Quarry Bay Park

Review: Kornhill Service Apartment in Hong Kong Island, Taikoo

I am writing this post to highly recommend this under-the-radar service apartment that we chanced upon in our search for our 5 week Hong Kong stint.  It’s Kornhill Apartments at Taikoo City on Hong Kong Island.  I was looking for someplace which needed to have the best of all worlds – cheap, convenient, have amenities and be near parks and  playgrounds.  The situation was getting quite desperate as I realized that even with the generous budget LimpehZ gave me, I cannot find a suitable place!  It’s either too small, too expensive, too claustrophobic or unsuitable for young children.  Honestly, I’ve trawled through all the listings on service apartment sites and finally noticed this little, tiny, obscure banner which was Kornhill Apartment.  I knew this was it!

The poster so attractive right??  Even Caucasians like to live here.  Like if we stayed here, we'll be Caucasian like them.

The poster so attractive right?? Even Caucasians like to live here. Like if we stayed here, we’ll be Caucasian like them.

Best thing about Kornhill is its location and accessibility to all the essentials.  Situated on top of Aeon Supermarket / Shopping Centre, on top of Taikoo MTR, means I can make supermarket runs anytime I need and not have to plan too far ahead what to buy.  Supermarket runs ended up being THE main activity which broke up the monotony of the last few weeks (because we were all so tired out after Disneyland that even the kids didn’t want to travel too far out).  This shopping centre also has a mini arcade with kiddie rides and that has been a great carrot to dangle in front of K who will ask to sit the horsey ride everyday.  Zzz… That’s ok cuz it was HKD$100 for 110 tokens.  Cheap kiddy rides for the win!

Fun times at the arcade!

Fun times at the arcade!

Did I already mention that it sits on top of MTR?  Yup!  This makes travelling to anywhere else in HK a breeze!  Only 20 minutes MTR ride to Admiralty and Central, which important for LimpehZ.  Kornhill Apartments is connected to Kornhill Plaza which has many eateries like Genki Sushi and Watami, Yoshinoya and MOS Burger.  Nearby is Taikoo City Plaza which ain’t some dinghy mall, mind you.

My loot!! Okay.. and K managed to weasel some shoes of her own too.

My loot!! Okay.. and K managed to weasel some shoes of her own too.

It has the likes of Zara and H&M, Pandora and Swarovski plus other mid range brands like coach and Maud Frizon (highly raved-about shoe shop by my friends).

Past the ice skating rink (yes! Taikoo City Plaza is big and swanky enough to have an ice skating rink), we often walked across the bridge to for easy access to Quarry Bay Park. This playground was the main selling point for me because I knew I needed someplace superb enough for K to run wild.  Super massive by Hong Kong standards, it has served as a great place for K to expend her energy at being cooped up in the apartment. Really love it!  Plenty of parents and helpers just park their strollers at the side and follow their charges around.  It’s safe enough for that.

Huge and well-maintained Quarry Bay Park

Huge and well-maintained Quarry Bay Park

Back to the interior of the apartment – it isn’t luxurious, but the 1 bedroom suite is complete enough with its amenities.  There’s actually a view. So emo Z can stare out there thinking of his girlfriend.

I wonder when is my next meal coming...

I wonder when is my next meal coming…

He really likes that spot. I honestly don’t know what he’s thinking when he’s there – probably when’s his next meal coming.  All day children’s cartoons (albeit in Canto) on cable served to keep the kids pretty happy – they can sing the theme songs in Japanese now!  There’s a DVD player too which was handy as I brought some cartoons.  There’s always wifi (number 1 important NEED! Don’t worry, I’ve got my priorities right) so K can stream their Peppa Pig or Hi-5 episodes for her much-needed dose of English.  The bed!  It’s like super king size or something but I’m positive it’s bigger than my king bed at home!!  It fit the 3 of us comfortably while poor LimpehZ slept on a mattress on the floor.  The kitchenette is fairly well-equipped though I’ve had to learn to cook rice in a pot without a rice cooker.  In any case, there’s plenty of congee, Macdonalds, CoCo Curry house or MX (their chain Cha Chan Teng) within easy reach. Plus!  There’s Gongcha!!!  My ultimate comfort food!  Limpehz will sometimes call back n ask if that day was a bubble tea day.  If I mutter something that’s not cogent, he knows what to get me (#greenmilkteawithpearls.  If there are no pearls, #imgonnagetrealmad).

