Since my wife is a teacher and both of our kids are in school, one of our big chances for family travel comes at spring break. Everyone in the family gets a say in where we want to go and then I search for flights to try to make it happen. This year, our family decided to visit friends who had moved Tokyo last June.
Since I was planning to use miles to pay for the flights and Asia is quite far away, we wanted to fly in business class. After doing a bit of searching, it became clear that Cathay Pacific would be the best option and since we were flying with them, we would need to connect through Hong Kong.
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We visited Hong Kong on our Southeast Asian adventure a couple of years ago and loved it, so when the option presented itself, we decided to do a quick stopover on our way to Japan.
Getting to Hong Kong
One of the best ways to get where you want to go when traveling in business class with miles is to be willing to split up your family if necessary. As our kids get older (now 11 and 14), this gets easier and for this trip it was necessary.
The highest number of seats I could find in Cathay business class after school got out on Friday was 3, so I booked Chrissy and the boys to fly out of Boston on that flight. My schedule is a little more flexible, so I flew out of Toronto earlier in the day, while they were still in school.
Splitting up like this meant a couple of things. First, we needed connecting flights to Boston and Toronto. Easy, we have plenty of points and connecting flights are often cheap. I used American Express points to get them to Boston and I picked up a cheap flight on Air Canada to Toronto.
Second, I would arrive in Hong Kong about 14 hours before the rest of the family. This turned out to be great. Instead of all of us arriving at 6 am and having to hope our Airbnb would be available for early check-in, I got there the evening before and easily got our apartment.
Where We Stayed
Last time we were in Hong Kong, we stayed in the Wan Chai neighborhood on Hong Kong Island. This time, for something different, we decided to stay in Kowloon and experience the bustling, modern part of the city. Since getting a hotel room for a family of four is often challenging outside of the US, we decided to go with Airbnb.
Our Airbnb host had given us awesome directions for the bus from the airport, so after picking up an Octopus Card, I hopped on a bus and went to our apartment. After checking in, I wandered around the Kowloon neighborhood a bit and had some dinner. When I woke up in the morning, Chrissy and the boys had landed and were already on their way from the airport.
Since we all flew business class and I even had an extra night in Hong Kong, we were all rested and ready to spend the day exploring.
Kam Shan Country Park
There’s a park where you can go and hike, surrounded by monkeys? What???
How we possibly missed this last time, I don’t know, but we made sure it was our first stop on this visit.
Kam Shan Country Park, also known as Monkey Hill, is a quick ride towards the north side of Hong Kong. You can either take a combination of metro trains and buses or a car to get there. We used Uber to get to the park, but there were no cars available for our return to downtown so we ended up hailing a cab. Luckily, the driver was willing to stop at an ATM because I had left my wallet at the Airbnb and I had all the cash.
Avenue of Comic Stars
Google Maps can be a great tool for exploring a city and finding smaller things that you would otherwise never see. As I looked at the map of the area near our Airbnb, I saw that there was something called the Avenue of Comic Stars only a few blocks away. On our return from Monkey Hill, we had the taxi drop us off a bit early so we could see what it was.
The Avenue of Comic Stars runs along one edge of Kowloon Park, which is quite large and beautiful on its own. When we entered the park, we found a large event set up for Roly-Poly Day and tons of painted figures that Chrissy and I felt best resembled the Weebles we played with in our youth.
We weren’t exactly sure what a roly-poly was, but it was cool to see and we walked through some of the park before continuing along the Avenue of Comic Stars. Each character on the Avenue has an identification plate that explains in English who the character is and who the artist who created it was.
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
After lunch, we once again headed to the northern part of Hong Kong to visit the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden. If you are going to see one of these, you should plan time to see both, as they are right across the street from each other. I would recommend visiting the Nunnery first and then spending some time relaxing on one of the many benches in the garden.
Both of these sights have been restored in the style of the Tang dynasty. The Chi Lin Nunnery includes a huge, beautiful wooden Buddist temple and many temple halls with Buddist artifacts. The grounds are covered with lotus ponds filled with koi, at at the present time, a bonsai exhibition.
The Nan Lian Garden is like a small oasis in the middle of the city. There are waterfalls, ponds, rock features, and an unending array of plants, flowers, and trees. The ponds have huge koi populations and it was excellently relaxing to stand and watch them swimming smoothly through the water.
To Sum It Up
There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong and the surrounding area, you can easily spend several days exploring and not come close to seeing it all.
The beauty of such a diverse city, however, is that you don’t have to see it all at once. We’ve now been to Hong Kong twice and have never gone up to Victoria Peak, often rated as the number one thing to do when visiting. (hint-Don’t to do this within an hour of sunset. We tried and the lines for the tram were ridiculous!)
Last time we were in Hong Kong, we played in the rain for most of our trip and saw a lot of amazing sights. This time, we had great weather, spent more time outdoors, and saw completely different things. I have no doubt that we will visit Hong Kong again, and I can’t wait to see what we discover on our next trip.
When you are planning family vacations with long flights, don’t be afraid to stop in the middle and enjoy a day or two in your connecting city. Hong Kong is a great place to do this with kids and in our case, it gave us a day to get used to the new time zone before we met up with our friends in Tokyo. You never know when you might discover a new city that you absolutely love.
Have you been to Hong Kong with kids? What was your favorite thing to do? Let us know in the comments and maybe I’ll get a few tips for my family’s next visit.