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the really useful magazine

March 2018

Claire Yates

Cooking up a storm with

on sexy stationery and gifts

How to

ACE IT as an entrepreneur

Ifat Kafry Hindes

Style file by

Amrita Khanna



Editor’s letter

Celebrating International Women’s Day


ISSUE 047 35

School news

Easter camps

4 Contributors


Life & style

Meet the team

Bedroom style


47 Travel

What’s on

Busy times in the 852!

Hong Kong’s newest hotel


Things you need to know


Flailing spouse

Star turn on Victoria Harbour

Primary moments

14 News

Happenings this month

16 Giveaways

Be lucky


Debate of the month

Let them eat cake?


Me & My Big Idea

Maternal support


My Hong Kong

The business guru


Book review

Thrilling tales




26 Cover story

How to do business in the 852


The big interview

Golden girls


Scan and visit our website


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editor’s message

who’s in charge? Editorial Editor Carolynne Dear

Managing Editor Eric Ho

Media Trainee Gemma Shaw

Design Design Manager Cindy Suen

Graphic Designer Anna Schulteisz

Sales & Marketing Sales Director Hilda Chan

Sales and Marketing Executive Isamonia Chui

Sales and Marketing Executive Corrie Tang

Sales and Marketing Executive Johnny Wong

Digital Digital Co-ordinator Cora Chan



his month we’re all about rocking it in the business world. To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 we have dedicated this issue to inspiring business ladies all over Hong Kong. Our cover models (all mums and entrepreneurs) embody just what is so exciting about working life in 2018 - go-getting, entrepreneurial and, perhaps most importantly, flexible. Let’s hope punishing time-keeping and lack of faith in employees being able to get on with the job remotely are things of the past. With a great idea, passion and good old fashioned hard-work, it’s amazing what these ladies have achieved. And I think you’ll agree that they look pretty glamorous, too. As a working mum myself, it’s a cover that I’m immensely proud of. We also have a heap of Easter Camps for the kids to get excited about, some good solid advice about extra-curricular tutoring (with major exams just around the corner), plus loads of stuff to do with the family this month. I’ll leave you with the words of celebrated American novelist Anaïs Nin, which somehow seem appropriate both for this issue and for our wonderful expat life generally - “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

about the cover Our thanks to photographer Julianne Dionisio who took this fantastic portrait of Claire Yates, founder of Lion Rock Press, Amrita Khanna, founder of Zip Code 888, and Ifat Kafry-Hindes, founder of Project Wellness. The image was taken in the Hong Kong Living offices.

Management Trainee Charles Lau

Publisher Tom Hilditch

Contact us Admin: 3568 3722 | Editorial: 2776 2773 | Advertising: 2776 2772 Published by Hong Kong Living Ltd, L1 Kai Wong Commercial Building, 222 Queens Road Central, Hong Kong Printer Apex Print Limited, 11-13 Dai Kwai Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, Tai Po, Hong Kong

HONG KONG Expat Parent is published by Hong Kong Living Ltd. This magazine is published on the understanding that the publishers, advertisers, contributors and their employees are not responsible for the results of any actions, errors and omissions taken on the basis of information contained in this publication. The publisher, advertisers, contributors and their employees expressly disclaim all and any liability to any person, whether a reader of this publication or not, in respect of any action or omission by this publication. Expat Parent cannot be held responsible for any errors or inaccuracies provided by advertisers or contributors. The views herein are not necessarily shared by the staff or publishers. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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Kate Farr

Julianne Dionisio

Eric Ho

This month Kate and her young family jetted off to Sri Lanka. Find out how she went on page 50. Kate is a freelance writer and together with partner Rachel Read manages editorial consultancy, Editors Ink. Follow her adventures on Instagram @accidentaltaitai.

Julianne shot our beautiful cover this month. Originally from the Philippines, Julianne moved to Hong Kong to finish her studies in media and communication. She works full-time for Hong Kong Living and in her spare time she loves to chill on the beach and catch up with friends.

Thanks to Eric Ho for putting together our Easter Camp special feature on page 40. Born and raised in the UK, Eric moved to Hong Kong in 2016 in search of new adventures and to better understand his Cantonese roots. Outside of work hours he can be found exploring the city, camera in hand.

Want to write for Expat Parent Magazine? Contact

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what’s on

Diary dates

MARCH 17 & 18

Beach 5s is back!

Repulse Bay Beach is once again hosting netball, rugby, dodgeball, volleyball and football teams of five with plenty of family entertainment and great eats from some of Hong Kong’s best-loved restaurants, 7

Photo by Katie Vajda

what’s on

Getting crafty at the UBS Junior Art Hub, Art Basel, Mar 29-30


Hong Kong Arts Festival Performing arts festival featuring leading local and international artists in all genres, including opera, dance, theatre and installation. Plus lectures, masterclasses, workshops and backstage visits,


Harbour Arts Sculpture Park A first Hong Kong, expect displays from local and international artists exploring the power of public art. Directed by Fumio Nanjo, director of International Programme at Hong Kong Art School and Tim Marlow, artistic director at Royal Academy of Arts. Free, Tamar Park,


Clothes’ Swap Party eico in collaboration with Forever & Again presents an evening of fun, fashion and sustainability. Bring five used - but not abused - items to swap, including shoes, accessories, clothes and books. $120, 7-9pm, eico studio, 2B Evergreen Industrial Mansion, 12 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, 8


Intensive Workshop for Domestic Helpers A full-day workshop organised by midwife clinic Annerley to teach helpers how to better care for your home and children. Includes Food Safety & Hygiene and Caring for Toddlers and is led by inhouse therapist and nutritionist, Allison Heiliczer. 10am-5pm, 17/F Tak Woo House, 17-19 D’Aguilar Street, Central,


Ladies Circle Golden Anniversary Gala Dinner Come and join the ladies as they celebrate 50 years supporting worthy causes in the Territory. The evening includes a three-course meal with free-flow wine and beer, after dinner talk from local historian Jason Wordie and a disco. $1,400, 7pm, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, Wan Chai,

MAR 10

Malvern College Creative Arts Workshop Stir up your child’s creativity. Children will be read a carefully selected story before engaging

International Women’s Day


Networking, free-flow drinks and finger food, plus inspirational talks from Nicole Denholder of crowd fundraising site Next Chapter, Bowie Lam of Teen’s Key and Joanna Bowers, creator and director of movie The Helper Documentary. Smart casual with a pocket full of business cards. Supported by Farmers Market, Bespoke Counselling and Legendary Coaching, 6.30-8.30pm, Corner Kitchen Cafe, 226 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tickets $250,

in a variety activities designed to expand their creative thinking. Sessions last 75 minutes for children aged four to seven or eight to 11 years. Admission is free but first-come first-serve, Core Building 1E, Science Park, Sha Tin,

MAR 10-12

HK International Young Readers Festival The Hong Kong International Young Readers


tell me more

mum about town

Stamford American School Tour, Mar 12

Festival returns for its sixth year. This year’s event will host an awesome roster of established and emerging authors such as Sarah Brennan, Gus Gordon, Ritu Hemnani, Howard Wong and more,

MAR 11

British Mothering Sunday Don’t forget good old mum, all you Brits!

MAR 12

Stamford American School Tour Discover more about Stamford American School’s combination of a standards-based curriculum and individualized learning plans from five years. The tour will be followed by a Q&A session. 1-2pm, 3467 4500, or visit

MAR 17

Christian Action 3-Legged Charity Walk

Annual fundraising event in support of Christian Action’s programmes for underprivileged children. Plus fun activities including football training with ChelseaFC Soccer School Hong Kong and a family carnival. 9am2pm, Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club. Visit charitywalk

MAR 22-25

Taste of Hong Kong Showcasing food from Hong Kong’s top restaurants, enjoy wine tastings, live entertainment and gourmet food and drink from artisan producers in the Gourmet Market. Central Harbourfront Event Space, 9 Lung Wo Road, Central,

MAR 24

Malvern College Rugby Experience Day Action-packed event where your child will learn the basics of this highoctane teamwork-oriented sport. Bring sportswear, trainers, water, and last but not least, your enthusiasm. Open to children aged five to 12 years. Admission is free but on a first-come first-serve basis, The Education University of Hong Kong Pak Shek Kok Sports Centre, malverncollege.

Mehroo Turel hosts Mums@Play Bazaar, Mar 7

Spring into… spring! I’m really looking forward to another Mums@Play Bazaar. It’s known as the ‘friendliest’ event in town with good reason, as local mums gather to shop and network. The event is run ‘by mums for mums’ and is a fantastic spring shopping opportunity with handmade jewellery, swim and resort wear, ethnic bags, homewares, womenswear and baby clothing and health and fitness products on offer. There will also be plenty of food and drink available from host restaurant El Charro - nobody should shop on an empty stomach which lends a great opportunity to have a good chat and make some new friends. This bazaar pops up regularly throughout the year and this event will be run from 11am-6pm, March 7, El Charro, The Arcade, 100 Cyberport Road, Pok Fu Lam,

On the trail I have signed myself and a couple of the anklebiters up for a trail run this month, figuring after the seemingly never-ending run of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year festivities we could really do with a good leg stretch in the fresh air. Action Asia is organising the Ricoh Healthy Hike & Run through Tai Lam Country Park in the New Territories, with a view to promoting a clean environment along the trails of the park. There’s no age restriction and families are welcome, although under tens must be accompanied by an adult. The family run is 5km, with 13 and 19km options for adults with more stamina than me! $300 entry, $150 for under fives, March 18, 9

what’s on MAR 24-26

Asia Contemporary Art Show The twelfth edition of the show - view over 2,500 artworks from all over Asia and the world. Browse limited editions, sculpture and photography from emerging and established artists. Special sections include Intersections China and Artist Dialogues, Conrad Hong Kong,

MAR 24

Mangrove & Beach Exploration Day Led by marine biologist and founder of Living Oceans Education, Estelle Davies, this excursion explores one of Hong Kong’s most important coastal ecosystems. Participants must be aged eight years and over, the day includes hiking part of the Maclehose trail, exploring a mangrove system and beach games. $650, pickup from Central Pier 9, mangrove&beachexplorationday.