Z says, "I have arrived!"

Z says, “I have arrived!”

Apartment cleaning was twice a week.  There’s a laundry and dryer room so while LimpehZ went to the gym (complimentary gym membership!), he’d do a laundry run so we didn’t really need to bring so many clothes!  The staff were really helpful and professional. Anything that needed fixing was sorted out almost immediately. I was impressed because the stove didn’t seem to be working on a Sunday but they went a technician down immediately to rectify the problem.

So yeah! For a family living in Hong Kong for a short stint, I’d highly recommend Kornhill. Tho’ after 5 weeks, I felt so bored….  Mainly because I was living the life of a resident and I couldn’t explore the more exciting, grittier parts of Hong Kong alone with 2 kids.  I realized I really like being a tourist in the Kowloon side more – come on night markets and wholesale shops!!!  If you find yourself needing mid-term accommodation which is safe, clean and convenient, do consider Taikoo Kornhill Apartments!

Hacks and Tips for Hong Kong Disneyland!

We are now certified Hong Kong Disneyland experts!!  Certified by.. me.  Having spent 3 days there, I think we are rather qualified to share our experience, what worked and what we would have done differently, for your future reference!

Firstly, we really thank God for the awesome weather.  It was a really hot weekend but considering the week’s forecast was rainy, we were really thankful God answered K’s prayers to hold the rain!  That is a miracle for a little girl so excited about Disneyland.

I must say I didn’t have high hopes of enjoying myself, what with the rumours about the crazy crowds (true story) and not having any grandparental help, I resigned myself to not riding anything vaguely, potentially heartbeat-raising as I saw myself having to watch the kids all the time.  But surprisingly, having spent 3 days there, there was enough breathing space to do just that.  Watch and learn –> Directed to Mummy M.  Lol…

It’s a really long ride on the MTR from Hong Kong Island –> change at Central –> Tung Chung line –> Sunny Bay –> Disneyland (DL).  Prepare your kids for that because they are going to ask you every 5 seconds, “Are we there yet???”  It took us about 50 min to an hour on the MTR.  The last train ride from Sunny Bay to DL is really what started the whole magical experience, even before we set foot into the park.  An interesting train approached the platform.  With it’s iconic Mickey Mouse windows and holding rails, really plush, cushiony seats and DL figurines mounted in glass windows, you can’t help but perk up in anticipation of the promise of the wonderful day ahead.

Onboard the Disney train! So excited!  Why your face like that Z??

Onboard the Disney train! So excited! Why your face like that Z??

Which, at this point, we realized we forgot to bring our vouchers for the 2-day ticket.  *No…… :O*   So no choice, ding-donging back to HK island was clearly out of the question with LimpehZ so he just had to shell out some more money to get a 1 day pass – this explains why the heck this crazy family ended up spending 3 days in HK DL (it’s not like it’s Florida DL, come on…)

#Tip 1: Bring your vouchers.  
#Tip 2:  Get DL vouchers at the travel agency instead of buying direct from DL website.  They may just be cheaper.  

If you study the DL map, there are 6 lands.  Each land usually has 2-3 major, thrilling rides and the rest may be interesting, but are usually less popular. Depending on what kind of theme park goers you are (LimpehZ and I are thrilling rides kind), we were trying to hit all the major rides once through before slowing things down.  That was pre-kids.  Now, we’d be happy if we got to go for 1 big ride a day.  So for the first day, we realized we could only hit 2 areas and we went straight for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  Tomorrowland has 1 major hit ride that even Z can go on!  Must do Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – it’s like laser tag.  Real fun.  We went for 2-3 repeats of this ride.  The thing I love about DL is that a good proportion of the rides can accomodate really really young kids – as long as they can sit fairly unassisted and you can sit next to them to hold them safe, they’ll let you and your baby up the ride, so mummy doesn’t need to miss out on too much fun.  There’s another big ride here called Autopia – some go-kart ride but there was a height limit so we weren’t too keen on any of us going on alone.  And of course… Space Mountain.  Definitely thrilling so no go for the kids.

