Feed on

Day #8: Macau

Note: as mentioned here, I’m only posting this over 3 years later. Unlike some of the other posts from this trip, I didn’t finish the draft.

We left the Hong Kong Disney Resort around 6:30am in order to have a full day to explore Macau. Being familiar with the journey, I didn’t even bother to book ferry tickets in advance — just taxi to the pier, buy the tickets, hop on the boat. You’re there an hour later. In Macau, the MGM sent a limo to pick us up (unsure of why, really).

I’m always fascinated by Macau, though this time it was far more familiar and thus less of an unexpected delight. Nonetheless, the mash-up of Portuguese and Chinese cultures (and architecture) with the Las Vegas casino gaming overlay (only with far more gaming revenue) makes it quite unique. To me,

This is where the original draft ended. I’m now completing the recollections en route to Qatar in June 2023…

From what I recall for this part of the trip, we wandered around the historical Portuguese center, visited the primary casino area (Koti Strip?) for mostly “retail therapy” where Libby “discovered” a new (to her) handbag brand (Moyant), and ate some enjoyable dim sum at the MGM Grand (which also gave us a complimentary room upgrade, also for no clear reason).

Overall, our sense at the time was that the visit to Macau was fine/good but not as thrilling as our first time there — whereas Hong Kong was much better. In that way, the trip reminds me of our 1st and 2nd visits to Vienna and Salzburg, which were one was “great” and the other “meh” and then vice versa on second trip.

Days #6-7: Hong Kong

Note: as mentioned here, I’m only posting this over 3 years later w/ minimal clean up edits.

Well, sort of “Hong Kong,” if I’m being honest…

We spent these two days at Hong Kong Disneyland, which admittedly seems like a waste of at least one day. However, there are good and valid reasons for this:

  • The protests / riots in Hong Kong led me to want to avoid the city, especially on the weekend when an election was being held.
  • Our flights were originally scheduled to only leave Shanghai after noon on Sunday — so, we expected to have minimal time in Hong Kong on that day.
  • Disney was running an insanely cheap promotion that enabled us to get a two day ticket for almost no more money than a single day admission.
  • We planned to leave Hong Kong early on Tuesday anyway in order to enable us to visit Macau overnight.

So, my logic was: let’s just stay on Disney property, reduce any risks of getting caught up in violence, and take advantage of the cheap second day that evening.

Then our flights changed (a couple of times actually — not sure what was going on with China Eastern), which had us arriving in Hong Kong closer to mid-to-late morning. So, that’s how we ended up with two Disney days instead of one.

The park itself is small in scale compared to others. It’s also very well planned with good flow between areas (despite significant construction going on). Crowds were rather light on Sunday (little to no queue for most attractions) and nonexistent on Monday (when every ride was basically a “walk on” without a wait). The girls had an absolute blast, and I actually enjoyed myself too on both days (which pleased me, as I thought the second day might put me in a bad mood — I hate “wasting time” on vacation). We’ve also all now been to every Disney theme park in Asia (visiting them all worldwide has become a goal, especially for Libby).

Our hotel, Disney Explorers Lodge, was a bit more of a mixed bag. The outdoor and indoor public areas are very nice. The room was rather basic, not wildly comfortable (overly firm mattresses and no chair aside from one by the desk), and thus objectively the worst of our trip (which is a bit unfair given the quality of hotels). However, the accommodation was serviceable and a fair enough value (thanks to deep discounts to attract wary visitors).

My biggest complaint was the food at the resort. It too was generally serviceable (at best), but it seemed extraordinarily expensive relative to quality and portion sizes (more than any other spot on the trip). Disney dining options often strike me as poor value… though there are some notable exceptions (the breakfast buffet at Animal Kingdom, many of the small dishes / drinks at Epcot festivals, etc.). But, this was kind of a buzz kill… not because I can’t afford the meal… but just because I’m annoyed spending something like $9 for a bottle of still water in a place where you can’t otherwise drink the water.

By this point in the trip, we’d made it fully onto local time albeit with an “early to bed, early to rise” bias, which ultimately proved helpful given our itinerary.

Days #1-5: Shanghai, China

Note: in the interest of time (or lack thereof), I’m writing these posts more in batch form and impressionistically vs. my usual day-by-day recap.

Days 1 & 2 were really all about the journey, having left home around 7:00am on Tuesday morning and arriving at our hotel around 8:30pm on Wednesday night. Given a good deal for miles on DeltaOne, we flew to Shanghai up front, which was a real treat for the gals (despite it being in one of Delta’s old 777 cabins before adding the suites).

I also booked us a 1 bedroom suite at the Marriott City Centre. Very nice room. This also proved to be a wise decision as some of us could sleep while others used the living room.

The transfer from airport (usual dystopian environment after spending half a day on a plane) to the hotel was very smooth. After dropping off our luggage, we went to Starbucks for a coffee and headed out to the neon lights of Nanjing Road to find some dinner (ate some really good, spicy Sichuan dishes).

The big challenge with this journey is getting onto the right sleep schedule. Emerson suffered the worst, as she got the best night’s sleep on the way over. Libby and I managed to fall asleep by 2 or and were up again by 6 or 7 (after a pretty restless night). Emerson didn’t sleep at all.

Day #3, which was Thursday, started with complimentary breakfast at the executive lounge (a great perk of my Marriott lifetime status). We then returned to the room and let Emerson sleep for about 3 hours before waking her up (really unwelcome!) and heading out for the day.

We didn’t do too much on Thursday — explored the area around The Bund & People’s Square and visited the Shanghai Museum. Honestly, our main mission was fighting exhaustion and staying awake during the day. Dinner was less successful this night–not that the food was bad. It’s just difficult to enjoy a meal on the verge of collapse. Indeed, even walking back to the hotel a few short blocks felt like a struggle.

