Lauren and John returned with their absolute cutie of a baby boy, Lorcan! And the girls threw me a little congratulations gathering for Matt and I's engagement! Super sweet and such a surprise.But to be fair between us, we have a lot to celebrate, so celebrations all round! Lovely to have us 4 back together again with a little addition!!
I flew up after work to meet Mum and Dad up in Beijing, their first time at seeing the Great Wall and my second... after a white out and an icy wall to navigate last year! Our hotel, The Emperor Qianmen, was a very modern hotel in a really cool downtown district of Beijing south of Tiananmen square.
Up early for our car to the wall. We went through China Highlights website as they did such a good job last year. It takes about 2 hours to get to Mutianyu part of the wall, where you have a choice of a cable car up and down both ways or to get a chair lift up or toboggan down. We were so lucky with the weather, a blue sky and warm weather, so different from last year (sorry Elaine!) and the views were amazing. We walked a few kilometres of the wall, including up 458 steep steps to a watch tower which gave great vision of the wall meandering through the hills.
After our trip to the wall, we wandered through the downtown area and I took them both back to the Peking Duck restaurant in the banquet hall. This time there was a string quartet playing which was a nice addition!
Before leaving them to make their way back to the UK from Beijing, we walked up to the Forbidden City. It was really busy so a good way to get into the City entrance is to go through the parks either side (the one of the right is quieter), you pay a small fee (40p) but it is worth it!! Hard saying goodbye but it always will be... now only 11 weeks to go!! And to have the walk to the metro in the sunshine and enjoy the views of Beijing one last time. What an amazing 2 weeks having them here! Can't believe it went so quickly... nearly there now and I will be home for good :-)
Our first treat was brunch at the IFC! All you can eat buffet and free flow of prosecco, wine or beer...or soft drinks if you fancy! It was an absolute delight and lovely to show them a good view of the city and the weather was pretty good as well.
Thank you for a memorable engagement celebration lunch <3
Whilst we had to go back to work (booooooo) they explored the city and went up the Canton Tower. In the evening we took them to Hot Pot, which they thoroughly enjoyed... as did the staff having so many westerners in their restaurant!!
After their Cycle Canton tour of the city from old to new, we met them for dinner at Social and Co. On the walk back home through the park the water and light show was going on, which was our first time watching it as well. It really was spectacular! And apparently they do it every night at 8pm!
After some HK style chinese food Matt and Dad headed off to Evergrande vs Melbourne Victory match whilst Mum and I went up to the Park Hyatt rooftop bar!
It was lovely having Mum and Dad up to the school to show them where we have been working the last few years and ultimately the reason we are here! Mum enjoyed seeing another Year 1 and primary set up and was a bit of CPD for her!! And it was great for friends and colleagues to meet them too.
An added bonus was the Ayi finding a snake on the field!!
For dinner we went to Doors and then packed ready for the final part...BEIJING!!
We only had a few days in Hong Kong, so after a late night we were up early to ensure we could fit everything in and our first stop was The Peak and we did not want to have to queue! And it certainly paid off getting there for 9, we were on a very quiet tram to the top (very steep!) and then at the top it was peaceful and you could take some lovely photos of the morning haze over the city!! It was a great first thing to show mum and dad to get a sense of the city and how vast the landscapes are in Hong Kong.
We wandered back towards our favourite brunch spot and went through Hong Kong Park, which is beautiful! And I cannot believe we havent been there before. It also has a huge aviary you can walk through with so many birds... certainly a win with the parent twitchers.
Stanley was really easy to get to on the bus, the quickest one is the 6X and it got quite busy but most people get off at Repulse Bay or Deep Water bay for the beach. The views as you can see are stunning on the way to Stanley Market - try and sit on the top deck for these! All my photos of us all at the end of the pier in Stanley are not working...yet... so will add them when I have been to apple to sort out my laptop! But here are some more of the views...
Stanley itself has some shops and a promenade walk around the bay here and a great pier going out into the ocean which looks lovely. There are lots of market stalls you can wander around for souvenirs, art work, jewellery and clothes... just a lovely seaside town and well worth a visit.
We headed back to central and after a trip to Apple in the IFC we headed across on the Star Ferry to the Kowloon side of HK to see the city views from the other side. A good experience for mum and dad and I cannot believe how lovely the weather was.
We took the MTR over to Lantau Island for a Pret breakfast (we just love this homely treat!) and then up on the cable car to the Big Buddha. We were there for 10 and thankn good ness we were there early as they were queuing for an hour just to get a ticket when we came down later at 1230 ish!
Mum and Dad enjoyed the views on the way up to the top and then the temples and the Big Buddha itself at the top of about 250 steps!
After this we went for a quick shop in Central to stock up (Hot Cross Buns in M&S haha) and get some snacks for the train, then we embarked on the next part of the tour... GUANGZHOU!
Super excited to explore part of Vietnam, as we never made it on our planned trip a few summers ago as we took the jobs in China! Oh and also the small fact that Mum and Dad were meeting us there and we had not seen each other in 7 months!! We stayed 4km outside of Hoian by AnBang beach and it was certainly the best decision. It meant we were 30m walk from the beachfront in our hotel and then we could use the free bikes for an easy cycle into Hoian or get a taxi. Best of both worlds.
Upon arrival on Friday night, I feel that engagement has a slightly different meaning in Vietnam!!!
Lovely to arrive to nonetheless, but perhaps we can do the marriage part before the next 'honeymoon'!
