun fans for life. Unfortunately, Betsy needed to return to Brussels for work on Monday so we dropped her off at the train station after watching a bit of the USA men's gold medal victory over Spain back at the hotel.

After our farewells, the kids and I headed for The Globe to take in a performance of Henry V. The venue is the only thatched-roof structure in all of London; the lone exception to a law enacted after the fire that gutted the city in 1666. Today's Globe is an accurate recreation of the theatre as historians believe it looked in Shakespeare's time and is just a couple of blocks away from the site of the original Elizabethan playhouse.

The venue was amazing and what we saw of the production was superb. We paid only 5 per ticket to be groundlings which gave us a uniquely historical experience but we were required to remain standing throughout the show for safety.

Since visibility and comprehension were both on the low side for Xander, Vaughn and Quinn, I relented and we departed midway through Act II. Sorry, no photos are allowed during the production so I can't show examples of the outstanding period costumes, props and instruments but at least we were allowed plenty of pre-show photography.

On the way back towards the hotel to grab a quick dinner before settling in for the evening to enjoy the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, we passed this giant human body statue on the ever-changing exhibition space in front of the Tate Modern Art Gallery. No privates to be seen, but he is showing plenty of skin...and more. Kids love guts.