We did have one of the funnier moments of the trip at the restaurant. The wait staff didn’t speak English. But, our waitress really wanted to ask us a question. When we didn’t understand the Chinese (despite speaking it too us more loudly), she got a piece of paper and then proceeded to write the question down in Chinese for us (as if that was likely to help). LOL

Thankfully, the Internet came through with real-time translation. Thus, we established that Emerson did not want ice in her water. And, as it turned out, she didn’t want the water either since it was “with bubbles.”

We were all fast asleep by 8:00pm or so.

Day #4 started early… I was up at one o’clock in the morning, and the girls weren’t too far behind me a couple of hours later. Today was our visit to Shanghai Disneyland. I booked our tickets online (quite cheap compared to US prices) and paid a bit more for early access to the park. This paid off as we were able to do many rides (some twice) first thing in the morning and then spent the rest of the day at a more leisurely pace moving around the park.

We had a late lunch at a Wolfgang Puck’s in their version of Disney Springs, called Disneytown. We also did some shopping there and had salted custard egg bao from Crystal Jade.

We left the park around 5:30 and made it back to the hotel by around 7:00 (traffic was heavy). Emerson fell asleep in the car, despite our best efforts to keep her up. We then fell asleep in the car, despite our best efforts to keep each other awake. Dinner consisted of snacks from the nearby convenience store, as we mostly just wanted to go to bed.

Day #5 saw us awake fairly early, which enabled us to grab coffees and a light breakfast at 6am. We then relaxed for a bit before heading out on a dumpling tour and class, which started at 10:30am. This was a blast. The food tasted excellent (the pan-fried soup dumplings were especially revelatory), and the dumpling-making class was a lot of fun too. We also had a nice, small group with us including a New Zealand / South African expat couple living and teaching in Shanghai.

After the tour, we wandered back to our hotel through the French Concession, which felt far more “Upper East Side” than “Midtown” to us. We didn’t see a lot of hotels (at least not big, international chains) in this area, but it looked like a nice spot for eating and drinking (not to mention a short walk to the exquisite dumpling and bao spots). We came upon a market that was oddly celebrating Thanksgiving, as well as a number of historically important sights related to the founding of the PRC (which admittedly were largely meaningless to us).

Dinner was a light meal from room service, as we still had many dumplings in our belly.

Overall, Shanghai was a joy despite our being in a bit of a jet lag induced fog. It’s probably not a fair comparison because I go to Beijing for business, not pleasure, but I personally liked it Shanghai a lot more. We could have probably used one more day to really see the city, but this worked out well. We’d happily come back here.

Day #1: To Shanghai

Note: as mentioned here, I’m only posting this over 3 years later w/ minimal clean up edits.

Today’s just a travel day: Tampa to Atlanta, Atlanta to Shanghai.

Due to the length of the flight and departure time from Atlanta, we left Tampa around 9:45 in the morning, which meant driving to the airport in rush hour. Thankfully, that was the only real “lowlight” of he day.

We boarded our plane in Tampa on time, and Emerson was very pleased to see that we’d secured first class seats. She also quickly tumbled to the fact that that might mean we had first class seats to Asia too. And, she was right! I’d booked us in Delta One on the route over, which was a real treat for the gals.

In Atlanta, we visited the Sky Club before boarding our flight aboard a Delta 777 (sadly one of the planes not yet retrofitted with the Delta One Suites). It’s probably Delta’s worst business class hard product in my opinion, as I prefer even the 767-300s. But, the ladies were happy, which made me happy.

Note: I’m actually writing this about 4 months later during our visit to China. Just catching up. :-)

Note #2: as mentioned here, I’m only posting this about 4 years later w/ minimal clean up edits.

Like last summer (which I didn’t write about), Libby and Emerson flew to the UK for a “long weekend” in July to spend time with me during a two week work visit for me. This year it was actually a bit longer, as they left home on a Thursday and returned home on a Wednesday. Given my work schedule, they had to self-amuse a bit on the weekdays, but we still found time to enjoy time together over the weekend and in the evenings.

Here are a few of the highlights (in no particular order):

Libby finally got to tour Buckingham Palace, which is only open to visitors for a few weeks in the late summer and thus usually didn’t work out well with her schedule around the start of school.

We enjoyed a delightful and new walk along the Regent’s Canal from the Paddington Basin to Camden Lock (where we enjoyed lunch at the market) before carrying on to King’s Cross.

We finally saw the hit musical Hamilton, where we had very good seats at a reasonable price! I can’t say that it was my favorite musical ever (though I really enjoyed it), but I appreciated the creativity and novelty associated with it. Emerson was a big fan! I’m willing to speculate that it’ll be an important milestone in the history of the art form.

We ate all kinds of great food at some established favorite spots, as well as some new places too. Highlights included another trip to Red Farm (which the gals enjoyed more in this visit), the Bun House (the salted duck egg custard bun was revelatory), Vagabond (a fun wine bar near Paddington Station), Taqueria (my favorite taco spot in London), the Michelin-started Yawatcha (good not not wildly better than Duck & Rice, which is owned by the same restauranteur), a hipster BBQ place in Shoreditch which I thought was more “alright” than “spectacular” (name lost in the mist of time), and Farm Girl in Notting Hill (which always seems to be wildly popular based on the lines, but we thought was more “okay” than “awesome”).

All in all, this was a fun interlude, and one of the benefits of my current international job — it gives us the airline miles and reason to travel overseas just a bit more than usual.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »