Reflections on returning home…

We kept blogs of our 5 week journeys to Western Australia in 2008 and the ‘Top End’ in 2009 and I can no longer imagine travelling without keeping such a record to share and for posterity. The irony of my personal philosophy, when I travelled independently in my 20s, that ‘life was for living not recording with a camera dangling inanely around your neck’, is not lost on me. Life is a funny like that sometimes and one is best to laugh at such cosmic jokes.

As I said in 2008, when reflecting on our travels in WA, that Kiama is a salubrious place to return to after a trip. Nothing has changed. It is great to be home.

I asked the kids and Kate what were their highlights of our 4 months overseas and here’s what they listed. Kate says, in no particular order:

  • The British Museum
  • Becoming teary at the momentous experience of all that culture and history at Westminster Abbey
  • Arriving in Naples, the craziness and how nice people were in that city
  • Our day on Capri
  • Hong Kong (especially after dark and the night markets)
  • The food – especially yum cha in Hong Kong, pizza in Naples, Denmark, and the Brick Lane ‘Aladin’ restaurant
  • Legoland
  • The Space Mountain roller coaster ride (or at least Darcy screaming and laughing hysterically in the darkness of spaaaace)
  • The pure joy on the girls faces playing with new Danish friends at SFO (after school in Viborg)
The girls were very clear and could place their favs in order:
  1. Hong Kong Disneyland
  2. Legoland
  3. School in Viborg
  4. Masks in Venice
  5. The boat ride around Capri
  6. Being in London
To make my list, the event, day or activity had to make me feel truly elated or deeply emotionally or intellectually stimulated. Not everything is a biggie, some in fact, are quite small events but just made me feel so right. In no particular order:


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  • walking the Appian Way and along the Tiber in Rome
  • catching a taxi to Roma airport with Joe Jackson on the radio
  • teaching Marianne’s and Kim’s classes at Viborg Katedralskole
  • helping ‘the bloggers’ and Aleksander at Viborg Katedralskole
  • Photographing Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Viborg Katedralskole
  • Being in London again, where I want to live
  • Finally visiting Westminster Abbey
  • Walking by myself for a day and taking a great Mountain Goat tour in the Lake District
  • Watching Sarah handle a real crush on ‘the tube’ in London with serenity and good humour.
  • Lucy in Macau speaking to a bookshop assistant so beautifully, “excuse me, do you have any children’s books in English”
  • The kindness of strangers and new friends
  • These three photographs


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

My final special memory is catching the bus every morning, with Kate and the girls, to school in Viborg. I loved how the girls dressed, with their gumboots and ‘school uniform’. That ‘tunnel’ looms large too.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

4 months is a long time to be away from home with young children. Lucy and Sarah, I can honestly say, expressed no feelings of homesickness at any stage, during our time away. I am proud of them for this and the way they travelled positively, ate well and walked endless kilometres as we explored. They talk with strangers confidently, make friends easily and enjoy a joke…often at my expense.

Lucy is very keen to travel, on a school trip with me, to Korea next year. Her big dream is to journey to Egypt and Sarah will happily accompany her. Kate wants to go to Japan and I will happily accompany her!

This has been a trip to remember and one that came about unexpectedly, with an offer of exchange to Denmark. I hope that we can travel in Europe again, when the kids are older, and see Spain, Greece and Eastern Europe. Not sure when that will be but we look forward to our future travels.

I heard someone once say, of young children and experiences, that ‘folders are opened in their minds’ and they will be accessed and added to for many years. This works for me as an image of what travel does in regards to learning. I hope that ‘the folders’ opened on this trip will prove more than just useful for the girls in the years ahead but memories that are joyous.


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Last Day in Hong Kong


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I awoke pre-dawn and wandered around some of the less touristy parts of Discovery Bay with my camera. I felt rewarded by what was on offer and a few good shots were taken. This one of dawn, through some kind of net, was taken from rocks near the marina without a tripod.


