The complete Disney experience – Hollywood Hotel

Around this time last year, DB headed to the US with some mates to celebrate one of the group’s 40th birthday.  In one day they conquered Disneyland and California Adventure.

DB wanted to share this experience with his boys.  Late last year one of the newspaper travel supplements reviewed the new Toy Story Land at Disneyland Hong Kong.  In an act of spontaneity rarely seen in our house, we decided we would go as early as possible this year.  And started saving.

We wanted to go to Disneyland Park for 2 days.  Where should we stay?

Someone suggested Breakfast with the Stars where Disney characters visit while you’re eating at one of the Disney hotels.  The airport is on Lantau Island – the same island as Disneyland.  The hotels were in close proximity to Disneyland.  It was decided.  We’d stay for at least 3 nights at Disneyland.

In the end we decided to stay the whole 6 nights there.  In part because it was cheaper than elsewhere.  In part because I could think of nothing worse than packing everything up after 3 nights to move to another island for 3 nights to then turn around and get back to Lantau Island for our departure.

We stayed at the Hollywood Hotel.  It’s the cheaper, more family friendly option of the two Disney hotels.  From the moment we walked in to the hotel we were immersed in Disney.  As DB describes in his blog post “..it was a magical place of unreality”.

Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

Staying there really did make the experience feel special.  The iconic (as Squidge became very fond of saying) image of Disney – Mickey’s head – was everywhere.

The Room

We stayed in one room that had double beds.  They were clean, comfortable and spacious enough given we were always out and about and only really in the room when it was time to sleep (you can see good photos via TripAdvisor).  We got complimentary Disney slippers that we’ve brought home, Mickey themed shampoo & shower gel, and Disney cartoon cups for our toiletries with, you guessed it, Mickey tops.  Oddly we had to request sheets.  Who in their right mind would sleep in Hong Kong under a doona?

The main criticism we have of the room is that the tv, while playing kids (Disney) shows around the clock didn’t have a dedicated movie channel for the adults (not THAT kind of adult movie).  Given that our kids were in bed and asleep by 8:00pm there wasn’t a whole lot for us to watch, nor did the tv include a DVD player – so take your own.

The Facilities

Free wireless internet access was available in the lobby and restaurants.  It was great – we used it to Skype phone home (we went with credit of $9.00 and came home having only spent around $2.00 for 10 minutes of calls to Australia).

The grounds are beautiful.  Lots of room for the kids to run, adults to stroll.  There’s a playground – our 8-year-old was probably getting too big for it (but that didn’t stop him!).  The pool was lovely.  People on TripAdvisor had complained about the lifeguards, I didn’t find them rude – just cautious.  The kids made really good use of the slide.

Pool at the Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

There was, no surprise, a toy shop.  I think normally there are two, the larger one used for kids activities.  At the time we were there it had been closed for refurbishment.

There is a free shuttle bus that runs at very very regular intervals throughout the day.  It does a circuit route between the two hotels and the theme park.  I don’t think we ever waited more than a couple of minutes for a bus.  It was an extremely good service.

Shuttle Bus, Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

Food

At the time we were there one of the restaurants, The Sunset Terrace, was closed.  However there remained 3 options for food in the Hollywood Hotel.  Chef Mickey was the buffet style restaurant (open all day); Studio Lounge was a bar – come informal cafe and The Hollywood Diner was available in lieu of room service.

We ate at Chef Mickey twice – once for breakfast and once for dinner.  The food was great (highly recommend the Bircher muesli, while the kids no doubt would recommend the Mickey shaped waffles).  For breakfast it was around $80 for the 4 of us, dinner set us back $130.

The Studio Lounge was great for a casual dinner and apart from the one meal at Chef Mickey we ate here every night.  At 6:30pm a screen would descend behind the bar and a Disney movie would play for the kids to watch.  There is a dedicated kids menu – good value for around $11 for a 3 course meal but the choices are limited after one or two visits. Our kids had that one night, pizza another, and then moved on to the adult options.  Depending on our choices (and if they included a glass of wine or not!) dinner there set us back around $70 – $80 for the 4 of us.

