The 2018 Hong Kong Flower Show.

One thing I love about Hong Kong is how many organised events are on during the year. One which has proven to be elusive over the past few years however has been the annual Hong Kong Flower show at Victoria Park; it seems that every time it came around, we were out of town to my disappointment.

With this in mind, you could imagine the pure joy when I spotted the flyer advertising this years show a few weeks prior and I realised that for once we would be here during March to enjoy it.

Excited, I asked Panda if he wanted to go; his eyes said “I’d rather swallow razor blades than go to a flower show” but he agreed to go to appease his wife.

We had been ridiculously busy during this period as we were moving apartments but Panda kept his word and arranged a day for us to go. Even more exciting was we would meet some friends there, which would be a nice break from the insanity of moving.

So off we went. I armed myself with my favourite sun hat and spf 50 for a Sunday afternoon at the park, with a heavy air of expectation- this was a Hong Kong Bucket list moment!

At this point, a Hong Kong savvy person may have had alarm bells ringing in their head at the fact that we had planned to go on a Sunday afternoon; Sunday is the busiest day of the week in Hong Kong, every single week, in every single place! Usually I may have clued onto this fact, except we were in the midst of moving and between brain fog and lack of availability, Sunday seemed like a good time to go. Rookie mistake, whoops!

Arriving, our first observation was a sea of people, most of which were doing selfies or just trying to get close enough to the displays to get a good photo.

Admittedly not as busy as the last night of the Chinese New Year Flower Market, but close!

At this point I am 200 % sure if we were not with  friends, Panda would have “renegotiated” the terms of our afternoon activities, and we would have ended up at one of the local shopping centres- which at this point was also swarming with people!

To venture into the park, we had the option of getting a physical ticket or the more efficient (and environmentally friendly) method of swiping your Octopus Card. To my surprise, the entrance fee was only $14 HKD for full price tickets (roughly $2.30 AUD) which was crazy good value considering the time, planning and resources put into the show.

So off we went, wading through the sea of bodies (and selfie sticks) trying to get near the displays. Patiently waiting in the lines around the displays, it was a matter of shuffling up to the front, taking the obligatory pic and moving on in a timely manner so that the crowd behind you could also get a look. Most people were well behaved but with every crowd there is always the odd person who thinks queuing does not apply to them.

As great as the displays were, I realised after the first few that I hadn’t even taken the time to fully appreciate them in the crush of the crowd. You could say, I literally did not have enough time to stop and smell the roses!  Still, I was rather inspired by some of displays, and despite my lack of gardening ability, it made me miss my backyard in Australia as I considered all the things that I could do and plant in our garden when we go back someday, touch wood!(no pun intended!)

Foot traffic around some displays did not seem to move very fast so we skipped some regrettably. In the end, we left relatively early with the intention of coming back on a less crowded day, or at least that was the plan. We did not quite get back there, and while I have technically ticked that box on my bucket list, I am already hoping that we will be around next year so that I can get the full experience.

Having said that, I am still glad we went. Some displays I really liked;

These shiny horses!

And this whimsical cottage with the most lovely garden.

I already wanted to move in to the whimsical house then Panda pointed out the resident squirrel. So cute!

Fact: I don’t just love Pandas. One of my favourite animals are rabbits, so any thing rabbit related, I cannot get enough of. And certainly these little ones were no exception. Look at those loveable faces!

It was also exciting to see these guys as it was almost Easter, so this was a seasonal reminder that it was spring and the Easter Bunny was coming soon- though I think the Easter Bunny did not get my new address this year as he didn’t come to me!

Then there were these butterflies, that reminded me of the white butterflies I often see fluttering around in my backyard in Melbourne, just a little smaller!

Such a simple addition to the garden, but a nice touch!

A couple more cute houses with lovely gardens!

This table set up (below) inspired me a little. In Australia, we use our back garden as another room in summer, preferring to sit out there when evening comes and the outside temperature is cooler than the inside of the house. I would not object to having this set up for those twilight meal times. Take note Panda Man!

My favourite pick of the bunch however was the most simple; this carpet of beautiful tulips. I stood and gazed on its beauty for as long as I could. Give me a dozen tulips over a dozen red roses any day!

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Five great things about living in Hong Kong.