MAR 27 - APRIL 1 Art Central

More than 100 international galleries land in Hong Kong with around 30 making Art Central their debut. Expect installations, panel discussions and short films. Tours available for contemporary art enthusiasts and collectors.

Munchie time at Taste of Hong Kong, Mar 22-25

MAR 29-30

MAR 30

International art fair featuring established and emerging artists from over 30 countries. Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Road, Wan Chai,

Hong Kong Art Gallery Association member galleries welcome guests to a morning of art and culture. Enjoy early-openings from galleries, special exhibitions, art talks, coffee and refreshments. 9am-noon,

Art Basel

Art Brunch

Art Month with kids Katie Vajda, award winning photographer, director of The Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize and mum-of-two, reveals what to look out for “Hong Kong is gearing up once again for an epically arty March with all manner of thought provoking, inspiring and just plain beautiful work on display. Art Central kicks off first followed by the sixth edition of Basel at the end of the month. Hong Kong is also in for a treat with the opening of Harbour Arts Sculpture Park which runs until April 11. The ambitious exhibition brings together 19 heavy hitting international and local artists including the likes of Yayoi Kusama, Antony Gormley and our own Kacey Wong to explore the power of public art. “If you are venturing into the art fairs with kids, there are some great activities to look out for. Basel has the UBS Junior Art Hub workshops where children can go on specially curated tours of the fair accompanied by a guardian, as well as take home their own works of art at the end. Art Central has its annual collaboration with the


UOB kids’ workshop

Sovereign Art Foundation who host a crafty corner. “There’s plenty of performance art this year, plus UOB presents 24 ink art workshops for the general public and students.

“The art fairs are always brimming with big ideas, energy and bold spectacle so my top tip with kids in tow is to simply ask their opinion on the work. Their raw, unguarded view of the art world always brings the edgiest and most humorous commentary.”


MAY 11 - JUN 3

Combining two circus traditions, the art of clowning and acrobatic performance. A colourful melange of dramatic performance with slapstick humour. From $488, Central Harbourfront Event Space, 9 Lung Wo Road, Central,

Evita tells the tale of Argentina’s iconic first lady, Eva Perón, starting from her roots as the child of an impoverished family, to her rise to power as Argentina’s nationally adored first lady. The show includes

Kooza Cirque du Soleil


all-time favourite Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and is performed by a talented touring cast. From $445, Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai,

MAY 31 - JUNE 3 Tabby McTat

Julia Donaldson’s creation comes to life on the stage with a rhyming story of music and friendship. Part of KidsFest Hong Kong. Tickets from $195, Drama Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai,

MAY 1-6

The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre: Swan Lake The world-class ballet company finally make its debut in Hong Kong this spring. The 60 member company comprises of dancers trained under the Vaganova method, a particularly rigorous Russian ballet training system. From $445, Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai,


Prestige Summer Holiday Gift Fair Vendor applications are now open for the biggest pop-up shopping event of the summer - email for details. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre makes its debut in Hong Kong 11


Photo by Mk2010 via Wikimedia Commons

things to know Nine ‘Star’ ferries transport over 70,000 people a day between TST & Central, and TST & Wan Chai.

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The ‘Kowloon Ferry Company’ was originally founded by Parsee merchant Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala in 1888 to transport passengers between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

y err F r The first attempt to commercially Sta its transport passengers across Victoria The ing g l g Harbour was halted at the request of the tra chu n e C British Consul in Canton in the 1870s. It y to was feared the service would facilitate the wa frequenting of gambling dens in Kowloon.


In 1898 Mithaiwala sold his company to ‘The Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Limited’, owned by Jardine, Matheson & Co and Sir Paul Chater.


During World War 2, Star Ferry was commandeered by the Japanese. In 1943, an American bombing raid sank Golden Star in the Canton River. Electric Star was sunk in Victoria Harbour. Both were recovered and returned to service after the war.

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The Star Ferry was the principal means of crossing Victoria Harbour until 1972 when the Cross Harbour Tunnel opened.

In 1966 a fare increase of 25% sparked the 1966/7 Hong Kong riots.

Things you need to know Star Ferry This year marks the 130th birthday of Victoria Harbour’s world-famous little green boats


In 1906 the first Star Ferry pier was opened at the end of Salisbury Road on Kowloon-side, but it was destroyed by a typhoon later that year. Twin-tiered terminals were constructed on both sides of the harbour in the 1950s.

Photo by Alan via Wikimedia Commons



The service started out with Morning Star and Evening Star. By the 1900s they had been joined by Rising Star and Guiding Star.


The Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, or ‘Star Ferry Pier’, served Star Ferry on Hong Kong-side from 1957. In 2006 it was controversially demolished to make way for reclamation. Star Ferry was moved to piers 7 and 8 of Central Piers.



Summer launch at Bonpoint Luxury kids clothing range Bonpoint has launched its summer collection, with plenty of florals, colourful prints and lust-worthy pieces. All in all, it’s a fun and fresh look for summer, with lots of accessories, including floppy sun-hats, hair ties, shoes and toys. Bonpoint stores are located in Prince’s Building, Central; Ocean Terminal, TST; and Lee Gardens Two, Causeway Bay,

New brunch at Jamie’s Jamie’s Italian has launched a weekend semibuffet brunch in its Hong Kong venues. The brunch runs from 11am to 4pm and includes a delicious buffet of breakfast items, including cereals, pastries, fruit, yoghurts, charcuterie, cheese platters, salads and beautiful breads, followed by an a la carte selection of hot main dishes. Choose from steaks, pastas, pizzas or more breakfast-oriented items including steak and eggs and the Full Monty. The huge plate also comes as a Veggie option. For dessert, it’s back to buffet for glorious tiramisus, cheesecakes, rice puddings and fruit platters. There are plenty of fresh juices for an additional $60, or upgrade to free-flow 14

champagne and wine for $125. A full free-flow of cocktails, beers, bellinis and prosecco costs $195. The venues are family friendly with a dedicated kids menu and plenty of highchairs for littlies. There are also play areas at the Causeway Bay and TST branches. For a casual weekend brekkie with the kids, it ticks all the right boxes. Jamie’s Italian Semi-Buffet Weekend Brunch, $295/adult, $195/child aged four to 11 years, 11am-4pm, Saturday & Sunday, Harbour City 3758 3333, Causeway Bay 3958 2222,

Yummy breakfast at Jamie’s Italian

Creative co-working in Wong Chuk Hang The Hive co-working space is launching the The Hive Spring in Southside’s trendy Wong Chuk Hang neighbourhood this month. It is hoped the space will become a hub for artists and creative entrepreneurs in the area. The new venue takes over the space formerly occupied by Spring Workshop, a driving force behind Wong Chuk Hang’s art development. Hive founder Constant Tedder aims to continue the legacy of bringing together local artists, filmmakers, writers and musicians. The 15,000 square foot space offers flexible working desks, private offices, indoor gallery space and a spacious outdoor terrace. The Hive Spring will also function as an arts and culture centre, providing a platform for locals to showcase their works. With support from Spring Workshop, The Hive Spring will offer sponsorship for selected artists and non-profit organisations. The Hive Spring’s lively events programme this month includes interactive theatre, open-air

cinema and art jams. The Hive Spring, 3/F Remax Centre, 42 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang,


Buying for baby Mother and baby superstore Bumps to Babes has launched a ‘buying-for-baby’ personal shopping service. The one hour or 30 minute appointments are available at Entertainment Building or Horizon Plaza stores. Time-pressed new mums, or those looking to garner some expert advice, can book an hour for a complete overview of their nursery needs, or a 30 minute session for a pushchair and car-seat review. There is no minimum spend required and the impartial advice can be tailored to suit your lifestyle, family dynamics and budget. Sessions are available on weekdays, weekends and early evening and can be booked by calling 2522 7112 (Entertainment Building, Central); or 2552 5000 (Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau). 15

giveaways WIN HERE! Click the Giveaways tab on our website:


Younibody is a one-stop holistic health lab that provides Bioresonance health assessment and therapy that regulate and detox your body. Bioresonance therapy is recommended in particular for children and people suffering from allergies, eczema and attention deficit disorders (ADD). We are giving away a free kids’ allergy assessment program which includes one assessment plus two therapy sessions, valued at $3,280.

Taste of Hong Kong

Attention foodies - Taste of Hong Kong is back from March 22-25. Featuring 20 local and international restaurants, participants can sample over 60 signature and Taste-exclusive dishes from the city’s hottest new restaurants and long time favourites. Find out more at We have five pairs of passes, valued at $1,500 in total, to give away. Entry deadline: March 16.


Hong Kong Rugby Union

Rugby fans rejoice! The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is returning, April 6-8. What better way to show your support for our Hong Kong 7s team than donning the team jersey. We’re giving away one home and one away exclusive jerseys, signed by the Hong Kong team, valued at $1,100 in total.

Spa treatment from MindBeauty

Did somebody say spa day? With the MindBeauty app, you can book services at a range of quality beauty, fitness and wellness outlets with a click of a button. It’s all about keeping your booking process flexible, hassle-free and simple. Visit for more. MindBeauty has teamed up with Doctor Li Beauty Lounge to give away two luxurious Rock Spa, Rose Facial and massage treatments, valued at $2,500 each. 17

debate of the month

Sugar and spice Are you a sugar nazi, or do you let them eat cake?

