On my last morning in HK, Renée and I travelled to Hung Hom (Kowloon), looking for a specific shopping centre. We were following memorised directions based on a map we had seen at the train station and trying to stay on the designated pathways, despite the numbers of stairs we had to lift the pram up/down.

At one random street corner, we knew we had to clarify our directions, but who to ask? A lot of people in HK don’t have a working knowledge of English, and the wrong directions would be worse than no advice at all. Providentially, when I ran the stroller’s wheel over someone’s toe, the lady spoke to us in English (graciously!), and we knew we could safely ask her for directions.

It appeared that we were heading in the right direction, but when the lady said that we’d find the place we wanted at the “big boat”, I started to wonder if her English really was up to scratch. A big boat? In the city? For a shopping centre?

Yup, that’s just what it was!

Hung Hom, HK, October 2009
We were surprised when we rounded the corner and saw the "big boat" that housed our destination. No water for miles, just a big boat with a multi-level department store. Very strange.

After making our purchases, we headed home. I had arrived in HK two weeks ago with only a small backpack as carry-on luggage, but I am leaving with enough stuff to fit into a proper suitcase, so I guess you could say that I did pack it in. I’m bringing back a new computer for David (whose six-year-old laptop is due for retirement) and managed to tuck a few toys around it.

Early in the afternoon (at school pick-up time), I left Renée at Tai Po and caught the train to Hong Kong with my suitcase. Hong Kong Airport, in conjunction with the Airport Express train, offers a free, in-city check-in service.

In-city check-in, Hong Kong, October 2009
Check-in for your flight at the train station up to 24 hours before your departure, safely deposit your suitcase for your flight, and use the time to explore Hong Kong!

After depositing the suitcase, I took a train to visit the site of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the sister organisation to my beloved old employer, the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Lauren, Hong Kong, October 2009
I grabbed a passerby (who didn't speak English) and managed to get this photo taken outside the ICAC.

ICAC billboard, Tai Po, Hong Kong, October 2009
Earlier in the week, I saw this billboard in Tai Po advertising the ICAC.

My next move was to catch a tram to head to the western part of Hong Kong Island where I hoped to rendezvous with David’s brother Ben. The tram — although a fantastic way to see the sights and move through the city — was excruciatingly slow, and it took me over two hours to travel seven kilometres, even after catching a taxi when it became obvious the pace wouldn’t speed up!

Tram, Hong Kong, October 2009
The HK trams are very cheap — only HK$2 a ride across the top of Hong Kong Island.

I didn’t see Ben’s brother, but I left a note at his hotel room (after furtively scurrying through the corridors, clearly looking like a backpacker with no business in such a fine establishment), and then it was time to head back to the train station to head to the airport.

Like many parts of HK, the airport offered free internet access at various stations, and the security officials weren’t as concerned about the gels or liquids carried in my hand luggage. (Australian officials insists that all such substances are carried in a little zip-lock bag for easy identification.)

Although I am now pining for my girls (and David!), the two-week absence from my family has certainly been worthwhile. It’s been wonderful to see where the Harveys live so early in their stay in HK. Now I’ll be able to picture the faces and places and sympathise with all those stairs or the strange items in the supermarket.

As an international surprise visit, this was one of the best, and I may never do better than this. What a great adventure! Now, back to the sparkling adventures happening at home… whatever they are.

Renee, Hong Kong, October 2009
I also know Renée will be in good hands. When she sent out a general S-O-S for a potato masher (apparently unavailable in HK — I guess the locals don't mash their 'taters), she ended up with three separate mashers!