Archive for March, 2011

22
Mar
11

Escape to Hong Kong- Part 2

 

Disney Day Deux

I forgot to mention in the previous post how smoothly getting home the night before turned out to be. Walking back to the park entrance to return our strollers, then heading to the shuttle buses, we were in a huge crowd of people and anticipated having to wait in a long queue. But most of the crowd peeled off into the MTR station, and we did not have to wait at all. Lucky for us, as the boys were all fast asleep on our shoulders!

The next morning, all the boys woke up excited to go back to Disneyland. After breakfast, we headed back to the park. Unfortunately Trey was asleep (last time he was asleep as well), so we could not get a photo with the five of us in front of the park entrance sign. One thing about having triplets is that we wish we could take more photos to capture the memories, but all hands are usually needed to keep these guys from running amok!

We definitely recommend taking the train ride around the park as one of the first things to do at Hong Kong Disneyland. The route circles the park, and the sides of train cars facing the park are open. This way you can survey each theme area and decide which attractions you want to visit first. Some of the features which are done especially for the train passengers include Toy Story aliens peeking over the wall in Tomorrowland and animatronic animals when passing through Adventureland. Our boys enjoyed it, despite an overexcited little boy behind us excitedly screaming in Cantonese to the consternation and embarrassment of his mother.

The first ride we headed for was the Jungle Cruise, making sure we picked the English language queue. It might have been interesting to see what the Cantonese and Mandarin versions were like, but none of us speak those languages! While waiting in the queue, Trip fell asleep, and was dozing on my shoulder the entire time on the ride.

He missed explosions, roaring animals, and a fiery volcano, which almost scared Trey and Troy, but as you can see from the photos they were enthralled by the whole shebang.

Heading back to Tomorrowland (is that a contradictions?) we queued up for the Buzz Lightyear ride, which is my personal favorite, as it adds a layer of interactivity giving passengers on the ride laser guns that they can use to shoot targets, which activate some kind of motion. It feels like a three-dimensional arcade game, and Troy absolutely LOVED this one, so I had to bring him back again for another go-round (though neither of us scored as high the second time around), and we had to purchase a Space Ranger blaster for him in the gift shop conveniently located at the exit.

This ride also allowed for use of the Fast Pass system (as does Space Mountain and Winnie the Pooh. That is where you check in to return at an appointed time to bypass the bulk of the queue. While waiting you can go off and check out the minor attractions, get something to eat, or go to the bathroom. A big plus, especially when you have little kids. (If you don’t mind spending a little extra, the Star Pass program looks like a pretty good bargain at HK$80 for a VIP experience with preferred seating and Fast Passes, especially as the weather gets hotter).

Next time we come, we will have to take the boys on rides they didn’t have time to see or they were still too young to experience, like Stitch’s Encounter and Space Mountain, respectively. Also, we learned that Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point and Toy Story Land will be added to the park expansion, which make it even more enticing to visit.

The last ride before we left was Orbitron. We almost didn’t go on, but noticed that there were no lines. We asked the boys if they wanted to go up, and Trip, seeing how high the ride went said “Mai pai! (I don’t wanna go!)” We suspect he has an aversion to heights like his Mommy. So Mook and I took Troy and Trey, the four of us perfectly fitting into one space pod (Mook’s motherly obligations overcoming her acrophobia). Trey and I were up front, and I showed him the control handle that made us go up and down. He relished in the control, while I heard Troy behind us going “Oooooh!” The sun had begun to set and the weather was getting cooler, but not-quite-chilly. Yes it’s similar to a carnival ride, but the setting, the moment, was truly magical.

And while the boys eventually may not remember it (seriously, how many things do you remember from when you were 2?), Mook and I have wonderful memories of this weekend, and we can’t wait to tell them about it when they get older.