I couldn’t live without sugar! A balanced diet is the key. Natalie

“What worries me is the lack of regulation over food additives. A packet of Cheetos is heaps worse than a sugary biscuit.” Catherine

“I’m a sugar nazi because I’m diabetic. My kids have chosen to eat my way, although they do add carbs and sugar sometimes. I’m dead impressed with them.” Michele

“If not eating sugar causes stress, eat the damn sugar! There’s no black and white.” Louise

“My mother was a sugar nazi and the minute I was earning my own money I was an addict!” Vanessa

“When I was young my grandma plied us with mountains of chocolate. I figure anything less than that is already a positive.” Anna

“I’m a sugar nazi. I make all our cookies, cakes and muffins with alternatives to sugar. Mind you, now they’re free to roam 7-Eleven after school, it’s impossible to manage.” Ruth

I let them eat cake. I let them drink Coke. In fact I let them do what they like! Sara

“It’s a myth that sugar gives you diabetes. But combining too much of it with a sedentary lifestyle can cause future health problems.” Joanna (chairperson of Youth Diabetes Action)

Book the tickets, take the trip, eat the cake! Life’s too short. Sam

Everything in moderation. Jasmin

“I fear if I ban things, they’ll go crazy in 7-Eleven when they finally get their own Octopus cards!” Jenny

We want to hear from you! Next month: Online v bricks ‘n‘ mortar - where do you fill your wardrobe?

Email your views to

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me & my big idea

Mum’s the word A platform to support mothers dealing with miscarriage is in the pipeline. Co-founder Marina Watt explains more So what’s the big idea? Once A MAma (OAMA) is Hong Kong’s first platform to support women and families affected by miscarriage. Like other mothers, women who have suffered from miscarriage or stillbirth have so much love for their pre-born babies. This love is so strong and intense, once they are a mother, they will always be, for the rest of their lives. The only difference is OAMAs are dealing with the loss of someone who meant the world to them and they are mourning the loss of the life they have made and saying goodbye to the future they had planned. Medical research shows that approximately 20% of pregnancies result in loss - that’s one in every five mums. But when you look around at other mums, you would never know if they have gone through miscarriage because they tend to put on a strong face. Women’s bodies have undergone massive changes for pregnancy and birth and with the loss comes imbalance in hormones which often don’t return to normal until many weeks after miscarriage. Many women feel alone - the taboo surrounding miscarriage keeps her silent and the problem perpetuates. How did the idea come about? My friend Babie Li and I have experienced miscarriage and we felt so hopeless trying to find information or support. May Chung, another founding partner of OAMA, is training in social work at Hong Kong University. Although she hasn’t been through miscarriage, she was keen to join myself and Babie in setting up Hong Kong’s first miscarriage support platform. How easy was it to execute? Nothing is easy when it comes to setting up a first non-profit platform. But what we lack in resources we have made up in enthusiasm as we try our best in volunteering to run the platform. We have launched a crowdfunding campaign which if successful will be used to pour funds back into the development of a website, provision of distress workshops and grief counselling workshops - these will either be free or held for a minimal fee. We will also be organising an educational campaign to raise the 20

Baby steps - Once A MAma hopes to support who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth

Women who have suffered miscarriage have so much love for their pre-born

awareness of miscarriage and how to support ourselves or others who have been through this traumatic experience. How do you hope to move it forward? In the long run, we hope to secure corporate support for sustainable development and service provision.

Any other ideas in the pipeline? In December, we kick-started our first society awareness campaign, which included taking candid portraits of women affected by miscarriage. We will be organizing our first photo exhibition to reach out to a wider public audience. Also, we have collaborated with a group of social work students from Hong Kong University to publish a research report about how mothers of miscarriage are supported in Hong Kong. We will publish the report at a press conference this month (date to be confirmed, please see the website). How do readers sign up? Currently, OAMA is raising an initial startup capital of $100,000 via a reward-based crowdfunding campaign on Next Chapter ( Reader support means a lot to us! 21


My Hong Kong the business guru

Kate Babington relaxing at home

Kate Babington joined eco chic furniture boutique TREE in 2005. She has since nurtured it into a global brand My father was in the Hong Kong police force, so I grew up in a government apartment on Mansfield Road. I went back to the UK for university and then into my first job with Body Shop. I was part of the global sourcing team, so was back and forth to Hong Kong. I was then offered to move back on an 18-month contract, and I haven’t left since. When I returned from the UK, I wanted to live near the Hong Kong Football Club. I’ve been a long-time member and have many happy memories of the club. So I rented an apartment in Happy Valley and loved the thriving local community, but when I decided to buy I had to move to neighbouring suburb Tai Hang which suited my budget a little better. 22

I joined TREE on the premise that I would only need to work three days a week. My good friend Nicole (Wakley, TREE’s founder who now lives in Australia) promised that would be all it would take to keep things running smoothly. This was not in fact the reality and we still joke about it today. It’s exhilarating to see how far TREE has come since taking root in 2005. When I first joined, I focused on implementing a strong internal structure and back office team so we could grow as a company. I still work closely with each team to keep things ticking over but our strength in numbers means I can steer my attention to partnerships with property developers and our expansion strategy. We’re

Ultraviolet is this year’s Pantone colour

PEOPLE currently scouting new locations in the city to ensure we’ve got all of Hong Kong covered, and through our distributors we’re looking to strengthen our global presence. Social media is more important than ever for communicating with and engaging with customers. Instagram was the perfect platform for us to dip our feet in the social media realm. We’ve recruited a team of individuals (I like to call them the marketing youth!) to integrate digital marketing into our business. We’re open to exploring all mediums, but we want to ensure it’s done in the right way.

Instagram was the perfect platform for us to dip our feet into social media

We’re beginning to see a shift in consumer habit. While fundamentally people buy a product they like, we’re seeing customers placing higher value on brands and what they stand for. We’re absolutely committed to giving back to the environment in any way we can. Our furniture is made from reclaimed teak or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified solid wood and we also support the non-profit Trees4Trees and its reforestation initiatives. Being involved in the sourcing process allows me to witness production from start to finish – from visiting the village where it was created to the meticulous craftsmanship it entails. Whenever I’m sourcing new products, I always look for handcrafted pieces with a unique story to tell and that I would want to have in my own home. I don’t have any favourite pieces but I do love our TREE originals that are crafted from recycled teak and boat wood; they each bear naturally unique markings and are full of individuality. In terms of trends, this year Ultraviolet (Pantone’s colour of the year) is one to watch. It’s a bold shade, and although many of our customers lean towards neutrals, there are plenty of ways to inject this enigmatic hue without overwhelming a space. Opt for purple florals to freshen up a room, or finishing touches such as vases or cushions that can be

TREE is well-known for its environmentally friendly pieces

swapped out over the seasons. If you’re keen on being a little more adventurous with colour, go for an accent wall, which helps create a focal point in your room and can be painted over if you have a change of heart.

I love so much about Hong Kong. I love the people and the diverse cultures, the wide variety of food, the warm climate (although we do get the occasional cold spell), and its convenient location that allows for a weekend getaway in Asia.

When I’m not working, I love to escape the hustle and bustle with a hike along Dragon’s Back. Otherwise, you’ll find me playing a game of netball, catching up with friends, or getting a foot massage in Happy Valley (a ‘must’ at least once a week for me!).

The pollution does drive me nuts. Although we have certainly made some progress, there is still so much we can do both as corporations and as individuals to improve air quality and create a greener environment.

I love to eat at Alto, which offers incredible views of the city. Crystal Jade is my go-to for local classics and Zuma is my eatery of choice if I’m in need of a delicious brunch. Of course Jimmy’s Kitchen is the obvious choice for oldschool comfort fare.

This time of year is peak season for retail and sourcing. I’ve got six travel destinations lined up between now and Easter, so I’m looking forward to a little staycation and some downtime at home for the spring holidays. I think it might do me some good! 23

book review

Out this month

Surprise Me

How Hard Can It Be

Still Me

Sophie Kinsella

Allison Pearson

Jojo Moyes

Another light-hearted read, Surprise Me follows Sylvie and Dan, a couple who are ticking all of life’s boxes - comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, happy marriage. But when it’s casually suggested that after ten years together they could be looking at another 68, panic sets in. The pair decide to surprise each other to keep the relationship fresh and fun. But a past scandal in unexpectedly uncovered and suddenly their oncesolid future starts to look shaky.

The original struggling mummy, Kate Reddy, is back. But she and her children are older now and this time she’s faced with teens, ageing parents and the menopause. The follow-up to the international bestseller I Don’t Know How She Does It, this time Pearson gives a much welcome voice to the 50+ woman. And quite frankly, the more airtime that can be given to this tricky time of life, the better. A light-hearted novel that hits the nail on the head for middle-aged mums everywhere.

Perhaps stretching the Louisa Clark story a step too far, Still Me is nevertheless an enjoyable sun lounger/ longhaul flight novel that doesn’t require too much depth of thought. Following on from Me Before You and After You, Still Me finds Clark in New York with her boyfriend, Ambulance Sam, back in London. And then she meets a someone who will turn her life upside down. An easy read, although the bumble bee tights are starting to grate slightly - will this woman ever grow up?!

