Playtimes and Top Schools Collaboration
Take one company with 10 years-experience in the Hong Kong education sector, and another with 20 years-experience in education and parenting related media; create a working partnership and just imagine the benefits that will follow. That’s exactly what’s happening with the new collaboration between Playtimes and Top Schools. And with both companies celebrating special anniversaries this year, the timing couldn’t be better!
The collaboration brings thirty years of combined experience and expertise to your fingertips. Meaning you can expect even more informed content about schools in Hong Kong and education in general. Plus, lots of inside information on school openings, news and the low down on how to get your children into the school of your choice. You’ll also learn about schools and education overseas.
All of this invaluable information will be made available via the Playtimes print magazine, Playtimes social media channels, and Playtimes website ( www.playtimes.com.hk ) and through Top Schools social media channels, managed groups, and website ( www.topschools.asia). Imagine, if you’re a school or an advertiser, how much exposure that means and how streamlined we can make the process of reaching all those people… (apologies for the sales plug!).
Top Schools is Hong Kong’s leading education consulting group and the Top Schools team brings a wealth of expertise to families and schools within Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the United Kingdom. They work with families to the find best-fit schools for their children. They also specialise in education recruitment, placing candidates in well matched roles whilst working with schools themselves to fill positions, from key leadership positions to office administrators. And they help schools with their marketing; maximising their exposure, engagement and enrolment through a number of influential social media platforms. They know schools.
In addition to gaining access to even more useful information, Playtimes and Top Schools will also be hosting events and awards – watch this space for more exciting news - and additional education based products. There’s lots coming your way!
With Playtimes and Top Schools joining forces, the possibilities are infinite.
Can you tell how excited we are?David Tait, Publisher Playtimes
THE HOTTEST HAPPENINGS AROUND TOWN
Robin Hood, The Panto
Laugh aloud as Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men strive to put an end to greed and corruption and right some wrongs, all the while singing and dancing. Support Hong Kong Players in this, it’s 61st consecutive year of annual panto. www.popticket.hk/en/ event/robin-hood-panto
Hong Kong’s first outdoor bouncy castle carnival “Jumptopia Holiday Village” comes to Gold Coast Hotel. The 12,000-square feet outdoor space features five giant inflatable castles, including a 4.5-metre tall giant inflatable slide, and a Neptune-themed ball pit filled with more than 10,000 balls. www.kiztopia.com.hk
Join the Angels for Children Christmas Cocktail night at Percy’s in Shelley Street. Running 7-9.30pm, tickets cost $500 and includes free flow, tasty nibbles, and a Sip N Shop opportunity.
Disney in Concert
This World premiere concert tells the story of Disney’s most famous heroes, villains and sidekicks through songs from Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Frozen. Running time is 110 minutes with 15-minute interval. Tickets are available from https://premier.hkticketing.com
‘Tis the season of whirling white snowflakes, visions of dancing sugar plums, waltzing bauhinia flowers and endless glittering tutus! Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker returns to bring festive cheer this December in a fantastical celebration of Hong Kong in the early 20th century. Shows on 28-31 December have recorded music. www.hkballet.com
Carols by Candlelight
Enjoy an evening of carol singing, festive nibbles and even the opportunity to meet Father Christmas at the annual Carols by Candlelight charity event organised by Matilda Children’s Foundation. www.matilda.org/en/about/ news/1857-carols-by-candlelight
Perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit, the Christmas Classic for Kids concert by the SAR Philharmonic is an interactive spectacle of choirs, magical surprises and talented performers. Sit in the front rows to have a chance to conduct the orchestra. www.sarpo.orgTseung Kwan O’s healthy lifestyle mall, TKO Spot, is getting into the spirit of the World Cup with mini football games, giant babyfoot games, plus activities for younger ones. Signed football shirts are on display and free one-hour training sessions by professional players are also available.
THE HOTTEST HAPPENINGS AROUND TOWN
and Back to the Future. https://hksl.org
Sustainable Chinese New Year Market
Head to The Hong Kong Observation Wheel to explore a selection of handmade or sustainable, eco-friendly products in this first Sustainable Chinese New Year Market.
The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF)
The 51st HKAF opens at the Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre with the Ballet of Slovene National Theatre Maribor’s performance of Radio and Juliet & Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), and closes on 18 March 2023 at the Concert Hall of Hong Kong Cultural Centre, with a performance by Bamberg Symphony. www.hk.artsfestival.org
Westlife are bringing The Wild Dreams Tour to Hong Kong, performing a string of classics as well as latest hits – and perhaps a few surprises thrown in, too. The concert is held as AsiaWorldArena. www.livenation.hk
City Chamber and Harry Potter
The City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong will perform the magical score from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while the film plays in highdefinition on a 40-foot screen. Taking place at Star Hall. https://premier.hkticketing.com
Hong Kong’s biggest international outdoor music and arts festival is returning to Central Harbourfront March 2023. The outdoor setting will feature multiple stages; an array of F&B outlets; and an eclectic line-up of international, regional and local acts. www.clockenflap.com
No cat can sing like Tabby McTat, Fred the guitar-playing busker’s cat. He loves to sing as people throw coins in Fred’s hat! But one terrible day, the two are separated. Will they ever sing songs together again? Approximate running time is 60 minutes (no interval).
Hong Kong Disneyland’s 10K Weekend makes an exciting return to the resort, and promises magical surprises to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. Runners of all ages and abilities are invited to don bright Disney looks to race around the resort. Runners must have pre-registered.Clockenflap
Christmas Markets & Holiday Fairs
Full of fun and festive local products, markets offer an eco-friendly way to give gifts, plus many have activities and entertainment making them a fun trip for the whole family.
When: Monday 5 December, 10am – 8pm
Where: Grand Ballroom, Conrad Hong Kong
A ballroom of one-stop shopping is available at the ever popular Prestige Fairs at the Grand Ballroom of Conrad Hong Kong. If you’re hoping to complete all your Christmas shopping in one swoop, this is the place. It boasts an eclectic variety of products from creative small business artisans and entrepreneurs. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your Christmas gift list. And why not buy a little something for yourself, too? www.prestigefairs.hk
Discovery Bay Sunday Markets
Where: Discovery Bay Plaza
When: 11 December 2022
A craft market showcasing local, independent vendors selling handmade or self-designed wares. Featuring items such as handmade bags, jewellery, home accessories, fine art, stationery, paper craft and children’s accessories.
Danish Christmas Bazaar 2022
Where: Mariners Club, 2, Container Port Road, Kwai Chung
When: 19–20 November 2022, 10:00am – 4:00pm
Enjoy some Danish Christmas spirit and Hygge at the Danish Christmas Bazaar where you’ll be able to shop for toys, decorations, jewellery, watches and many bargain items while enjoying a beer and a hot dog.
Stanley Xmas Wonder Market
Where: G/F, Murray House, Stanley
When: 10–11, 17–18, 24–26 December 2022
Head to Murray House in Stanley for a wide range of local products, decorations, homewares, gifts and food items. It’s also pet friendly.
The Support Local Christmas Market 2022
Where: Hong Kong Observation Wheel
When: 10 & 17 December
Visit the Christmas market at the Hong Kong Observation Wheel to support local brands while soaking up a complete festive programme.
Shopping Hong Kong
Where: Main pitch, Hong Kong Football Club
When: 10 December 2022, 11:00am – 6:00pm
This year’s shopping bazaar will take place as part of a fun event for the whole family at the Hong Kong Football Club. Located on the main pitch of the HKFC, the event will feature fun and games, an outdoor cinema, face painting and dining options alongside the shopping extravaganza. Ticketed event.
Hong Kong Food Festival 2022
Where: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hall 3
When: 24–28 December 2022, 10am – 8 pm
Get your food fix on at the 19th Hong Kong Food Festival, taking place over five days. Renowned brands from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South East Asia will be showcasing, with some local brands debuting for the first time. Admission $20, and free for children 3 or below and seniors aged 65 or above.
The Murray Christmas Market
Where: The Murray Hotel, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central When: 19–22 December 2022, 12–7pm
For four days, this pop-up market will be open and full of festive and lifestyle products and gifts. Held at The Murray Hotel (The Arches), the holiday market will have food, wine, jewellery, clothing and art.
Looking for inspiration for your Christmas decorations this year, or simply wanting to feel festive? Decor8ion is a unique showroom in Hong Kong, stocking Christmas decorations all-year round. With beautiful trees, wreaths, festive ornaments, plus general home decor – both classic and unique – you’re sure to find something here. The showroom is in Kwai Chung in the New Territories and is well worth a visit. You can even enjoy a coffee while you're there.
Santa’s Adventure Cruise
Hop aboard Aqualuna’s Santa’s Adventure Cruise and meet Santa Claus while you enjoy a magical 60-minute cruise full of joyful Christmas carols, festive cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes. Tickets cost $330 for children and $250 for adults.
Family Fitness and Fun at BMP Junior BPM JUNIOR, a family-friendly mega fitness event that marries music and sports is coming to Hong Kong. Taking place 16-18 December at AsiaWorld-Expo Hall 2, the threeday festival features eight key zones – Circuit Stage, X-GAME Zone Junior, Archery & Shooting Area, Bun’s 2020 Rollerskate Rink, Happy Farm Riding Zone, Inflatable Opens, BPM Chill Out Area and BPM Bazaar, all accessible via a one-day ticket. Each night ends with an electrifying disco, hosted by Hong Kong’s youngest group of DJs. A three day pass costs $450. www.livenation.hk
A Disney Christmas
Every Friday and Saturday evening from 25 November-10 December, renowned musicians will perform classical music and jazz at the all-new “Disney Live in Concert!” Holiday Music Celebration. Mickey and friends will also be performing Disney classic Christmas shows such as “Mickey & Friends Christmastime Ball,” “Santa Goofy’s Magical Snowfall,” and “A Holiday Wish-Come-True Tree Lighting Ceremony throughout the festive period. www.hongkongdisneyland.com
Santa Claus Village in IFC
Exciting news, the official ‘Santa Claus Village’ is in Asia for the first time! The magical installation, which runs until 2 January at IFC, recreates the most popular attractions from Finland’s Santa Claus Village, giving guests the opportunity to walk around the winter wonderland and explore some Finnish Christmas traditions including Santa Claus’ Main Post Office and Mrs Claus Bakery and Elf Workshop. You might even see Father Christmas himself, who has travelled all the way from Finland.
Food Glorious Food
Dough Bros arrives in TKO
Exciting news, Dough Bros has added a new location on the Tseung Kwan O waterfront. Along with the new location they have also introduced some new pizza flavours – The Italian ($158), packs a punch with spicy Calabrian sausages, and the Festive Feast Pizza ($148) is topped with tomato, mozzarella and brie cheese, turkey ham, bacon-wrapped sausage, cranberry sauce and toasted rosemary. For those of you (adults) with a sweet tooth, the Chocolate Bailey’s Doughnut with Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur ($38 each or $98 for three) is a must, YUM! www.doughbroshk.com
Bite By Bite
Enjoy creative reinventions of classic Hong Kong street food and desserts at this casual restaurant in Mongkok. With an interior inspired by Hong Kong playgrounds, and egg waffles you can hand paint, it’s sure to be a fun outing for the whole family.
Buenos Aires Polo Club New Brunch
Every weekend from 12pm onwards, spend the afternoon at The Club in regal fashion with an Argentinian feast unlike any other. The menu begins with appetisers like Plato de Mariscos with poached Boston lobster, oysters, Argentine prawns, Avruga caviar and Argentine scallops and Gaucho Omelette with chorizo and provoleta. Main courses include your choice of prime General Pico Black Angus grilled in the ‘asado’ tradition, paired with sides of Market Salad with fennel, dill and Malbec vinegar, or Fries Provenzal made with duck fat, garlic and parsley. Finish the decadent meal with a dessert of Tostada Dulce Fondue with dulce de leche.
KAPPO MU and room 3
Two distinctive Japanese dining experiences, KAPPO MU traditional kappo cuisine and the contemporary gastrobar, room 3, are to be be unveiled at the fashionable H Zentre in Tsim Sha Tsui. At KAPPO MU you'll head to the serene kappo counter to enjoy food originating from Japan’s ancient culinary capital of Kyoto. A multi-course menu of fresh premium produce and seafood is on on offer, alongside Omi beef specialities and sake. Alternatively, opt for the fashionable buzz of one of room 3’s trio of chambers, each with its own happening vibe. Sip on revolutionary cocktails and sample the cutting-edge, creative Japanese tapas and sharing plate menu. The venues share a stunning space at Shop UG01-03, UG/F, H Zentre, 15 Middle Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. KAPPO MU reservations: 66176602 or firstname.lastname@example.org and for room 3, call 6361-8505 or email email@example.com
The specialist in modern pastries and cakes is opening four new shops just in time for festive celebrations. You’ll find artisanal cakes and pastries made with the finest ingredients and seasonal produce. With multiple locations across the city and a 24/7 online shop, you can order cakes and pastries at your convenience! Mira Place and Festival Walk pop-up shops are open until 31 May 2023. www.ninapatisserie.com
This award-winning Spanish bakery put down roots in the World Trade Centre after holding pop-ups around the city. It offers a range of petite desserts and whole cakes, made using bespoke European pâtisserie methods and the world’s finest ingredients, from French chocolate to Japanese fruits. La Viña’s newly-renovated flagship store on Graham Street also offers rustic cakes and pastries with a San Sebastián flair to enjoy with artisanal coffees and teas. Try the original Basque Burnt Cheesecake with caramelised crust and creamy interior or indulge in exciting new menu items made fresh on-site. www.lavina.hk
The Love of Couture
The Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond
Time exhibition, showcases couture from the east and west and past to present. It is a combined project by K11, the V&A Museum, and revered Hong Kong production designer, costume designer and film editor William Chang Suk Ping; plus six emerging fashion designers from Japan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong. Their collaborative task is to take inspiration from the V&A’s historical collection of British and French womenswear and craft new bespoke couture
that exudes an East Asian touch while stirring nostalgia with a difference.