***

A Magical Accommodation

Mook and I love going to Hong Kong. We love meeting friends to enjoy a cocktail and the view from Sevva. We love hunting for bargains along Kowloon and Central. We love eating dimsum and wonton noodles and Peking duck. We love the energy of the LanKwai Fong nightlife scene. But we never thought of it as a kid-friendly destination. While we never ventured into Hong Kong proper, we found Hong Kong Disneyland to be a very positive experience for our family.

First of all, if any of our friends is planning to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, we would highly recommend they stay at one of the park’s hotels. We really really enjoyed The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel for several reasons:

Shuttle

This free shuttle bus is so convenient to get to the park. For our boys, we wondered if we would have to come back to the hotel for them to take a nap. With the shuttle bus it would not have been a problem (one-day passes are good for reentry, just have to get a stamp before leaving to get back in).

 

Comfortable Rooms

Clean, comfortable, and full of amenities, not much more you can ask for. The television had one channel showing Disney short cartoons in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, which helped calm the boys down when it was time for them to drink their milk. Perhaps it was because we were so tired after exploring the park, but Mook and I slept very well in the beds. And the bathtubs were very accommodating for bathing three boys at once!

Kid Friendly Accommodation

Even though our hotel was beautiful, and felt like a five-star Victorian mansion, you were always reminded that this was a Disney hotel, and the kids came first. Near the check-in counter, there was a nook with kid-sized stools in front of a TV playing Disney cartoon. The Mickey Mouse motif everywhere, in the carpet patterns, on top of the luggage carts, and on the slippers. They even have kid-sized slippers in the rooms. (They were still too big for our boys, but they still loved wearing them.) Employees (I mean Cast Members) were always handing out stickers, even the housekeeping staff. It is like one of the questions they ask everyone when hiring is “Do you like kids?” And everyone has to say yes and mean it.

One extra special treat: when the hotel learned it was our boys 2nd birthday, the housekeeping staff made them clever birthday cakes out of rolled and folded towels and colored pipe cleaner! Each of the boys also got a birthday card, which made for such a wonderful memory for all of us.

 

Breakfast with Mickey & Friends

If there was one reason I absolutely feel like staying here was worth it, it is breakfast at the Enchanted Garden. Yes it was very delicious with a great selection of Chinese and Western favorites for the morning (including Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles), and yes the staff was very used to dealing with kids. The real treat is that you can actually meet all the Disney characters while eating!

The lines at the park to take photos often stretch to at least a half-hour wait (sometimes longer if it was a popular character). But here, Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, and Daisy Duck came right up to our table to take photos! Even to a jaded grown-up like myself, that. Was. Way. Cool.

 

Fun Facilities

In the garden behind the hotel is a very fun hedge maze, like you see in The Shining, except without a crazed murderer. Instead, you might see a frazzled Dad trying to get his three boys to turn and look at the camera at the same time. But our boys really loved running around it; it was tall enough to be an adventure for them but us adults could still see each other.

There was also a playroom and a studio where girls could dress up as a princess and take photos with Disney characters, along with an indoor swimming pool and a nice-looking spa (which must be a godsend for frazzled moms).

 

Late Check Out

I know this is probably only available when they are not full, but it was a huge relief for us to know that we could check out in the afternoon, giving the boys a chance to nap before heading to the airport. We spent our last few hours relaxed, rather than scurrying and hurrying to catch a ride back to the airport. That’s how a vacation should end.

And as we were leaving, the pianist in the lobby was deftly playing Claire de Lune, which is my all-time favorite classical piece from Claude Debussy’s Suite bergamasque.

It was such a beautiful way to end a magical weekend, our first international adventure with Trip, Trey, and Troy.

17
Mar
11

Escape to Hong Kong: Part 1

First Class Trip

Upon Arrival

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 4 am to head to the airport. Whoever agreed to a 6 am flight to Hong Kong should be punished severely. (Oh, that was me, sorry guys.)

The boys slept peacefully all the way to the airport, and when they woke up on our shoulders, it was in the midst of the transit hubbub of Suvarnabhumi airport. Rather than being annoyed, they were all quite amused at the strange atmosphere. We changed them out of their pajamas and into some stylish travel clothes before heading to immigration.

