Returning to the Motherland Through Zhuhai

Bordering Macau is the Gongbei Port of Entry. After a brief taxi ride, we reached the port in Macau to go through immigration and customs. With our Canadian passports and Chinese Visas in hand, the paperwork was relatively painless and we were processed quickly.

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The Gongbei Port of Entry. Photo taken from Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

Once we exited the Gongbei Port, we were officially in Zhuhai in Guangdong province. Police officers kept a close watch on the sea of people entering and leaving the port, and used segways to weave their way in between the crowd.

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Police officers monitoring the Gongbei Port with segways. Photo: Tang Choy.

It was late morning, and my parents told us that a family friend would meet us across the street from the port to take us for lunch. I soon found myself in a restaurant with plastic wrapped plates and cups.

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Wrapped and individualized dinnerware at restaurant in Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

To promote hygiene and sanitation, cups and plates are often rinsed with hot water or tea, before use. Although our dinnerware was wrapped, our relative, Kim, still rinsed off our plates and bowls with hot tea. As we waited for our meal to arrive, I tried to tap into the restaurant’s wifi and immediately encountered the “Great Firewall of China.” In Hong Kong and Macau, I had no trouble accessing my social media platforms and websites I commonly used in Canada (e.g. Google). Friends in Canada had forewarned me that I would lose access to popular North American apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, once I was in mainland China – and they were right.

Source: Citytv.

I watched as plates of chicken, fish, razor clam, and leafy vegetables started to land on our table. My mom commented on the tasty flavour of the chicken, and a sense of familiarity washed over me. We were back in the motherland.

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Lunch in Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: There’s No Place Like Home: Touring Taishan.

Glitz, Glamour, and Grandeur in Macau

Ahhh, Macau. The “Las Vegas of Asia.”

Prior to our trip, I had heard stories about this Chinese Special Administrative Region, which was a Portuguese colony until 1999. I was looking forward to seeing the Portuguese influence on the city. To reach the region, we boarded an evening ferry in Hong Kong, and within an hour or so we reached Macau.

The night gave way to bright lights and spectacular casinos, as we made our way into the city. I would soon discover that the casinos were part-gambling, part-hotel, part-shopping, and part-dining. The multi-purpose casinos were a sight and experience in themselves, and customer service was top-notch.

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Bright lights at the Casino Lisboa in Macau. Photo: Tang Choy.
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Entertainment/show inside of a casino in Macau. Photo: Tang Choy.

I was surprised to learn that Macau used its own currency – the Macau Pataca (MOP). However, we were able to continue using the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), without any issues.

As we strolled through Macau, we reached Senado Square. Considered the “city centre of Macau,” the paved streets, colourful buildings, and Portuguese architecture were a feast for the eyes. Souvenir shops and food stalls dotted the streets, and we couldn’t resist trying the famous Portuguese egg tarts. With several stalls offering the treat, it was difficult to pick just one! I found the humidity affected my appetite, and I’ll have to come back to try the pork chop bun and meat jerky.

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Taking in the sights and sounds at Senado Square. Photo: Angie Choy.
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Portuguese tarts in Macau. Photo: Tang Choy.

The Ruins of St.Paul’s is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back to the 17th century. By the time we reached the site, tourists were already scattered along the stone steps taking selfies and group photos. As we continued walking uphill towards the Ruins, we came across a path that led to the Fortaleza do Monte (aka Mount Fortress). Formerly a restricted military area, the fort offers a phenomenal view of the city and now houses The Museum of Macau and the Mount Fortress Garden.

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The Ruins of St.Paul’s – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: Tang Choy.
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View of Macau from Mount Fortress. Photo: Tang Choy.

After an exhilarating stop in Macau, we were ready to enter mainland China and cross into Zhuhai.

If you had to choose between a Portuguese tart, pork chop bun, or meat jerky, what would you go for?

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: Returning to the Motherland Through Zhuhai.

Dizzying Heights from The Peak of Hong Kong

My parents, Chui and I landed in Hong Kong on June 26th, and we reunited with Angie at the airport after going through customs. After a 13 hour flight from Vancouver, I was tired and ready for some shut-eye.

Source: GIPHY.

I soon learned that a relative, Kim, would be joining us for the entire trip. Since Kim lived in mainland China, she would help us navigate our travels and show us around. Kim met up with us at the Hong Kong International Airport. As we exited the airport, I felt like I walked into a wall of humidity. I knew it was going to be hot and humid in Asia, but I was still taken aback by the high humidity level.

Source: GIPHY.

We made our way to our hotel in Kowloon, checked-in, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and went to sleep. The next day, we realized that the hotel supplied a Handy cell phone for guests to use, at no extra cost. We could use the phone for calls, text messaging and data.