Baby steps Musical books for littlies

The Cali’s Books team with Expat Parent editor Carolynne Dear and baby Octavie


Two local mums are hoping to publish Indian Culture, a musical hardcover book for babies. Asa Isaksson, founder of Cali’s Books, has teamed up with design entrepreneur Kanch Porta Panjabi to create a tactile musical book to encourage cultural curiosity in kids. The book contains six spreads, each one dedicated to a Hindu God and the corresponding mantra. The texts are in both Hindu and English script. “We want to encourage cultural understanding from a young age,” says Isaksson, who is herself the mother of three young children. Isaksson had already published a number of musical baby books, but after meeting Porta Panjabi through her children’s school, the pair decided to work together on

The Woman In The Window AJ Finn It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home and, engulfed by memories, she’s too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see.

a new book with a cultural angle. “Both of us are living outside of our home countries and we realised how lucky our children are being exposed to different languages and cultures on a daily basis,” says Isaksson. “My husband is Spanish and I’m Indian so it’s very important for our son to be able to understand both cultures,” says Porta Panjabi, who is expecting her second child this year. “On every trip to India I search for books that can help him learn about his Indian roots, but I couldn’t find anything, so I was very excited to see what Asa had been doing with kids’ books. I have some very fond memories of my mom sharing magical stories with me as a child which are still crystal clear to this day.” The book underwent crowd funding last month with Next Chapter and the pair hope to publish later this year. The book will be available in a number of Hong Kong book shops, including Bookazine,

book review

Terror tales Kidnapped Bookstore is running a fine line in horror stories this month

The Confession

Need To Know

Everything Is Lies

Jo Spain

Karen Cleveland

Helen Callaghan

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie and launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry. Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police, but claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. Who - of Harry, Julie and JP - is really the guilty one? And is Carney’s surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst assigned to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the USA. When she stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents, suddenly everything that matters to Vivian is threatened - her job, her husband, even her four children . . . Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust? Will her next move be the right one?

On a visit to her parents, Sophia arrives to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death. The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past - a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?

The Chalk Man

Force of Nature

The Wife Between Us

CJ Tudor

Jane Harper

Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The story begins in the small town of Anderbury in 1986. Twelve-year-old Eddie meets Mr Halloran - the Chalk Man. He tells Eddie how to leave secret messages in chalk drawings for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure. Is history going to repeat itself? The Chalk Man is coming...

Five colleagues join a team-building exercise, and embark on a hike through a rugged landscape. But only four come out the other side. Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement. It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves. The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships. You will be wrong. All books are available from Kidnapped Bookshop, 7 Man Nin Street, Sai Kung, 25


How to be an entrepreneur Three local small business owners tell Carolynne Dear how they did it Claire Yates, founder of Lion Rock Press



y womens' da

t seems like every week in Hong Kong there’s another diary date involving entrepreneurs, and usually female entrepreneurs at that. Whether it’s a networking event, a new launch, a panel discussion or a pop-up shop, small enterprises appear to be big business in this dynamic city. According to studies in the US, femaleled startups deliver high returns. Seed-stage venture firm First Round Capital found that companies with a woman at the helm performed 63% better than those with allmale teams. But despite this, companies led by females receive just 5% of venture dollars. Globally, it is estimated just 5-10% of women owned businesses have access to commercial bank loans. In Hong Kong it’s a similar story. According to The Women’s Foundation (TWF), Hong Kong has a heavy gender skew. A massive 81% of high growth entrepreneurs are male and the ratio of male to female employers is 3.5 to 1. TWF believes targeted assistance is crucial to close the gap and to empower women-owned businesses to reach their full potential. Nicole Denholder, founder of Next Chapter, a crowdfunding portal for women, has over twenty years in project and merger management - much of it for multinationals under her belt. When it comes to launching a business, she’s been there, advised on that. Realising that women weren’t getting a fair slice of the investment cake, she was keen to get Next Chapter off the ground. “With Next Chapter, I wanted to provide some sort of service that involved working with women, pushing female businesses to the next level,” says Denholder. The crowdfunding idea is simple, but effective. A project or venture is launched online and investors are invited to contribute a small amount of money towards it in return for the product or service. For example, Hong Kongers Kanch PortaPanjabi and Asa Isaksson of Cali’s Books wanted to publish a musical baby book, but need US$10,000 to meet publishing costs. By pre-buying a book via Next Chapter, or several books, customers commit to the project and when the fund is reached, will receive their product. If the funding fails, the money is returned. “So only those projects that strike a chord with a customer base succeed. It’s a brilliant system,” says Denholder. When an entrepreneur reaches out with an idea, Denholder’s first step is to provide a brief initial consultation. “I’m not offering


#car eer

a complete advisory service, but I need to decide if the project is a ‘fit’ for Next Chapter. If they’re just looking for advice, I can connect them accordingly.” If the project proceeds, Denholder supplies the business founders with a manual to work through, checking that all the groundwork has been completed. For example, have they researched an appropriate price-point, have they investigated their target audience, what sort of marketing plan has been put into place, is their story clear? “I don’t want to see a business fail, so everything needs to be in place for when the product launches. Ideally new start-ups should have a five-year plan - you need to ask yourself where do you want to be in five years

Passion and drive are key to success. You have to ask yourself, can you see yourself doing this in five years time?

time? Where are you going with the business and will you still want to be doing it in five years?” She also lists passion and drive as key to success. “One of my clients was in the corporate world but desperately wanted to embrace her creative side as an illustrator. She had the drive, but had never been professionally trained. She crowdfunded a very conservative US$2,000 to launch some Christmas cards, but because this was something she really wanted to do and was passionate about it she really worked hard and this small step has now led to corporate commissions for logos, children’s book illustrations and mural work. It’s a great story.” Denholder is looking into launching an advisory service this year as well as aiming to launch Next Chapter internationally. “I just want to keep women moving on to the next level,” she says. Denholder will be speaking at this month’s International Women’s Day networking event, 6.30-8.30pm, Corner Kitchen Cafe, 226 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tickets $250 from


power lunch!

girls rock


girl power

Claire Yates launched quirky stationery and gift company Lion Rock Press in an attempt to revive Hong Kong’s flagging print industry My family has been involved with the paper business in Hong Kong for over a century. Lion Rock was my interpretation of how to remain in an industry that I feel a great bond with, whilst allowing me to be more creative in marrying my east and west heritage. It was also a response to a market niche that I felt I was well qualified to fill - I often found myself searching for products that either weren’t there, or were not well executed. So I assumed that if I felt there was a gap in the market, others did, too. I sold my menswear business in London and I also sold stock from a kids company that had gone bust here in Hong Kong. I used the cash to put together my first products - charity Hong Kong Christmas cards and wrapping paper, ‘Happy Birthday from Hong Kong’ greetings cards, and boxed note-cards with a Hong Kong theme. In my wildest dreams I could never have hoped for the success the brand met with. I learned from every experience and all of it turned out to be beneficial - even if it seemed calamitous at the time. People have taken my vision into their hearts and their homes and I am so grateful. I think the key to startups is to not be afraid. There is no better place than Hong Kong to start a business as a mother. We are privileged to have ‘help’ with our family life, which allows headspace to concentrate on work projects. It’s also a very supportive community where people love to encourage fellow mums. I could never have had the success I’ve enjoyed without my circle of girlfriends here they’ve helped with packing, manning stalls, delivering orders, brainstorming ideas, helping with the kids during busy times and generally sharing the highs and the lows. I’m so grateful to them. In the first few years I had a Facebook page, but it was really underutilised and I didn’t understand the power and reach. I used it mainly for messaging clients as they heard about me 27


Amrita Khanna heads up interiors consultancy Zip Code 888

via the infamous ‘Hong Kong Moms’ Facebook page. I didn’t set up a website until 2015. At this point I got on board with Instagram too. I know I could do a lot with my social media content and it is one of my constant resolutions to try and improve. In terms of professional help, I share the family accountant - I come from a family of accountants so I’ve been extremely fortunate in that respect as I’m hopeless with numbers. Other than that, everything else is done in-house. As tempting as it is to push forward with the business, with two young children I’m trying to keep my work-life balance in their favour. Over the next couple of years I’d like to expand my range and hopefully inspire more people to fall in love with the written word again, something that seems to be increasingly under threat. When my youngest child starts school, I would like to take the brand to other expat hubs around the world, celebrating the beauty of each of these cities.

Amrita Khanna set up an interior design business after taking time out to raise her three sons I was born into a family that has a deep appreciation of the arts. My mother is a fine artist and I have always been exposed to a 28


Zip Code 888 has grown much faster than anticipated. I’m so grateful to clients, friends and family

beautiful, well curated home. This, coupled with a formal education in textiles and fashion, led to my appreciation of aesthetics. But it wasn’t until after taking time out to raise my three boys that I followed all of this up with an interior design course. I took the course because I was passionate about interior design, not because I wanted to start a business. Zip Code 888 came about after I redesigned my own home in 2016 and realized that Hong Kong is not the easiest place to find resources to redecorate. It requires a lot of coordination, patience and commitment. I think fate and timing had a large role

zip code 888

to play in the success of the business. I was asked to do a few places for friends and family, which turned out beautifully, and I was featured in a local magazine. From here, things started to happen really quickly and the response, to be honest, has been overwhelming. What seems to have worked well for me is contrary to the ‘normal’ designer approach of everything being shiny and new, I try and retain a comfortable yet refined luxury to the spaces I design, which is a reflection of the people these homes represent. In the initial stages, I did reach out to a few interiors publications with good quality pictures of my work, which were subsequently featured. This had a roll-over effect and I started getting approached by other publications. Facebook and Instagram have been important in building brand awareness and for connecting with suppliers and manufacturers. In terms of professional help, I use an accountant to keep my books in order, but everything else I do myself. Zip Code 888 has grown much faster than I anticipated, and for that I’m very grateful to my clients, friends and family, who have all been incredibly supportive. I would love to see the company grow further, but I know I have to be careful how this is managed. I invest a large

who run the world



chunk of myself into every project, I work hard to get to know the families and understand what they want to achieve. This relationship and the bond of trust that develops means a lot to me and I wouldn’t want this to be compromised. So, while I hope the company does grow, I will be taking it forward very carefully. Hong Kong is truly a city of opportunity. In my experience, people recognize, appreciate and support new businesses that they see as having potential. And if you’re passionate about your business, it’s only a matter of time before you get noticed.