I have been here for about two and a half years now. During this time, I have been through phases of mental fatigue related to living in a foreign country, feelings of isolation and bouts of homesickness. But the good news is that it is not all bad. One phrase that has snuck into my vocabulary is “We wouldn’t be doing this if we were in Melbourne!” to which Panda’s response is always to roll his eyes, given that he has often been the more homesick of the two of us.

I know every time we go back to Australia that there are certain things we wish we could bring back (Fresh Air? A Woolworths store? My doctor and dentist?!) but there are other things that we have grown accustomed to in Hong Kong .

It’s more complex then a shortlist, but if I had to narrow it down to my five favourite things;

1.Public Transport (P.T) :

Living on Hong Kong Island we are spoiled for Public Transport. We have trams, buses, mini buses, taxis, trams and ferries. P.T. is excellent value for money, services are regular and best of all, they’re clean and well maintained, as are the stations.

The Octopus Card is used for ticketing and can be used on all forms of transport, except cabs. It can be easily topped up at the Mass Transit Railway stations (or as we call it here, M.T.R. stations) or at one of the many gazillion 7/11 stores around.

The last time I used P.T. in Melbourne, I ended up missing a train despite being at the (unattended) station 20 minutes early. There was an issue with my Myki card and I wasn’t willing to travel without a ticket. As there was no one at the station to talk to and I couldn’t resolve the issue in time, I ended up missing the train and then had to wait at the isolated station for another 25 minutes. The words “This would never have happened in Hong Kong!”  spewed forth from my mouth as I saw the train departing without me, making me appreciate Hong Kong public transport even more.

2.The beautiful sceneries:

On my first trip to Hong Kong, I had no idea how many beautiful sceneries Hong Kong hosts. My impression was that it was all city sky scrapers which is far from the truth.

It was while we were waiting at the A12 bus stop outside of the Hong Kong International Airport that I turned to Panda and asked “Hong Kong has trees and mountains?!” He looked amused as he explained that yes, Hong Kong has many trees and mountains.

Australia has many natural wonders also,  but I like that in Hong Kong there are water, mountain and city landscapes all in very close proximity. I look out my window and I see boats cruising along the harbour, I see the mountains on Kowloon side staring back at me and the iconic bright city lights and neon signs. Our nightly walks are by the water  while weekend strolls are through the hills of Hong Kong. How can you get bored with that?

  1. Public Facilities;

While some people might like to talk about the great night life scene in Hong Kong, I am a quiet koala who likes to spend her time at libraries and strolling the local parks.

Libraries:

The day I first felt like a resident was not the day I arrived or got my visa; the day I felt like a real resident was the day I got my library card.

There a many small libraries here but the jewel in the crown is the Central Library in Causeway Bay. 12 floors, most of which are available to the public, jam packed with all sorts of learning resources in both Chinese and English. It is every book worm’s dream.

Parks:

Parks are like little oasis’s in the city that break up the concrete jungle.  They are clean and well cared for. My favourite park, Hong Kong Park in Admiralty, even has fish and mini tortoises making the park their home!

Parks are a hive of activity. For some, it’s a  place to practice tai chi and exercise, a place to read or socialize with friends and for kids, a space to shed some energy after school.

Bigger parks like Victoria Park hosts many activities during the year such as Lantern Carnivals or flower markets, making them important places in the festive calendar for the community. I am sure many memories have been made in local parks during Hong Kong’s history.

(Victoria Park – top, Quarry Bay promonade – bottom)

  1. Festivities:

We have so many festivals throughout the year in Hong Kong. While I don’t even understand the significance of them all, it does give the place a celebratory tone throughout the year.

Just some to note;

January 1st- “Western New Year” : Usually there is a countdown and fireworks display over the harbour and if the weather cooperates, it’s dazzling.

Chinese New Year: This is the “real” New Year in Hong Kong. Once Christmas has passed, the city seamlessly transforms from Christmas lights, to glittery gold and red decorations. Animals start to appear everywhere; this year there were dogs for the year of the dog.

Street corners are adorned with brightly coloured fruits, and flower markets blanket local parks during this time as well.

C.N.Y is an interesting time to be in Hong Kong. Even if you don’t follow the tradition, it is hard not to feel the joy, it’s infectious!