Most mornings we had breakfast at The Hollywood Diner.  We could choose from a cooked Western or Asian breakfast but didn’t bother.  Each morning it was the same.  A bowl of fruit to share, yoghurt, corn flakes, milk and a couple of croissants.  $32 for breakfast for the 4 of us was pretty good value.  Had we bought supplies at Tung Chung which was a short train ride away, breakfast could have been a bit cheaper.

There was nothing however, stopping us as guests of the Hollywood Hotel, from eating at the Disneyland Hotel.  Our second morning we walked to the other hotel for Breakfast with the Stars in The Enchanted Garden.  It was great fun.  The food was similar to that of  Chef Mickey but it was a bit more expensive – $120 – but we did get to have photos with Mickey, Pluto, Goofy & Daisy – woot!  It did feel enchanted – even for the adults.

Breakfast with Mickey

In terms of accessing other attractions in Hong Kong from Lantau Island, it was a bit protracted – requiring at least 1 bus and 2 or 3 trains.  Having said that, the transport system is amazing and we made very good use of the Octopus Cards to tag on and off the MTR (thanks to my friend Anne who had been recently and gave them to us).

The Disneyland Train Station is at the entrance to the theme park and once again, the brand Disney is constantly, but rather delightfully, reinforced.

Interior of the Disneyland Train

We didn’t end up getting to see some Hong Kong attractions such as Victoria Peak and the famous Ladies’ Market – there was a limit to how much walking and sightseeing we could fit in given our distance from some of it.  But in the end that wasn’t why we went to Hong Kong.  It was to do Disney – and that we did.

A Week in Hong Kong and Never Ending Flights

The hodgeheg household (minus the chooks & dog) has just returned from a week in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was wonderful.  The flights were exhausting.

The last time we went anywhere that required jet fuel was when Bruce was 18 months old.  We flew to Cairns via the longest route possible because it was cheaper.  You think we would have learned.  I think it’s like having a new baby.  You forget how much you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, how exhausting and frustrating it can all be.  You only remember the good bits.  Perhaps it’s  the same hormones that are involved in child-birth and travelling long distances and it is these that wipe the bad memories from your brain.

Squidge and Bruce the last time we flew in 2008

We’ve resolved – from here on in only direct flights where possible.  However, travelling via Kuala Lumpur did save us nearly $1000.

I discovered a real downside to flying Air Asia was not automatically being allocated ear phones.  I’d paid for mini entertainment units for the kids from Perth to KL so they were okay.  I was not.  Because we were being cheap, I’d only paid for me, Bruce and Squidge to sit together, leaving DB to the mercy of the airline’s allocation system meaning he was 10 rows away from us.  I began to wish that the family sitting in front of me had done something similar.  Sadly they hadn’t.

Instead the mother and her three late teen/early 20’s daughters sat together.  On behalf of most Australians, I’d like to apologise for their behaviour.  I was thankful that my boys had their earphones in and therefore couldn’t hear the delightful game of “I Spy” that went something like:

“I spy with my little eye something beginning with F and W”

<squeal> “I know – F*&k Wit!”

Pure genius.

Nor did my boys get to hear the mother and one daughter observe that the toilet light had been on for ages and the mother make a bet that the occupant of the toilet was an Asian woman.  They seemed completely oblivious that they were flying with a company called Air Asia and that they were in the company of a lot of Asian people who would find just about everything they said highly offensive.

Sadly because they had the attention span of a Labrador puppy they didn’t see out their bet – emerging from the loo was in fact a caucasian male.

They fairly quickly exhausted the $50 worth of gossip magazines that they had purchased before take off.  This lead to a lot of complaints of being bored.  So they started a game I’ll call “Where’s Your Titty?”  because that’s what they’d say as they lunged at each other grabbing and poking (including the mother).  Eventually, they found each other’s titties (which took longer than I would have thought) and settled in to do a crossword.