Dates: 8 December 2022 – 29 January 2023
Location: 6F, Kunsthalle, K11 Art & Cultural Centre, K11 MUSEA, TST
Cost: General $150, Concession $75 (children under the age of 12, students with valid student ID and senior citizens over age 65)
Complimentary on-site guided tours available on a first-come, first-served basis
Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now
Yayoi Kusama:1945 to Now features more than 200 works and covers her career from her drawings in WWII, to her most recent immersive art pieces. She is one of the most influential Asian artists in the history of contemporary art. Born in Japan and trained in traditional Japanese painting she is sometimes known as the “princess of polka dots” as her many art mediums, including paintings, sculptures and installations, are created with dots. Kids of all ages and adults alike will delight in this colourful art exhibit. M+ has launched a series of public programs to accompany the Special Exhibition, including talks, workshops, and drop-in activities, giving new perspectives for visitors of all ages to dive deeper into Yayoi Kusama’s art practice and works.
Dates: Until 14 May 2023
Location: West Gallery, The Studio Main Hall
Cost: Standard Ticket HKD240, Concession HKD 150, Kids under six are free of charge Information: www.mplus.org.hk/en/ exhibitions/yayoi-kusama-1945-to-now
The Big 8
A sure hit for dinosaur lovers, this exhibition at The Science Museum showcases eight of the most iconic creatures from the 'Golden Age of Dinosaurs': Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Spinosaurus, Allosaurus, Hesperosaurus, Diplodocus, Hatzegopteryx and a baby sauropod. An unrivalled amount of original fossil material, some of the most complete fossil skeletons in the world, worldclass artwork, cutting-edge 3D renderings and the first scientifically accurate reconstructions of the world's largest predatory dinosaur and the world's largest flying creature are all on show.
Dates: Until 22 Feb 2023w
Location: 2/F Exhibition Hall, The Science Museum, Cost: Free, booking is via Klook Information: hk.science.museum/en_US/ web/scm/exhibition/bigeight2022.html
Claude Monet Immersive Exhibition
Take a beautifully immersive journey into the work of one of the most famous impressionists of all-time, Monet (1840-1926), with En Voyage with Claude Monet. Absorb the 360-degree view as you walk through the history and approximately 200 works of one of the most influential artists of the past century. Bridging poetic works of the past with technology of the future, En Voyage with Claude Monet invites us to travel far from Hong Kong to the shores of Venice, London or the Normandy, as seen through the genius eyes of the artist. The audience becomes part of his travels and shares in his quest for colour, light and water reflections. Suitable for all ages. A family ticket – two adults and one child – costs $231. The sessions are 45 minutes. There is also a package that includes a 13 minute VR experience. Tickets for this cost $316. Tickets are now available through kkday.
Dates: Until 15 January
Location: Cultural Plaza, Xiqu Centre Tsim Sha Tsui (Austin Station Exit E) Cost: $231 for a family ticket. www.kkday.com Information: www.envoyage-monet.hk
Education & Careers Expo,
Running at the Exhibition Centre, the Education & Careers Expo features a variety of different zones, including the Education Zone, which connects colleges, universities and language schools with potential students. Entry to the event is free. https://event.hktdc.com
International Schools Festival 2023,
Connecting parents with international and private schools, the International Schools Festival takes place on Saturday 11 March at the Cordis Hotel. It will also feature a selection of panel discussions. www.internationalschoolsfestival.com
Hong Kong International Literary Festival,
2023 is a year of change for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. The event moves to March in the calendar and combines with another popular festival — the Young Readers Festival. More details are still to be released, but the event, which is the first festival under a new executive director, promises to be the best yet. www.festival.org.hk
Environmental Leadership at Hong Kong Academy
Starting from Pre-K, HKA cultivates individuals with a commitment to understanding others and making decisions with an awareness of how they affect communities. By studying realworld issues students learn how to analyse information, respect diverse perspectives and positively contribute to society. This year saw grade 6 students investigate renewable energy sources and opportunities for greenhouse gas
reduction. Their analysis led to the submission of a grant application to the Solar Energy Support Scheme for Schools. The resulting installation of a 10KW solar energy generation system will provide renewable energy and contribute to the Hong Kong government climate action plan for carbon neutrality for years to come.
Exceptional Global Citizens HKA students are exceptional global
citizens who graduate with up to three Diploma credentials and consistently outperform world pass rates and average total IB Diploma points. This year's graduating class has been offered places at an impressive list of world-class universities including Ivy League colleges in the US and Russell Group universities in the UK. The school welcomes new families all year round, contact admissions to learn how your child could benefit from an HKA education.
Bravery GrowsBy Dr Melissa Giglio & Daisy Geddes
While she's confident at home, Aria’s bravery dims at school and in social situations. She is unable to share her words or ideas with anyone outside of her comfort zone, including her teachers and peers, leaving her feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do. With the support, love, and understanding of her parents, she learns strategies to overcome her anxiety and regain her confidence. Each small step of improvement she makes helps her confidence to grow and her bravery glow to shine brightly again.
Written by two local psychologists working with anxiety in children, Bravery Grows is full of help for children suffering the effects of anxiety. Available from Bookazine, $175
StuckBy Oliver Jeffers
Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree, so he throws a shoe up to knock the kite loose, and that gets stuck too, followed by a ladder, a bucket, an orangutan, and a whale who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that was just the start of things. This funny picture book demonstrates cause and effect, commitment, perseverance, and responsible decision-making. Inspired by a real event, Stuck shows how determination can lead to success. Available from Bookazine, $112
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary FriendBy Dan Santat
An imaginary friend is born on an island far away. He and his other imaginary friends await their turn to be imagined by a real child but after a long time waiting, still no child imagines him and he can’t wait any longer. He sets off on a journey to the real world and just when he is just about to give up, he meets Alice. They become a great match for each other and Alice names him Beekle. This New York Times bestselling and awardwinning author and illustrator team creates a beautiful story about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one's place in the world. Available from Bookazine, $112
The Most Magnificent ThingBy Ashley Spires
This story about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, a dog, describes her trials as she attempts to make the most magnificent thing. She knows what she wants to make and how this thing will work but she just can’t seem to make it. She tries and tries and after so many attempts, she gets really mad and decides to quit in frustration. Her dog makes her take a walk and when she comes back, she faces things with a renewed enthusiasm and guess what? She manages to get it just right. She reaps the rewards of perseverance and creativity. Available from Amazon, $140
Tilda Tries Again: A Big Bright Feelings BookBy Tom Percival
When things change, Tilda feels like her whole world has been turned upside down. Her life was so great and now everything feels different. Tilda doesn’t like change so how will she cope? This is an inspiring and empowering story about coping with unexpected changes in life. Featuring lovely illustrations, it is a great tool for helping children build resilience. The book is part of the Big Bright Feelings picture book series, which consists of five books in total. Available from Book Depository, $90
Max and Mei & Me Chinese Learning Kit
Learning Chinese at early years can be really easy and fun. With the kit, you will be able to sing, read, play and learn Chinese with your child.
This early years learning kit is designed with parents in mind and aims to take you through the exciting first steps of learning Chinese.
We would like to offer Playtimes readers a special discount! Get the learning kit with HKD380 only on our Max and Mei website with promo code PT2022*!
Group orders of 10 or more kits can be redeemed at HKD350 each.
The kit is available on maxandmei.com and all Bookazine branches.
*Special offer is valid until 31 January 2023. For enquiries and group orders: firstname.lastname@example.org
Max and Mei Chinese Zodiac Series
Charming story books for children (ages 2–7) to practise their Mandarin, and learn all about the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
What's inside the learning kit?!
About the Series:
• Created by acclaimed author Martha Keswick, illustrated by award winning illustrator, Mariko Jesse to provide parents and teachers with engaging bilingual stories they can share with their children
• 13 exciting stories for children learning Chinese as a foreign language (includes pinyin).
• Online audio soundtrack in Chinese and English
• 13 x Max and Mei Storybooks
Dog, Dragon, Goat, Horse, Monkey, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Rat, Rooster, Snake, Tiger and Dinosaur
• 3 x Max and Mei Activity Books
Colors, Numbers, Family and Food
• 2 x Max and Mei Chinese Card Games
Colors and Numbers, Clothes and Animals
Max and Mei maxandmei Max and Mei
The COVID Storm — and Silver Linings for Children with Special Educational Needs
AHong Kong based study conducted by Yusuf Jangbarwala, a master’s student at Hong Kong University, during the COVID fifth-wave school closures demonstrated that whilst there were severe challenges, there were also benefits for Children with Special Educational Needs (children with SEN) in the early years. These possible silver linings are less reported in academic literature but can be of particular interest for parents and educators as we move towards recovery from pandemic-induced setbacks.
The critical developmental age in the early years for children with SEN coupled with the unique learning challenges make them more vulnerable to the pandemic-induced restrictions –school closures, mask-wearing, social distancing measures, playground closures. Results of the study verify that young children require face-to-face teaching offering hands-on and playful experiences for optimal development. Online learning fulfilled the ‘need of the hour’ during school closures.
Keeping children with SEN engaged was challenging on virtual platforms with general distractibility and shorter attention spans. Assessing children’s body language and emotions to provide adequate needs-based support, as done in a physical classroom environment, proved problematic.
Many social difficulties can only be overcome by practicing social skills with peers in schools, supported by the expertise of teaching staff. COVID restrictions severely limited opportunities to practice social targets.
What was the impact of COVID 19 on children with Special Educational Needs? Fatema Yusuf Jangbarwala investigates
When children with SEN returned to schools during the intermittent resumptions, social problems were found to be more pronounced, evidenced by a drastic increase in playground disputes. This was coupled with rise in anxiety levels of children with SEN themselves for a return to school that was somewhat unfamiliar and out of routine.
Despite returning to school, social and emotional needs were further hampered due to mask-wearing. The findings highlight that prolonged mask wearing impacted children’s ability to read facial expressions and emotions. Long-term mask-wearing has also raised questions on speech and language developmental impacts. Whilst the precise impact of wearing a mask on language development is unclear, it is clear that social and emotional regulation is affected. This creates a catch-22 situation; despite the children being at school, they are still not able to function optimally due to the lingering social distancing measures continued to be implemented in Hong Kong schools. Additionally, it has hampered young children from building strong immunity with faces covered, lacking exposure to the outside world.
Longer term this poses challenges towards ‘Early intervention’ (EI), where children are provided specialised support at the youngest possible age. The COVID restrictions have created a ‘hot oven’ for developmental delays and deficiencies in early learning skills (fine/gross motor and school readiness skills). The questions that arise for parents and educators is whether the children’s difficulties are due to developmental or neurological causes,
or simply a product of lack of inperson schooling and mask-wearing? This results in delaying EI for children with milder needs as they may go undiagnosed as ‘COVID-related’.
The Silver Linings
Shifting focus to ‘looking for the good’, the study revealed that some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and with social difficulties actually thrived during online learning. Home environment provided a ‘karma space’. Familiarity and comfort of home resulted in less sensory overload (sensitivity to light, noises, distractions) compared to the classroom environment resulting in improved attention. It also provided autonomy over free time to pursue creative home-play (LEGO, arts etc) without the pressures of school time-tables and structured extra-curricular classes. children with SEN had autonomy to deal with their emotions when they were challenged by simply switching off their camera without the pressure of being watched in a classroom setting.
The nature of online learning was comforting for some children with ASD, shy children and those who are selectively mute, as it encouraged them to ‘come out of their shell’. Technology provided various ‘alternate means of expression’; making videos, drawing, typing, using voice-to-text and typing – rather than being limited to faceto-face classroom conversations. Conversely for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), online learning was not beneficial as they were unable to sit still in front of the screen and lacked access to classroom learning tools.
Online learning also provided parents an opportunity to learn more about their children’s schoolin, enabling them to understand the unique needs of their children compared to peers (being unable to sit still on ZOOM for 20 mins). Such realisations are a first step for parents to seek EI for their children and work with educators and SEN professionals to provide their children with the appropriate support and care post-pandemic.
The study also found ‘reduced bullying’ as a short-term benefit of online learning, as highlighted in other studies. However, when inperson schooling resumed, the prior socialisation deprivation resulted in increased bullying instances in the playground and classroom.
Hong Kong has undergone COVID restrictions for more prolonged periods compared to other developed countries. The time has come for society, government policy, health departments, schools, educators and parents to divert resources and focus towards this vulnerable group of children to restore their holistic development. The Society for Community Organization (2022) estimates that there are 82,858 children with SEN in Hong Kong, which is 8.09 per cent of all children. This number could be higher with the number of children suspected of SEN and not
yet identified. Developmental delays in social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills from the COVID restrictions may result in an increase in the percentage of SEN children. It is important for parents and educators to identify early warning signs in children and seek professional help as soon as possible so they are not left behind. As we look to play ‘catch up’ for almost three years since the onset of the pandemic, it is important to meet the children where they are and move them along. children with SEN need consistent routines and structure which is only achievable by reverting to pre-COVID norms sooner than later by resuming full day schooling, relaxing maskwearing and other health protocols in schools. With in-person schooling resumed from the start of this academic year, it is also important to retain the benefits attained during COVID for children with SEN with the use of pandemic-evolved technology and less
stringent schedules. Educators are in strong agreement that adaptations in curriculum were required to offer more opportunities in school for play, practicing social skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving, group work and sharing ideas. By focusing first on these basic skills, we will ensure children with SEN are equipped with the essential tools required for optimal social and academic learning.