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I thought this was an abandoned boat, then a guy turned up to drag it out to sea. It didn’t look terribly seaworthy to me and like the owner spent more time drinking the brand displayed than on maintenance.


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The replica of the ‘Bounty’, William Bligh and Fletcher Christian’s ship, was a little more impressive. I wonder if there is only one replica or if this is one of many. Anyone know?


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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

This ‘urgent warning’ seemed a little dire and I certainly do not feel ‘ready’ for ‘the return’. It was hung on a rusting fence, near a dilapidated pier and some kind of overgrown market garden, 100 metres away from touristy accommodation.


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We all planned to travel to Ngong Ping for our final day in Hong Kong but Kate was ill and just the three of us took the cable car to the Po Lin Monastery and Giant Buddha. The journey takes about 30 minutes each way and were lucky enough to have a ‘crystal cabin’ with a transparent floor. I foolishly packed the wrong battery and even Sarah’s coolpix was flat after a few shots so we missed out on some great scenery being recorded. Here’s a corny video of the 5.7km cable car journey to the village to complement our scant photographic record.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

We didn’t have much time to explore Ngong Ping village or the monastery but certainly enjoyed our stroll and there were plenty of surprises on offer. This included ‘twelve generals’, each with a different symbol from the Chinese horoscope. The girls had fun identifying each one with much debate about ‘is it a pig or a dog?’ etc.. The giant incense sticks proved fascinating to the girls until they were driven back by the ‘stinky’ smoke.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Sarah’s little coolpix takes great shots and I really like this one of the girls and the buddha.


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We made it back home and left for the airport with time to spare. We were able to manage our 4 x 23kg bags and our 4 x pieces of hand luggage at airports between us for 4 months without assistance. The 9 hour, 5000 km flight, with Virgin Atlantic, went smoothly. The screaming twins (and I mean SCREAMING) we could have done without (especially at about 3am) but otherwise, all was fine for our eleventh and final flight.

One more post needed…

Macau

I feel a little weary after another long day and could pretty much say of Macau, in a very short post, we were extremely pleased we made the effort. And it is an effort to take the ferry to another country, navigating customs four times in any day. Actually, like Hong Kong, Macau is one of China’s two ‘Special Administrative Regions‘. The Portuguese handed over Macau in 1999.

Some trivia, Macau has the second highest life expectancy on the planet, so they must have something right.

I noticed the large number of local newspapers, in Chinese, Portuguese and English available at the news stands when we arrived and just did some quick research uncovering that Macau has the ‘highest media density‘ in the world. Although, it seems that press, although free, is reluctant to challenge Beijing, organised crime or the status quo too much.


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We had an excellent Macanese lunch at Alfonso III. It wasn’t looking too good in the opening minutes though as we were ushered to a table next to a guy in a haze of Pall Mall cigarette smoke drinking shots of whisky and keen for a chat. However, Antonio was an interesting man, born in East Timor and very knowledgeable about Macau. His menu recommendations were gold, the Portuguese style baked sole with a roasted mash was truly divine. Lucy even raved about the fish and she is not a seafood person.


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There was plenty of good, fresh-looking food at street stalls. I liked the look of the sweet meats but didn’t try any. We had an ice cream to cool down. I found it difficult to reconcile that a copy of National Geographic magazine cost less than a single scoop of Häagen-Dazs.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

We liked the vibe on the streets and noticed that people seemed dressed differently to many in Hong Kong. There was a real vintage, retro look going on and we saw many stores selling gear that confirmed what we were seeing. The most unexpected sight, in one of these shops, was a Men at Work album sitting, incongruously above clothes hooks.


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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Lucy spotted this oddly named store and we all came to the inevitable conclusion as to why there were no customers.

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I spotted a very odd variation on the Ronald McDonald image and tried to snap some other unusual tshirt designs with limited luck, as people were walking too fast (and sometimes running) ;)


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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

The view from the ferry, departing Macau at night, is spectacular.


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However, Hong Kong nights are just absolutely awash with neon. We love it!

