Last year felt like the longest year of my life. Our family packed in so much stuff, it makes my head hurt thinking about how we did it. In chronological order this is how it all unfolded…
We always knew 2018 would be epic but little did we know what lay in store for us on that cold January day when we got a dusting of snow across Brighouse. It was around this time we started to think seriously about selling the mountain of stuff we’d accumulated over the years. With selling the house taking priority we needed to switch the gym back into a bedroom – so the first large item sell was the treadmill of which I’d got plenty of use out of.
I remember watching the Hong Kong screen saver on Apple TV and wondering how life would be out there. Even now I watch it and reflect on how incredible it is living just over the border.
Estate agent booked and a half term trip to Hong Kong. The hall carpet and kitchen Lino needed to be replaced if we stood any chance of selling the house. Here you can see the before and after effort just like “Homes under the Hammer” 🙂 As always our teenager was eager to help so she braved the cold and helped jet wash the patio. I didn’t know it was that colour!
Half term came and we jetted off to Hong Kong for a week. Looking back now that was a crazy short amount of time for such a long flight but we still enjoyed visiting the in-laws and friends.
Back in Yorkshire we were welcomed by a huge snow storm. I remember working from home for a few days because it was too deep to travel. I doubt we’ll see any snow over this side of the word.
With the house decorating complete, we had a constant stream of viewings. After roughly two weeks we got a bite and accepted the offer. Next step to update my passport with my married name. The first booking was canceled due to the terrible weather in the north west. Thankfully the second attempt was more successful and our day trip to Liverpool passport office turned out to be a great day.
As our leaving date drew ever closer, we continued to sell everything we deemed ‘not required’ for China. This included my XBOX console which during it’s uninstallation dislodged the 50″ Sony Bravia TV which then proceeded to fall on my head – OUCH…
We had more snow so our daughter took full advantage of the fields of Toothill bank. Racing down the treacherous hill amongst the legions of kids sporting all manner of sledges ranging from top spec plastic sliders to old bin liners. We decided to donate the sledge to a newly arrived family as this was certainly something we wouldn’t be needing over in the tropics of south east Asia.
On the final day of March we headed off to Manchester airport for another jolly to Hong Kong!
The first two weeks of April we spent in Hong Kong with a couple of days in Shenzhen China. First of all was a hike to the summit of Victoria Peak, HK. I almost made it to the top, roughly where you see the selfie with my daughter. Past this point was sheer drops on ether side so my vertigo kicked in and prevented me from reaching the top! Luckily the views were still spectacular as you can see in the panoramic shot.
Then came our first visit to China via the LoWu checkpoint and special five day visa for Shenzhen. Those that know me know how much I try to plan ahead. I’d crossed this border a number of times with various YouTube videos and peoples recounts on blogs. Thankfully everything was straight forward enough and before long we’d checked into our hotel next to the KK100 building. The following day we headed over to the Marco Polo hotel to meet the staff from my wife’s new school. It was around this moment we realised everything was very real! They took us on a trip to the school then dropped us off at the place we’d be living, Hong Shan. We ended the day by eating at a restaurant we’ve frequented many times since. Mainly due to the amazing pineapple fried rice they serve. Back in Hong Kong we met up with friends in Ocean Park and I experienced a very scary cable car and quite possibly the longest and steepest outdoor escalator!
In the UK, spring had sprung and we went for loads of walks in and around Yorkshire. It’s something you don’t really have over here so I do miss that a lot.
Our leaving date was getting ever closer and so came a couple of trips to the Chinese visa centre in London to get our finger prints and photos taken. Since we where so close we decided to check out China town. Have to say it’s a lot smaller then I thought it would be but still, it had plenty of character although it lacked some of the realism we’ve experienced since living here nearly 6 months!
When going through my photos of the year, I found one of a cat on my security camera. No reason for adding it other than at the time I thought it was hilarious. I also included the last picture I took of the back of the house. Again there’s nowhere quite like Yorkshire and certainly nothing like it on this side of the world.
Lots more selling including my lovely Samsung 55″ TV, the next picture is what took it’s place for a couple of weeks 🙂 I hope we never accumulate so much stuff again because when clearing it out we realised how much money we wasted on useless material possessions. One last solo trip to London to pickup our passports complete with Chinese Visas.
It was around the last week of June I got my leaving questionnaire from my old work. Leaving the UK was starting to feel more and more real and with every day that passed the prospect of losing my monthly pay cheque made me question the whole thing. Luckily my worries were unfounded as being debt free requires significantly less money!
This was a busy old month, not that the others weren’t but this one really was crazy. We moved out of the house and into the first of our AirBnB accommodations in Halifax, West Yorkshire. The remaining stuff from our house was boxed and sent on a slow boat to China.