Whilst there were severe challenges, there were also benefits for Children with Special Educational Needs.
This article shares the findings from a Research study conducted by the author as a Master’s project at HKU. A special thank you to the 21 participants who have contributed to the findings.
A Quick Guide to Psychoeducational Assessment
What is a psychoeducational assessment?
Simply put, it’s a way for a psychologist to determine whether a child or teenager has developmental and/ or learning challenges, with a view to giving them tools and strategies to help them to learn better. A detailed evaluation assesses your child’s strengths and weaknesses, measures their intellectual and academic abilities and helps to identify how your child learns best. It will also flag up if they have problems with core skills (communication, numeracy, Information and Communication Technology, problem solving and working with others) or if they are struggling emotionally, behaviourally or socially.
Depending on the age of your child, they’ll use various tools, including drawing, writing, questioning and a motor skill-based activity such as playing with blocks, to assess your child’s developmental progress compared with their peers. If your child is school-aged, they’ll also ask to review their school reports and possibly send a questionnaire to their educators.
How do you know if your child needs one?
Of course, all children are different and progress at different rates, so how do you know if your child is simply taking longer to grasp a concept or if they are showing signs of a learning disability?
While it’s not healthy to constantly compare your child to others, there are certain developmental stages that are common to particular aged children and if you notice your child having difficulty with something their peers seem to manage easily, then this could be an indication that they need extra support. Trust your intuition; as a parent you know if something doesn’t feel right, and it can often help to talk it over with family or a trusted friend to see if they’ve noticed anything of concern. Secondly, reach out to your child’s educators. These professionals spend a lot of time with children and are therefore often more attuned to whether something warrants further investigation. They are also perfectly placed to know whether
your child is struggling to keep up with class learning and may be able to suggest who to contact.
At what age should I get my child assessed?
As a parent, you’ll already have some idea of developmental milestones, such as smiling, rolling over and saying their first words, which are generally reached at a predictable rate. Keep in mind that there’s often quite a large window in which these stages are reached. For example, babies usually take their first steps between 11 and 15 months, which, when you’re watching your baby’s movements with bated breath, can seem like quite a long space of time! It also isn’t abnormal if your child learns to walk later than this as long as everything else is
progressing as it should. As children get older, these milestones become more complex and it can be harder to pinpoint what is actually going on. While psychoeducational assessments can be carried out from any age, it’s most common for learning difficulties to be diagnosed a few years after children have started school. The best thing to do is to talk to your child’s doctor if you have any concerns.
What comes after a
The benefit of having a professional assessment is that once you’ve identified any strengths or weaknesses, you are better placed to know how to help your child to thrive. The psychologist will give you strategies on how best to support your child’s
learning path, and along with parents and educators, everyone can then work together to help manage your child’s learning journey. If specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety, are diagnosed, children will also gain access to special measures including scribing or extra exam time later on in their education.
What will an assessment cost?
You can expect to pay between $7,000 and $25,000 for a comprehensive assessment, including parent consultations and next-step recommendations. To help you decide whether an assessment is right for your child, we’ve listed some useful resources to get you started.
Resources in Hong Kong
The Child Development Centre is an excellent resource, which provides support to those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) issues in both English and Chinese. They work closely with the Social Welfare Department, but you can fill in an enquiry form online to apply for a very reasonably priced private assessment. www.cdchk.org
The charitable organization, Watchdog specializes in early intervention for children with special educational needs aged from newborn to six. They provide assessments and programmes in both English and Cantonese. www.watchdog.org.hk
As well as providing psych-ed assessments, Cook and Craigen, specialises in custody and psychological evaluations. They offer a 30-minute pre-assessment, that can be booked online, to discuss which option is right for you. www.cookandcraigenassessmentservices.org
Sprout in Motion provides a range of educational assessments. Their website also has a wonderful “Resources” section, with a range of articles to increase awareness about learning, emotional and behavioural challenges. www.sproutinmotion.com
Children’s therapy centre, SPOT provides many different assessments and services, as well as clear information about the most common learning difficulties on their website. https://spot.com.hk
The Jadis Blurton Family Development Centre offers psychoeducational assessments as well as therapy and counselling. You can contact them on 2869-1962 for a free 20-minute consultation. www.blurton-fdc.com
Central Health Development Centre provides a comprehensive range of mental health and developmental support services that are individual to the needs of each child and their family. The experiences team creates treatment plans that are both accessible and practical for caregivers and schools, to support and empower the child to fulfil their potential. www.cdt.com.hk/services
Online Applications Top Schools offers Top Tips for
Almost all schools have moved from paper application forms to online systems. Each school uses a different system, though, and some are better than others. The team at Tops Schools share the low down on what works and what doesn't when completing an online school application for your child
documents are in the correct format. Send everything that they ask for but nothing more
• Ensure that the photograph is a good clear head and shoulders shot with a plain background. No need for a professional studio shot. We usually recommend a fun activity ie watersports, beach, hiking, etc
always clear but if one or both parents are native in English and their first words to your child were in English and they will (later) discuss intimate matters of the heart/deep philosophical issues with your teen/adult child in English, you can safely put English as their first language.
Schools’ Top Tips for Online Application Forms
• Draft the application offlineespecially the essay questions. Then cut and paste the text into the relevant application forms. Easy to edit, easy to share for comments, creates a back-up and you won't get timed out of the system
• Recycle essay answers, but always tweak them to fit the school.
• Make sure that all supporting
• Some school systems prefer certain browsers. Understand these before beginning.
• It doesn't matter when you submit the application within the admissions window, as long as you don't submit it late.
• Disclosure is better than discovery. If your child has any learning needs, disclose.
• Do not put English down as your/ your child's first language, unless it really is. In Hong Kong, this is not
• Take screenshots of each page (in case the worst happens and you lose everything!) It happens more often than you might think.
Check that the application is received. Many times, an application sits in a 'pending' pool as the school is waiting for documents or some clarification and the parents miss this.
Top Schools are Hong Kong's leading education consultants.
TYPO at Cotton On
Typo is known best for fun notebooks, quirky pencil cases and office worthy accessories. Check for the frequent sales to grab a good deal. Stock up on planners, sticky notes and notebooks for the whole family. While you’re at it, get a groovy tote bag for yourself as well (they’re that cool)! www.cottonon.com/HK
Cool Point is stocked with Korean-style stationery including notebooks, stickers and even travel accessories. The shop itself is decorated like a greeting card, featuring cute prints and adorable decor. Cool Point, B108, B1, Mira Place One, 132 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Tel: 2904 1988
You are sure to find what you need (and more) at AEON, the master of one-stop shops! They have a great selection of school supplies in Hong Kong, including stationery, bags and containers. Even better, you’ll find all the supplies you could dream of at extremely reasonable prices!
AEON, various locations throughout Hong Kong, 2565 3600, email@example.com, www.aeonstores.com.hk
If you’re after efficiency and sleek Japanese school supplies, it’s Muji for the win. They stock a variety of nice quality stationery, desk organisers, accessories and super practical items to help keep your productivity in check. Muji, multiple locations across Hong Kong, www.muji.com/hk-en
Best Stationery Stores IN HONG KONG
Bookazine stocks a wide variety of books, including school activity books, as well as fun, unique stationery that’s sure to make a statement at school! Check out their awesome collection Hong Kong-themed products, including pencil bags and stationery. Bookazine, various locations throughout Hong Kong, www.bookazine.com.hk
Eslite Bookstore offers a massive selection of Chinese and English books, but they also have a dedicated area just for stationery, where you can find elegant notebooks and stationery. They also have great seasonal deals and discounts, so keep a look out!
Eslite, multiple locations across Hong Kong, www.eslitecorp.com or www.eslite.com
Gift Idea has every conceivable stationery item from technical drawing pens to decorative paper and pretty memo pads. It’s great shop if you’re on the hunt for unique stationery items as they stocks a wide range of imported goods, notably several Japanese and European brands. Whether you want pens, washi tape or calligraphy tools, Gift Idea is your place. Be prepared to rummage!
Gift Idea, Room Room 2709, 27/F, Wealth Commercial Centre, 48 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok, Hong Kong. Tel: 3705 2401 www.giftideahongkong.com
HOK LAM STATIONERY & GIFT COMPANY
This no-frills store has all your basic supplies covered. It looks unassuming from the outside, but this shop stocks a large range of stationery items and gifts!
Hok Lam Stationery & Gift Company, Tai Hang Tung Estate Tung Lung House, 88 Tai Hang Tung Rd. Tel: 2777 7320
Artland is an amazing shop for the budding artist, stocking a wide variety of arts and crafts tools. From coloured pencils to easels, Artland has all the art supplies you could dream up.They also have an art gallery which hosts new exhibitions every fortnight.
Artland, 3/F Lockhart Centre, 301-307 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Tel: 2511 4845, www.artland.com.hk
SOGO is Hong Kong’s largest Japanesestyle department store, stocking all the school supplies you need including rucksacks, lunch boxes and matching drink bottles. Head to the 7th floor to find kids’ clothing, stationery and accessories. Sogo, 555 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Tel: 2833 8338, www.sogo.com.hk
Distinctive for its funky fashionable decor, Log-on is packed with stationery, toys and lifestyle products. You won’t be disappointed in the trendy school supplies and it’s likely you’ll come out with items you didn’t even know you needed. Your kids will be excited to do their homework with all the new stationery. Log-on, multiple locations including Basement 1, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay. Tel: 2736 3866. www.logon.com.hk
Kikki K is your one-stop shop for gorgeous journals, notebooks, diaries and planners plus all the pretty pens to match. This store is unique in that it doesn’t arrange products in the usual way based on function but rather matches them according to aesthetics and Swedish sensibilities. Kikki K, various locations throughout Hong Kong. Tel: 2812 1900.
Dr Rowena Chau explains childhood vaccination recommendations in Hong Kong
Not only do vaccination recommendations differ between countries, but in Hong Kong some vaccines are not covered by the government programme and are only available in the private sector. So, are these vaccines necessary? Are you up to date on your child’s vaccinations? Let’s start with a simple chart for the Hong Kong Immunisation Programme.
• B.C.G Vaccine
• Hepatitis B – First dose
• Hepatitis B –Second dose
• DTaP-IPV – First dose
• Pneumococcal Vaccine –First dose
• DTaP-IPV Vaccine –Second dose
• Pneumococcal Vaccine –Second dose
vaccine. However, it also requires three primary doses in the first year and a booster dose in the second year, so if you don’t get the 5-in-1, you’ll need to prepare yourself for four more jabs for your baby.
Q: At two to six months, there is an option to get an oral vaccine for the Rotavirus in the private sector, do you recommend it?
• DTaP-IPV– Third dose
• Hepatitis B – Third dose
• MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella – First dose
• Pneumococcal Vaccine –Booster Dose
• Varicella Vaccine –First dose
One and a half years
• DTaP-IPV – Booster dose
• MMR Second dose
• DTaP-IPV – Booster dose
• DTap-IPV – Booster dose
Q: At a private clinic there is the option of a 5-in-1 vaccine for a two-month old. How is this different from the vaccine offered by the government?
The 5-in-1 vaccine combines the DTaP-IPV with an extra vaccine for Haemophalius influenza B (Hib). This bacterium commonly causes ear infection and respiratory tract infection, and, rarely, it can also spread in the bloodstream, leading to septicaemia, or up to the brain causing meningitis. If you opt out of this 5-in-1, you can always get the Hib alone as a single
Rotavirus can give your children severe diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain which can last from three to eight days. Although the disease is usually self-limiting, during the one to two weeks of acute infection, both baby and parents suffer a lot. And even though the vaccine does not provide 100 per cent protection, vaccinated children usually experience much less severe symptoms than unvaccinated children. As a mother of three young children myself, I do think the vaccine is easy and safe, that’s why I would recommend it.
Q: When should we get the meningococcal vaccine?
There are different brands of meningococcal vaccines, which cover different serotypes of the bacterial organism Neisseria Meningiditis, which is notorious for its rapid and severe progress in causing septicaemia and meningitis. There are two types of meningococcal vaccines. One is meningococcal ACWY, for which two doses will be required for children below 1 year. The first dose can be given after 2 months-old, then a second dose three months later. For those above 1 year-old, a single dose is given. The other one is MenB vaccine. This vaccine is usually given at two, four and after 12 months of age. For children above 2 years old, only two doses will be required.
Q: At 12 months, there’s an option for Hepatitis A Vaccine, which is not covered in the public system, do I need it?
Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause viral hepatitis through the oral-fecal route, leaving patients with lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss and jaundice. Although most of the patients recover in due course, a small number of patients may end up developing acute liver failure. Since the infection has no definitive treatment and only supportive care can be given, vaccination is a good way to prevent it. Living in Hong Kong, I feel there are many opportunities to eat out and travel to different areas in Asia, so I do recommend this. The vaccination requires two doses, six months apart.
Q: The Japanese Encephalitis vaccine seems to be a government sponsored vaccine in many countries except Hong Kong. Why is that?
Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is one of the essential vaccines in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. I think the major reason being that the disease is mosquito-borne, and is commonly found in the rural and agricultural region of Asia and Western Pacific Region. In Hong Kong, it is not included in the government programme, probably because the number of cases is not that high, but it is actually recommended to frequent travellers by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), especially those going to the endemic areas. Another reason to consider this vaccination is that the disease caused is a viral encephalitis, which has no specific treatment to-date, yet the fatality rate can be up to 30 per cent. For those who survive, there is also a 20–30 per cent chance of suffering from permanent brain damage.
Dr Rowena Chua is a specialist in Paediatrics with Central Health. She gained more than 10 years experience working with neo-natal and paediatric units in government units before switching to private practice.
Why you need Vitamin D before flu season this yearby Tiffany Beeson
Flu season in Hong Kong hits twice, mainly from January to March/April and from July to August, according to the Centre for Health Protection. Seasonal influenza, a common respiratory tract infection caused by influenza viruses, can seriously affect those who may be more vulnerable, so it’s a good idea to do your best to keep your immune system strong. One way to do that is to ensure your vitamin D levels are sufficient.
Playtimes spoke with Dr. Sonal Hattangdi-Haridas, a Nutritional Medicine Specialist and Homeopath in her 25th year of private practice, for some advice and information on
vitamin D. Dr. Sonal is well-respected globally and in Hong Kong for her result-oriented, scientific and practical approach to natural and nutritional treatments and Vitamin D is one of her favourite topics.
Why is Vitamin D so important for flu season?
“There is much evidence from ICU units around the world which shows that Vitamin D deficient persons are at a higher risk of complications of Influenza leading to hospitalization or death and similarly in Covid-19.” — Dr. Sonal
According to Harvard School of Public Health, laboratory studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell
growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. Additionally, many of our organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggests it has vital roles in the body beyond bone health. Clearly vitamin D is important for human health.
Vitamin D deficiency in the winter months may be the seasonal stimulus that triggers influenza outbreaks. Results from a randomized, controlled trial in Japan showed that children given a daily vitamin D supplement of 1200 IU had a 40% lower rate of influenza type A compared with those given placebo. For the sake of public health in the general population, Vitamin D is a sole risk factor for total mortality.
What role does vitamin D play in the body?
Vitamin D is critical for skeletal, mental and skin health as well as immune modulation. It supports the production of neurotransmitters (the chemicals used for brain signaling), the formation of ceramides (smoothening the surface of skin) and in T cell regulation (a key aspect of the immune system). “T cell regulation is a very important immune function. Imbalance can lead to allergies, auto immune responses and overreaction to viral or bacterial infections.” Dr. Sonal
In recent times, vitamin D has been regarded as a vitamin super star. This powerful immune-boosting vitamin is not only crucial for bone health but has wide reaching health benefits encompassing everything in the body from bones and muscles to the heart, brain, thyroid, reproductive organs, gut, and multiple immune functions among other roles. Emerging research supports the role vitamin D plays against cancer, heart disease, fractures and falls, autoimmune diseases, influenza, type2 diabetes, and depression. On that evidence, health care providers have increased their recommendations for
vitamin D supplementation according to the Harvard School of Public Health. It’s clear that getting enough vitamin D is vital because it affects the whole body in so many ways.
“Simply put, we need Vitamin D at an optimum level in our body to support the formation of healthy skin and bones, good moods, and for reducing the risk of cancers, auto immune diseases and allergies and even to combat the complications of viral illnesses such as influenza and Covid-19.” Dr. Sonal
What actually is vitamin D?
You might know vitamin D as the 'bone building' vitamin and one we somehow get from the sun. Interestingly, vitamin D is not technically a ‘vitamin’ in the strictest sense of the word but acts as a hormone/prohormone the way it is synthesised and activated in the body. It’s most commonly referred to as ‘Vitamin D’ so for simplicity sake, I will use that term too.
In science and medicine when referring to vitamin D levels in the body, it is mainly vitamin D3 levels we are talking about. Dietary vitamin D exists in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is the
active form while Vitamin D2 needs to be converted to D3 to have effects on the body's processes. The human body synthesises Vitamin D in the presence of sunlight under the skin, processing it to Vitamin D3 in the liver.
How do we get vitamin D in the body?
Both vitamin D2 and D3 are available through foods in our regular diet. Vegetarian foods like mushrooms and soy contain vitamin D2 while dairy, eggs, fish and meat contain D3. Appropriate sun exposure, with sensible use of sunscreen and covering, is part of a healthy lifestyle and another important avenue to get more vitamin D.
To enhance Vitamin D uptake, ensure you consume ample amounts of healthy fats. Absorption improves 30 per cent if vitamin D rich foods are eaten with healthy fats. For example, have buttered toast with your eggs or an avocado and mushroom spread on toast. Healthy fats are an important vehicle for absorption of vitamins A, D E and K. People on low fat diets need to pay heed to this.
Vitamin D supplements are another way to get your daily dose of vitamin D.
Foods that naturally contain vitamin D include:
• egg yolk
• certain fatty fish such as sardines, herring, tuna, mackerel, salmon
• fish liver oil
• UV-treated mushrooms
• fortified foods (only offer minimal amounts)
How much sun exposure is helpful:
• UVB is best during the hours of 10am to 3pm
• In spring, summer and autumn, 10–15 minutes of exposure (over arms and face, or arms and legs/hands) from 10am to 3pm can produce adequate vitamin D in light-skinned populations.
• For older individuals and those with darker skin, more exposure is needed for vitamin D synthesis
• Asians from the Indian subcontinent may require 3 times as much sun exposure as Caucasians, whereas people of African origin may need 6–10 times more.
It’s important to note that season, time of day, cloud cover, air quality, and sunscreen use affect sun exposure and vitamin D synthesis. Also, UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D.
In an ideal world, our bodies would be self-sufficient if exposed to adequate sunlight along with dietary intake of vitamin D rich foods. Unfortunately, this is not the case and sadly we do not live in an ideal world. There are many factors affecting our ability to get enough vitamin D. “Ignoring this simple truth has led to a proliferation of preventable health issues related to low vitamin D levels.” — Dr.Sonal
Vitamin D supplements
With insufficient sun exposure or food sources, Vitamin D supplementation is an easy and affordable solution. Talk to your doctor about how much you should be taking. It’s likely your doctor will check your levels first with a simple blood test and go from there. It’s important to note that like vitamin A, vitamin D can be toxic at very high levels but toxicity is rare.
For my own family, I buy a vitamin D spray or drops and add it to the morning smoothie or just have the kids take it straight up. The drops or sprays are typically in an oil base which helps with absorption since vitamin D is fat-soluble.
How much is enough vitamin D?
Historically, blood levels of vitamin D3 at 25nmol/l or below was set as the threshold for deficiency to prevent bone density diseases but recent knowledge has shown that 75nmol/l is a more
reasonable standard for healthy levels, while levels between 90-120nmols/l are associated with some level of protection from cancers.
Current studies suggest that we may need more vitamin D than presently recommended to prevent chronic disease. If you’re at risk of having a deficiency (most of us are), measuring your level of vitamin D (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin) will tell you. Once you have this information it’s easier to determine how much extra you’ll need.
Several of the world’s leading vitamin D researchers wrote guidelines in an article titled Evaluation, Treatment, and Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency. They list recommended levels in their guidelines. (reference links at end of article).
Based on your current levels, you would want to take in enough to avoid insufficiency. The US Endocrine Society provides the following cutoffs:
• Deficiency: ≤ 20 ng/mL
• Insufficiency: 21-29 ng/mL
• Sufficiency: ≥ 30 ng/mL
The Endocrine Society has pegged the upper tolerable limit for Vitamin D intake in adults as 4000 IU/day.
How do you know if you’re vitamin D deficient?
Symptoms of inadequate vitamin D levels can be quite vague and range from dry skin and low moods to backache. When in doubt, do a blood test.
How common is vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are important health issues globally, affecting a large percentage of the
population the world over. About half the population has insufficiency while an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency. This may be due to our modern lifestyle, spending most of our daylight time indoors (at work or in school), as well as environmental factors such as air pollution which reduces sunlight exposure. In Hong Kong, the percentage of those with vitamin D deficiency might be even higher than in other countries owing to lifestyle and environmental factors.
Hong Kong vitamin D status: infants, adolescents and young adults
A pilot study done on infants born in Hong Kong suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be prevalent in local Chinese infants at 3 months of age. Among exclusively breastfed infants, 97.4% had vitamin D deficiency; the rate is higher than that reported in other studies (ranging from 6% to 81%). This is closely related to the breastfeeding mother’s vitamin D status which we know is likely not sufficient.
At 3 months of age, vitamin D reserves may be used up and infants are not yet taking in solid foods. A lack of sun exposure may also help explain why these exclusively breastfed infants had a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. In these cases, supplementation is required. As babies get older and have a more diverse dietary intake and more sunlight exposure, vitamin D status may improve. More studies are required to evaluate the natural change in vitamin D status during infancy.
Among adolescents and young adults in Hong Kong, the data shows a great deal of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency. In young adults (age 18–26), the deficiency rate was 72% while 76.1% of adolescents in another study were classified as insufficient or deficient. The lack of sufficient levels of vitamin D, measured as Serum 25(OH), was linked as a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular ('cardiometabolic') disease in the study on young adults. In the study on adolescents, a significant correlation was found between vitamin D levels and bone density/bone quality factors. Both studies conclude that further studies are warranted. In particular, one study closed by stating that the data supports vitamin D deficiency as a modifiable risk factor for cardiometabolic disease and thus, increased vitamin D intake may alleviate the risk profile.
Who is at risk?
Most of us are in the high-risk group for vitamin D insufficiency, defined as levels less than 75nmol/L or 30ng/dl.
Newborns, young children, the elderly and pregnant women are most at risk. If you have not been routinely in the sunlight for the past few months or don’t have a habit of sitting in the sun with bare skin exposed for at least 30 minutes every day, it’s very likely your vitamin D levels are not up to par. Who else is at risk?
• You are at risk if you are a mother who was not supplemented during this or previous pregnancies during Covid lockdowns, if you are breast feeding and have been avoiding the great outdoors due to social distancing.
• Newborn babies that are solely breastfed by a mother who is not supplemented with vitamin D and not getting outdoors in the sun.
• Those with skin diseases such as eczema or psoriasis that has broken skin barriers and reacts badly in the sun.
• Anyone suffering liver disease or taking oral steroids or certain medications known to reduce absorption of vitamin D3.
• At a clinical level, most office workers such as lawyers, bankers and doctors tend to have lower vitamin D levels unless they are making a concentrated effort to ensure adequate time in the sun, eating vitamin D-rich foods and taking supplements when needed.
• Skin colour also affects vitamin D3 production as the darker the skin, the longer it takes the sun’s rays to penetrate the skin. Note: this does not mean that those with lighter skin can make more vitamin D3 as a rule.
• Many genetic aberrations of vitamin D receptors exist. There are some genetic issues that reduce the rate of vitamin D3 formation in the body. “Studies show a high prevalence of these receptor polymorphisms in China and in Hong Kong.” — Dr. Sonal
What can you do today ?
Dr. Sonal’s sincerest clinical advice is to get your vitamin D tested yearly at the end of summer. Why not make it a part of your annual check-up? Ensuring that your nutrient profile is optimal each year is like buying insurance for a healthier you. Keep in mind that it’s not enough to simply know if you are deficient. Optimal
levels of vitamin D are also affected by age, lifestyle, illness or genetics.
Without sifting through piles of research studies or reading countless articles on the topic, I personally recommend a great podcast that will have you informed in about 40 minutes. Have a listen when you next go out for a walk or while taking the bus across town. https://podcasts.apple.com/ pt/podcast/vitamin-d-myths-theyo-yo-effect-what-to-avoid-in/ id1246494475?i=1000540603159
In article references:
• w ww.chp.gov.hk/en/ features/14843.html
• w ww.hsph.harvard.edu/ nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
• w ww.uspharmacist.com/article/ vitamin-d-supplementation-anupdate
• w ww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC3356951/
• w ww.sciencedirect. com/science/article/pii/ S187595721830651X#bib7
• w ww.cambridge.org/core/journals/ public-health-nutrition/article/2011report-on-dietary-referenceintakes-for-calcium-and-vitamin-d/ 168742FBF582657AD0135BB45F3 A66AE
• https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/23790560/
• https://academic.oup.com/jcem/ article/96/7/1911/2833671
• w ww.hkmj.org/system/files/ hkm1803sp3p32.pdf
• ht tps://search.informit. org/doi/abs/10.3316/ informit.288524317968689
• https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/27010646/
Kids will be kids, and accidents do happen. What do you do if you think your child has broken a bone?
Dr. KL Liu offers top tips for parents
What is a fracture?
A fracture is a break in the bone that can be either displaced (out of alignment) or non-displaced. Although there are many causes of fractures, the most common one is an accident or a fall. Other causes in children can be from a direct blow, such as a car accident or being hit, or medical conditions that cause bones to be weak.
Dr. KL Liu, an orthopaedic specialist focused on the care of children, says that the majority of fractures in children occur in the upper limbs. The most common injury is a fracture of the wrist caused by falling onto the outstretched hand. The second is a fracture of the elbow whilst the third is of the forearm. The fourth most common fracture is in the leg (shin) bone.
What to look out for
Common signs and symptoms of fractures:
• pain, swelling, and bruising around the fracture site
• inability to move the limb or joint
• deformity of the limb or joint
• numbness or tingling in the injured area
• feeling of instability or “giving way” at the fracture site
What to do
Being away from home can add a lot of stress to the situation but the most important thing to do is to stay calm, and if you suspect that your child has a fracture, seek medical treatment right away. Fractures can often be treated without surgery but it’s important to have them assessed by a doctor to determine the best course of treatment. This is what you can do until you get medical help:
• Try not to move the injured arm or leg
• Gently take clothing off the injured area. If this is very painful for your child, use scissors to cut off the clothing
• Keep the injured limb in the position you find it
• If you have one or can make one, put a simple splint on the broken area to hold the bone still. This protects it until the child is seen by a doctor. To make a splint, you can use a small board or folded up newspapers. Wrap it with a bandage or tape
• Don’t let your child eat or drink in case they need surgery If you suspect a serious injury to the head, neck, or back, or if a bone comes through the skin, call emergency services. Likewise, keep your child lying down and do not wash or touch the part sticking out.
Treatment of a fracture
If the fracture is not displaced, it may be treated without surgery after adequate immobilization. However, if your child is experiencing a lot of pain or if the injury is not improving
after a few days, it’s best to seek medical treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon.
If the fracture is displaced, the bone will need to be reset into place. This will require a trip to the hospital where an orthopaedic surgeon will perform the necessary procedure. Once the bone has been reset, your child will need to wear a cast for several weeks to allow the fracture to heal properly.
‘No matter what type of fracture, the key is early accurate diagnosis and provision of proper treatment.’ Dr Liu says. ‘When the injuries are neglected or not managed properly, more complicated treatments such as open surgeries might be necessary, with possible long term effects on the child’s growth and development.’
Dr Liu emphasises the importance of seeking medical treatment right away. Listen to what the medical professional in the country advises and get first-line treatment to prevent the situation from getting worse. If you are covered by medical insurance, it will be wise to check against your coverage and see if you can get any support from the insurance team.
Sometimes an x-ray or imaging will be done for your child, in such cases, you can obtain a report and send it to your doctor in your home country for a second opinion, or contact the Matilda Orthopaedic and Spine Centre and get some advice from their team.
It is always good to have a specialist appointment booked immediately upon your return trip and keep in close communication with your doctor at home.
Think Prevention! Not every fracture can be prevented. But you can make a break less likely. Follow these tips:
• Children need to build strong bones, you can help by making sure they get enough calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity.
• Provide children a helmet and safety equipment when cycling, playing on skateboards and rollerblades as well as for sporting activities.
• Beware of stairs in places you are staying when away, most places won’t have safety gates installed.
Matilda Orthopaedic and Spine Centre provides a one-stop service, from finding the right specialist to facilitating all the arrangements. Contact 5501 6699 or orthopaedics@ matilda.org to arrange a specialist appointment. The Matilda International Hospital also provides first aid courses to prepare parents and domestic helpers to respond in an emergency situation, check out the www.matilda.org/en/ for-patients/courses for details.
*This article was sponsored by Matilda International Hospital
in Hong Kong this Winter
There’s something about ice skating that feels so festive! If you’re looking to take your little ones ice skating, here’s a round-up of the best rinks in Hong Kong and where to buy everything you need to get started.
WHERE TO GO ICE SKATING IN HONG KONG
The Rink at ELEMENTS
With a unique pay-as-you go system that starts from HKD$1.5 a minute and the ability to pay with your Octopus card, you’ll be able to plan a skate within your budget. Group, semi-private or private skating lessons can be booked online. Their ‘Open Rink’ design concept removes the need for a ticket booth so skaters can simply enter the rink using their Octopus Card and pay by the minute. The Rink doesn’t have fixed time sessions, apart from the short resurfacing time, so it’s super flexible. Parents accompanying junior skaters can enter freely to watch or assist their children. Safety handrails for first time skaters and families are available, too. Visit over Christmas this year and you'll even get to experience snow as part of a "snow event".
Location: ELEMENTS Mall, Tsim Sha Tsui
More info: www.elementshk.com/eng/ elements/entertainment/the-rink-ice-rink
Mega Ice at Megabox
Mega Ice is an international sized ice rink where you can enjoy full views of the harbour. This rink hosts Olympic qualifiers and local figure skating contests and is also available for birthday parties and private hire. On a regular day, you might see budding hockey players zinging pucks around; the Penguins Hockey Club holds classes for all ages, from 5 years and up. Skate sessions are $50–$80 per 2–3 hour session. If you’re after some lessons, check out their programmes in ice hockey, figure skating and synchronised skating. There’s a free shuttle bus running from Kowloon Bay MTR station to the rink.
Location: Unit 1, Level 10, MegaBox in Kowloon Bay
More info: www.megaice.com.hk
Ice Palace CityPlaza
The newly revamped Ice Palace offers a wonderful skating experience using the latest technologies and a range of new amenities. The rink is environmentally friendly too, utilising refrigerant that creates Fast Ice for all types of ice skating. Guests can now enjoy direct access from the rink to get refreshments without removing their skates! Bonus. With just a wristband, you’re in for a high tech, self-service ticketing kiosk along with self-service skate rental which is a first for Hong Kong. For convenience you will find digitalised daily and monthly lockers. Tickets range from $70–95 per public skate session. Lessons are also available, and the rink is staffed by over 25 registered skating coaches. Other new amenities include a stretching and activity room, a skate shop staffed by knowledgeable professionals, and a skate school where you can polish your skills before you hit the ice.
To celebrate the rink's 40th anniversary, Cityplaza Ice Palace is launching a new "Skatecation" campaign from October through December. Kick off the chilly months with fun events, activities and special offers.
Location: Cityplaza Ice Palace in Taikoo
More info: www.cityplaza.com/en/ ice-palace Skatecation: www.cityplaza.com/en/icepalace/skatecation2022
Programmes: www.cityplaza.com/en/ ice-palace/ice-skating-programmesThe Rink at ELEMENTS Mega Ice at Megabox
Festival Walk Glacier
Skate along to music while you admire the beautiful backdrop of Lion Rock Mountain. There are a host of recreational skating lessons available for all ages which can be developed into professional lessons with exams. Public skate sessions are $70 and include equipment rentals. Lockers are available for $10. This rink also hosts skating competitions which are great fun to watch. Join in the holiday specials Sparkling Christmas on Ice where there’s Christmas dance on ice and Santa on ice!
Location: Festival Walk shopping mall, Kowloon Tong
More info: www.festivalwalk.com.hk/en/ fun/glacier.aspx
LOHAS Rink is the largest internationalstandard ice arena in the area. The newly-launched rink is also the first to incorporate a natural, non-toxic and non-flammable CO2 chiller plant system. Public skating sessions of 2.5–3 hours range from $65–95/ session depending on the day of week. Check out their skating courses and trial lessons or sign up to learn figure skating or ice hockey.
Location: Near the Lohas Park MTR station, Tseung Kwan O More info: lohasrink.com.hk/en, firstname.lastname@example.org, 2622 8400
DB Ice Rink
DB Ice Rink provides a relaxing, fun and inclusive environment for guests to explore ice sports. A short distance from DB Plaza and DB Pier, DB Ice Rink makes skating activities easily accessible and affordable for all while also being a venue of choice for professional performances, international competitions and specialised training.
Discovery Bay is proud to provide a state-of-the-art facility to nurture interest in ice sports and activities, and offer a new and unique entertainment venue for the public.
Location: G/F, DB Plaza, Discovery Bay, Lantau Island, Hong Kong More info: email@example.com Tel: 2234 0187
Aberdeen Marina Club Rink (private)
Located in the beautiful Aberdeen Marina Club, this rink offers ice skating group or private lessons as well as ice hockey. Figure skating lessons are for children aged 2.5 years and up while the mini hockey programme starts from age 5 years and up. Lessons are available for non-members.
Location: 9/F Ice Rink, Marina Tower at Aberdeen Marina Club, Aberdeen More info: 2814 5374
K11 Musea Temporary Rink
Over the festive season a temporary outdoor rink will be open at K11 Musea from from 14 December.Lohas
Olympian City’s “A Winter Wonderland”
Head to Olympian City for ice sports in the indoor “Winter Wonderland”, a massive 2000-square-feet eco-friendly ice rink. Running from 19 November 2022 to 2 January 2023, over 400 iceskating experience classes, taught by professional coaches, will take place. Family sessions, ice hockey and curling will be part of the “Ice Sports Challenge Station”. On selected days, a supersized air hockey tournament, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, will be staged for the public to take part with friends and families. Plus local figure skater Maisy Ma will be doing a special Christmas performance and will host a professional ice hockey tournament that is open to the public audience.
Location: 18 Hoi Ting Road, West Kowloon, Hong Kong More info: www.olympiancity.com.hk/en
WHERE TO BUY ICE SKATING EQUIPMENT
Just inside at Festival Walk Glacier, Inside Edge is one of the most wellknown skate shops in Asia. They are located on the left side of the rink and provide high-quality products such as MK / JW / Jackson Ultima blades, EDEA and Jackson skates plus Xamas skating products. Inside Edge consistently introduces new skating products. Open 7 days a week.
Location: Inside Festival Walk Glacier More info: www.festivalwalk.com.hk/ en/fun/glacier.aspx#about-glacier, firstname.lastname@example.org, 2844 3525 / 5500 3588
Selling skates, protective gear, helmets, gloves, bags, apparel and accessories, the CHG Hockey shop is conveniently located in Central. You’ll find all your hockey and skating gear here.
Location: 4/F Yat Fat Building, 44–46 Des Voeux Road Central More info: www.chghockeyshop.com
Celebrating Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
The biggest celebration in the calendar, Chinese New Year, is a joyous time of the year in Hong Kong. The city is adorned with splashes of red and gold and there is a feeling of festivity everywhere. Read on to find out about all things Chinese New Year — why we celebrate, traditions, how to say Happy New Year in Chinese, what foods are popular and much more.
The Story of “Nian”
There are many tales chronicling the origin story of Chinese New Year or Guo Nian, but the most well-known is the story of the defeat of the demon, Nian.
Nian was the name given to a monster who terrorized a village in China on the first day of every new year. He would come out of the mountains and eat livestock, grain and anyone who was outside. Relief from his terror only came when a God, disguised as an old man, taught the villagers that Nian was afraid of the colour red, strange creatures and loud noises. This gave way to the Chinese traditions of hanging red signs in doorways, making loud noises with drums and fireworks and the use of face masks, lanterns and dragon and lion dances.
When is Chinese New Year 2023?
The date of Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. It changes each year but generally falls between the dates of January 21st and February 20th and the day of the new year is new moon day. Celebrations typically last for 16 days, starting from Chinese New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival. In 2023, that is from January 14th to February 5th, 2023. Chinese New Year falls on 22 January, 2023 and it will be Year of the Rabbit, which is one of the Chinese zodiac signs that cycles every 12 years.
What is the Chinese Zodiac?
The Chinese zodiac is a 12-year cycle used in ancient China to date years and to make predictions for the coming year. Each year in the 12-year cycle is represented by one of 12 animals: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. Each of these animals also represents certain personality traits that Chinese folklore suggest can be found in the people born in the corresponding years.
The five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) also tie in with the years. This year will be year of the Water Rabbit. The sign of Rabbit is a symbol
of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture. 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope. People born in a year of the Rabbit are believed to be vigilant, witty, quick-minded, and ingenious. Rabbit years include 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023.
Chinese New Year Celebrations
Chinese New Year is a time for family gatherings full of traditional foods, firecrackers, lion and dragon dances, lanterns and lai see. It’s all about seeing out the old year and welcoming in the luck and prosperity of a new year. During this time you’ll see neighbour’s doors decorated with red Chinese characters for fortune or happiness along with large images of bunnies in shopping malls, public squares and on the streets.
What traditional foods are eaten during Chinese New Year?
During Chinese New Year family gatherings, certain foods are eaten for their symbolic meaning. Lucky food is served during the festival, and the symbolism of traditional Chinese New Year foods is based on their pronunciations, appearance, preparation, and how they are served.
• Fish 魚 (yú) — The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus, and it’s always good to have a surplus at the end of the year. Fish is symbolic of having managed to save money. The fish dish is always served last with some ‘surplus’ left over.
• Chinese dumplings 餃子 (jiǎozi)
— These look like Chinese silver ingots and are a symbol of wealth. Some say, the more dumplings you eat during Chinese New Year celebrations, the more money you can make in the New Year!
• Spring rolls 春卷 (chūnjuǎn) — The rolls look like gold bars, signifying wealth and abundance.
• A glutinous rice cake 年糕 (niángāo)
— The word niangao sounds like the phrase nian-nian gao which
means “getting higher year-afteryear”. The ‘higher’ you are, the more prosperous your life will be.
• Sweet rice balls 湯圓 (tāngyuán)
— Pronounced “tong yuen”, they are associated with unity and family togetherness.
Specific Hong Kong foods for Chinese New Year:
• Poon choi 盆菜 (pén cài) —
A Cantonese dish served in a giant basin and traditionally eaten by a whole village together. The ingredients can range from pork, chicken and prawns to oysters and abalone. It symbolises auspiciousness, prosperity and unity.
• Fat choy 髮菜 (fà cài) — Is an algae that is thought of as a vegetable. It is often served as an alternative to cellophane noodles along with dried oysters and dried mushrooms which symbolise good fortune. This type of sea moss can be found in the dried seafood shops along Des Voeux Road West and Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan.