‘The Peak’

It was too wet to journey to Macau, as planned, so we caught the ferry to Central and ascended ‘The Peak‘ via the tram. Turned out pretty well as the rain cleared the pollution and we spent quite some time checking out the views. There were at least five ‘eagles’ circling but it was too cloudy for me to get a shot of them. It was glorious to watch them soar against the backdrop of forest and city. I checked out what was online and believe they are ‘Black Kites’. Here’s a video of them in flight with appropriate music.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

Sarah had great fun with her camera and snapped a great perspective of my tripod use with her little coolpix and placed it at her Flickr page.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Sarah Rose 2006


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I liked the light in the lift for portraits on the way down.

Kate failed her 70s martial arts film star challenge, thinking this was Jackie Chan. I had no clue if it was Jackie or Bruce but twitter soon cleared up any confusion.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

We have eaten at authentically local style restaurants and cafes in Hong Kong but broke the rule today by eating a Forrest Gump themed restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly. I have never heard of the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants (remember the film?) and found the food better than the movie (which nauseated me in parts). The view was superb and the ‘eagles’ were circling as close as 20 metres away from our seats. Anyway, it is good to have a variety of experiences. ;)

That reminds me, we also came across a quite odd and very expensive toy soldier shop today, King and Country. I wondered who exactly patronised the store sufficiently for them to pay the rent in the very ritzy Pacific Place mall in Queensway. Lucy was heavily into the Egyptian figures, especially the ‘mummification’ scene. I also lingered.

We wandered through the Hong Kong Park and enjoyed the manicured lawns, waterfalls and pond for a few moments before it started to rain. There were abundant large koi and some turtles.

Macau tomorrow. We hope!

Hong Kong Disneyland


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Four months ago we made a pact with the kids regarding our travels. If they were ‘good travellers’, a day at Hong Kong Disneyland was on offer. The definition of ‘good traveller’ was carefully explained:

  • eat everything
  • walk everywhere
  • no whinging (even when your parents do)
  • be polite to everyone
  • watch out for each other
  • make it work
  • …and no falling over (much)
Lucy and Sarah have done brilliantly well. Sarah fell over two or three times only, once pretty dramatically but we have seen real effort is some areas that are difficult for young children. Lucy really worked hard at being ‘less fussy’ with eating. We saw her eat food that a year ago she would have refused, regardless of threats, rewards or parenting skills. A couple of occasions in particular were noteworthy in restaurants and at people’s places for dinner. When we told people that they walked, on average, 10 -20 kms each day, I could see that they either admired the effort or felt sorry the little darlings had such hard task meisters as parents. Either way, it was a damn fine effort!
Lucy and Sarah, you deserve your reward!


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The kids were at fever pitch this morning, such was the expectation. I dreaded the day as it was another nail in the coffin of the ‘things I said I’d never do’ list. Now I am taking the kids to Disneyland. Oh well. We all have to compromise. ;)

We caught the bus to Sunny Bay and then a Disney train to our destination. The carriage was very kitsch with Mickey handles etc.. we arrived and the kids were blown away by the size of the place.

I was instantly made to go on a hellish Space Mountain roller coaster ride and seriously hated it. Screamed most of the way, then laughed uncontrollably. Lucy and Kate loved it and poor Sarah would have been better if she wasn’t sitting near her father, who sounded hysterical. She closed her eyes and blocked her ears but said she also ‘loved it’ when she got off.


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It rained a little during the day and I wished we had the same wet weather gear the Disney workers were provided with by their employer. Check these two happy campers out below. We found all the staff great, cheerful and obliging.


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The Lion King live show was excellent and we really enjoyed an animation workshop. The artist was projected on the screen as she showed us how to draw Jack Skellington. She checked out everyone’s work and awarded Lucy with her demonstration sketch. Lucy was tickled pink. I thought Sarah’s effort was good too.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

The day went really quickly. The kids had no interest in sitting down for food or rest and covered most of the park. Kate went to Disneyland as a kid and had fond memories to relive too. I wanted to be elsewhere but did not want to be a misery guts and did my best to be cheerful, which wasn’t too hard.