Our travelling party was me, Mommy Mook, Trip, Trey, Troy, and our nannies Paula and Norma. (If you are wondering why our nannies have such Western nicknames, it is because Paula’s Thai nickname is พร which spelled in English is not flattering, so everyone in our house calls her Paula. Norma is actually spelled นอม which sounds like Norm, and that felt a bit too masculine to me, hence Norma). The three little boys draw attention wherever they go. They handle meeting new people surprisingly well, friendly but reserved. I have a feeling they will be much cooler than their Daddy (if they are not already).

Fortunately, we have taken the boys on an airplane before, so we knew what to expect. Trey loves planes, he points to them and says “Bin Bin!” (Thai for airplane: Kruang bin). Our flight to Hong Kong was on AirAsia, and we took up one whole row, Mook and I on one side, the nannies on the other. The adults were all tired, but don’t even think about trying to sleep on a plane with a trio of excited two-year-olds.

I was tasked with filling out the immigration forms for everyone. With a thick stack of passports, I felt like a tour group leader. Which is not far off from the truth.

 

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, we proceeded to immigration. The line was long, but moving steadily. At that moment, Trey mysteriously started crying. Up until now, they had been perfect little gentlemen, but maybe he needed a nap or a diaper change. Everyone in line turned to look at us, not annoyed, but out of curiosity, though we were still quite embarrassed. One of the immigration officials then waved us over and put us at the front of the queue. That actually caused Trey to stop crying! Maybe this kid expects VIP treatment? That would be even more worrisome!

Moving sidewalks win attention over the camera 2 out of 3 times


Paula, Norma, and Trey.

 

We picked up our luggage and met our driver waiting for us with a name sign (one of the underrated of life’s cool moments). Upon Mook’s suggestion, our travel agent arranged a round trip van for our group for HK$780, round trip. (It would have cost HK$240 for us to take the train, but with all of our luggage, we decided it would be more convenient to pay a little extra and go direct to the hotel. Smart call, Mommy Mook.)

We checked into our hotel, the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. The best way I can describe it is an enormous, kid’s friendly, Victorian mansion. Working in the travel and hospitality industry, I have stayed in plenty of five-star hotels, and hotels that charge five-star prices but come up short. The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel? It was really wonderful; I’ll have to make a separate entry about it later.

The hotel swimming pool was smaller than we expected

After getting cleaned up and taking a short nap (the kids, not us, unfortunately) it was time for lunch. We ate at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, Crystal Lotus, a very fine looking establishment, but surprisingly kids friendly. The high chairs were very smart-looking, covered in what looked like velvet, but the cover was actually detachable and washable.

Trip, Trey, and Troy loved the Disney themed dishes and utensils, and we all enjoyed a lunch of delectable Chinese dishes shaped like cartoon characters.

Little Duffy steamed Lotus Red Bean Puree Bun


Mickey's seafood glutinous pancake.

 

My favorite dish, the fried rice stuffed with Tasmanian crab.

 

The boys’ excited screeching attracted the attention of an amused young couple from the Philippines eating next to us asked us the inevitable, if they were triplets. (You’d be surprised how often we hear that question, pretty much every day.) In between trying to feed the boys and eating my own lunch (which was really quite good), I talked to the couple, Vince and Hannah.

Lovely couple.

It turns out Vince also works in radio as a DJ, among several other jobs (I can relate) while Hannah is a TV host and blogger. I apologized if our rambunctious little guys were disturbing their meal, but they were very cool about it. As we had some mutual acquaintances, we exchanged contact information…before I had to go back to make sure the boys did not kiss the fishes they saw swimming below (in motion sensitive monitors embedded in the floor outside the restaurant).

Don't kiss the fish!