• Oranges 橙 (chéng) — If you're going to eat any fruit over the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, make sure
its oranges, kumquats, tangerines and pomelos. The Chinese words for “orange” and “tangerine” closely resemble the words for “luck” and “wealth.” The gold colour of these fruits also symbolises prosperity and resembles gold ingots.
• Fried dumplings yau gok 油角 (yóujiǎo) — These dumplings are unique to Cantonese regions during Chinese New Year and are thought to bring wealth and good fortune. They are made from glutinous rice dough and filled with either savoury fillings like pork and mushrooms or sweet fillings like peanut or coconut. The dumplings are shaped to resemble ancient Chinese currency.
• Turnip cake lok bak go 蘿蔔糕 (luóbo gāo) — Chinese turnip cake is a very popular dim sum dish in Hong Kong. It is made from white radish and is a staple New Year’s dish.
• Nin gou 年糕 (niángāo) — Is a sweet and sticky treat that translates to “new year cake”.
• Candy box 攢盒 (cuán hé) — A red or black traditional box used during Chinese New Year for storing candy and other treats. It symbolises good fortune and joy.
Chinese New Year Fireworks
Traditionally, bamboo stems filled with gunpowder were used as noisy fireworks designed to drive evil spirits away. This practice evolved into the use of hundreds of firecrackers, each rolled up in red paper, strung on a long-fused string and hung.
The clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve triggers the release of many of the firecrackers and fireworks. Firecrackers will be set off first, after which, fireworks are released. A smaller firecracker is usually lit first followed by three larger firecrackers. The explosions of the firecrackers are “sounding out” the old year and “sounding in” the new year and the louder the firecrackers explode, the more luck they are said to bring for the coming year. It is thought that the first person to launch their fireworks will gain good luck.
Lion and Dragon Dances
The lion and dragon dances are central to New Year celebrations as they are believed to bring good fortune and usher in prosperity whilst keeping evil spirits away. The lion symbolises power, wisdom, and superiority, while the Chinese dragon is a symbol of China. Along with the colourful costumes, the loud drumming, cymbals and gongs of the dances help keep bad spirits away and bring good luck. Lion and Dragon Dances are performed just about everywhere so you’re sure to catch one.
The last day of Chinese New Year, 5 February this year, is the Lantern Festival — Yuánxiāo jié (元宵節). This is when the first full moon of the new lunar year starts.
Most commonly, red envelopes are handed out from the first day of the Lunar New Year to the 15th day. They are best given upon first greeting during that time. Some say the tradition of handing out ‘good fortune’ red envelopes dates back as far as the Sung Dynasty. These red envelopes, called “hóngbāo” in Mandarin
and “lai see” in Cantonese, are thought to give good wishes and luck to both the giver and receiver. The red packaging represents prosperity. The tradition of giving out money during Lunar New Year is similar to giving Christmas gifts in western culture.
How to give Lai See
Lai see is given in a particular cultural fashion – from a higher position to a lesser position such as boss to employee, parent to child, married to single. If you live in a residential complex with staff, you should give lai see to your security guard, cleaners, and doorman. The amount you put in the red packets is your choice.
These rules may help you avoid making a faux pas:
• Try to use a single, crisp or new bank note with an even amount. Plan ahead by getting new notes from your local bank. Do not give coins.
• Avoid putting two $20 bills into a lai see packet because it equals $40 and “four” sounds similar to “die” in Cantonese.
• Lai see is given as an individual gift so it’s impolite to open in front of the person who gave it to you.
• Use both hands when giving and receiving lai see and say a Happy New Year greeting.
• There is an order to lai see giving, i.e. older to younger, therefore children should never be the ones giving lai see as it is considered insulting
Read our detailed guide on how to give and receive lai see at www.playtimes.com.hk/lai-seein-hong-kong-how-to-give-andreceive-red-packets
How to wish someone a Happy New Year in Chinese
You can't live in Hong Kong without being caught up in the merriment, and it’s imperative to be able to wish someone a Happy New Year!
In Cantonese, the most common way to say “Happy Lunar New Year” is “Gong hei fat choy” (恭喜發財), which means “wishing you happiness and prosperity”. In Mandarin, the same greeting is “gōng xǐ fā cái” (pronounced gong she fa tsai). In Mandarin, The most common greeting used during Chinese New Year is a simple Happy New Year “xīn nián kuài lè” (新年快樂).
Learn to Play MAHJONG
Learning how to play mahjong is no mean feat. There are many versions of the game – Chinese, Cantonese, American, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Western mahjong to name a few. In Hong Kong, the most common style is Hong Kong/Cantonese mahjong, while Taiwanese mahjong has also gained some popularity.
Mahjong is a tile-based game often compared to gin rummy, and the object of the game is to build “sets”, as well as to get the highest point value. In order to do this, each player selects and discards mahjong tiles until an entire set of combinations has been made.
Originally developed in 19th century China, it is played throughout Eastern and South Eastern Asia and is also very popular in Western countries. It was originally called 麻雀 (ma jeuk) which means ‘sparrow’, representing the clacking sound of the tiles being played, which sounds like the chattering of sparrows.
Two sets of non-numbered honour tiles (28 in total):
• Dragon tiles (red, green and white)
• Wind tiles (East, South, West, and North)
Two sets of bonus tiles (8 in total):
• Four Flower tiles (Plum Blossom (梅, one), Orchid (蘭, two), Chrysanthemum (菊, three), and Bamboo (竹, four)
• Four Season tiles (Spring (春, one), Summer (夏, two), Autumn (秋, three), and Winter (冬, four)
Mahjong game materials
There are 144 tiles in a mahjong set based on Chinese characters and symbols. Three suits (108 in total) numbered 1 to 9, with 4 of each number, making it 36 tiles in each suit:
• Circles/Dots (筒子, tung zi)
• Bamboo sticks (索子, sok zi)
• Number characters (萬子, man zi)
for each game.
What are the basic rules of mahjong?
The game requires four players seated around a square table. The dealer position is called the East seat, and each player takes turns being the dealer. If the dealer wins a game or the game is a tie, they can hold on to the East seat until they lose. The seats rotate counter-clockwise with each game, and one round is completed once every player has held the dealer position.
You can determine who will be the dealer in a few ways – each player rolls the dice, and the highest number is the dealer OR a randomly chosen player throws the dice and the rolled number is counted counter-clockwise from that player, until it lands on the number rolled and that person becomes the East seat.
The remaining seats are determined by shuffling the four wind tiles, face down, and stacked on top of each other. The East seat throws the dice again, and the number is counted counter-clockwise and the player it lands on takes a tile from the stack, and so on until each player has picked a wind direction.
discarded tiles. Players then takes turns choosing tiles to make a hand of 13. Players take turns to draw and discard tiles until they complete a hand using the 14th tile to form four melds (sets) and a pair (eye). A player can also win with a small series of special hands.
While many variations of mahjong exist, most of them have the basic rules of how to play mahjong in common - for example how to deal, the order of play, how a tile is drawn and discarded, how to take a piece from another player, the use of suits and honour tiles, and the basic sets allowed
What is the object of mahjong
The goal of the game is to get ‘mahjong’, which consists of four sets and one pair (total 14 tiles). A ‘faan’ is a point and you typically need a minimum of 3 points to win. In order to win you need to form combinations of the following melds/sets:
• Pong, 3 identical tiles
• Kong, 4 identical tiles
• or Chow, 3 tiles of the same suit in sequence
There are a number of wining hands that you can make, however, to begin with, a few of the basic combinations are as follows: A basic hand (gai wu 雞 糊) is a mixed sequence of three-of-akind sets and a pair. A common hand (ping wu 平糊) is four sets of sequences and a pair. Mixed one suit (wun yat sik 混一色) is a set of one suit’s tiles and honor tiles and a pair. All one suit, (qing yai sik 清一色) all sets are made up of one suit’s tiles and a pair. All triplets, (dui dui wu 對對糊) four sets of three-ofa-kind and a pair.
Tips and Strategy
How to play mahjong
Once the seats are all filled, the tiles are shuffled and placed face down on the table. Each player selects 36 tiles and arranges them into 18 columns of two, like a wall. These rows are then pushed forwards, with space in the middle for
Mahjong is a game of strategy. Once you get the hang of the basic set up and rules and learn how to play mahjong, you can vary your game play and learn how to strategise efficiently for more winning hands. Be warned, it’s addictive!
• Have a plan in mind and think
carefully about which tiles you are picking up and discarding. The other players will be watching and keeping track of what you’re doing.
• The game can change very suddenly so be flexible and you may have to re-think your tiles partway through the game.
• Avoid the first discarded tile, this can give your strategy away to the other players.
• Keep all your tiles in a row and don’t give away what you have by keeping gaps where you have combinations.
• Keep an eye on the tiles other players are discarding, especially near the end of the game.
• One session of mahjong is at least 16 games, so take your time.
• The best strategy for mahjong is to play it regularly. The more you play, the easier it will be to remember the rules, sequences, tactics etc.
Where to learn how to play mahjong in Hong Kong
The MahJong Club – HONG KONG offers mahjong lessons for Cantonese and Taiwanese style mahjong. Lessons can be taught in English or Cantonese and the table and tiles can also be provided. Available at your chosen location and great for groups, prices start from $400. Book directly via their Facebook page: https://www. facebook.com/MahjongclubHK/
Humid with a Chance of Fishballs offers both Cantonese and Taiwanese mahjong classes. Classes run for 5 hours over 2 sessions, and typically with 4 people for a cost of $4000 (additional players $1000pp). They guarantee you will be able to play by the end of the classes or you can get 2 additional hours for free! Hosted at a venue of your choice, this is a fun way to get some food and drinks in and learn with friends. Whatsapp: +852 3916 7664 to book. Website: https:// humidwithachanceoffishballs.com/ mahjong-course/
Angels for Children – Charity mahjong workshops regularly host charity mahjong gatherings with knowledgeable guides making it suitable for all levels. All proceeds from the sessions go to Po Leung Kuk Residential Children’s Centre Fun Day. Contact email@example.com for more information and to book. Website: https://www. angels-for-children.org/events/ event/mahjong-workshops
Learn mahjong with Bina Datwani who believes mahjong is like meditating as it can teach a person how to focus and how to be flexible when the tiles don’t go your way! She offers private mahjong lessons for small groups, including children from ages 10+. Prices start from $180 per person for 2 hours and she is available to come to your chosen location. Contact: +852 9431 1094.
American Women’s Association of Hong Kong (AWA) offers a four lesson series of mahjong for both members and non-members. The sessions cover Hong Kong rules, and typically take place on Tuesdays from 10:30am – 12:30pm. Prices start from $580 for members and $860 for guests. Contact +852 2865 7737 / Location: AWA Office Room 1105 11/F Arion Commercial Centre 2 Queen’s Road West Sheung Wan. Website: https://www.awa.org. hk/activities/local-activities/ educational-series-mahjonglessons/
The Australian Association of Hong Kong host lessons at Dynasty court every Monday (except public holidays), from 10am – 1pm. Price from $80 for members and $130 for non-members. Contact: Lynne Stewardson / Location: Dynasty Court Function Room, 17-23 Old Peak Road. Website: https:// ozhongkong.com/regular-events
WHERE TO BUY A MAHJONG SET IN HONG KONG
Kam Fat mahjong shop
Founded in 1962 by her father, Mr Ho, Madam Mei is the only female mahjong tile carver left in Hong Kong. She keeps her family legacy alive and has preserved the tradition of making hand crafted mahjong sets. Engraving and painting the tiles by her own hand. Prices start from $2,280 for a full set of 144 tiles. Address: 2A-4 Bulkeley St, Hung Hom / Contact number: +852 2362 8421.
Biu Kee Mahjong
The family have been in the business for more than 40 years. You can even learn the art of crafting your own mahjong tiles with a unique Mahjong craving workshop with the master mahjong tile artisan Cheung Shun King himself. Address: Jordan Road, Yau Ma Tei (opposite the entrance to Temple Street night markets). Website: https://en.eldage.com/pages/mahjongcarving-workshop
Karen Aruba Art
This father and daughter duo have kept the spirit of traditional mahjong tile craftsmanship alive with their handcrafted mahjong sets. Prices start from $3980 for the Canton version, whilst an American version costs $4480, prices may differ based on the quality of materials used and the master, so it’s best to contact them directly at info@ karenaruba.com. A unique keepsake of Hong Kong for yourself or friends who are leaving.
Wing Cheong Hong Majong
Master craftsman have been making mahjong sets at Wing Cheong since the 1940’s, located at 101C G/F Wellington Street in central.