With an online following of over 21,000, Ifat Kafry Hindes’ Project Wellness promotes health, wellness and self-empowerment I set up Project Wellness after selling my bakery, Choice Healthy Foods. I started out with cooking classes and training for chefs to learn more about health and wellness and how to implement healthy techniques into the every day. I then opened it up to non-professionals and it grew from there. I help homes adopt a healthier approach to living. I involve the whole family and we implement exercise and cooking ideas. I get excited about every challenge but I never push my values or ethics onto others; the key to my success is working within the boundaries people have and respecting them. I’m very blessed to have friends and family who have invested in the business and fortunately I didn’t need a lot of start-up capital. I think if I were to do it all again I’d do more due diligence. Essentially not every appropriately qualified person you need to work with is right for you - by doing your homework you can see who compliments your style of working. I’d also say research your market, research your competitors, research your targets, research as much as you can and seek help from those who have become successful. Also be prepared to pay, many people these days expect the help for free. People feel valued when they are paid and respected too. Most of my success is down to social media. I started my career in public relations and I was lucky enough to have Sir David Tang as a mentor - he helped find me my first job with his friend at Hanart TZ Gallery, one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious contemporary Chinese galleries in the late ‘90s, and it was such a blessing to be handed this opportunity. I worked hard and moved on to Stauntons Group as group public relations and marketing manager, before eventually working in celebrity endorsements, specialising in

8 March

Ifat Kafry Hindes promotes female self-empowerment through her Project Wellness initiative

guerilla marketing (an advertisement strategy where businesses promote their products in an unconventional way with little budget). This experience set the foundations for my approach to social media. I liaise with all my followers who message me and take up all speaking engagements, work opportunities and other invitations that are offered to me. When I post online, I think hard about what my message is and what I’m trying to say. Lately my message has transformed from health and wellness, eating and exercise to taking care of yourself from your heart and loving who you are. My business advisor, my book-keeper and my sanity check is Sophie Janini from She’s a dear friend and

eat, bake, love

someone I call part of my inner tribe! I would have never imagined my career in public relations would have transformed into working with women and their self development and empowerment. I’m overwhelmed at times at the responsibility this involves. I used to have a clear picture of where I am headed with the business, but to be honest I just hope to continue to work in health and wellness, empowering women, being humble, surrounding myself with love and kindness and supporting social responsibility by any means possible, especially when it comes to women and children.

#girlboss 29


Voyageur Tina Leather Laptop Carrier $3,890 from TUMI Mrs Bush Handbag Bloody Red leather from Mary & Marie

Leather personal planner large $590 from Kikki.K

White marble stainless steel water bottle $250 from thorn & burrow

Down to business Style in right in the office

2018 A4 Bonded leather weekly diary $445 from Kikki.K

Prepd Pack, lunch boxes for adults $69 from Prepd

Voyageur Halle Leather Backpack $3,790 from TUMI

Voyageur Super Leger International Carry On $5,190 from TUMI

Clip: Energise $18 from Kikki.K

Leather travel doc wallet slim $480.00 from Kikki.K


No plastic mmgoi eco bottles $225-$250 from Lion Rock Press 31

THE big interview

Golden girls Hong Kong’s Ladies Circle celebrates its 50th birthday this year. President Fiona Bulmer tells Carolynne Dear how it’s stood the test of time


hen Fiona Bulmer arrived in Hong Kong twelve years ago, she was looking to make a few friends. “I worked to start with and then broke off from my career for the children. So from working full-time in Central, I was now living in the ‘burbs’ of Pok Fu Lam with two babies and I really needed to reach out to create a social network. And then I discovered Ladies Circle, which was kind of a turning point for me.” Ladies Circle arrived in Hong Kong from the UK in 1968, which makes this year its golden anniversary. Bulmer now presides over the group as president, a role she took up with trepidation a couple of years ago. “I went from popping in to a meeting just to see what it was all about, and then suddenly I was treasurer - my fault for admitting I was an ex-accountant! - and the next thing I knew I was being voted in as president,” says Bulmer. “This was a huge step for me but I really feel I’ve grown with the role and am very proud about what we’re achieving as an organisation.” Originally set up in the UK in the 1930s as a charitable organisation for the wives of Round Table members, Ladies Circle today has a global network of over 10,000 members in 37 countries. The Round Table was also founded in the UK, in 1927, and still has a Hong Kong branch. The initial Circle met on England’s south coast in the seaside town of Bournemouth in 1932. It was predominantly a social group, but word spread and by the late 1930s eight more Circles had been formed up and down the UK. The group struggled during World War 2, but held together despite the odds and in 1947 went international with new groups in Denmark and Northern Ireland. In the 1960s, it arrived in Hong Kong courtesy of Jeanne Allingham, who became the Circle’s first Hong Kong president. “The idea came from a Round Tabler and his wife who were new to Hong Kong and had been members in the UK,” she tells me from her current home in the UK. “Initially we met in each others homes before moving to the 32

Current president Fiona Bulmer

Manning the cake stall at the Easter Fair, HKCC, 1986

THE big interview Hong Kong Club. Each month we had to haggle over the price of the meal. We had some interesting speakers, but our main aim was to support the Round Table whenever called upon.” She recalls that the main event of the year was the Easter Fair, held on the cricket ground at Hong Kong Cricket Club. “We worked towards that event all year round, begging for ingredients from local suppliers to bake cakes and so on. We supported various charities, including Ebenezer Home for the Blind, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sandy Bay Children’s Convalescent Home and the Round Table Village Scheme on Cheung Chau Island.”

We’re a friendly bunch and we welcome new members with open arms The Craft Circle in full swing

Membership grew to the point that a second Circle was set up in Kowloon, although that has since folded. The meeting format today remains similar to that of the early days, with a monthly dinner (these days held at the Aberdeen Boat Club) to which after-dinner speakers are often invited, as well as charity work throughout the year and other social events, including historical walks, craft workshops and food tours. The Circle’s motto is ‘Friendship and Service’ and the group’s focus charity is the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services Small Groups Homes, which provides foster care for children in Hong Kong. “And we’re very inclusive,” adds Bulmer. “We welcome everyone with open arms, this is not a ‘Brit expat’ association by any means. We’re a friendly bunch.” Last Christmas, the Circle wrapped and filled an impressive 439 boxes for local charity Box of Hope. “Each year we try and better the previous year,” says Bulmer. “It’s become a major operation, my apartment was rammed with boxes.” The boxes are all baby-related and the craftier members of the Circle spend the year knitting baby hats for them. And for the last 30 years, the Circle has also supported the Hong Kong Charity Pedal Car Grand Prix organised by the Hong Kong Round Table and held in Victoria Park every autumn.

This year Ladies Circle has set up a Craft Circle as well as a Book Circle. But the highlight of this year is of course the celebratory black tie Gala Dinner which is being held in the glorious confines of the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, overlooking the twinkling lights of Victoria Harbour. Members past and present will be attending, including first president Jeanne Allingham, who will be making the journey from the UK. This will be the first time she has returned to Hong Kong since 1977. “My three sons were born at the Matilda hospital,” she says. “My eldest, Christopher, has been back twice since and has tried to prepare me for the many changes.” After a three-course free-flow dinner, guest speaker and local historian Jason Wordie will be giving an insight into the Hong Kong of 50 years ago, after which guests will be able to let their hair down at the disco. “It’s going to be such a special night for us,” says Bulmer. “Ladies Circle has meant so much to me over the years. It’s a very special organisation.” The Gala Dinner takes place 7pm, March 8, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, Wan Chai. To book individual tickets at $1,400/person, or even a table of ten to twelve people, please go to Tickets are selling fast! For membership enquiries, email

Easter Fair 1970

Hong Kong in the swinging 60s The 1960s were a major turning point in Hong Kong’s history thanks to its booming economy. This was a decade of change but also of disturbances. Riots were triggered in 1966 over a steep rise in the price of a Star Ferry ticket and the violence continued into 1967 when internal conflict within the Chinese Communist Party resulted in the Cultural Revolution. Rumours spread that China was planning to take over the colony and political tensions soared. The riots ended in December 1967 when the Chinese premier ordered leftist groups in Hong Kong to stop the violence. There were serious droughts during the decade too, as water supply struggled to support the booming population. A number of reservoirs were completed at this time, including Shek Pik, Lantau (1963) and Plover Cover, New Territories (1968). In 1967 the Colony Outline Plan was issued detailing strategies to house a million people in low-cost, high-rise public housing. Slowly but surely, Hong Kong was becoming the booming city we know today. 33



School news

STEMinn AT STAMFORD Stamford American School has been getting to grips with all aspects of the school’s STEMinn programme. As part of the Volvo Race project, students have been building life-size boats and launching them on the school’s brand new pool. Led by global mentor Cesar Harada, the students got stuck into design, creating pro-types and engineering to produce their boats. 35


Canadian hosts uni fair Tertiary education is a big decision for students and to help make the process a little easier, the Canadian International School of Hong Kong’s Guidance Department is hosting over 75 universities at its annual Higher Education Fair this month. Students will be able to find out more about course content, academic reputation and graduate employment rates for better decision making at this crucial stage in their academic career. The fair will be held 2.30-5.30pm, March 16, Canadian International School, 36 Nam Long Shan Road, Aberdeen,

Fun and fashion at FIS Straw poll

Eco-Warriors (l to r) Claire Wu, Maxim Hill, Oliver Dawson and Nandana Jeevan are saying ‘no’ to plastic straws at Clearwater Bay School

During a recent week long focus on environmental activities, students and staff at Clearwater Bay School were asked to consider their use of plastic straws. Children investigated the environmental impact of these products especially on the coastlines of Hong Kong and on marine life such as turtles and seabirds.

The Eco-Warriors club at the school helped to create 6 large straws from recycled materials which were then decorated with more than 700 signatures. The club hopes to use the straws to highlight the issues to restaurants and shops in nearby locations. It’s also hoped that families will request ‘no straws’ when they dine out.