Sometimes it feels like we are herding cats, and we haven’t even entered the park yet! That’s next…

***

Disney Day One

Hong Kong Disneyland is easily accessible via the MTR subway, but staying at the hotel made it very convenient to get to the park. A shuttle bus came by every ten minutes or so picking up and dropping off passengers in front of our hotel, stopping at the Hollywood Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland, and finally the park entrance. In front of the entrance was a very cool fountain, which looked like Mickey Mouse on a surfboard, balanced on the waterspout of a whale’s blowhole. Troy, who is always fascinated by fountains, absolutely loved it, pointing and saying “Plu! Plu!” (Thai for fountain)

We noted at the entrance that children under 3 can get into HK Disneyland for free (Yay! X 3), and if we came back the price for kids 3-11 is reduced (from HK$350 per adult to HK$250).

We traveled with quite a bit of baggage, even for a short trip, and the triplets are at the age where they can walk a bit or be carried somewhat comfortably, so we did not bother to pack our own strollers. To explore the park, however, we would need something for them, so we rented strollers for HK$60 (plus a HK$40 deposit) each. The boys approved (by not screaming to be picked up when seated) and there was a nice-sized basket underneath to hold blankets and bags, so the adults were relieved.

These were the types of strollers that you could actually run with, with big all-terrain wheels, so it was comfortable. And they have little placards with their names in the back so we would not get them confused with other strollers. Still, when coming back, we had Trip sitting in Trey’s stroller, Troy sitting in Trip’s, and Trey sitting in Troy’s. I reasoned it is never too early for them to learn the concept of sharing!

Walking onto Main Street USA, you just get that Disney feeling right away, which is similar to the Disney I remember from Florida, an homage to small town America back in the day, with the theme dominated by Disney characters. Looking down the street, you see Sleeping Beauty’s castle. By day, Sleeping Beauty Castle sparkled and shimmered in the sun, as if covered in golden pixie dust. By night, there is a show where the castle magically transforms with dramatic illumination, as Tinker Bell’s magic pixie dust is showered all over the Castle. The kids could sense this was something special, because we heard them going “Oooh!” many times.

While we had prepared ourselves for cold conditions, with thick jackets for each of the boys, the weather was absolutely perfect while we were there. Not too cold, nor hot. Every day was sunny, with a slight breeze, so we considered ourselves extremely fortunate.

One of our first activities at Hong Kong Disneyland was incredible: the Flights of Fancy Parade, unique to Hong Kong Disneyland, occurred every day at 3:30 pm and was especially created to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Hong Kong Disneyland, so it will only be around for during the anniversary year from January 21, 2011 as part of the Celebrations in the Air

We staked our claim among the crowd along Main Street USA, and soon the parade began, with a marching band and Mickey’s Magical Airship leading the way.

The boys were utterly enchanted by the chance to see their favorite characters in person, along with acrobats. And bubbles!

When Winnie the Pooh came by in his balloon, Troy screamed “Pooh! Pooh!”

Next to us, in very cute Minnie Mouse ears was someone I thought was a Hong Kong star at first, but turns out she was a popular blogger named Qiuting from Singapore. She thought our boys were very cute, and when she saw Trip’s long and curly eyelashes, she said in a mock-jealous tone “Oh look at that, I hate him!” I posted a picture with her on Twitter, and a couple of my guy friends replied that they hated me too. (Guys, if you want pretty girls to actually come talk to you, cute two year olds are the best chick magnet ever.)

From there we headed to Tomorrowland to check out the first ride. We were going to go on Autopia, the car driving attraction around the track, but the minimum height requirement was 81 cm. Trey made the requirement easily, and Troy barely did, but little Trip was just one centimeter under the requirement and was not able to go on the ride. At first Mook tried to persuade them to let it slide, because it was only one centimeter, but staff remained firm, but kindly so. It was a bit disappointing that they would not all be able to go on the ride, but we understood that it was a safety requirement and had to respect the staff’s professionalism.

In the end, we decided I would take Trey to Autopia, as a reward for eating his food and drinking his milk so well! I let him drive (control the steering wheel) while I pressed the gas. He seemed to enjoy it, but not as much as getting a driver license and sticker at the end of the ride!