“Who is the entertainment reporter for Channel 9’s Today Show? Richard someone”

“What other letters do you have?”

“w, i, l, k and n”

“That’s crap – how are you meant to know that?”

<internally I’m screaming Wilkins – Richard bloody Wilkins, I don’t even watch the Today Show and I know that!>

On the one hand I was relieved that Air Asia don’t serve alcohol.  On the other I could really have used a stiff drink about 15 minutes after take off.

The flight from KL to Hong Kong was unremarkable except the food was quite good but the plane didn’t look like it’d seen the business side of a cleaning cloth for quite some time.

Arriving at Hong Kong airport several days before we had a clue that the airport was big but not just how big.  We arrived with plenty of time before departure and I read a notice that it could take some time to walk to our departure gate and to leave enough time.  What it really should say is something like “THIS AIRPORT IS SO LARGE IT HAS A TRAIN TO TAKE YOU TO SOME BOARDING GATES”.  That, to me, drives home the enormity of the airport.  Guess who needed to take the train to gates 32 – 80?

We made it to our departure gate (gate 71) with 10 minutes to spare before the flight closed for boarding.

The plane wasn’t there.  In the hour since we’d last checked the board, our plane had been moved to gate 48.  We’d passed that gate on our way to gate 71.  We were encouraged by the Air Asia employee to hurry to gate 48.  We ran.  It felt like kilometres.  Bruce and Squidge were amazing.  DB sprinted ahead to make sure they knew we were coming.  We were by no means the last people on that plane and I wondered just how many people missed the flight.

That flight wasn’t a lot of fun either.  Unfortunately the family sitting in front of us did make it on with their 4 bags of pastries each from one of Hong Kong’s most famous pastry shops that they stored in the overhead locker and which they protected with ferocity when I stood up to put something in there too.  The person sitting in front of Bruce also took exception to his little feet pushing on her seat – quite frankly that’s as far as they could reach – he couldn’t really help it, and let me know that.  I spent the rest of the flight reminding him, and setting up alternate structures for him to rest his feet on.  And Squidge came down with a cold approximately 2 minutes after take off and we filled a vomit bag with tissues and drove neighbouring passengers crazy with his sniffing.

So, next time, direct flights with more frills.  I’ve started saving already….

Disneyland Hong Kong

Easter Cooking

As with most celebrations, we spent one day with my family and the other with DB’s.  Sometimes we’re organised enough to schedule something all together (like Christmas last year) but not this year.

I did some cooking for our gathering for DB’s family.  The other was much more casual, just a picnic at a playground where the kids can go crazy – called colloquially The Dr Seuss Park (actually called Kadidjinny).

Why is it called the Dr Seuss park?  Lots of red and white stripey poles, blue hills to run over, around and hide behind – basically a world for kids to discover and make their own.

I love this tree sculpture at the park:Back to Easter with the in-laws.  My mother-in-law was making delicious pierogi so between us, my sis-in-law and I threw together some side dishes and desserts.  Unfortunately, no photos of either.

Oven Roasted Pumpkin Salad

This is now DB’s all time favourite salad.  That’s good enough for me.  Here’s how:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts, or slivered/flaked almonds
  3. Peel 1/2 butternut/kent pumpkin and chop into 2cm chunks
  4. Place in a single layer in an oven dish with 1 red onion sliced thinly, and 4 cloves crushed garlic
  5. Drizzle with 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil & 60ml maple syrup
  6. Bake for 40 minutes turning occasionally until pumpkin is tender but still firm
  7. Cook 6 rashers bacon which have been finely diced
  8. Remove pumpkin from oven and gently stir in 30ml balsamic vinegar
  9. Add the pre-cooked bacon and set aside to cool
  10. Place 1 packet spinach & rocket salad leaves on a platter. Spoon over pumpkin mixture, nuts and some diced fetta cheese
  11. Serve at room temperature

This recipe came from our local primary school’s 10th anniversary cookbook, but no name was attributed.

