Bringing Natalie to Hong Kong was an awesome experience. Not only did she get to meet a ton of relatives who just ooo’d and aaaah’d all over her, but she got to eat really great food (can we say fresh steamed fish everyday?). Her usual diet of chicken nuggets or fish sticks from home was no where to be found the whole time we were there.
I had only read a little bit about having a toddler in Hong Kong before visiting. It was overall a really pleasant experience and I think it’s a lot of fun to bring a toddler to Hong Kong. Here are some of my notes/tips/advice/observations:
1. It’s not as stroller friendly but it’s possible
Before going to Hong Kong, I perused a bunch of expat websites and tripadvisor about tips for bringing a toddler to Hong Kongâ€¦and there was one theme: use a baby carrier instead of a stroller. Hong Kong is not stroller friendly. Yikes â€“ we LOVE our stroller. We are fortunate enough to have a child that somehow gets all zen when in the stroller and naps easily in one. I figured it was a sign when *gasp* on our way to the airport I realized we completely forgot our stroller and left it in our garage. Argh! Itâ€™s okay, I said, we have the Ergo. The websites told me that thatâ€™s the way to go anyway! On our first day, we strapped Natalie into the Ergo onto Mattâ€™s back and, miraculously, she fell asleep in it (sheâ€™s fallen asleep in it before but not since, like, before she was 1â€¦and certainly never on the back). Success! The Ergo will do! How wonderful and convenient it is as we manage the narrow crowded streets of Hong Kong. However, at the end of the day, we were tired. See, when we go to Hong Kong, we walk A LOT and we walk a lot of stairs and escalators and what not. Sure, Natalie can walk on her own but itâ€™s tough carrying a 27lb toddler on your back all day.
The next morning, the buckle on the Ergo broke. It was a sign.
We found ourselves at the Harbour City shopping mall on Canton Rd in the chidrenâ€™s section looking for a stroller (the same mall where Gucci Kids and Burberry Children was located, I kid you not). After surviving the mad rush of Toys R Us, we walked into a pretty big chain in Hong Kong called Mothercare and came out with a nice Maclaren Volo. We wanted a light umbrella stroller that we could probably resell easily in Seattleâ€¦and Maclarens are hugely popular in Seattle (we ended up reselling it for $80 when we got back, not bad!)
We loved the stroller. Not only did Natalie nap in it every day but it held my hugely heavy diaper bag plus all the shopping bags we would acquire during the day. It was so light and easy to fold and collapse, which proved very handy when jumping onto a bus and carrying her down stairs to the MTR station.
Now, itâ€™s not easy but itâ€™s do-able. Hong Kong is full of escalators and stairs. There are elevators but theyâ€™re either jam packed or out of the way typically. We frequently pushed the stroller onto the escalator (*gasp*) out of convenience and usually had to lift her over the turnstile at the MTR station (if youâ€™re lucky, youâ€™ll come across a wider turnstile that accommodates strollers)â€¦.but it was all worth it. If your child loves napping in strollers, stick with a stroller.
2. Most high chairs are just boosters
Surprisingly, most restaurants in Hong Kong have high chairs; however, their version of a high chair is what look like a booster seat that (sometimes) is strapped onto the chair. More often than not, there are absolutely no straps to hold down the childâ€¦which, when you have a squirmy toddler, spells trouble. Fortunately, I had read about this and got a Totseat in anticipation. Thank goodness â€“ that thing came in sooo handy.
3. It’s culturally normal for people to take photos of your child
I had also read about this ahead of time and mentally prepared for it. We would often be taking a photo of Natalie and then some stranger would pass by, whip out their phone, snap a picture too and say â€œcute!â€ and carry on. There wasnâ€™t any â€œmind if I take a picture of your child?â€. It was just perfectly normal for them to take a picture! Even stranger was that people would come up and want to hold her and take a picture with her. When we were on Victoriaâ€™s Peak, a line even formed of others that wanted to also take a picture with her! Odd.
4. Children’s menu? Hah
Restaurants donâ€™t have childrenâ€™s menus, unless itâ€™s a really Westernized restaurant. If you go there expecting macâ€™nâ€™cheese and chicken nuggets as options next to your Beef and Broccoli, youâ€™re out of luck. Fortunately for us, Natalie LOVED eating steamed fish which we often ate. Otherwise, I did keep a healthy supply of vegetable pouches in my diaper bag for the times that she refused any of the food.
5. They love kids, whether they’re happy or having a tantrum
This one is hard to describeâ€”itâ€™s not like Americans donâ€™t love kidsâ€¦but thereâ€™s this unspoken â€œyour kids are really cute until they start crying in which case they are invading my personal space so please remove your chid until they are a cute, smiling kid againâ€. As a result, when your child is having a tantrum, you just get these â€œpoor youâ€ looks from others. In Hong Kong, itâ€™s the opposite â€“ when Natalie would cry, the waitress, people at the table next to us would jump at the chance to talk to her and help calm her down. It was really reassuring feeling like it was okay if she cried in a public spot.
6. Babycare centers — a palace for diaper changes
Itâ€™s pretty standard in the US to walk into the ladies restroom and find the Koala changing table attached to the wall somewhere to change your babyâ€™s diaper. Well, in Hong Kong, they sometimes have thoseâ€¦but more often than not, they have â€œbabycare centersâ€. This is usually in a mall (and malls are everywhere in Hong Kong)â€¦and range from being a small room for one family to a large facility designed for several families. Whatâ€™s inside is usually a soft, rubberized changing table, a separate small room with a comfy chair for mom to nurse or pump and a bottle warmer. In some, there would be a small potty for the newly potty trained. Itâ€™s really amazing. The one in the Harbour City mall is ridiculous and contains like 8 changing stations. It really is a palace for diaper changes.
7. Need milk? Go to 7 Eleven
Milk is not a normal drink for most Chinese in Hong Kongâ€¦as a result, itâ€™s usually not anywhere on the menu in any restaurant (again, unless itâ€™s a more westernized restaurant). So what do you do? Pick up milk at the 7 Eleven. They sell them in small containers that are just the right size for a sippy cupâ€¦and donâ€™t worry, thereâ€™s a 7 Eleven every few blocks and in every MTR station.