#Tip 3: Take Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and if you child wants to, Orbitron.

Then we headed to Craycrayland I mean FantasyLand where all the mini Elsas gravitated unwittingly to meet the Mother of all Queens – THE QUEEN ELSA and Princess Anna.  They are located near Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  Once you cross the bridge over the weird-smelling water, through the doors, you’ll find their spot on the left.

Meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna at Sleeping Beauty Castle

Meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna at Sleeping Beauty Castle.

When we first stumbled upon their spot, we saw a few people milling around so we joined the queue.  When things weren’t quite right, the staff told us that the real queue actually snaked all the way behind the castle and the 2 something pm slot was full.  If we wanted to take photos with her at 3 plus 4, we had to join the queue NOW.  It was 11 am.  Wut?!?  If your child thinks meeting Elsa and Anna is the point of this DL trip, you’d better get your behinds at the doors at 10 am SHARP (opening hours) and ignore all else and do your best 300m sprint here to beat other parents with the exact same purpose.  Otherwise you’ll just end up queuing half the day away for a 3 minute magical encounter, which your child will love, not so sure about you.

See see!  I also took pictures with Elsa and Anna!  Z: Who that?

See see! I also took pictures with Elsa and Anna!
Z: Who that?

Anyhow, we took pictures with them but they didn’t take pictures with us.  Boohoohoo… But life goes on.  Anyway, K says she doesn’t like Elsa anymore.  She likes Ariel now.  Such is the undying passion and love of a 3 year old.

Fantasyland is pretty big and there are lots to do and see for children of preschool age.  Very toddler-friendly too.  There’s the Dumbo ride, Cinderella Carousel, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, It’s a Small World (*warning.. it will drive you monkey nuts just sitting on it once), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – which you can get a Fastpass and return at the designated time and you zoom straight to the head of the line (almost).  Superb system!  By then, we were pretty tired and we laid our heads down on some bench to take a rest.  If you go on a weekday, there really are lots of spaces for you to take a rest.  However, if you have to go on a weekend, chances are, you’ll be fighting with a lot of people.  It’s really mountain people mountain sea…

#Tip 4:  Get your meet and greet with Elsa and Anna out of the way as fast as possible.  
#Tip 5: Get fastpass to Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain (There are only 2 Fastpass rides).  I didn’t think Winnie the Pooh was that great.  Your kid may get scared cuz K was.  
#Tip 6:  YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE SHOWS!!!  Golden Mickeys are in Fantasyland and Festival of the Lion King is at Adventure Land.  

I really really am very impressed with the shows and parades.  They are spectacular!! You know you go to some theme parks and they put up shows?  You get this feeling that they are just side features that you do if you get tired or after you finish the rides.  But these!  I feel they are good enough to be main attractions on their own with the amount of manpower, stage performers, makeup, props (WOW, you’ve got to see them).  Golden Mickeys is some ‘award show’ that they incorporate snippets of a lot of Disney movies that we grew up with into the lineup.  I don’t know.. it must be the swelling orchestra, or the grand harmonious singing of movie theme songs, or the costumes or some witchery going on that I felt moved to tears (ok, only slightly).  I think the stupendous success of Disney is that it has managed to retain its charm over generations – that the things my daughter is enthralled with are the same things for me as I was a child.  It’s a shared experience yet unique enough for each generation that it doesn’t feel dated or inaccessible.  I loved it!

Festival of the Lion King was really nice too!  But for you who have watched the Lion King Musical, which I heard was really spectacular, maybe you won’t be too impressed with this.  But I didn’t so I was floored by the stage, the set-up and the props.  Just try to catch both shows.  They are equally good in different ways.  But if your child is the Disney Princess kind, then the Golden Mickeys will appeal to her more.