Semolina and Almond Cake

Ohhh, I love this cake.  My middle sister introduced me to it and it’s one of the best cakes. It’s also a ‘grown-up cake’ which isn’t entirely fair to my children as they love it too.  But I make it when I want a dessert that’s a break from muffins and cupcakes.

At Easter it makes a nice break from chocolate flavours and the lemon syrup that you pour over at the end means it’s always moist.  Mmmm mmmm.

Best served with thick cream.

Rather than type out the recipe again, I’ve found it online.

Let me know if you try it (and like it!).

Things I Know About Boys – Toilets

This is the first post in my series on Things I Know About Boys.

In Australia, the toilet is known as many things.  Dunny, loo, thunderbox to name but a few.  In our house it’s loo.

For some reason which completely defeats me, my youngest boy Bruce will hold on until the very last minute before tearing off yelling, “I’m just going to the loo!”.  Prior to that however, I have noticed the signs.  The inability to sit still, jigging around and clutching his shorts.

I say “Do you need to go to the toilet?”.

He says “No”.

<repeat this several times over the course of approximately 15 minutes with a few variations, such as “Are you sure you don’t need to go to the loo?”>

Eventually he will tear off down to the loo in a funny run, taking 2 little steps for each normal step as if that’s going to stop him from needing to go.

Once in there, the boys disappear for ages.  Squidge, oblivious to the odours, will sit, playing games using his hands for exploding ships, guns or Transformers and making sounds of explosions, gun fire, and people arguing.

Bruce on the other  hand is a more social creature and would appreciate visitors when he’s on the loo.  That’s why, I presume, he yells out to us from in there, starting conversations or asking questions that are so left field I wonder how they popped in to his brain.  At first I’m usually sucked in to it and I yell back answers until eventually I crack and call out “Stop yelling at me from the loo, finish, come out and then we can talk!”.  At the top of my lungs of course.

Loo conversations don’t seem to happen at any other time though.  They are unique.  A time when they get to just sit and think with no toys or distractions (we eschew the magazine in the toilet at our house).

Interestingly, both boys require almost a shoehorn to get them out of there which is frustrating when you’ve tried so long to get them to be in there in the first place.

Squidge has the bladder of a camel.  Perhaps, internally, he has a hump where he stores all the fluid.  He denies needing to go to the loo first thing in the morning and even now when we tell him firmly that he really must go he mutters “Why won’t you believe me?!”.  The reason why we don’t believe him comes when he does eventually empty that bladder.

In April 2009 we visited Perth Zoo and were really quite stunned when a rhino (see below – warning the image is rather graphic) reversed up to the viewing area and proceeded to do the longest wee known to man, or rhino, for that matter.  It went on for ages.  It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a torrent of wee (good on us for having the presence of mind to take a photo).

Weeing rhino, Perth Zoo

Squidge is the rhino of our family.  Especially first thing in the morning or immediately after school.  Once he’s been made to go of course.  Because we don’t believe him when he says he doesn’t need to go even after 10 hours sleep or a toilet-less day at school.

A much relieved rhino, Perth Zoo

So there you have it.  That’s what I know about boys and toilets.  At least what I can put down in a blog post anyway.  What about at your house?  And are girls in any way similar?

Things I Know About Boys – Introduction

I’ve decided to start a regular post on the topic of things I know about boys.

It’s possible that some of what I write might also be attributed to girls but I have little experience with girls.  Apart from me, the oestrogen levels in our house are only raised slightly by Bella the dog and John and Chickorita the chickens.

I find little girl things mystifying.  A couple of weeks ago, Bruce was invited to his girl friend’s party, at a fairy themed shop.  He had a wonderful time and could have cared less that he was in the gender minority (which I was delighted about).  I was however, thoroughly stunned by just how many things it is possible to cover in glitter.