French International School will be holding a gala dinner this month with the theme art and creativity. Guests will be able to enjoy musical performances from students, parents and teachers, as well as a Redress fashion show of outfits crafted from recycled materials. There will also be an auction and organisers are hoping to raise around $3 million for the school. $1,500, 6.30pm, March 2, Hong Kong Football Club, 3 Sports Road, Happy Valley,

Singing school comes to Hong Kong The Oxford and Cambridge Singing School will be coming to Hong Kong next month. The school was established at Cambridge University in 2013 and runs courses throughout the UK for children aged seven to 13 years. In Hong Kong, the course will be run from St John’s Cathedral and will include whole-group singing, small group vocal coaching, music appreciation, music games and exercises to improve sight-reading and music history. Each day will conclude with an 36

informal concert to which families are invited to attend. Composers used for this course will include Handel, Bach, Pergolesi and Benjamin Britten. Tutors include the directors of music at St Catharine’s College Cambridge and Worcester College Oxford, as well as director of music at St John’s Cathedral. The course runs from April 3-6, St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Midlevels, Voices soar at the Oxford and Cambridge Singing School 37


The pressure’s on

Studying together is not always a bad thing

Major exams are just around the corner. Educator Simon John explains how to get the most out of extra-curricular tutoring


he February to May months are some of the busiest and most chaotic months of the year for the numerous tuition centres found across Hong Kong. Both parents and students are in search of the most suitable place that can provide the most worthwhile assistance in the final few months before the exams begin. As someone who has worked in both schools and tuition centres for more than seven years, I have seen the needs that parents approach centres with during this time, and the issues that the centres themselves struggle with.


So, here are my suggestions as to the questions you should ask – beyond just price – and the main considerations you should bare in mind so that you can make the most of the remaining time available to you.

Cost Let’s start here anyway, as it is important. Prices vary depending on experience, reputation and services offered. Truth be told, tuition centres don’t need to advertise special ‘offers’ in the build up to exams, as they are guaranteed to get business without them. Aim instead for the Easter break - take advantage of offers or courses held at this

time reduce the amount of material needed to cover nearer exam time.

Experience Tutors who are working on their first exam season are not ideal. Highly qualified recent graduates are undoubtedly packed with knowledge, but they aren’t able to appreciate the amount that students need in such a small time frame. Students approach tutors with very specific requirements, so it’s better to find someone who has done the exam peak time a few times over.

schools Timetables Many tuition centres gorge on the influx of enquiries, at the expense of the tutors themselves. Many think that if they manage to get a time slot with Mr X, then they are lucky. However, if Mr X is completing upwards of eight teaching hours per day, six days per week, you will not be getting the most bang for your buck as far as focused, efficient lessons go. Ask how many hours tutors are completing per day. If it’s more than seven, look elsewhere.

Study space Students are moving around a lot at this time. Time spent on the MTR and buses travelling between A and B could be avoided completely if the centre has available study spaces of its own. Coffee shops are often packed, and libraries aren’t always within a convenient distance. If there’s an opportunity to minimise a students travel time, take it. Check for available deskspace provided by the centre. Some offer it free, some rent it. Just be sure to ask if it’s there.

Group v private lessons There are advantages to both. Very often

Many tuition centres gorge on the influx of enquiries at the expense of tutors.

constant check on their progress. In many instances however, and particularly at the IB level of study, students are wise enough to make the assessment of whether or not they are improving on their own. Agree instead on aims to be met through the tuition. If either yourself or your child doesn’t feel those aims are being realised, move on.

Registration the tutors delivering the private sessions are the same tutors leading the group classes. However, groups that are popular will fill, and sizes can go up to eight (sometimes higher in places where you are really buying materials rather than the tutors expertise). Your best bet is to arrange a group of your own. Approach the centre with peers of your son/daughter also looking for tuition, and have them form a personal ‘group’ class. This way, you’ll have more influence over the content as well.

Feedback Most centres encourage their tutors to take notes following a students lesson to keep a

Experienced tutors are in demand at this time. It is advisable that you get ahead of the game and reserve the slots you need. Try to reserve pre lunchtime slots, when tutors are more fresh and haven’t had a stream of other students and exam boards running past them throughout the day. Put down for groups if they are available, which are more intensive (happening over five days) and blocked off in tutors calendars so no unexpected changes or clashes can arise… in theory. Simon John is a British educator specialising in IGCSE and IB English teaching and co-founder of Hertford Academy, 39


Easter camps

First Code Academy

Eric Ho rounds up the best camps for kids and teens this spring break ACADEMIC ESF Language & Learning Join ESF for an exciting week of fun and adventure as they explore a variety of super stories. Also back by popular demand, Upper Primary Author Writing Workshop - taught by award-winning author K. T. Durham - will be returning for one class only during Spring Camp, 9-13 April. Spring camps available at ESF Language & Learning Centre, Kowloon Junior School, Renaissance College, and their Tsing Yi and Wu Kai Sha Kindergartens.

Maggie & Rose The kids will have an egg-cellent time this Easter at Maggie & Rose Beach Club. Nonmembers can join in the three-hour drop off camps for 4 to 8 year olds, where they will create their own funky Faberge Eggs, make delicious Easter treats or get messy in Balloon Bonanza Art Factory. All camps include snacks, drinks and a full meal. Camps cost $810. April 2-6. 2638 7191,,

HK Kidz HK Kidz is running a selection of fun and 40

activity-packed camps in English, French, German, Spanish and Mandarin. If you’re looking to spark your child’s creativity and imagination, don’t miss their culture and enrichment programmes: Language & Art, Drama & Music, Science & Discovery, Language and Cooking, Lego and Robotics and more. Running April 3-21. Easter camps will be available at both Central and Wong Chuk Hang locations. 2877 6160,,

First Code Academy Get your geek on and find your inner computer whiz with one of First Code Academy’s Easter camps. The camps offer kids aged 4-18 years old the opportunity to turn their computer ideas into reality; from building apps, website, games and hardware projects. Camps are suitable for both beginner and intermediate leveled coders. Running from April 4-13. Easter camps will be available across their Sheung Wan, Kowloon and new Causeway Bay location. Starts at $2,250. Special bundle offers available when you sign up to more than one camp at a time. Those who enroll before March 13 will also receive up to $280 off. 2772 2108,,

Southside Mandarin A fusion of intensive Putonghua training with playtime, these Easter programs teach by doing. Children will learn all about Easter bunnies, eggs, and chocolate. Easter activities such as Easter egg making and Easter egg hunt will be mixed in with Chinese culture fun and STEM activities for Primary children. Programmes run April 3-7, 9:15-11:45am. For children aged 2.5-12 years old. 3427 9619,,

YWCA Challenge the mind, brain and body in one of YWCA’s camps for little ones. Opportunities range from tennis to playing junior scientist. With hundreds of options to choose from YWCA has one of the most comprehensive lists around. Camps include the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy Easter Camp for 4 to 7 year olds ($2,080 for five sessions), Robotic Workshops for 4.5 to 6 year olds ($1,570 for two sessions), Gymnatics & Trampoline Day Camp for 4.5 to 6 year olds ($460 per session), Kids Can Cook for 3-10 year olds ($400 per session), and the ever popular Little Scientists for 3 to 11 year olds ($640 per session). Dates vary according to camps.


OUTDOORS & SPORTS Outward Bound Hong Kong Outward Bound Hong Kong has been providing personal development programmes for nearly 50 years. The non-profit experiential education organisation helps individuals develop their confidence, responsibility, leadership, teamwork, creative thinking, problem-solving skills and social responsibility. Children aged 9 to 10 can join 4 Kidz ($4,740), a specific programme designed for those who are almost reaching the age of adolescence. Older kids, aged 11 to 13, can join their Teen Explorers ($4,780). Both programs are unning April 3-7. 2792 4333,,

Treasure Island Treasure Island will have children embark on an epic adventure around Pui O Beach this Easter. Kayaking, gorging, raft building and hiking are just some of the exciting activities on offer. Running April 2-6 and April 9-13. This year, their annual treasure hunt will be held on April 2, 3-5pm, giving kids the chance to find chocolate plus the awesome prices from Mavericks, Vans, 852Shop, Colcom, Float Captain and more. 2546 3543,,

Ark Eden Awaken the adventurous and curious side of your child with Ark Eden’s Easter camp. This camp is set in the beautiful Mui Wo valley of Lantau Island where children get to learn in the natural playground and outdoor classroom. Expect nature exploration, problem solving, bush crafts, imaginative games, overnight camping and more. Running from April 2-6 and April 9-13, starting at $670 (multi-day package discount available). Children aged 5 to 11 are welcome to join the adventure. 2988 5355,,

ESF Sports ESF Sports Spring Camps are offering a stimulating power packed programme filled with active games and engaging activities for children aged 2 to 7. Children will be grouped by age in developing their skills whilst playing and making new friends in an inclusive and nurturing environment. Spring Camps will be running

Blue Sky Sports Club

Hebe Haven Yacht Club

at Kowloon Junior School, Renaissance College and West Island School.

Sports4Kids Hong Kong Academy (HKA) and Sports4Kids team up this Easter holiday to offer an action packed multi-sport camp. Kids aged 4 to 12 will have the opportunity to play a range of sports such as football, rugby, gymnastics and swimming. The Easter camp will also involve arts and craft activities. Priced at $3,200, HKA will also run free pick up and drop off bus services to Admiralty Kowloon Tong and Tai Wai MTR stations for those who enroll. April 2-7, 9am-2pm. 2773 1650,,

Blue Sky Sports Club Get ready for five days jammed pack with mixed water sports including StandUp Paddleboarding, kayaking, surfing, wakeboarding, dragon boating and snorkeling. Camps are open to ages 8 to 18 and must be able to swim 25 metres without any assistant. April 2-5, 9:30am-3:30pm. 2791 0806,,

Hebe Haven Yacht Club Set sail this Easter break with Hebe Haven’s popular Adventure Watersports Week. Kids can enjoy outdoor activities such as sailing, day trips to outer Sai Kung islands, beach games kayaking and more. Open to children aged 6 to 14 years old. Priced at $2,900 for members and $3,800 for non members. 10am-5pm, April 2-13. Information on their other sailing courses can be found online.

dynamic activities that develop skills and build confidence across basketball, football, tennis and athletics. Camps held at Victoria Park and West Island School. Open to ages 1.5 to 7 years old. April 3-12. Price starting at $600. Early bird discounts available for bookings made before March 19.

