On the way to Sydney with our two children (aged 10 and six) we’re stopping off in Hong Kong where we’ll have a full day to get out and about. What places and activities would you suggest to interest the whole family?
There’s lots in Hong Kong that invariably appeals to children – as well as adults. And what’s more it’s pretty safe, clean and efficient. Perhaps most striking is the very look of the place: the landscape with great forested mountains reaching abruptly down to a coastline packed with skyscrapers is like something out of a sci-fi movie. The means of getting about, meantime, is an adventure in itself. A trip to the viewpoint of Hong Kong - Island’s Victoria Peak - will neatly combine all this.
Wherever you’re staying, try to start or end your day out by taking the wonderfully retro Star Ferry across from Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui terminal to Central on Hong Kong Island – upper deck tickets cost all of HK$2.20 (14p), lower deck HK$1.70 (11p). The ride takes less than 10 minutes and offers spectacular skyline panoramas. From the Central ferry terminal, the No 15 bus takes you up to the base of the Peak Tram. But “tram” is a misleading term for this exciting funicular that, with a gradient of one in two, is said to be the steepest in the world. Take a seat on the right-hand side to get the best views as you ascend through urban life and up into dense vegetation. The funicular runs every 10-15 minutes from 7am until midnight, with return tickets costing HK$33 (£2.12) for adults, HK$15 (£1) for children.
At the Peak viewing terrace, urban Hong Kong is dramatically spread below you – while behind is a plethora of shopping opportunities as well as a good choice of restaurants and cafés where you can sample a noodle lunch, sandwich or more. Within the complex is a Madame Tussaud’s (00 852 2846 6966; www.madame-tussauds.com.hk) which may offer your children a welcome sense of the familiar, but with a neat Asian twist. Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and others feature along with Bon Jovi, Bill Clinton and more. It’s open daily 10am-10pm; adults HK$120(£7.70), children HK$70 (£4.50).
Take the funicular and then the bus back to Central. But get off before you reach the ferry terminal. And catch another tram. Hong Kong Island retains an endearing, doubledecker tram service that dates from 1904. Its clanking vehicles look comically narrow and anachronistic as they trundle along a route running parallel to the north shore and passing beneath the high-tech, high-rise buildings there. There’s a flat fare of HK$2 (13p) – regardless of whether you make one or 100 stops – payable as you disembark.
I’m spending a week in Hong Kong with my three children, aged between 12 and five. Once we’ve taken in some of the traditional “mustsees” and have inevitably done some shopping,what particularly child-friendly attractions would you recommend?
Many of Hong Kong’s museums have huge appeal for children. On the Kowloon waterfront, the Space Museum (00 852 2721 0226) at 10 Salisbury Road is a wonderful haven of hands on activity. You can land on the moon and then visit a space station of the future but perhaps best of all are the Hall of Astronomy and the Sky Theatre, which has one of the biggest planetariums in the world. The theatre also shows a changing programme of IMAX films on space and wildlife (open Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri 1-9pm; weekends, plus public holidays, 10am-9pm; admission to the exhibition halls adults HK$10 (65p), children HK$5 (32p) – admission free on Wednesdays; admission to the Sky theatre adults HK$24 (£1.50), children HK$12 (77p).
Over at the Science Museum (00 852 2732 3232) at 2 Science Museum Road, there’s another lively mix of education and fun. Four floors of interactive displays feature exhibits on robotics, computers and more. It’s open Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri 1-9pm; weekends plus public hoildays 10am-9pm; adults HK$25/£1.60, children HK$12.50 (77p) – free on Wednesdays.
For a full day out head to Ocean Park, near Aberdeen in the south of Hong Kong Island. This huge and vibrant complex is both a marine and theme park with aquariums and dolphin shows and sharks, rides and even a recreated village with pagodas, temples and street scenes. Citybus 629 runs to Ocean Park from Central pier and from outside Admiralty MTR subway station. (The park is open daily 10am- 6pm adults HK$208/£13.35 children HK$103/£6.60; 00 852 2552 0291; www.oceanpark.com.hk).
Since September 2005, Hong Kong has also been enjoying its own Disneyland. You can meet Mickey and Minnie on Lantau Island. There are jungle river cruises, a Cinderella carousel, Tarzan’s treehouse and a host of interactive games as well as the trademark castle and lots of shows and parades.
There is a good choice of transport to Hong Kong Disneyland: for the majority of visitors the MTR gateway at Sunny Bay station is the most convenient; buses R8, R11, R21, R22, R33 and R42 also run here. (Hong Kong Disneyland is open daily Sun-Thurs 10am-8pm, Fridays and Saturdays 10am-11pm; adults HK$295/£18.90, children HK$210/£13.45; HK Disneyland also operates different prices for “special days” – these are HK$350 for adults and HK$250 for children; www.hongkongdisneyland.com).
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