Mid-Autumn Festival: if coming in to Autumn is not exciting enough (I hate summer more than I can express!), we get to celebrate this special time of year with free lantern carnivals and eating moon cakes. If you are brave, you can wear a flashing fluorescent Minnie Bow on your head because you are in Hong Kong and Hong Kong does not bat an eye lid at an adult wearing such head-wear. I can tell you this from personal experience!

Christmas: Yes, Hong Kong does Christmas too and because no one can out decorate Hong Kong, the Christmas displays are amazing.

These are just the annual events. Throughout the year there are always other activities so it’s easy to find something to do, and because every where is so accessible, it’s easy to get there.

5.The convenience:

One notable thing about living in Hong Kong is the overall convenience.

Shopping centres and supermarkets are not in short supply on Hong Kong Island. In fact, I have a supermarket under my apartment building so I don’t even need to leave the building to do grocery shopping. Perfect for those crazy rainy days we get during the wet season.

There are many restaurants in residential areas making it easy to grab a quick meal on the go or if you are lazy like me, just Deliveroo it!

Part of Hong Kong’s convenience is due to its small size. After living in such a spread out place as Australia, it definitely alters your view on what is “too far away!”. A one hour drive to work feels pretty standard in Melbourne, but one hour commute to work in Hong Kong- now that is way too far!

Of course all this convenience is good but can it be too good? Definitely! You can get so used to it that you become a tad lazy because everything is so close and accessible. When things are run so frequently and efficiently you can begin to feel impatient when things don’t run the same way when you go back home. Funnily enough, it’s during these times when we go back to Melbourne that Panda and I will end up saying to one another ” we wouldn’t be waiting this long in Hong Kong!”

Have you been to Hong Kong? What are some things you enjoyed about the “fragrant harbour?”

Moving day.

Face Book regularly reminds me of milestones during the journey that is my life. Some leave me thinking “what was I thinking?”, others, “wow, I forgot about that!”

This week, there were recollections of a significant day; the day I left Melbourne as a resident of Australia, to become the expat koala girl that I am today in Hong Kong.

This is a modified version of something I wrote three months after my arrival. It is hard to believe time has gone by this fast but here we are.

Join with me, as I remember.

I didn’t sleep the night before. That was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t even go to bed. I am sure my neighbours appreciated hearing the vacuum cleaner at 3:00 a.m., and me then dragging boxes into the garage at 4:00 a.m. all while the rest of neighbourhood was eerily quiet.

My suits cases had been ‘packed’ for a week, but the contents had been constantly repacked, as I washed and sorted my belongings. The most time-consuming chore was deciding what I was leaving behind, a torturous task for an indecisive koala.

By 4:00 a.m., I had lost my sanity. Maybe I had packed it in a box somewhere? It was to be the last hours I would spend with my pets, but instead of snuggling up with them, I was pacing the house like a mad bear. My dog, who is a sensitive soul, put herself in the dog house outside, away from the havoc being created by the crazy lady.

Before I knew it, it was 6:00 a.m.. All morning I had been wishing that time would slow down, but it didn’t, it just seemed to slip away faster than the previous hour. By now there was no feeling of excitement, just exhaustion and a deep sense of dread for the inevitable knock on the door.

Believe it or not, moving overseas had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. (Think of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Breakaway” and you may get the picture)  As a lesson in not tempting fate however, I had said to Panda in late 2014, that I was taking the goal to relocate off the table for the next year, so that I could focus on other important and timely priorities. Of course, less than a month later, stuff happened, and the consequences of those events changed the course of our future in ways that we hadn’t even realised at the time. Before we knew it, we had committed to moving to Hong Kong.

We packed up our house in less than four weeks and moved in with the panda mummy for the interim. I was due to fly over but had to cancel my relocation last minute as I had unexpected family business to attend to. By time I finally arrived in Hong Kong, Panda had already been there for six months. This was coming after a horror Christmas period, which then followed us into the new year and beyond. I could safely say that we needed a holiday from everything and everyone, not an international move, but alas, such is life!

Just before 6:30 a.m. I got a text from the taxi company advising me that the driver was on his way and minutes later I could hear the big, Yellow, Ford sitting in the drive way.

I guiltily hugged the dogs for the last time as they sadly watched me struggle down the hall with two heavy suit cases, a back pack and a lap top case, on my own. They had seen Panda’s suit cases months earlier. The dogs knew what a suitcase meant and they didn’t like it.

As we drove down the freeway in the dark, the driver politely asked me about my trip. I told him I was relocating overseas. He shared with me that he had moved to Australia from India a year ago. He said he loved Australia but he was the only person in his family living there, so he was lonely. He was excited about visiting India in the next few months to reconnect with his loved ones.

As I sat there, I realised that the world is full of expats and migrants. I may call Australia home, but to someone else, it is a foreign land, away from the comfort of familiarity, family and friends. I figured, if this kind, young man from India could survive a year here, then I was going to be fine as I at least had friends and family in Hong Kong and I had come this far already.

We eventually arrived at the International Departures Terminal and the driver helped me to unpacked the car. I paid the $110 AUD taxi charge, and loaded my bags onto a luggage trolley. My biggest anxiety was being late for my flight so I promptly shuffled into the departures hall in search of the airline.

The good news was I had arrived early, a rare occurrence, a miracle! The bad news, the person who checked me in was incredibly rude and condescending, lacking any empathy. Maybe she was at the start of her shift and didn’t want to be there? Maybe she was at the end of the shift and was tired?! Maybe she needed a Snickers Bar? I don’t know! I couldn’t bothered making a complaint, so I will complain about it on the internet like everyone else, Ha! It turned out that my whole moving experience was disjointed and stressful, even down to the check-in.

When I finally escaped the check in counter, I made my way down towards Cafe Vue for breakfast. I savoured my last Melbourne coffee. I even indulged in a chocolate crackle as I knew that I would not find one in Hong Kong. Besides, it’s a known fact that calories don’t count when you are travelling, though I may have made that up to justify the  chocolately goodness!

As I sipped my cappuccino, I watched random planes and people and frantically tried to message and call as many people as I could before I boarded; the next time I would turn on my phone, it would be a long distance phone call.

As I walked down the air bridge onto the aircraft, I said my silent good-bye to Melbourne as I sombrely prepared to leave Aussie soil with the heaviest of hearts.

On the surface, the flight was uneventful. The staff on board were much friendlier than the woman who checked me in. I amused myself by eating and watching movies for ten hours. The plane made it safely from point A to point B most significantly, and as the flight wasn’t full, we had space to stretch out, so it was actually a good flight, thank GOD!

Stepping off the plane into Hong Kong, it was the first time that I wasn’t there as a holiday maker, with a head full of exciting holiday plans. This time it was me arriving as an expat, clueless about what I was doing, and pondering the foundations I now needed to establish and how I would do that in a way that suited me.

My work was (and still is) cut out for me, but after months of uncertainly it was good to finally arrive.

 

Hello Blogosphere!

12019980_1015652668487175_959969694075072424_n(1)About two years ago, I was on the verge of making my first move overseas from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong.

Amid the million thoughts I had during this time, there was a very persistent one – should I write a blog about my experiences in Hong Kong?

Eventually these thoughts were drowned out by the stress of moving and questions as to why I would write a blog. After all, who would read it? I’m not a writer, do I have any thoughts worth sharing? What if people don’t like what I write? Will it become a self-indulgent, glorified diary?

This train of thought continued, and I teased myself with hypothetical questions like, what would I name a blog? After thinking of some rather forgettable names, A Koala Girl In A Panda World came into being and once the name was created, there was no turning back.

As I am a bit of a cautious koala, I decided to start a Facebook page as a bit of a tester,  which to my shock, I still maintain two years later. Alright, a bit of a glorified diary,  but still,  I have interacted with some really interesting people who I would not have otherwise and I figure, if one person finds the page of interest or is inspired to visit the Fragrant Harbour, then that is all right with me!

Of course, after two years, that voice in my head still asks, nags and questions, “Should you be writing a blog?!”

I think we by now know the answer to this question…So here I am, giving in to the voice in my head that tells me to write. A.K.G.I.A.P.W will continue on Face Book because realistically I still need to feed my social media addiction, but I will be challenging myself to write a little  more and I feel this is a good platform for this, so hello Blog Universe. Please be kind.

sincerely,

Koala Girl,

from a panda world.