We waited to the (bitter) end and watched the fireworks. I experimented with my monopod and ISO settings to capture a couple of okay shots.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Disneyland is well-served by public transport and we were home in no time flat.

The kids said they wanted to write a blog post. Hopefully something comes of that tomorrow but at the moment they are both very soundly in the Land of Nod.


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Kowloon


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We had a fantastic, exciting night in Hong Kong enjoying the vistas, markets, superb food, bustling streets, ferries, bargains, oddities, coffee and laughs. We arrived home at midnight with absolutely buzzing kids.


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The highlight was the Temple Street Night Markets and surrounding streets. The contrast between this area and the other end of Canton Road, where designer labels have Blade Runner-esque visuals and ritzy stores tower over the streets, is quite extreme. Some distinctive examples of this contrast with the world of Chanel, Louis Vetton and Armani was the omnipresent bamboo scaffolding and the dried octopus for sale at the other end of the street.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Lucy and Sarah were more curious than horrified at the ‘authentic’ crocodile head for storing scissors found at the markets amongst the clocks, paintings, fake iPhone 4s and countless other stalls. We picked up a few pieces and I was really pleased to find a bargain-priced, yet good quality monopod for a few dollars. It really assisted me with the first photo in this post and these silhouettes below. It is really challenging to carry my proper tripod around all day, with all the other gear for four, so this monopod is a handy solution.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Once again, we had some great culinary experiences. I tried some cold duck eggs, prepared Vietnamese style and the girls ate oodles of Shanghainese noodles. The highlight though, dessert. Check out the ‘chilled’ tofu and watermelon.


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cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

What the hell is this product, ‘tense up’, I asked? Kate says it is for one’s face, to make it ‘tense’. I have my doubts and welcome your insights.


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The kids are great in crowds. We have a system, when it is too packed to walk hand in hand of going ‘Indian file’. The kids do this with military precision and are always up for silly, imaginative games as we explore. I have always loved wandering the streets of a new city, town or village. Kowloon is a real treat and I hope to return alone, with camera and tripod, before we fly to Australia.

The ferry ride is justifiably famous and worth doing again.

Just before we finally got to bed, past midnight, I asked the kids if we should postpone going to Hong Kong Disneyland, their big reward for 4 months of being good travellers, to be shouted down with howls of protest.

Of course they could ‘handle it’!

Central Hong Kong


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This blog is a record of our ‘European Trip’. However, it is reasonably fair dealing to mention Hong Kong, as it is on the way home from our travels in Europe.

We have an apartment at Discovery Bay, on the island of Lantau. There are no cars permitted in the area, except for buses and golf buggy-like carts, in an attempt to make the natural beauty more pristine. The island is known as ‘the lungs of Hong Kong’. The pollution is quite bad everywhere and the cartoon below, spotted at the piers, is about right.


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We decided on a day in Central Hong Kong. Armed with our four Octopus cards (why can’t NSW get its act together?) we were ready for the mission. We agreed that yum cha and dumplings were the number one priority. Kate had done her research and we headed for Maxim’s. It was the best dim sum we have ever had, by far.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Lucy and Sarah ate everything and enjoyed gallons of green tea. We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table but it is easy to see why the queue was so long. Lucy would wait for any length of time to have the mango pudding again.

We checked out the things one is supposed to check out when in Central Hong Kong, well a few of them anyway. This included temples, churches, the markets in GageStanleyGraham and several other streets in Soho, off Hollywood Road. The temperature was over 30 degrees but no complaints were registered, even though we walked most of the day. I always enjoy street art but there was not much of it about. This was an exception.


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I slunk into some camera stores and looked at some secondhand lenses. They were over-priced. I noticed this guy had a good accessories though.


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We had freshly made and quite delicious dumplings at a place in Wellington street for dinner before catching the ferry home. We will head to Kowloon tomorrow, on the Star Ferry. We are keen for the night markets and more great Asian food.


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