Whitty Depot Socks
Keep your feet toasty and add a little sunshine to your days with HI-C Lemon Tea inspired socks. Brightly coloured in signature vibrant green and yellow, these halfcalf length socks come in sizes 36–40 and 41–45 and are sure to add a little whimsy to your life. If ice-cream’s more your thing, there are also socks with the classic red and blue Softee design to remind you of summer days at the beach. Order from Tiny Island Maps or the brand’s new sister company, Whitty Depot. www.tinyislandmaps.com
Sai-Kung based fragrance product specialist, BeCandle is popping up in Causeway Bay until 4th January 2023. Using a blend of vegetal and soy wax, the candles are produced in small batches using essential oils from Europe in a range of evocative and interesting scents that travel on the air to fill the room. Our favourites include Yoyogi, a refreshing blend of amber, vanilla, oud and sandalwood; and the wonderfully warm and cosy Cacao blend, which includes smoky and woody notes of tobacco and tonka bean. And there’s no need to worry about what to do with the gorgeous, hand-blown glass it comes in – the company offers a refill service, so you don’t have to add to Hong Kong’s landfills. Other aroma products available include incense sticks and spray, fragrance oil and reed diffusers. www.becandle.com.hk
SOS Facial Treatment
Looking to really treat your skin this winter? The Oxypure Treatment is the perfect before and after SOS refreshing facial treatment. The Oxypure Treatment at EstheClinic helps exfoliate, infuse and oxygenize your skin in just 40 minutes thanks to patented in-house machines. The non-invasive aesthetic treatment helps acne, dull skin, dehydration and ageing. It enriches the skin with oxygen while gently exfoliating dead skin and infusing active ingredients The effective 3-in-1 super facial treatment takes 40 minutes and costs from $1,800. www.estheclinic.com.hk
Paper Roses Face Masks
As one of the only places in the world still required to wear face masks, we’re all pretty familiar with the designs on offer in Hong Kong’s shops. If you’re fed up with “same old, same old,” then head to the environmentally friendly boutique illustration and design house, Paper Roses, to shop the stunning collection of hand painted designs. With ten to choose from, including star ferry, moonscape and rainbow, you’re sure to find something for you. There are even Chinese Blue Dragon and Lion Dance options on offer if you’re looking for something festive for Lunar New Year! The washable, reusable and formfitting face masks are made from comfortable, super soft, organic cotton and come in four sizes, with a fitting guide available on the website. They cost $100 each or $190 for a pack of two. www.paperrosesdesigns.com
Neal's Yard Remedies
Treat your skin this winter with Neal’s Yard’s trademark Frankincense Intense collection. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and organic argan oil are blended with NYR’s award-winning Frankincense Active Phyto Complex, which has collagen protecting properties and a powerful antioxidant effect. A selection of beautiful gift sets is available, including the Frankincense Intense AgeDefying Collection, which comprises cleansing melt, eye cream, serum, cream and overnight mask, all for the discounted price of $1,880. In keeping with the company’s ethos, all the beautifully scented products are ethically sourced and gift sets come in minimal packaging suitable for year-round giving. www.nealsyardremedies.com.hk
Self-Care At Home for a Festive Glow
• Stay hydrated – Sounds simple but water has many health benefits and it’s important to stay hydrated especially during the winter months. Drink approximately two litres of water and coconut water every day to keep your skin hydrated from within.
• Avoid hot showers – Whilst there is nothing better than a hot shower (especially in winter), hot water strips the skin of its natural moisture which in turn keeps our skin protected. Instead, shower with lukewarm water to avoid irritating the skin.
• Moisturise daily – Winter itch is caused by severely dry skin so be sure to moisturise every day. If your skin is particularly sensitive to this it’s best to consult a dermatologist who may recommend specific creams.
• Check out beauty blogs – Do some research online. Read beauty blogs, look into ingredients, and identify the right products for your skin. Blogs are a great way to get some insider information on tried and tested products. To get you started try: www.carolinehirons.com, www.christingc.com and www.pixiwoo.com
• Try the Korean 10 step skincare – This tried and tested 10step beauty regime is a great way to get started. The steps are 1- Cleanse with an oil based remover; 2- Cleanse with a water based cleanser; 3- Exfoliate; 4- Toner; 5- Essence; 6- Serum; 7- Face mask; 8- Eye cream; 9- Moisturise; 10-SPF.
• Do a day spa at home – Treat yourself to some candles, Epsom salts, bath bombs and essential oils, and probably most decadent of all, some time! Read all about it online at www.playtimes.com.hk/beauty-self-care-at-home/
• Masks – A great way to inject some life into your skin and to also target problem areas. Sheet masks, cream masks, overnight masks, there is something out there for all of your beauty needs. We all need to get into the habit of fitting these self-care remedies into our daily lives. Check out the following shops for inspiration: Sasa, Colormix, Sephora HK, and Innisfree.
• DIY face masks – Beauty doesn’t need to be complicated, or expensive. You can find a huge range of homemade mask recipes online, using the simplest of ingredients.
It’s that time of year when the cold weather wreaks havoc on your skin. Why not take some time out to pamper yourself and combat the dryer, cooler weather? Try these self-care tips for an instant festive glow
Try It At Home Turmeric Face Mask
• 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar
• 1 1/2 tablespoon of organic honey
• 1 teaspoon milk or yogurt
1. In a small bowl, mix the turmeric powder, apple cider vinegar, honey and milk or yogurt. You’re going for a pastelike consistency that will stick to your face without dripping.
2. Before applying your turmeric face mask, wash and dry your face to remove any makeup or impurities. Keep in mind that turmeric will turn fabric yellow; so consider putting on an old shirt that you don’t mind getting stained during your turmeric spa session. Apply the mask using your fingers or a makeup brush, careful to avoid the eye area.
3. Allow the mask to sit on your face for about 10 to 15 minutes.
The Cost of fashionSheryl Bolden, author of Sustainably Stylish – A guide to a guilt free wardrobe offers her thoughts and advice on how to make your wardrobe more cost effective and sustainable
We are all becoming more aware of the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and the ethical challenges it faces. More and more of us are beginning to ask how we can make small changes for the greater good.
For me, one of the easiest ways we can all make a positive impact is to buy less clothes and increase the lifespan of the ones we already own! Not ideal for the shopaholics amongst us (of which I am one) but it’s true, the notion of wearing our clothes for longer is one of the foundations of creating a sustainable wardrobe. I believe it is important to think of your clothes as an investment. Fear not, I’m not talking haute couture, luxury watches and top tier designer handbags. I’m referring to the clothes that you buy; of which you should demand a return on your investment, regardless of the price tag.
We have all invested our time, money, and some level of emotional energy into buying these pieces and so it makes sense that they should deliver us value. Measuring this value in a financial sense is known as Cost Per Wear, a simple calculation to determine our sartorial Return on Investment. In short, this is the total cost of the item purchased, divided by the number of times it is worn. The lower the CPW the better your ROI. Without doubt, a low CPW is good for the bank balance but is it always good for the environment?
More often than not, we end up with a high CPW because we invest in the ‘wrong’ clothes. By that I don’t mean we buy awful, ugly clothes - what I’m referring to is spending a lot of money on the types of clothes that rarely get worn. Let’s talk about occasion wear, which can be expensive and worn infrequently. If for example you are attending the wedding of someone special and, naturally, you want to look
fabulous so decide to buy a new outfit. You shop around, do your research and find ‘the dress’. For the sake of this example let’s say the price tag is HK$2,000 - not an insignificant amount of money, but you love the dress and can make the numbers work, so you buy it.
You rock it at the wedding, manage not to ruin it with red wine, nor rip it during some crazy dance moves. Success! A few months later you wear it to a party with different friends, changing up the heels and hair style, for a sexier look. Another change of accessories and the addition of a jacket, and the dress is perfect for a christening. So far, the dress has had three wears, by the time the festive season has come and gone that number is four. When an opportunity to wear it for fifth time arises you are bored of it, your friends have seen it, and your social media is full of photos of you wearing it. So, despite loving this dress and a hefty cost per wear of $500, you retire the dress and buy something new.
If we compare purchasing a dress to something a little more mundane such as a pair of trousers for work, the chances are you’ll get a much better cost per wear but will that be a better and more sustainable investment?
Let’s look closer; despite being a versatile and year-round staple we can resent spending money on ‘work’ clothes. Often, we want to spend as little money and time as possible on the purchase, meaning we buy in haste, perhaps making a rushed purchase during lunch break, or maybe you ordered online and the headache of returning meant it was easier to just keep them regardless. Either way you don’t love them, the fit is not great and you don’t exactly feel fantastic when you wear them but they were ‘only’ $450.
During the first year you wear them on average twice a week, for 35 weeks. As they enter their second year, the poor quality and frequent washing starts to show, so you like them even less and wear them just once a week for the first three or four months of that year. After 18 months and around 86 wears you finally give up and get rid of them. It can be argued that with a CPW of $5 you got a good return on your outlay but two things come to mind.
Firstly, loving the clothes you own and feeling fabulous when you wear them is incredibly important. With these trousers, you just couldn’t get excited about them and never really loved wearing them. So, was it really money well spent?
Secondly, despite the low CPW, there is a high chance these trousers were incredibly damaging to the environment. I talk a lot about a ‘Sustainability Return’, a great way to assess the overall impact that the production and disposal of a garment has, it considers several factors such as the resources - environmental, human, and economic - that are required to produce an item and how long it is in circulation for as well as how it can be disposed of.
It’s likely these trousers had a high carbon footprint, with a petroleumbased synthetic fabric, probably weaved in one country, transported to a second for production then shipped to a third country for distribution, and that’s before the logistics of getting it to you here in Hong Kong – all too often goods can go from Asia to Europe or the US and then back to us as consumers. That’s a high carbon footprint for something that was only worn for 18 months!
When we then factor in what happens to those trousers when you throw them ‘away’ the situation becomes even more dire. The poor quality of the garment means it’s unlikely they can be worn by a second user so often their destination will
be an oversubscribed apparel recycling programme, or worse - landfill. Items like this may cost you very little per wear, but they carry an unreasonably high impact.
In this instance my advice would be to buy trousers that you will wear and love for longer, by investing in better fabric and all-round quality, you’ll receive a more flattering fit, and hopefully you’ll see them as more than ‘work trousers’ and wear them in more ways, more often. This would justify an increase in cost. You can get a lot more for your money by shopping in some of Hong Kong’s preloved stores, where high quality items can be found for a lot less. Preloved is one of the most sustainable ways to shop, not only does it increase the lifespan of those clothes already in circulation, but saves you money and contributes to small, often female led businesses or NGO’s. As for getting better value from the $2,000 dress,
read my book for inspiring ways to wear this (as well as other items) and achieve a better CPW from the items you really love.
It goes without saying that cost per wear makes economic sense, but its importance from a sustainability perspective should not be underestimated, it encourages us to think about the long-term use of our clothes rather than the immediate gratification of buying something that we don’t truly love on a whim.
It’s all very well understanding cost per wear, but the bigger challenge is buying clothes that we love enough to want wear for years to come. To help you to get the very best return on your sartorial investments I’m sharing my ultimate pre purchase check list. These are the questions, which I always mentally ask myself before making any purchase, and you should too.
• Does it fit you, right now?
• Do you love it on?
• W ill you wear it three ways?
• A re you happy with the quality?
• Can you afford it – and the potential maintenance?
Sustainably Stylish – A guide to a guilt free wardrobe explores all of these questions and more, offering tips and advice to help you make sure your clothes are working as hard as you. It’s full of amusing anecdotes chartering mistakes I (and no doubt others too) have made over the years. While I am a huge fan of second-hand style, I appreciate it can often be a matter of luck, right piece, right size right place, so there are chapters that educate and inform on the plethora of manufacturing and fabric choices available. It cuts through the greenwashing helping you to make more informed decisions.
A Note for Pregnancy
Maternity clothes are designed to accommodate a growing bump and allow for a slight increase in other areas like your boobs and bum – hardly rocket science, I know! But despite this, during my first pregnancy I was determined to keep my usual brands, all be it in a size up. As a result, and with the exception of a few casual jersey pieces, I ended up with some very ill-fitting outfits that were tight across my bump but too big across the rest of my body. These looked ridiculous, were seldom worn and were pointless post pregnancy, it was such a waste of money and clothes. There is a reason maternity clothes are designed the way they are – to fit your changing body, proportionally!
It goes without saying that postpartum your body will change. I mean, you have grown a human and I hope you give your body all the credit and
love it deserves for performing such an incredible task. The reality is that some clothes will fit differently, the proportions of your body as well as the number on the scale are likely to change. Don’t waste money on something you think will work six months into motherhood. It’s likely you will have a whole new perspective on what you want to wear. Wait, and shop then.
The Pitfall of Sales
There is something about huge red SALE signs that draws us all in, sending even the most prudent of shopper scrambling towards the till, arms full of who knows what simply to save a few dollars.
I’ll bet you, like me, have bought something in a sale that you thought was a great deal only to find it months later unworn in the back of the wardrobe. In almost every wardrobe I have edited
there is at least one item with the tags still on. When asked why it hadn’t been worn, more often than not, the answer was, “I don’t really like it, I bought it in the sale”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sales, some of the best items I own were bought in a sale but the truth is more bad purchases are made than good. The lure of a bargain can take the overstock problem away from the retailer and hand the responsibility to us, the consumer who will end up having to offloading those regretted purchases. Success full sale shopping takes time, patience, and a bit of research, but when done well it is a great way to save money and personally it enables me to buy brands that are out of budget at full price. I can buy better quality clothes that I love and that will last and be worn for longer. Which for me in sustainably stylish.
For over twenty years Sheryl has worked across many areas of the fashion industry, for some of the world’s leading retailers and small independent brands. She is a passionate advocate for sustainability within the fashion industry and graduated from HKU in 2020 with an Executive Certificate in CSR. Her debut book, Sustainably Stylish – A guide to a guilt-free wardrobe, brings together all her knowledge and experience to help women become more conscious consumers.
Sol by Melia in Cam Ranh Bay
There’s another new hotel to look forward to in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam next year. Spanish hotel group Meliá will open towards the end of 2023, and will feature a main hotel, villas, bungalows, four restaurants, multiple swimming pools, a spacious spa, kids club, fitness centre and sports club with tennis courts. Guests will be surrounded by tropical landscaping and extensive children’s facilities.