The weather was dry but not spectacular but was lovely to have a little explore of the area and to have a restful day by the pool ahead of Mum and Dad arriving tomorrow. The hotel, Aira Boutique, is really pretty and does amazing Vietnamese food. I liked it as it is not a big complex or resort and was within a Vietnamese community.
The travellers arrived!!
We ventured to one of the restaurants on the beach near us for lunch, Deck House, which had great views along with great service and food! Nice to see some more of the sunshine now too.
Matt and I cycled into Hoian to check it out and to book into a restaurant, The Cargo Club, for dinner. It is such a spectacular place with all the lanterns and bustling little streets and French style buildings. I could have meandered around here all afternoon!
Again the photos won't upload in the HDR format so will have to wait until I update my laptop!!
Dinner tonight was at The Shore Club beach bar and restaurant, with nice sea views again! Even treated myself to a pudding as mum and Dad bought me over some of my 'I can eat dairy' tablets!
We set off early to try and get back before the midday sun, cycling into HoiAn. It was lovely and quiet compared to when Matt and I went in so it was great to have a wander around without lots of people! Also great for the pictures too! We did some touristy shopping and I tried a highly recommended herbal cold tea (and yes it was DELISH) with lotus flower and a bamboo straw making it look even more delightful.
Then we spent the afternoon at the beach!
Last morning in HoiAn and we enjoyed the sunshine around the pool before being dropped at the airport in Danang, which was about 20Km away. The hotel transfers were really cheap and for ease it worked out well. Next stop... HONG KONG!
Amazing to see Neil whilst he was on his whistle stop tour in China for work... looking forward to being back at Bohunt next year :-)
Orient Express: Shamian Island
Bex and Rich treated us to an exquisite evening on an old train carriage serving French cuisine and ALL the bubbles and wine! To quote the menu 'You should buy this prosecco as it is nice and a cheap price'!!
It was amazing eating in a restaurant with a twist and a real treat for celebrating with these lovely two! I would definitely recommend. We headed off to Tao Jin, the area of GZ which used to be the main centre to go out before Zuijang New Town popped up, to a great cocktail bar, Wilburs. A fantastic evening with wonderful people and lovely to talk about all things wedding for the first time really!!
From my barista days at Boston Tea Party I appreciate GREAT coffee. One of my Y11 students, and the only one to have a job, is passionate about coffee and has trained to be a barista too. After saying I would come and try out the coffee, I eventually have made it down here. It is a short trip on the metro, Line 5, to Ouzhang and on arrival, it just reminded me of somewhere in Brighton or London - not China at all! Modern, chic decor and a small range of food and coffees to add to the simplistic design here. The coffee was DEVINE and the best I have had in China... I did bring my own Oatly milk to ensure that I did not have to worry about any dairy issues!! I treated myself to a nutella and banana toast, which again was a treat! I sat with my Mac and did some life admin (...planning our next holiday!) and will definitely pay this place a visit again, great atmosphere, food, coffee and service with a smile - what more can you ask for?!
Our last exotic destination together before returning to the UK, so we went wild. After recommendations from Mum and Dad's stay here a few years ago, we checked into The Intercontinental with Club Benefits. And wow, was it a treat! Arriving to a champagne reception in the club lounge, with a pianist playing the grand piano, I knew this trip would be special... but not just how special!! We spent a week in pure bliss and it will certainly be a holiday to remember!
We could explore the site in the beautiful sunshine and it was even more spectacular than the evening. We also booked into a luxurious couple massage in the private villas at the edge of the site, which was such a treat for nearly 3 hours and needed after all the skiing and flying!
For dinner, after club lounge cocktails and snacks we ventured to the sushi restaurant.
I will add more photos but my computer does not like the high definition photos that i took and won't upload any of them!!
Tuesday... THE DAY WE GOT ENGAGED!
We spent the day at the pool and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the wonderful staff making us feel so at home!
I won't say too much about when we got engaged, as want to speak to people in person about it, but it was completely magical and perfect under this incredible sky on the beach of Bali.
Enjoying the sea views with our pre dinner canapés and some bubbles - me none the wiser that in an hour or so we would be engaged!!
More pool time and revelling in the awe of yesterday's engagement. Lovely to start telling our nearest and dearest later in the afternoon as they started their days!
Another day in paradise <3 This is such a beautiful resort and utter paradise, especially in the Club section as well. The hotel photographer approached us and asked whether we would like to have some photos taken around the site to remember our time here... well, why not?! Maybe we could get a nice photo or two to remember our engagement. It was so funny going around with him for a few hours getting lots of different snaps - some are hilarious! But it was good to have such amazing photos to celebrate our engagement. We were also invited to a Valentines Day drinks and canapés on the beach, where we met a lovely German couple to chat to over a few glasses of bubbles.
Enjoying our last full day in paradise, pool and beach times. I mean, each daily routine was pretty much the same and that was exactly how we liked it!
I don't think any time we had to leave was going to be easy but hey, that is what becomes of a holiday... back to reality this evening after a nice morning at the pool. What wonderful people, memories and a spectacular place to get engaged.
We vowed not to visit a place twice whilst we were out in China, however the fun we had last year and the skiing that was available was too much to turn down again. After all, when is the next time we will go to Japan, let alone to ski?! So, I won't write too much and just put on lots of photos as I wrote a lot last February. The trip was a perfect start to our holiday and was great ski-ing with great people! Thank you Japan for a wonderful ski experience two years in a row.