SWEET HEART GUEST HOUSE, HONG KONG – We took the Peak Tram this weekend.
The Peak Tram carries you up the mountain behind Hong Kong to an observation deck overlooking the city. It’s the best view of Hong Kong (especially at night) and one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions…
(The tram has been running for over 150 years.)
The guard told us it’s normally a two- or three-hour wait to use the tram, but today we had it to ourselves…
Here we are on the way up.
Tourists normally wait two to three hours to get on the Peak Tram,
one of Hong Kong’s most popular attractions. We had it to ourselves
Where Tourists Don’t Go
Greetings from Hong Kong!
Kate and I have been traveling around the world for a year and a half, living out of a suitcase, staying in cheap hotels, and homeschooling our three kids.
Along the way, we’ve made a big effort to go to places where other tourists DO NOT go. We went to India during monsoon season, for example. We went to Turkey during a diplomatic standoff with the United States. We went to Egypt a week after terrorists blew up a bus carrying tourists. We went to Lebanon while the war was raging in Syria. We went to Rwanda during an Ebola outbreak just across the border in Congo.
What we’ve found is things are never as bad as you think they will be. Life generally goes on. Meanwhile, you can book any hotel or Airbnb you want, everything’s cheaper, and the beaches are empty.
The Truth About Hong Kong
There are normally millions of tourists in Hong Kong. But we’ve come during a period of violent protest… (The timing wasn’t intentional, but I’m happy how it turned out.)
Mainland China is usually the largest source of Hong Kong’s tourists, by far. But the Chinese government has been spreading information that Hong Kong isn’t safe to visit. Chinese tourism to Hong Kong has dried up. This is why our train from China to Hong Kong last week was almost empty.
The international media is also full of hard-hitting stories. I’m not saying they’re untrue. I am saying they don’t tell the full story…
One look at the news about Hong Kong, and you’d imagine Hong Kong has descended into a full combat zone.
I read tourism is down more than 40%.
The truth is, it’s completely safe here. Millions of people walk around town every day, going about their daily business, without any inkling something bad is happening. The weather’s beautiful. There are children on the playgrounds. Tourists and office workers jostle to cross the busy streets. Hong Kong is the normal bustling city it always has been.
Not in Danger
Here we are yesterday outside one of Hong Kong’s biggest malls on one of the most violent days in months…
Kate and the kids (Dusty, Penny, and Miles) on one of the most
violent days in months
If you pay attention when you walk around town, you might see the occasional boarded-up window or smashed CCTV camera. And you’ll probably see a lot of graffiti on the streets and buildings.
The transportation system gets delayed sometimes too, which prevents people from getting to work and opening stores. But it’s mostly working fine. We’ve only had one issue in 10 days, and we’ve been out every day on public transport exploring the city.
Mostly, you wouldn’t EVEN KNOW there’s trouble unless you went looking for trouble (as I did last week). There’s certainly no reason you’d ever be in danger.
Watching History Being Made
On Friday, we went to Hong Kong Disneyland. The park was so empty, the kids were able to run from ride to ride without ever having to stop.
On Saturday, we went to the trampoline park. There were only a few other kids there. Our kids had the run of the place for two hours.
We catch taxis whenever we want. The taxi drivers either complain how slow things are or rejoice in the Chinese tourists leaving. (They say mainland Chinese tourists are rude and uncivilized. I sensed some racism.)
And we got great deals on our hotel rooms.
Plus, the boys got a fantastic real-life lesson in freedom, government oppression, and propaganda. We’re seeing history being made. I even got to taste the tear gas!
All in all, it’s been an incredible trip.
– Tom Dyson
P.S. Today is our last day in Hong Kong. I’ll be writing to you from Tokyo tomorrow…
P.P.S. Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than New York. It is probably the most visually impressive city on the planet.
Here we are at the Peak…
In the mailbag today, survival tips… a reader who dreads having “withdrawal symptoms” when Tom’s journey ends… and another who wants to know if the more violent videos of Hong Kong protesters are part of a Chinese conspiracy.
Tom also shares his budget for the trip and how it’s worked out so far…
Reader comment: Meant to write you a longer email later. Stock up on instant noodles. Grab while you can. They get wiped off the shelf fairly quickly.
Reader comment: I enjoyed your postcards… until now. Your naive (or worse) opinions on the Hong Kong police show, in my honest opinion, a lack of understanding (or worse) of what is going on there and the, so far, quite restrained response from the authorities.
How would U.S. police react to violent and relentless rioting like that by so-called “students” in downtown Baltimore, New York, or D.C.? Remember what happened in Ferguson? How did that look on the surface? Was there a deeper reality going on there? Sadly, I often suspect an undercurrent or whiff of CIA foreign policy in many American “correspondents.” Are you on the books of “the company” too?
Reader comment: Thank you for your postcards from China. I am not sure if you wrote them in other countries you visited, but if you did, I sadly missed reading them. Thank you also for your honest sharing of your life, which is so refreshing. Not many people do this.
What have been equally enjoyable are the email responses and the positive comments. To me, it was the feeling of family connection and support, and I will have withdrawal symptoms when your journey ends. Or maybe it is just a new beginning for another kind of adventure.
Don’t stop your writing, as you make a genuine connection with us out there. Also, would you consider sharing a photo of you and Kate getting married again? Thank you again, and very best wishes to you and your family for your future, however it unfolds.