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On Orbitron, Spinning teacups, Lion King and Cinderella’s Carousel

There are 2 parades, which we caught on different days.  I felt the 3 pm one is way better than the 7 / 7:30 pm one.  People seem less crazy about lining up the streets, trying to chope a good spot so it’s fairly easy to get a good place, say 1/2 hour, 20 minutes before the parade.  LimpehZ chose a park bench which allowed us to sit comfortably to catch the floats going out.  It was comfortable and I’m not complaining.  But there was a whole dance routine which we couldn’t see so if you want a good view, camp along Main Street, in front of the shops.

For the night parade, it was absolute madness!  We hauled the kids back to the hotel to take a nap and planned to reach DL at 7-ish.  By then, all the streets were jam-packed with people and one could hardly move.  We ended up in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (right corner-ish if you face the castle). IMG_8077 It turned out serendipitously to be a great spot!  The floats would move in from Fantasyland (the red dotted line is the parade route) and they would stop in segments and performers would do their routine before moving off to the next segment.  The floats happened to stop in front of us and we had a good clear view of the performance.  Public service announcement though – if you happen to already sit in front, please don’t stand up!  If everyone sits down on the street, everyone can get a comfortable view.  The floats are huge enough!  Once the front people stand up and take out their selfie pod, the rest of us will have to stand and put the kids on shoulders, which is really tiring.  Don’t blame us for giving you the evil eye.

Day Parade - Flights of fantasy, Night parade - Paint the Night, Disneyland at night is gorgeous.

Day Parade – Flights of fantasy, Night parade – Paint the Night, Disneyland at night is gorgeous.

There was a last fireworks display at 9 pm.  Best view would be in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  But after the Paint the Night Parade, we went back for more rides!  Took one more round of Orbitron and we each took turns to look after the kids and the other went for Space Mountain.  So we picked a good spot, dragged some chairs over and watched the fireworks.  But the castle itself had some sprinklers and smaller fireworks display so you should totally check that out if you still have the appetite to rush for good spots.

#Tip 7: Along Main Street will be the best place to catch the parade but it gets filled up real fast.  Another good place where we were is in front of the castle.
#Tip 8 : Ariel and Belle appears in the night parade; Aurora, Snow White (what is her name?!), Cinderella and Belle make an appearance in the day parade.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are so fortunate because your daughter doesn’t remind you everyday.)

Disneyland Hotel was nice!  Definitely a good decision because the kids won’t be able to last till 10 pm without an afternoon nap.  The beds were so soft yet firm and the free bedroom slippers so plush!  We took them home!  They have both adult and child-sized slippers.  They said we could!  At first entrance into the room, I guess I expected more… Disney magic, like cups, plates, amenities, beds, sheets to be more Disney-like but it felt pretty plain.  However, the room definitely wasn’t shabby and it was certainly clean and comfortable.  Oh!  You can request for guard rails for the children’s bed if you require.  Free!  Very very thoughtful of them.  It’s a much better option than those small, chunky toddler cribs.  There is an indoor heated pool.  It’s not sauna jacuzzi hot and it was still pretty cold, but the kids had fun swimming.  They even provide life vests for children!  Really impressed with the thought that goes into making everything kid-friendly.

Disneyland Hotel lobby, bedroom, toiletries and really plush bedroom slippers - adult- and child-sized

Disneyland Hotel lobby, bedroom, toiletries and really plush bedroom slippers – adult- and child-sized

The only bad thing about the DL weekend was food.  There really isn’t a painless way to eat there.  Seriously paying a lot of money for very bad food.  I’m sure there is really good food at even more exorbitant prices, like having breakfast with Cinderella would set us back S$80 per person!  Hmm.. Cinderella can eat breakfast by herself and the birds, thankyouverymuch.  We prepared cup noodles for 1 dinner and ended up eating popcorn and snacks the rest of 1 day.  By the second day, I told LimpehZ I feel weak.  I need some real food and carbs.  So we went to Lucky Nugget at Grizzly Gulch for some good old fried nuggets and fries. There’s a really funky ride there for thrill-seekers!  Must take!