Tomorrowland also features Space Mountain, the roller coaster ride, but the boys are still a few years away from being able to experience that, so we moved on to Fantasyland, and caught the Broadway style show, The Golden Mickeys. Our seats were perfect, about four rows from the stage near the center.The show was in Cantonese, with English subtitles, so I think Mook and I enjoyed it more than the boys, but they would sit up straight whenever a Disney character was on stage.

We had lunch at Clopin’s Festival of Food. Mook was hoping to have some Peking duck and rice, but they were sold out until dinnertime around 6 pm. We settled on the Beijing Beef noodles, which were pretty good.

After lunch, we took Trip and Troy to ride the Cinderella Carousel, which we knew they would love. They called horses “Mahkokkok” and are all fascinated by them. Trey was napping in the shade with the nannies. Traveling with three boys, we have gotten used to sometimes having to do things with one of them missing, as their schedules are not always aligned. Ideally, we would want all of them to share the same experiences, but when one kid is cranky or napping, we accept that kids will be kids and try to let the other guys enjoy themselves too. When they get older they can tell each other what they missed; maybe that will motivate them to keep to the same schedule!

I was really looking forward to taking the boys to the It’s a Small World ride, because even though it is not really my favorite, I knew they would enjoy it.

It has everything a little kid could ask for: a boat, music, and dancing puppets. There is something timeless about it, and even though they may not understand the meaning behind the song, the lyrics are something every parent should agree with.

The day was drawing to a close, so we had dinner at the Cantonese Mulan-themed Plaza Inn on Main Street USA and did some souvenir shopping at The Curiosity Shop before settling in for the “Disney in the Stars” Fireworks show above Sleeping Beauty Castle, which started at 8 pm.

Trip, Trey, and Troy are no different from many kids their age in that they LOVE LOVELOVE fireworks. It’s always fun to see them gazing up in the sky in wonder. And with that, we headed back to our hotel.

My arms were aching from carrying one (and sometimes two) little guys at once and my feet were sore from all the walking. But it was worth it. And we would do it all again the next day…

***

12
Mar
11

Why don’t you take your kids to Universal?

In a recently cracket nugget:

Oak: Why don’t you take your kids to Disney World?”

Me: Because my boys are too small. I’m gonna give them a couple years. Because if they can’t go on the cool rides, then Daddy can’t. And if Daddy can’t go on the cool rides, why the */$<< are we there?"

04
Mar
11

Key Mao Book Klub Kids

I have to confess, I’ve never been in a book club before.  The closest I came was attending one with my friend in college.  He was a little bit wary because he had not finished the book (his excuse was something about studying for an exam, not the fact that he was playing Super Bomberman in the dorm lounge until 4 am).
The wine and cheese were rubbish, and it was pretty clear that half the book club was in the same predicament as my pal.  The other three people who had read the book were trying to outdo each other with references to previous works, possible allusions and motifs, and other notions that were surely not helping them get laid.
On the Twitter, a discussion between @ktiu @travelhappy @kamonwan @thisismim @warisara @andrewhurd @ches and myself let to the impromptu formation of an online book club, where we will choose one worthy tome of lituracher and discuss it through a series of tweets.  The name of our ragtag (hashtag) association has evolved into Key Mao Book Klub, or #kmbkk.

Warisara is the Queen Bee of this gang, I am only offering my quiet little page as an evanescent parlor (stocked with virtual wine and intangible cheese) to discuss our first choice of books and if there are any rules or guidelines.  The only thing we know at this point is that drinking while reading is allowed (and encouraged), while drinking while reading while driving is frowned upon.

Nominations and voting will be done via this Google document: http://ow.ly/47McZ

*Nomination open til Sat, March 5

*Each person can nominate up to 3 books and vote for 2

I’ll start with the first salvo:

When do we start?  If members are required to run to their nearest bookstore or fire up the Kindle, how much time do we give them to start discussions? Should we agree on a timeline?

Will we pick a certain day or time to begin hashing our discussions?

The comment section is at your disposal, dear KMBKK folks.