Reader comment: I hope you and Kate will consider collectively publishing your postcards, with photographs from beginning to end. I think it would be a great edition, and valuable for many purposes… travel, culture, pure entertainment, etc. I’d certainly purchase a few copies.
Reader comment: Fantastic reading your articles through the weeks. I can feel the love between you and your family as you go around the world. Your children will never forget that experience with their parents. Freedom.
You have found something far more valuable than the gold bar. Love between you and your partner and children.
Reader comment: I want to thank you for the great postcards about your family. A lot of readers, including me, realize that your children don’t want iPhones and the latest fashion, but rather their Daddy to go to the lake or climb a mountain with. Like myself and many of your readers, we were chasing the big job, big house, and three cars in a four-car garage. Your wife wanted you for date nights and hikes up the mountains, but you believed the big house, fancy diamonds, and cars showed your love.
I have learned to be content with less. Seems like your kids and wife have also. And they have you 24 hours a day. Before, they never knew you. Tom who??
Reader comment: Enjoying your adventures, Dysons! As a Christian pastor nearly retired, I highly commend your commitment to restore that which was broken and scattered in your marriage and family. God as designer is pleased. And I am curious if any spiritual, vertical dynamics are at work in your larger decision-making. Keep on!
Tom’s response: Yes, most definitely.
Reader question: Were you hearing much about what’s happening in Hong Kong (another death, violence) on the Chinese media before you got to Hong Kong? Did you have access to outside media? State media? Just wondering if the activities in HK are heavily censored within. Once there, have you found things to be safe for tourists? Thanks for your dispatches!
Tom’s response: I didn’t look at Chinese media, as I can’t understand Chinese. That said, I didn’t notice any coverage of the Hong Kong story until I checked my phone. And I didn’t hear anyone discussing it. The Chinese seem to live in something of a media bubble. They just don’t seem to consume news 24/7 like we do in the West. They don’t have televisions broadcasting news and stock prices in bars and hotel lobbies, for example, like we do.
Reader question: I know this is a boring question and off the usual track about money, but traveling with a spouse and three kids means laundry. How do you do laundry? In a sink? With just soap? Do they have laundromats in China? Apologies for the mundane question. Just curious, since I have kids, and we are always doing laundry!
Tom’s response: I love these types of questions! The practicalities of traveling as a family. Sometimes we use laundromats. Sometimes our accommodation has a washing machine. But mostly we do laundry in the bathroom sink, then hang it from any available hook, corner, or rail we can find in our hotel room. But like every other mom in the world, Kate is always doing laundry! (We travel light, too, so we don’t have much backup clothing.)
Reader comment: I have been following your family through your writings. I have been with all of you through your eyes. I have never known the world before as you and your family are showing me through your journey. It feels very real. Please continue to be safe. Your children are more grown up than I am, I really believe it, and I am 59 years old. Thank you, thank you for all you and your family are doing. It is very appreciated.
Reader question: I have visited Hong Kong many times, and I spend a lot of time in China. I am seeing a lot of videos of the protesters attacking women and schoolchildren. These are all coming from the mainland Chinese friends of mine, but is it possible that this could be the mainland Chinese creating these bad videos? I am just not sure. I could see them doing this to turn world opinion against the protesters.
Tom’s response: Yes, I have heard these rumors too. That the videos of students committing atrocities are fake and involve stuntmen. Not sure what the truth is, but it would be a very cheap, easy, and effective way for the government to undermine support for the protesters.
Reader comment: I think it is time for the Dyson family to get out of Dodge. I get nervous for you in Hong Kong. Your postcards are really great, and I think you need to document your family trip around the world in a book. Just hire a writer and give him or her all your postcards.
Reader question: I, too, enjoy all of your emails. I’m curious: How much did you budget for the entire trip, and where do you keep your money, especially when you change countries? Do you go to ATMs? Thanks for your reply.
Tom’s response: We use ATMs. Our bank in Florida refunds all ATM fees, so it’s a very cost-efficient way to get our money. In 18 months and dozens of countries, this method has never failed us.
We budgeted $60,000 for the whole trip (19 months). I will analyze our expenses when we’re done. I expect we’re at least 20% under budget.
Reader comment: I have to admit, I couldn’t wait until you got to Hong Kong. I’m so interested in hearing a true and accurate account of what is going on there. I also have to admit that I have lost so much faith in our own media and news organizations. Stay safe, and keep the postcards coming! Thank you for sharing your journey.
Reader comment: Our world news services have lost touch with reality, and we can’t believe anything they say. So much of our “news” is now agenda-driven and not factual. It’s nice to see the reaction and experience of someone who is really there and impartial. Just trying to make sense out of the world and not pushing some agenda or political stance. Thank you!!
Your Hong Kong experience, for example. I got home last night, and my wife said that all Americans are being ordered out of Hong Kong, that it’s “so dangerous,” and that the whole place is falling apart. Yesterday, I read about you getting teargassed and thought, “Well, maybe what my wife said is true.” Then, I got your email about how the protests and violence are isolated, and most folks are just going about their business.
Reader comment: I agree with your mom! Don’t go looking for trouble; it will mess you up! As your children grow up, they will remember how easy it was to travel. Soon they will want to see it again with mature eyes and maybe a new friend. Best wishes, and good luck!
Tom’s response: Thanks for all the kind comments! Your messages are an integral part of our project. Please keep writing us at [email protected]. Kate and I read every note you send in.