CREATIVE ARTS Faust International Be inspired by the wonderful world of theatre and performing arts with Faust International’s Holiday programs. This year, Faust will offer a Holiday Theatre (open to ages 4 to 12), and Creative Writing (open to ages 6 to 13) programmes. The former invites budding actors to explore a selection of stories inspired by the wonders of nature and about protecting the environment. All Easter programmes will be held at their Sheung Wan studio this year. Both programmes run for four days and is $2,370 per person. March 26-29, April 3-6 and April 10-13. A further one day workshop ($890) which includes a final performance will be held April 9, participants can invite two guests to watch the show at the end of the day. 2547 9114,,

Hong Kong Ballet


Put on your dancing shoes and leap down the rabbit hole with Alice (in wonderland). Hong Kong Ballet are holding a three day theatre camp which will take children aged 4 to 10 on a magical journey of theatrical ballet. March 30 to April 1. Prices start at $1,300. 2105 9743,,

A great way to get the children active this spring break. Minisports coaching style at camps ensures that children are engaged in

For more great holiday camp ideas visit expat- 41

life & style

Clean sweep

Mum-of-three Melinda Mak has breathed new life into her Stubbs Road apartment

Cornered by kids’ clutter, mum-of-three Melinda Mak resorted to a professional bedroom makeover to transform her Southside apartment 42

life & style


t’s a fabulous blue sky day and the sun is streaming into Melinda Mak’s Stubbs Road apartment. We stand and gaze through the floor-to-ceiling lounge room windows for a moment, drinking in the sensational views over Hong Kong Football Club, Central and the harbour beyond. “I know, it’s amazing, isn’t it?” says Scottish born Mak, who moved to Hong Kong in 1992 after studying hotel management at university in the UK. But last year, overwhelmed by accumulated possessions, she came very close to packing up and leaving the views behind. “I came to Hong Kong after my dad bought me a ticket, he’s an expat himself and felt there were better opportunities here. Dad had a flat here so I moved in there. And despite initial reservations about leaving the UK, I fell in love with the place immediately.” A busy few years ensued, working in the hotel and exhibition industries. Mak travelled extensively with her job, with Hong Kong crash pads in Kowloon and then in Happy Valley. She moved permanently to Singapore for the first time in 1995, returning to Hong Kong in 1997. “I was travelling a lot with work so was rarely here. I moved back to Singapore again a couple of years later, which is where my son was born, and then moved back to Hong

Khanna (below) used framed pictures of the children as colour inspiration for the customised rug and textiles

Kong with my husband for the final time in 2005. We moved into a place in Chung Hom Kok and gave ourselves a maximum of seven more years in the Territory. Thirteen years later and we’re still here. “Our place in Chung Hom Kok was really big, which was great because we had all this furniture from Singapore. But in 2012 we had to downsize and we ended up on Stubbs Road. We moved one more time

to this apartment and I absolutely love it. It’s a fabulous location - we’re members of the Hong Kong Football Club (along with supporting her three children sport, Mak plays for a HKFC ladies hockey team - “if I’m out with an injury I can yell at them from our roof terrace,” she laughs), the kids schools are just around the corner and I’m local for Central, Pok Fu Lam and Southside generally. For location you can’t beat it. 43

life & style

Mak’s teenage son enjoys a darker colour palette in his bedroom

Not only that, the view really makes this apartment. I looked at a lots of places and nothing was comparable.” So far so good, but four years later and Mak felt her home was getting too cluttered and it looked like another house move was on the cards. “To be absolutely honest, I don’t think the kids liked their bedrooms. The girls were using my bedroom a lot and my son was using the dining table to do his homework - which was lovely, it was nice to have him around in the living areas, but it did feel like the walls were closing in on us. The kids didn’t seem to feel that they had their own space. We looked serioously at moving, but again, I just couldn’t find anything to compete with this place. It ticked all the boxes - it was just the space issue that was a problem.” So Mak did some research and chanced upon Zip Code 888, an interior design company founded by Amrita Khanna. “I liked what Amrita had written on her Facebook site, she said nothing was too small and she was happy to come out for a free initial consultation.” At this initial meeting, Mak and Khanna discussed colours and furniture ideas. “I liked that she wanted to keep as much as possible, rather than tossing out perfectly good furniture,” says Mak. The pair went together to 44

pick wall colours, sourcing paint from venues on Hennessy Road where you can custom-mix your palette.

My son’s room was a mess. He had fourteen footballs under his desk “She also designed and had the rug custom-made, and advised on the bed linen and cushions. We ended up keeping the bunk bed and the desk, and she spray painted the desk chairs. It took around a month to complete the project.” Khanna took the girls’ treasured glitter ball and the photo canvases as a starting point for colour scheme inspiration, with darker blacks and greys mixed in for a more mature look. “I didn’t want it all pink,” says Mak. The girls were so thrilled they’ve managed to keep it neat and tidy ever since. “I told them if they really wanted a new room, they had to seriously de-clutter. Now we

A cosy corner for the girls

have a sort-through every three months. My 13 year-old son’s room was just a mess. He had about fourteen footballs under his desk - we’ve now paired that down to just a couple. He had two wardrobes, one stuffed with clothes and the other with toys. Now we’ve filed things properly and off-loaded the toys, the cupboard doors actually close. I mean honestly, he had about 50-odd tee-shirts! So we sent it all to the Salvation Army. Clever touches include reducing Mak’s son’s extensive sports medal collection and displaying just a few key pieces. Despite the room being smaller, Khanna used a darker grey for the walls which now the room has been decluttered properly, still makes it seem light and bright. “The kids now feel they have their own bedroom which they enjoy being in,” says Mak. “I’m so pleased - it really has meant we’ve dodged another house move.” Amrita Khanna can be contacted at 45



Travel news

OCEAN PARK WELCOMES MARRIOTT Currently slated for a mid-year opening, Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel is marketing itself as a business and resort venue. When complete, it will offer over 470 guest rooms, an 80-table ballroom, lagoon pools, multiple dining areas and a 16-metre high aquarium in the main lobby. 47


Spa treats for littlies Niyama Private Islands Maldives has launched a range of family-friendly spa treatments. Kids in spas is a tricky combination, given that a lot of treatments are unsuitable for developing young bodies. Bones and muscles in children are not fully developed and young skin is delicate, so the serious treatments should be left to mum and dad. When describing themselves as family friendly, most resorts mean they have some great childcare available so parents can relax with a treatment or two. After all, it’s nice to relax en famille, but boredom can quickly set in and you don’t want your much anticipated facial interrupted with an “I’m bored” or lots of squealing. Niyama’s Drift Spa cleverly offers both options with its Family Spa-rty package. It begins with some light, child-friendly treats so the family can relax together, and then the children are led off for movies, popcorn, hair braiding and polish for ‘paws’. Post-treatments, the family is reunited in the lime grove for coldpressed juices and ice cream sundaes. Niyama is set over two private islands - ‘Play’


There’s plenty of action for the kids at Niyama, Maldives

and ‘Chill’ - with plenty of family activities - from jetpacks to surfing and family ‘laughter’ yoga sessions on the beach. Play enjoys a reef and surf break, while Chill hosts the Drift Spa with

overwater studios. The Explorers Club welcomes kids from 12 months to 12 years with stand-up paddle boarding and dolphin safari on the activity menu. Easter rates start from $1,856++,


Get on the luxe list

Top notch holiday villas are just a click away

Hong Kong expats are a well-travelled bunch and many own holiday properties overseas. We all have ‘that’ friend, or friends, with a villa in Bali or a farmhouse in France, a ski chalet in Japan or an apartment in a funky European capital. But what happens to these properties when they’re not being used? Home owners could opt for short-term holiday rentals, but with it comes myriad issues such as cleaning, maintenance and being available to

answer queries. Or long-term rental, but that means you never get to use it. Or just leave it empty, which is often not ideal. So former Hong Konger Thomas Bennett and colleague Jorge Munoz claim to have come up with a solution. Stay One Degree is a social network for luxury holiday home rentals. The online platform connects homeowners and friends and mutual connections from around the world. Bennett says the idea sprang from their

own rental experiences, which frequently left them frustrated and disappointed with uninspiring homes at over-inflated prices. Meanwhile, beautiful homes within their social network lay empty. Word spread, and today Stay One Degree has a plethora of villas, townhouses, apartments and ski chalets on its books in over 40 countries. Prices start at a very friendly ‘mates rates’ of $1,000/night. All properties are hand-picked by the team, based on ‘outstanding locations and unique elements’. Think cliff-top infinity pools in Bali to villas with vineyards in Tuscany. The social network allows members to grow connections and relationships so owners have the option of renting to like-minded guests of not much more than ‘one degree’ of connection, or to a wider pool of clients. “We’re finding that owners who would never have considered renting out their holiday homes are now choosing to do so on this exclusive basis,” says Munoz. “Members therefore have access to special homes impossible to find anywhere else.” Sign up at 49


