Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Retracing our steps in Guangzhou

We really wanted to visit Guangzhou to show Emma where we had been together 12 years ago. Americans adopting from China exit through Guangzhou (specifically the White Swan Hotel) because the American Consulate, where the adoptions are finalized, is located here.  

Located in the White Swan Hotel is the famous Red Couch. The Red Couch was where thousands of  American families would set up their babies and take photos the day before departing for the States. 

CCAI adoption group 912

For months we have been anticipating geeking out on recreating pictures from over a decade ago. 

I'm particularly proud of the next photo. Without a map (even with a VPN we can't seem to figure out how to download Google Maps offline), no way of asking for directions and relying on memory from 12 years ago, we found the exact spot the original photo was taken. We zoomed in on the original photo and studied the buildings behind Phil, examined the air conditioning units in background and miraculously found our spot. 

The same year we adopted Emma (2006) China began to limit the number of international adoptions (by drastically slowing down the process) and eventually lifted the one child policy in 2015. When we were previously at the White Swan Hotel there were dozens of adopting families. Today, the famous red couch is in a corner with a sign explaining it's significance and the patrons are mostly Chinese from various parts of China. 

Our adoption group from 2006, Emma on the far right screaming into the couch.

The White Swan hotel is surrounded by a nearby park with many interesting statues.  The statue in particular that we remember depicts an American couple (the mom is a bit plump) pushing a Chinese baby in a stroller. 

Lucy's Cafe is still within walking distance of the White Swan Hotel, serving American Style food. Just like the last time we were here with Emma, we ordered the cheeseburgers and club sandwiches, which still taste great!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hong Kong, Kowloon side

Fun story. We met a guy at a jazz bar in Hong Kong. He is originally from Scotland, married to a lady from Hong Kong, has lived in Hong Kong for over 30 years and after hearing that Jessica's 15th birthday is Sunday, he insisted on making us reservations at the Peninsula Hotel for high tea. Reservations are awesome especially since they can only be made if you're staying at the hotel, which we are not. 

Phil and I enjoyed high tea at the Peninsula Hotel over 12 years ago during our first visit to Hong Kong on our trip to adopt Emma. It was a true highlight for me to bring our girls to the Peninsula Hotel for high tea after 12 years. Emma thought the string quartet was a hit. Phil was amazed by the men's room attendant, we didn't have one of those aboard Terrapin. Jessica thoroughly enjoyed the finger sandwiches and amazing little desserts.

My new favorite photo

We enjoyed perusing the "jade" market, so many colorful items, not one of which is really jade. Emma scored a small ring which started at $280 and ended up costing $20 (Hong Kong Dollars). 

Temple Street Night Market

Although we had scored a phenomenal view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak we wanted a solid view from the Kowloon side across the bay. The Ozone bar at the top of the Ritz-Carlton offers over-priced beverages with a fantastic view. 

View from Ozone bar in the Ritz-Carlton

Sign reading not to feed the Terrapins.

The street food in Hong Kong is everywhere. Fish balls. Shark fin soup (which made Jessica cry just seeing the sign). Fried food. Lobster balls. Dumplings. Won Tons. For me, anything fried starts to taste exactly the same...and it's not a great taste. I've opted for hunting down "Club Sandwiches".

We love being able to to share things with the girls that we had experienced from our previous trip. Phil and I remember being in a park watching a light show across the bay. Hong Kong is still providing the light show and it's still worth waiting for. 

This is the first summer in years that our daughters are escaping homeschool. In years past our girls would have studied the local areas and would write reports explaining the significance of the artifacts and exhibits seen in local museums. Both girls have really enjoyed being able to visit the local museums without school work. 
Sanpan in the Hong Kong History Museum.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hong Kong Island

After 24 hours of travel from Fiji we made it to Hong Kong Island on August 26th.  We purposely started our move to China with a trip to Hong Kong in order to obtain our much needed visas. We weren't able to apply for visas in Fiji as the Chinese Consulate would only work with Fijians. 

Hong Kong Island is as we remember it from 12 years ago: skyscrapers, high-end malls, business men swiftly walking through the street and everything is spendy. Hong Kong Island is a great way to step slowly into the Chinese culture. Today we move from Hong Kong Island to the Kowloon side which is a bit more "Chinese feeling" before taking a train into mainland China this weekend. 

I'll always be thankful that our daughters are adventurous eaters, it definitely makes for more of an authentic adventure wherever we travel. So far the best tasting, least expensive food has been on the street.

It still hasn't hit us that we no longer live aboard Terrapin. There's been a few times of pushing through crowds, sweat pouring down my back after an attempted night's sleep on a stiff bed when I catch myself thinking, it would be nice to go home and sleep in my own cozy bed. One problem, we're homeless. There is no place to call home until we make our way to Suzhou and find an apartment.

Last November one of our long time stateside friends put us in touch with a family who lives aboard in Hong Kong that's preparing for their own cruising adventures. Once I found out that we would be in Hong Kong I messaged them and they were gracious enough to take us out on their boat.

Hong Kong is immaculate! For a place that holds millions of people there's zero trash to be found, such a welcomed change from the South Pacific. 

Hong Kong represents a 180 degree difference in everything we've come to know over the past four years. New changes has created some new anxiety for Jessica (actually for all of us). Crowds, subways, moving at what feels like a lightening fast pace...it's all very new to us.

Bamboo scaffolding

This morning we breath a sigh of relief as we have just picked up our visas necessary to enter mainland China. We had read horror stories of people not being approved (not really sure why) and started to worry a bit and think of possible Plan B's. Thankfully we get to proceed as planned with the next few weeks traveling through more of Hong Kong (Kowloon side), a trip to Guangzhou, Shanghai and eventually Suzhou where we will be living.

Hong Kong botanical and zoological gardens

Stick around, we're just getting started on a whole new adventure!

Hong Kong home to 7.4 million people