Travel Trends in 2023
Expedia has unveiled a comprehensive view of traveller trends based on its website data and the research of thousands of travellers and industry professionals across 17 markets. Apparently next year a lot of us will make travel plans based on movies or TV shows. “Expedia research globally confirms that streamed movies and TV shows are now the top sources of travel inspiration (40 per cent), outpacing the influence of social media (31%).” In Hong Kong, three in every four (75 per cent) of travellers say they have considered visiting a destination after seeing it on a show or movie on a streaming platform, and a whopping 65 per cent went and booked a trip.
Le Meridien Hong Kong Reopens
Le Méridien Hong Kong, located in Cyberport, has reopened following an extensive renovation. Offering 170 newly designed guestrooms, four restaurants, and a range of meeting and events spaces, the five star hotel also embraces sustainability and smart technology. It offers an oasis-like outdoor swimming pool, two state-of-the-art fitness hubs and is also pet-friendly, with pet-friendly rooms, including welcome amenities, a dedicated pet menu in two of the restaurants’ terraces and offering a welcoming Cyberport environment for pets. In celebration of the re-opening Le Méridien Hong Kong, Cyberport, is offering a selection of enticing packages. The brand new ‘LM Experience Package’ offers the first guests of the hotel a delightful Afternoon Tea and dining experience, while the ‘LM Family Discovery Getaway’ and ‘Pawcation’ packages encourage those with kids and pets to try out life on the Southside.
The Ayana Segara Bali
Mothers-To-Be Retreat in Qatar
Looking for a peaceful setting to enjoy your pregnancy? Zulu Wellness Retreat by Chiva-Som has just the thing. Surround by the tranquility of Qatar’s northern desert and the Arabian Gulf, the resort’s Mother-to-Be retreat is ideal for those looking to relax and prepare themselves for the birth of their child. Guided by a team of licensed maternal care experts, nutritionists, chefs, therapists and personal trainers, the ‘Mother-To-Be’ programme is open to women at any stage of their pregnancy and can be tailored to include partners. ww.zulal.com
AYANA Segara Bali, a new AYANA hotel within the AYANA Estate in Jimbaran, has opened. The 205-room hotel offers a modern twist to the Balinese-inspired AYANA experience. The indooroutdoor concept blends spacious living areas with an expansive panoramic view of Jimbaran Bay and the Indian Ocean. Guest rooms range from 624 to 699 square feet, whereas its four suites are about 1,001 square feet. The hotels boasts the largest indoor-outdoor pool in Bali, as well as a rooftop pool at Luna Rooftop Bar. www.ayana.com/bali/ayana-segara/
Hitting the Slopes, THE BEST FAMILY SKI TRIPS from Hong Kong
Whether your family is excited to get back to their favourite sport after the pandemic or you’re looking to introduce loved ones to skiing for the first time, we’ve got you covered
Japan is the closest place for us Hong Kongers to hit the slopes, but proximity isn’t the only reason to make it your destination of choice. The extended season, consistent snowfall, great powder and varied terrain make it one of the most popular ski destinations in the world. And, if you’ve been feeling starved of culture over the past few years, you can soak up some of that, too.
With around 500 ski resorts to choose from in Japan, it can be difficult to narrow it down, but a handful of destinations became popular for a reason, so read on to find out more.
Hakuba Valley, at the base of the 3,000m tall Northern Alps, offers 10 resorts, 9 of which have direct access to the slopes. You can purchase a 1–10-day ‘Hakuba Valley Ticket,’ which covers lifts and shuttle buses on your ski days.
Happo-One is the largest resort in the area and home to Evergreen International Ski School, which offers lessons for kids and adults, as well as five-day sports camps for children aged 7–12 and teenagers aged 13–17. There are also plenty of other activities in the area, including snowmobiling and snowshoe tours, relaxing in the hot springs or visiting the snow monkeys, who are doing just that at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park around 2 hours drive away.
With a gentler terrain, but a longer season, the northern island of Hokkaido provides another great option for families. Niseko United comprises the four interlinked resorts of Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri, and is an international favourite due to its Western-influenced development. A lift pass gives you access to all 45.2 km of on-piste runs with a discount available if you buy online. Each resort has its own unique flavour, and you can choose to base yourself at one, or take advantage of the shuttle bus which runs between them.
For parents looking to spend a little time sans kids, there’s a host of amazing restaurants in Kutchan and Niseko towns, and a range of independent babysitting and day-care services in addition to those which the resorts already offer. Edventure also offers a huge number of camps for kids aged 4–14.
Around a 45-minute drive from Niseko is the award-winning Rusutsu Resort which is made up of four unique properties. You can purchase a 5-hour pass, to 5-day pass, to explore the 37 trails that are spread across the three mountains and interconnected by gondolas. You can also enjoy a range of off-slope activities, including dog sledding, ice fishing and riding snowmobiles. The comprehensive and easily navigable website helps you to make the right choice for your family. https://rusutsu.com/en/
Enjoy Five-Star accommodation and majestic views of Mount Yotei at the ski-in/ski-out Westin Resort, or take advantage of the range of childcare options at Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention, which has its own on-site nursery school running from 8.30am6.30pm. The Crayon Shinchan kids’ school caters to all ski levels and offers plenty of kids parks to entertain older ones, so no-one will ever be bored!
There are also options for log houses catering to 6–24 guests if you’re going with friends.
For a relaxing holiday with everything taken care of, skiing at Club Med should be top of your list. With three resorts to choose from; the classic Sahoro Resort and the newer Tomamu next door, as well as Kiroro Peak further north, all transport arranged, full board and skiin/ski-out facilities, it couldn’t be easier. It’s worth investigating all three to see which one suits you best, but all offer that fantastic powder snow experience along with excellent facilities, gourmet dining and free entertainment, often provided onstage by your own children.
Fly direct from Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. From here it’s around 4 hours by taxi or train
Fly direct from Hong Kong to New Chitose airport. Most resorts are around a 3–4-hour drive away with shuttles available
Yabuli is another Club Med ski resort and is the largest in the Harbin area of Northeast China. At an altitude of 500m and with 35km of long sweeping runs, there’s plenty to keep you busy on the slopes. There are top-class ski lessons for all ages and a bouncy castle for little ones at the Palace building, as well as a natural park for them to play in. For another break from skiing, indulge yourself at the resort’s L’Occitane Spa or take the kids along to the Harbin Snow Ice Festival due to take place this year from 23rd Dec 2022 – 28th Feb 2023 (www.icefestivalharbin.com).
This is a great option for beginner skiers as the resorts here are smaller and often less crowded. The best Korean ski resorts are only a few hours’ drive from Seoul and are easily accessed as a day trip if you want to explore the city too.
One such resort is Yongpyong Resort located within Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. There are 28 slopes catering to beginners, intermediates and advanced levels with group beginner lessons in English starting from 8-years-old. Private lessons are available at any level for those aged 6 and up.
Another family-friendly option close by is the Alpensia Resort. Safety is their number one concern, with a special ‘safety device U’Block’ fitted on all lifts across the six different slopes, one of which is reserved exclusively for snowboarders. The high-speed lift system that can transport up to 3,000 skiers per hour also means you should never have to queue.
Just a two-hour drive from Vancouver is the beautiful two-mountain resort: Whistler Blackcomb. This is an enormous undertaking with a Peak 2 Peak gondola spanning the two mountains and offering access to more than 200 marked runs. With the longest run being 11km long (wow!) and yearly snowfall averaging a tremendous 11.64 metres, Whistler is a family-friendly option for those who love action-packed skiing, but its popularity means it does get incredibly busy at peak times.
Should you fancy some time skiing kid-free, there’s Teddy Bear Daycare, a licensed childcare centre in Whistler Village, as well as a huge array of kids’ lessons and camps to take advantage of. There are also designated “Family Zone” areas throughout the resort, including Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain and Magic Castle on Blackcomb, which feature a beginner terrain park for daredevils to practise their new tricks and an ice skating area to give the skis a rest. The Summit Lodge and The Delta Whistler Village Suites by Marriott are perfect for families looking to have a kitchen for quick meals, midday lunch breaks and apres ski snacks at home,
while the Sundial Boutique Hotel offers extra-large suites with kitchens, ski valet and a rooftop hot tub among many other amenities.
A little further to get to, but smaller and easier to manage is Big White Ski Resort, a charming ski-in/ski-out village, which was previously awarded ‘Top Family Resort’. You can book one of five different accommodation options via their central reservations, including the White Crystal Inn, which is ideally located next to the Gondola and Bullet Express chairs. The Sundance Resort, a 5-minute walk to the village Centre, is a great choice for families with its huge range of facilities, including an outdoor heated salt-water swimming pool with waterslide, a children’s play area, foosball table, PlayStation games, private movie theatre, pool table, lounge room and fitness room. There are also owner direct rentals and chalets available. The excellent Ski & Board School is made up of an international staff and offers lessons for all ages and abilities or you can take some time out in the lower and main villages with ice skating, sledding, and snowmobiling or chill in one of the many cafes, restaurants and bakeries.
Getting to Whistler Blackcomb www.whistlerblackcomb.com
Direct flights from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and Air Canada to Vancouver. Buses and limos are available from the airport to take you directly to the mountain which is a 2-hour drive. Or hire a car at the airport to make the drive in your own time.
Tip: Book ahead for restaurants as they get very full over the holiday season!
Getting to Big White https://www.bigwhite.com/
Fly direct to Incheon airport in Seoul and take a private van or bus shuttle, which takes about 3 hours
Fly to Kelowna from Vancouver (55 minutes) or Calgary (1hour 10). From here, it’s a 45-minute drive (56km) to the village. You can hire a car or take a resort shuttle. Alternatively, you can drive up from Vancouver, an extraordinarily scenic 5-hour journey (438 kms).
Tip: Hiring a car allows you some flexibility. You may make trips down the mountain to Kelowna for groceries, a hockey game or wine tasting.
The largest ski resort in the Swiss Alps, Zermatt is famous for 365 days/year skiing, charming mountain restaurants, the towering Matterhorn mountain and a lively apres ski scene. You can’t actually drive to the village but will be delivered there by train or via a shuttle from the carpark (5km away). Newly opened in 2020 is the Stoked Kids Club, a snow sports school with a conveyor belt lift on kid-friendly terrain and children up to age nine accompanied by an adult with a multi-day pass travel free on the mountain lifts. For experienced skiers, Zermatt boasts Europe’s highest slopes with long runs, steep off-piste terrain and breath-taking views. The mountain’s 360-kilometre trail system connects two countries and three resort towns. Fend for yourselves in the holiday apartments of Chalet Nepomuk, located about 500m from four ski lifts, or let the Perren family look after you at Alex Lodge where you can choose a cosy two or four bedroom alpine style apartment or book the entire place for up to 24 people. If you’d rather 5-star luxury right in the heart of Zermatt the Mount Cervin Palace offers three and four bed apartments as well as an eight bedroom unit all equipped with full kitchens and PlayStations. The other side of the Matterhorn is in Italy and you can ski there (Valtournenche) in about an hour.
Tip: Buy an international ski pass so you can ski in both the Swiss and Italian mountain areas.
Verbier is part of the Frenchspeaking “4 Vallées,” a huge, connected network of 410 km of runs and 89 lifts, all covered by one single lift pass. The sun is often shining and the views of the surrounding peaks are simply stunning. The terrain is varied and caters for all ages and abilities and there are a number of excellent ski schools to choose from, with the largest being Ecole Suisse de Ski. Head to the areas of Les Esserts or Les Moulins if you are skiing with really young kids or total beginners as here you will find the
longest magic carpet in Switzerland, so you don’t have to struggle with lifts. From the top of Savoleyres, take a special 10 km toboggan run down; pack your swimmers for the indoor swimming pool at the Sports Centre; or go dog-sledding near Les Ruinettes – the list is endless for kid-friendly fun! Be sure to stay at the hottest hotel in Verbier, the new W Hotel, previous winner of the World’s Best Ski Hotel award. If you love the Après-Ski, but don’t want to leave the kids out, Verbier is the place to be. Le Farinet is the “it” spot for entertainment with a cocktail lounge and happy hour running daily between 4pm and 5pm and a live band every evening.
Getting to Zermatt Fly into Zurich or Milan and drive or take a train to Tasch or fly to Geneva and take a ski resort transfer service. This takes around one and a half to two hours. Then take the mountain cog railway via Tasch to the car-free Zermatt village.
Getting to Verbier Fly to Geneva and take a twoand-a-half-hour train journey
DIY CHRISTMAS TREES
LLack of space in Hong Kong is always a hot topic and when the holidays approach we often have to think of creative ways to decorate. Christmas is especially challenging so we’ve come up with some novel ways to use the wall space in your home and still capture the essence of a magical Christmas.
1. Wall decals are a great way to spruce up your space and there are many wonderful Christmas decals out there. We especially love this personalised one from Notonthehighstreet.com
2. How about getting creative with some tinsel and fairy lights to create a tree on your wall. Ikea has all the props you will need to build a tree from scratch and best of all you can use it again the following year with some different lights or props.
3. This is a unique way to reuse offcuts of wood and create a dynamic centrepiece for your Christmas gatherings. Most hardware stores should be able to get you the right tools to recreate this beauty. Why not get the kids involved in helping you paint the different levels of the tree.
4. Feeling artistic? Why not draw a tree on your wall and use Christmas ornaments to give it some life. We love how romantic and magical this tree looks.
5. A fireplace or mantelpiece would be lovely, so why not try to create the feel by using an empty frame and Christmas decor to create something truly unique and personal. You’ll have winter wonderland in a frame!