Sunny days in Sri Lanka Kate Farr spent a laid back family holiday on the Indian subcontinent


ri Lanka has grown enormously in popularity over the last few years. With oodles of culture, wildlife and sunshine, it’s a great getaway for families and its location makes it a credible fivehour, mid-haul alternative to Bali or Thailand - perfect for the shorter ‘shoulder’ school holidays. It’s also a great ‘halfway’ meeting point for Hong Kong and Europe-based families hoping to catch up. For those travelling with younger children, Sri Lanka is, in fact, a surprisingly easy place to explore as a family, due in part to its recently upgraded roads, relatively small size, and affordability of hiring a driver. We recently took a 50

trip to Sri Lanka’s southwest with our six-yearold and his two-and-a-half-year-old brother. Having arranged a car transfer in advance with our guesthouse, we met our driver at Bandaranaike International Airport and began the two-and-a-half-hour journey south towards our first stop, Unawatuna. This seaside resort is located just five minutes’ drive outside the ancient city of Galle, a former Dutch settlement, and boasts a wide stretch of pristine sand, lined with casual bars and restaurants. While most visitors opt for beachfront accommodation, we chose instead to head inland to Villa Mangrove, an independently run guesthouse. After a long flight followed by a

car journey, we were all keen to settle in and unwind, and Villa Mangrove was the perfect place to do just that. The six-room villa had been lovingly designed and built by its owner, and the result is a sophisticated, modern property that combines contemporary design with traditional Sri Lankan accents, such as wooden shutters, vibrant fabrics and lazily twirling ceiling fans. Having booked a family room, we found that there was plenty of space for all four of us to stretch out in (mosquito-netted) comfort. An unexpected novelty for the boys was the outdoor ensuite bathroom, allowing us to shower in the open air every morning – some


Turtle conservation in Bentota

bathrooms also feature cast stone bathtubs. The villa also had a generously sized outdoor pool, open-air yoga pavilion and massage rooms, with traditional Sri Lankan massage that you could book in advance. Meals can be provided on request, with a choice of Sri Lankan or Western dishes. We opted for the Sri Lankan menu, and really appreciated the cook’s care in avoiding too much spice in the boys’ food, who declared their curries “very yummy”. Our villa was a short tuk-tuk ride from both the beach and Galle itself. This charming colonial city is packed full of narrow alleyways and ancient city walls that are great fun to explore with children. One such exploration

led us to stumble across Galle’s annual Children’s Day celebration, where hundreds of schoolchildren take to the coastal paths to fly kites. Our eldest son soon made a new friend, and despite having no common language, both children worked together to launch their kite into the dazzling blue sky. Feeling the heat, we retreated to The Pedlar’s Inn Café, a relaxed coffee shop and jewellery gallery, for some freshly squeezed juice. Which brings me to another huge selling point for visiting Sri Lanka with children – the fruit and vegetables taste amazing, as almost all produce is grown right here on this incredibly fertile island. The lack of air miles means that

you can really taste the difference in everything that you eat and drink, and we found our boys far more enthusiastic about trying new flavours than they usually are at home in Hong Kong. With a quick trip to Barefoot, a Galle institution selling traditional Sri Lankan crafts and textiles, followed by a very civilised – and family-friendly – afternoon tea at the colonialchic Galle Fort Hotel, it was time to head onwards to our next stop: Udawalawe National Park, a three-and-a-half hour drive inland. This 300-square-kilometre park is managed by the Sri Lankan government, which takes an active role in ensuring the conservation of the country’s indigenous wildlife. Arriving at Udawalawe’s entrance at around 6am, we were joined by an official guide (it is compulsory to use a designated guide within the park). Almost immediately, we were greeted by a family of elephants casually strolling past our vehicle – something that utterly delighted both our boys, especially when they spotted the 51


Taking it easy in Unawatuna

party’s adorable baby bringing up the rear. Over the course of the next two hours, we eventually lost count of the number of elephants that we spotted – our guide estimated at least 35 – as well as countless peacocks, vivid green parakeets, lizards and monkeys. As animal experiences go, this one was spectacular, in no small part due to the sharp eye and endless patience of our guide, who was happy to impart all kinds of animal facts and field endless questions from the boys. Elephants duly spotted, it was time to hop back into our car and head back to the coast, and our final destination of the holiday, Bentota. This stretch of coastal guest-houses is situated around two hours south of Colombo, making it a good final stop on your way back to the airport. Bentota’s real draw is the beach, although here I must add a word of caution: as this faces directly onto the Indian Ocean, the waves can be a little choppy at certain times of the year, so do check before you travel. If, however, you find it too rough for swimming, there’s plenty of fun to be had elsewhere along the shore, as we built sandcastles, discovered rock pools teeming with crabs and – most exciting of all – released turtles into the wild. 52

Bentota is known as a key area for turtles to lay their eggs, and while poaching is thankfully on the decline in Sri Lanka, both adult turtles and their eggs remain endangered. The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is working hard to reverse this trend, gathering and hatching eggs in captivity, then releasing the hatchlings into the sea at a few days old, significantly increasing their chance of survival. Tourists can visit the sanctuary to learn more about their work, and even help staff with the turtles’ release. This takes place several times a week after dark, and we were all allowed to gently scoop the babies out of their container and set them free on the sand, where they instinctively found their way back to the ocean, and to freedom, which was an unforgettable, and incredibly moving sight. On our final day, we decided to explore the area’s dense Bentota river area with a two-hour river tour (these are easily booked by your hotel or guesthouse). Our guide expertly navigated us through the backwaters with its densely tangled mangrove forest, before moving into the river’s open waters, where we spotted bat colonies, monitor lizards and even a baby crocodile! There is also a newly erected statue of Buddha, which casts its gaze serenely over the waterways, adding a sense of peace to the experience.

Winding its way to the spot where the river mouth meets the Indian Ocean, we reflected on our action-packed holiday, and I asked the boys whether they’d like to visit Sri Lanka again; “How about next week, Mummy?” was the optimistic reply from my eldest son.

Stay Villa Mangrove, Heenatigala Road, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka; +94 775 602 396 Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort, 912 Thanamalwila Road, Udawalawe, Sri Lanka; +94 703 998 181 Rockside Beach Resort, Galle Road, Athuruwella, Induruwa, Sri Lanka; +94 715 810 595

Do Udawalawe National Park, 7th Mile Post, Sevanagala, Monaragala, Uva Province, Sri Lanka; +94 112 888 585 Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project, 13A, Galle Road, Mahapalena, Kosgoda, Sri Lanka; +94 912 264 567 Bentota River Safari, VTS Lanka Tours, Colombo-Galle Highway, Bentota, Sri Lanka; +94 77 838 3030 We flew with Cathay Pacific (daily Hong KongColombo flights). 53




To advertise, email or call 2776 2772.


To advertise, email or call 2776 2772. 55

flailing spouse

Child’s play Homework and other issues


ast month I embarked on a Chinese New Year spring clean. It’s surprising what you unearth from the depths of drawers and cupboards when you put your mind to it. We’ve only lived in this house for five years or so, but it’s incredible the amount of crap we’ve collected in that time. The most interesting item I discovered was my primary school yearbook, dated 1981. I have no idea how it ended up in my desk drawer, nor how it survived the move from the UK to Sydney and from there to Hong Kong. Anyway, the point is it did and I spent a happy hour on the sofa reminiscing about being eight-years-old and attending a 150-year-old Church of England primary school in the English countryside. There were lovely black-and-white pictures of me and my chums at Country Dance Club, playing netball in our polyester navy blue shorts, and running the length of the school field on Sports Day. The mothers in the background are all appropriately dressed in mumsy Laura Ashley florals - not a lycra activewear ensemble in site. It turns out that in 1981 we visited the Natural History Museum and London Zoo, the church Harvest Festival raised an impressive 54 pounds (about $500) for the local Meals on Wheels charity, and Blackberry the school rabbit sadly died. The school staff role included several teachers, a handful of dinner ladies (I will never forget Mrs Danes force-feeding Tim Fradin lumpy mashed potato which he promptly vomited back up onto the dining table), a cook and assistant cook, the scary old caretaker and Mr Hazard the school crossing man (that name is not made up, he helped us cross busy Church Road every day with his ‘lollipop’ and was seriously called Mr Hazard - the school nurse was rather fabulously named ‘Mrs Paine’). Anyway, my own children found the whole thing utterly hilarious - especially when they found out that Country Dance Club involved prancing around a maypole with coloured ribbons, Mrs Griffiths imploring us to ‘smile nicely girls!’ (my daughters are all no-nonsense full tackle rugby players and 56

Our columnist is a long suffering expat wife, and mother to several energetic, third culture children. She lives in Hong Kong.

My own last school project involved making a castle out of loo rolls

to be honest slightly scare even me these days). They were also fairly incredulous that school camp involved staying in the same country (Antibes for the Teen Child this year, Chiang Mai for the Tween Child and Beijing for the Blonde Child). Actually not just

the same country, it was also in the same county, but I didn’t dare admit that bit. They were simple times. We had no homework, spent a lot of time painting or in the ‘Wendy’ house (I’m still not absolutely sure if the infant teachers were even professionally trained), and some of the older school buildings had no heating. No parent ever turned up to school assembly (even, or perhaps especially, when we were giving a recorder recital), and we weren’t allowed snacks at break-time. Amazingly we all survived and mostly went on to university and successful careers. Which is why the enforced school closure by the EDB just prior to Chinese New Year was such an eye opener for me. The children had work set online every morning and we ploughed a churning maelstrom of challenges for English, Maths and Integrated (I think that means ‘project work’, although my last school project involved making a castle out of cornflake packets and toilet roll tubes, not researching the history of the Korean peninsula), covering areas including synonyms, antonyms, communism, biodiversity in mangrove swamps, plus a mind-boggling list of other topics that I won’t go into here. I’m still struggling to work out what a homophone is. But the main thing is, like me, they are all very happy. They skip off every morning and return with a smile every evening, and to be honest that makes the fees (sort of) worthwhile. They seem to be taking everything in their stride, even the biodiverse mangrove swamps. And maybe one day their own children will unearth a Hong Kong school year book and chuckle over Integrated and homophones and think it all wildly old fashioned. The other day a friend asked what I hoped for my children in the long-term. “My main aim,” I confided, “Is for them to get a job.” Which sounds harsh but really I just want them to enjoy a fun and fulfilled life. Although the thought of an uncluttered, low rent, two-bed apartment in Midlevels is not unappealing... 57


Expat Parent Mar 2018  
Expat Parent Mar 2018