#Tip 9: Try the Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars at Grizzly Gulch.  
#Tip 10: Big ride at Mystic Point, Mystic Manor, but definitely scary for kids.
#Tip 11: Rafts to Tarzan’s Treehouse at Adventure Land is no biggie, can skip if you’re not a fan of Tarzan.
#Tip 12: Jungle River Cruise at Adventure Land is fairly interesting but K was scared.
#Tip 13: At Toy Story Land, we sat the Slinky Dog Spin – kid friendly.  Didn’t try the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop (cuz I’m not a fan of vertical drops) and RC Racer is like a viking sort of ride.
#Tip 14: Go to the shops early cuz by afternoon, there will be nothing much left on the shelves.  And be prepared to queue 45 minutes just to pay.  Ridiculous.

Just before we left, we went into the Disney shops along Main Street to find a souvenir.  It was CrazyTown.  Stuff was just flying off the shelves!  It was like some mania that people just grabbed random stuff for fear that there would be none left. So some auntie behind me in the queue was advising her friend (and I was eavesdropping) to rush for the shops once the doors open so you get a full selection of the goods.  Urm.. Okay.  We got this Ariel cup!  She has been drinking lots of water from this magical cup today.  Worth the HKD75.

The magical Ariel cup

The magical Ariel cup

*Update:  Today (which is the next day from when I first drafted this post), K has decided it is no longer magical and she will not drink water from the cup anymore.  *facepalm* *

#Tip 15:  Collect stickers from the staff!  Collect them all!

This really really fun thing to do if you have the time.  Do you know that almost everyone of the staff have these stickers on them?  Sometimes they give out voluntarily, most are too busy and you have to approach them to ask if they have stickers.  During our last leg, it was like a personal mission for me to get the Ariel sticker for K so I went around asking.

The very coveted Elsa sticker!

The very coveted Elsa sticker!

And we finally got our lucky break with the cashier while paying for the Ariel cup.  She had the Ariel sticker!!!  We got the coveted Elsa one as well but K couldn’t care less.  I didn’t ask the cleaning crew though.  Cuz they all look busy and important with their shades…  You can try asking them and tell me if they have the stickers.

If you’re still reading, thanks for staying with me cuz I almost fell asleep myself. Let me know if there was something you did and I had missed out!  Happy holidays and may all your dreams come true – Disney-style.

*This post is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are mine though LimpehZ was supposed to give input but he’s now sleeping.  Disney, if you are reading this, please invite us sometime!  😛  *

We are all good enough

Maybe it’s a foreign land, or it’s the break way from normal routine but every night as I put the kids to bed (we only have 1 bed so that’s where all of them bundle up and I have to stay in there with them till they fall asleep), I have time to think, to give thanks for yet another day that we are all safe and we are all together.  Did I mention my greatest fear was that I’ll lose my kids in Hong Kong?

Funny, cuz not too long ago, my greatest fear was not having kids.  How swift our fears change and morph every day and season.  3 years ago was a time of realization that some things in life – many things in fact – we have no control over.  E.g. that elusive A grade, that big promotion, that friendship, that relationship, having children… Really, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  What am I to do?  Kick and scream and whine (which I did a lot of) or say, “I give up.  I choose to trust that You are always good no matter what.”  While I thank God it was a relatively short time of waiting for K, it was a journey of faith that forced me to acknowledge God is sovereign and that if I cannot learn to release fears now, there will be so many other fears that will continue to plague me at every stage.

That joke scary truth about a mum with a newborn asking, “When will my life get back to normal?”  The answer is in 21 years or maybe never.  And it’s true.  From pre-conception to birth and beyond, from caring for an infant, toddler, preschooler and I expect for the rest of the kids’ lives and mine, I will always have fears.  Fear I may not carry till full term, fear that he/she may have developmental challenges, fear that he/she will not be smart enough, wise enough, kind enough, cute enough, loving enough, pretty enough, friendly enough, too friendly, too pretty, too cute, too kind that he/she gets bullied etc etc etc… Whatever your worry, I’m sure it’s valid.  And the fact is, sometimes, it does seem as the universe is conspiring against you and your children and there seems to be nothing you can do about it.

