Prior to our trip to Hong Kong, I had read many articles about how un-child-friendly hongkong was, and how bad a decision it was to make hong kong the destination of my LO’s first overseas trip. I read about how strollers will not be friendly on uneven pavements and crowded MTRs with no lifts. I read about how difficult it is to find a decent diaper changing room, and how alienated I would be if I tried to nurse in public. However, contrary to what I was warned about, the trip went amazingly well!
Before I let everyone think that all the above statements are wrong, I must first emphasize that it is indeed not the most stroller friendly place in HK. But my LO has never really liked strollers, so I baby carried him the entire trip. That made squeezing in crowded streets and MTRs so very easy. And escalators and stairs were more common than lifts in most places, so I was assured I didn’t need to carry a heavy stroller AND baby up the stairs, nor risk his safety at that. But I need to note that there ARE stroller friendly places. The few malls that I stopped by – Elements, Olympian City, and a few others, were extremely stroller friendly. In fact, they were directly linked to the MTR station, had lifts in those stations, were sheltered all the way and with huge walk ways. So there are family-friendly places to go to, just depends on what you want to do in HK.
Following up on that, my LO had a poo explosion on the day we went to Tasty Congee for lunch at Elements mall. I believe my son is a clean freak because he has not poo-ed outside our home ever since he was 3-4 months old. So equipped with a hazy memory of how to change the diapers of a hyperactive baby in a public place, and the knowledge of how “child-unfriendly” HK is, I searched the mall map in trepidation for *fingers crossed* a diaper changing room. “There!” I pointed to a baby-care sign on the map, half relieved that there was at least an enclosed space where I could fight with my baby as we cleaned him up. The mall was large, but spacious and not crowded on a weekday lunch time. In no time, I found the diaper changing area – right behind a check-in area for ferries to Shengzhen. There were over twenty men sleeping on sofas, probably waiting for their ferry to arrive. I stepped into the diaper changing area (no door!), and got a shock. It was sparkling clean! Not like most malls I’ve been to even in Singapore, where I cringe at the thought of my son rolling around and touching all the germs. This place looked practically new! It was also relatively large, with 3 changing stations, and like-new changing mats. There was a chirping sound and slight fragrance, making it pleasant not just to the eyes, but also to the nose and ears. My son loved the chirping sound and was much less cranky than he usually is on changing mats. The final bonus was a dispenser – with disposable changing mats and loads of wipes!! This is the most important for clean freaks like my son and I – we didn’t have to let him lie on some dirty mat that many other babies with poo explosion had laid on, and we didn’t even need to worry if we had enough wet wipes with us for a poo explosion! This is not only a decent diaper changing room I found in a hong kong mall – it was the BEST diaper changing room I’ve ever seen in my life, including in Singapore! (apologies for the lack of photos as my hands were full with poo and stuff) When I was about to leave, another HK couple came in, and I overheard them say in cantonese “wow! they even provide wet wipes here!” So I wasn’t the only suaku one 🙂 Thanks to the management team of Elements mall, for the nice touch for families and making the trip there so pleasant 🙂
On eating in Hongkong. If you want to dine in restaurants (I went to Ding Tai Fung and Taste Congee for their Michelin Grade food), there will be no lack of high chairs for babies. If you want to dine in the more common cha chan tengs (tea houses) and hole-in-the-wall cafes, there is almost no chance you will find a high chair. Or even no space to bring in a stroller. So do take note! I did, however, still survive the trip going to over 10 such places. The fact is, even though there are no high chairs, there are some restaurants with bench-seats that are a little safer for semi-mobile babies. Of course, if your LO is ok with being tied to the chair using a modified baby carrier, good for you. My LO hates being strapped down, so bench-seats were our next best option. Those gave him enough space to crawl and stand, while providing a safe environment that required only minimal effort from me to prevent him from falling off. He could also stand and interact with the guests sitting behind us (if any). The best thing about all these places I dined at, was the staff. Every single time, the waiter would arrange for us a corner table with extra space that would allow my LO to move around with no risk of getting scalded by hot food being served in a small, crowded space. Often, when my LO was getting cranky and hubby and I were getting flustered, the waiters and waitresses would come round and entertain my LO for us! Just a smile or a clink of a cup would entertain him. Even if it only took them less than 5 seconds, it relieved us some time to enjoy our meal, and my LO was happy despite him not being able to eat the delicious food in hong kong. So there, food places were all good to go! (oh, except for one – Tim Ho Wan at Olympian City. They refused to give us a 3-seater table nor a large 2-seater table because my LO was not a paying customer, and they refused to let us sit at a corner table nor a bench-seater table even though those were safer for my LO. It was off-peak at 430pm, so they had ample choices of tables, but they were rigid in the sitting order. So inflexible, but fortunately they were the only non-child-friendly restaurant we faced in HK, so I let it go. Hubby commented that that was the fastest meal he had ever eaten in his life, and the most horrible one in HK. No wonder they don’t have a Michelin star)
Here’s a picture of my son playing peek-a-boo in Tasty Congee. He had a seat near the purple wall, which he LOVED playing with (and most other cafe walls with mirrors). He made friends with the waitresses there too.
In general, my LO attracted many friendly passers-by and made many friends in hong kong. He had more people smile to him in lifts and wave to him along the streets of hong kong in 4 days than in Singapore over a year. Even on the flights, we had a better experience with hong kong neighbors than a Singapore neighbor. On my flight over to HK, I had a priority seat with a bassinet. My husband was unable to book the seat next to me, so he requested a change during check-in. The airline (SIA) was nice enough to put in the request. At the gate, the staff spoke to the passenger who had booked the seat next to me, to ask for a change (to my husband’s aisle seat). She refused. The staff explained how difficult it would be for me to travel alone with my son, but she refused. No second word, just a no. So the flight to HK was horrible, with a cranky son who couldn’t stop moving. He didn’t manage to eat his meal, and neither did I. I didn’t know the story behind the refusal as I had boarded the flight first, otherwise I might have held my son less tightly and let him scramble all over that mean lady and spill all her food and drinks on her! On the contrary, on our return flight, we sat with a old hong kong couple next to us. They loved playing with my son – showing him pictures of tigers and elephants in magazines they found on board the flight, and even folding aeroplanes for him! At the end of the flight, they waved good bye to him, commenting that he was such a pleasure to travel with as they were so entertained. I must say that it was OUR pleasure to travel with THEM, because it was THEY who entertained my son and made him happy.
So there, hong kong is not child-unfriendly, and the people there love children! So if you plan to head to hong kong with your LO, go ahead and enjoy! 🙂
(On nursing in public, because I was daunted by all the blogs I read, I returned to the hotel every afternoon to breastfeed my son. It was also to let him have a nap and have some safe place to crawl around to expel all his cooped up energy. On my final day, I spotted someone nursing in the MTR station. Bingo! Air-con place, fewer people around and thus fewer judging eyes. Or any of the nice malls I’ve been to. I’ll do that next time if my son is still breastfeeding)