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Handy cell phone at the Metropark Hotel Kowloon. I wish all hotels offered this service – super convenient for travellers. Photo: Tang Choy.

The convenience couldn’t have come at a better time. I was scheduled to meet with the Career and Leadership Centre’s department head at the City University of Hong Kong, and the Handy cell phone helped me stay in touch with my family throughout the morning.

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Career and Leadership Centre at the City University of Hong Kong. Photo: Tang Choy.

After my meeting at CityU, where I learned more about the career development practices in Hong Kong, I met up with my sisters and explored the Mong Kok area in Kowloon. Known for its shopping, we popped into various stores and checked out the infamous Ladies’ Market.

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Ladies’ Market in Kowloon. Photo: Tang Choy.

The next day, we took a bus up to Victoria Peak (aka The Peak). According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, The Peak is “the highest point on Hong Kong Island” and is “the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood since colonial times.” As our bus wound its way up the mountain, narrowly missing oncoming traffic on the small road, we scaled closer and closer to the top. Once we were dropped off, we made our way to The Peak Tower and paid to access the Sky Terrace 428. The 360-degree panoramic view from the terrace is every bit as spectacular as Time says it is, and I highly recommend it.

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Breathtaking Hong Kong skyline from The Peak. Photo: Tang Choy.

As if the stunning view from The Peak wasn’t enough, The Peak Tower also offered shopping and a few trick eye wall paintings. Trick eye galleries are popular in Asia, and are a fun way to play up optical illusions.

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Second career?… Interacting with a trick eye painting at The Peak Tower with my sister, Angie. Photo: Chui Choy.

With the Hong Kong skyline seared into my heart and memory, we repacked our bags to head off to our next destination: Macau.

Have you visited Hong Kong before? What was your favourite spot?

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: Glitz, Glamour, and Grandeur in Macau.

The Choys are Going to China

When my mom called me earlier this year and proposed a family trip – my reaction was mixed.

Source: GIPHY.

On the one hand, I was excited about the idea of getting away for a few weeks with my parents and two younger sisters, Chui and Angie. Growing up in Boissevain, Manitoba, my parents owned a Chinese restaurant and worked long, tireless hours seven days a week. Although talk of a family vacation often came up, the years went by and a trip never materialized.

After an extremely busy last few months at work and school, I was also ready to take a mental break. However, at the same time, I had reservations about a family trip. The five of us had never travelled together for more than a day at a time, how were we going to survive 2 weeks of “fam jam” time? Would this actually be a “vacation”?

I quieted the voices in my head, and told my parents I would look into taking the time off from work. Once I received the green light for my vacation time, my mom eagerly told me that she had been in touch with my sisters and everyone had agreed on China as the destination. Within a few weeks, our flights were booked and I received a travel itinerary in my inbox.

As the reality of the trip started to sink in, I pinpointed my top “must-dos” to prepare for the trip:

  • Passport renewal
  • Chinese Visa application
  • Vaccinations

My Canadian passport was nearing expiry, and I decided to renew it before applying for my Chinese Visa. I quickly looked up the photographer that I went to a few years ago for my passport photos, and was pleased to see that he was still running his shop in Toronto’s Chinatown. Although the location is pretty bare bones, the photographer’s energy reminds me of Willy Wonka and his prices are unbeatable. Three passport photos for less than $10? Sign me up!

Source: GIPHY.

After getting both my passport and Chinese Visa photos done, I renewed my passport and started reviewing the Chinese Visa application process. The website recommends applying at least 1 month in advance (but no earlier than 3), and I would vouch for this. Due to some challenges that I had in getting the required documents for the visa (since I was born in China but had Canadian citizenship), I ended up visiting the Chinese Visa Application Service Center 6 times before I was able to finally get my visa. Luckily, I received my visa in time for my trip, but the process left me drained.

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The Chinese Visa application process for me required documents (i.e. Chinese passport) that were decades old. Photo: Tang Choy.

I touched based with my doctor’s office and didn’t end up getting any additional vaccinations, before leaving for China. As part of my final prep, I borrowed a few power plug adapters from friends and confirmed our flight arrival times. My middle sister, Chui, and my parents would be flying from Winnipeg, and I would meet them in Vancouver for a layover, before flying together to Hong Kong. My youngest sister, Angie, who had just wrapped up a two-year teaching contract in Jakarta, would be flying directly from Indonesia to Hong Kong.

June 25, 2017 rolled around and I lightly packed a large suitcase (hello, shopping!), and took a deep breath. Here we go.

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: Dizzying Heights from The Peak of Hong Kong.