Speaking of glitter, I once worked for a terrifying woman who always dressed to look like the mother of the bride.  She even had cream that she’d rub into her decolletage that was glittery.  It’s hard to concentrate on a meeting while being dazzled by a glittery cleavage.  And where do you go to from there when you dress like that every day?  How do you top it when you actually do get to be a mother of the bride and have to go to a wedding?  Perhaps some sort of glittery fascinator.

It may become evident that I’m not really a girly girl.  As a girl I had dolls for toys.  My dad made little wooden doll cots that rocked on a stand as a hobby.  Eventually I abandoned the dolls and the cot, and used the stand as part of a dog agility course for our poor suffering dog who was made to attempt all the activities I’d set out for her.

My brother is 14 years older than me.  When he was 21 he left home to travel around Australia.  I distinctly remember him sending me home gifts.  Like a stuffed water buffalo from Darwin (which I loved) and a rubber Yoda hand puppet that made my hand sweat and has engendered a love of Star Wars that stays with me today.  He was, to be fair, the first person to buy me a Barbie doll (it was a Sports Barbie).  So I did like girl things, I just wasn’t ‘overly exposed’ to them.

I remember having some Strawberry Shortcake lip gloss and thinking I was the bees knees.  But other than that makeup was a mystery.  Watching my mum get ready for work in the morning was an introduction, but her makeup bag was limited to foundation, pressed powder and lipstick.  Eyeliner?  Blush?  Nail polish – what’s that?

Over the years I’ve worked some stuff out for myself and as I’ve got older have become more conscious of these kinds of things and wear make-up most days, have bits of hair ripped out with hot wax but I still don’t quite get to doing my nails.  I wore fake french tipped nails once when I was Matron of Honour for a good friend.  I learnt some valuable lessons – it’s really easy to scratch your kids with long nails, and eye injuries when inserting and removing contact lenses are guaranteed.

In the posts to come,  I might make bold statements about boys that also apply equally to girls.  Please tell me if that’s the case.  It’s never too late to learn.

Images courtesy of RTP411 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net and kenfotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bedside Table Critique

A few weeks ago I wrote about some books that I’d borrowed from the library.

At the time I said something foolish, like I find PD James comforting.  The Private Patient wasn’t comforting.  It was dull.  The characters were so stiff and un-interesting it was hard to tell the dead from the living.

I couldn’t honestly believe that several people who shared a house completely refrained from gossiping because their employer did not approve of such a thing.  Are they kidding?  A patient has just been strangled to DEATH and no-one gossiped about it?  And no-one left, resulting in 2 more murders.  Bugger that, I’d be out of there at first light after the first murder.

So all in all it was boring.  Even imagining Daglish in the novel looked like Martin Shaw when he was Doyle from The Professionals didn’t help.  I was only 7 when that tv show finished but my sister who was 11 years older than me kept a photo of him stuck to her dressing table mirror.  This has, as you might be able to tell, left a lasting impression on me.  If you don’t know what Martin Shaw looked like in 1981, check this out.  See?  I told you.

The second novel I read was Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy.  After The Private Patient this book was a breath of fresh air.  It gave me the comfort I craved.  It didn’t challenge me too much, didn’t horrify or plant itself inside my brain for weeks to come.  It told an interesting story and wrapped it up with a big red happy ending bow.  I thought it would when I started reading, just as I know that Adam Daglish will get the murderer in the end.  But the journey along the way in Minding Frankie and the characters that were delivered with it were just so much more interesting.

So, what’s on my bedside table now?  Well lots of people gave me great book ideas as feedback to the post on Facebook, but I forgot to take my list with me when I went to the library last – face-palm.  Surely there’s some sort of phone app for that?  Just Googled it.  There is. Of course I’d then have to get a new phone so I could use the app.  Hmmmm…  Anyway – I’m reading Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue at the moment and I am thoroughly enjoying the train wreck that is Rebus.

I’ve hooked in to Goodreads as you can see on the side bar and I have my list written out and ready to go for the next library visit (barring an iPhone or Android fairy visiting during the night).  Thanks for the ideas – keep them coming.