Except there is.  I need to choose to stop worrying and start trusting.  That the powerful and loving God I profess is big enough and He is on my side.  The Deliverer, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Immanuel is on our side.  It is a daily battle to stop thinking toxic thoughts and step out of the fear but we have to win and overcome.  If anything, to show the kids that they can win and overcome their own fears too.  Then they will know that it doesn’t matter what their not-enoughs are – God is enough.  More than enough.


To my dear dear friends S and K:  as you carry your newborn darlings and start your first few months in the trenches, I pray you will start this journey knowing and believing you are good enough.  🙂  God will come through on your behalf and make up the rest.

First week in Hong Kong – Hong Kong Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui

Hello from Hong Kong!!  Yes, I’m now in Hong Kong living the expatriate taitai life  (in my dreams), more like DA Maid…  I realized I’ve been quite spoilt by my parents and in-laws who help me out a lot (thanks you all!).  And we have nice piping hot dinners (either at home or out)…  But now, I have to do everything myself. *cries* 😦  But I’m getting used to it… Soon, soon.  Slowly…

It ain’t half bad once I get the routine sorted out.  And part of the routine MUST include some time getting out of the apartment.  I tried 1 day being cooped up all day with the kids and it so.isn’t.fun.  At least 1 person will go mad and usually I’m the first.  The kiddos… well, they are quite the troopers and seem to adapt quite well.  They invent stuff for themselves to do, or K will just amuse herself at her brother’s expense.. i.e. disturb him endlessly, grabbing a fistful of his hair, pushing him down on the ground/bed… basically bully him.  Poor boy… Wait till he grows bigger.

This week, we went to the Hong Kong Science Museum at Tsim Sha Tsui.  Fantastic place!  Okay… I try to be enthusiastic about all the scienc-ey things like all the various physics exhibits – magnetism, light, electricity blah blah.. but sigh, I’m sorry but really, science still isn’t my best subject.  And K has an attention span typical of viewers of Korean MTVs – the 0.2 seconds change of scenes.  She presses a few buttons and before LimpehZ can explain the concept behind what’s going on, she’s run off to the next exhibit.  Urm… okay… moving along now…

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Best thing about the humongous place is that it’s really kid-friendly.  Everything is touchable and they can go crazy.  There’s also this kid’s area on the 4th floor.  I think we should have just come up here right away.  There’s this soft mat area for kids below the height of 110 cm (they are quite strict).  The whole place is littered with soft blocks and structures that the kids can build their castles and moats.  Fantastic!  Hong Kongers are really scrupulous about sterilizing everything (I suppose from their previous SARS experience).  Even my lift buttons are proudly sterilized every 2 hours – or so the notice says.  The kids’ play area is really clean and well-maintained.  Just remember to bring your socks!  There’s also a funky bubble area where you can make those giant bubbles.

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Oh!  There’s this really cool puzzle area with a lot of those brain-teaser things.  K really loved manipulating this puzzle – the Farmer needs to transport the grain, chicken and fox over the river but something will eat something else if left alone kind of puzzles.  She has quite a good sense of logic and with a few prompts, she kinda solved the puzzle.  I think I will come to these kinds of places when I’m old to stimulate my brain so I will delay dementia.  Or just play mahjong.

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Best part??  Admission was free!!!  Cuz it was a Wednesday!  So awesome right??  Good lobangs must share.

Hong Kong Science Museum
2 Science Museum Rd, Hong Kong
Take MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Exit 2B.  Walk along Cameron Road, then turn left at Chatham Road S, then take the overhead bridge across to the Science Museum.  (I assume it was right at the exit and had to wander around and ask for directions before I found it.)
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10 am – 7 pm, Closed on Thursdays
Weekends 10 am – 9 pm
Ticket Price: $25 for adult, free admission for kids under 4.
Free entry on Wednesdays!