It was emotional as I said goodbye to everyone at Virgin Media Bradford. I do miss the people I worked with so hopefully there’ll be an opportunity to catch up again when I visit in July.
We spent a week at Center Parcs in what would be our last holiday in the UK. My daughter did loads of climbing up walls, trees and what ever else could be climbed she did it. We caught up with our families in Nottingham. Same time same place 2019? Sold our last car and said goodbye to more of my wife’s school friends in Marsden, West Yorkshire.
We spent our last week in the UK in our second AirBnB based in an old converted mill in Huddersfield. Without a car we got a small taste of public transport in the UK. Some of the bus journeys where entertaining to say the least and the novelty had worn off by the end of the week.
So with six months of planning, we packed our suitcases for our one way trip to Hong Kong. We said our goodbyes to our parents and flew off on the start our epic adventure.
Our first week in south east Asia was spent in Hong Kong courtesy of our my wife’s sister and her husband. We met the latest edition to the family (fondly nicknamed baby Jason.) The week flew by as we waited eagerly to join our new friends and colleagues in Shenzhen, China.
After being picked up and taken across the border, we went directly to our first residency in China- a modern hotel style apartment, which we promptly decorated – with goods from Wal-Mart. We experienced our first squat toilets. Really, nothing else to say on that… and we had our Chinese medicals. An interesting experience is one way of putting it.
Our days were spent exploring Shenzhen and getting to know new colleagues. As we became more accustomed to the Chinese culture we began to fall in love with our new home. The weather was taking some getting used to as temperatures were regularly in the mid 30’s and humidity was off the scale.
Then came the time when my wife and daughter started school, which is of course the main reason for coming out here.
Like August the weather was very hot and humid. High on the agenda was having our Visas processed into residents permits. This would allow us to leave the county and come back as many times as we liked. It also opened up e-channel at customs which makes it infinitely easier to take day trips to Hong Kong.
A lot of my time was spent exploring and getting photos and videos for this blog. I must have traveled most of Shenzhen’s 280km metro system but at an average cost of ¥2.5 (30p) it’s at least affordable.
Due to some early delays, school boarding didn’t open till September. Then, my daughter moved out of home and into school, and all of a sudden the apartment was very, very quiet. It’s the first time we’ve been apart for more than a couple of days. Although knowing how much she would gain from becoming a boarding student, made it so much made it easier to stomach.
Our first trip back to Hong Kong was dominated by finding items not available in China or least not easily. Decaf tea bags, Worcestershire sauce and Oxo – just to name a few. M&S helps tons but wow the prices are double that of the UK!
To round up September, we where introduced to Typhoon Mangkhut. Even though it skimmed past us, it still left tons of damage, some of which can still be seen today. However straight afterwards everyone banded together to start the big clean up.
It started with a bang and Chinese golden week. First was national day, which is huge, as were the crowds. Second only to Chinese new year which is actually the largest human migration of the year.
We took a ride on the high speed train from Shenzhen to Hong Kong in 15 minutes (ticket queuing times not accounted for.)
Sushi became my new favourite food, the unhappy bear being our most visited restaurant. This is now highly contested as I’ve found a lovely Indian veggie restaurant around Huaqiang Bai.
Lots of visits to new places including OCT harbour, Houhai and Nanshan and then Halloween in Hong Kong.
As Christmas loomed ever closer and the nights got darker, we decided to check out the nightly light show in Futian. I took loads of videos so should make a blog post on that. Another regular evening activity was the street dancers teaching younger kids. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this in the UK but over here it’s regular and all over the city.
November bought some wonderful autumn sunsets and coupled with the beautiful weather we enjoyed many a long walk through the parks of Shenzhen.
A long awaited trip to Planet Green, Shenzhens premier veggie restaurant from the future. Complete with digital menus and funky neon lighting, the food was served on sheets of aluminium. The burger I had was wonderful and remains the only veggie burger I’ve had in China, ever!
I never thought I’d be sat on a beach in December, at least not in a place so close to where I live. Lamma Island in Hong Kong is one of my favourite places and when the weather is like this it makes it all the more special. Along with sitting in the sun, a refreshing drink of strawberry cheese tea was quickly becoming a drink of choice.
As far as I’m aware, cheese tea hasn’t hit the shores of Briton yet, or even Europe for that matter. I won’t go into the ingredients as I’m still convinced I can become a millionaire selling this stuff in the UK. If you ever get the chance, try it! I’m sure it’s all low fat too 😉
So December marked another stage in our Chinese adventure. We moved out of Hong Shan and took up residence in my wife’s school to become resident tutors. With a few home comforts and a few trips too Ikea we go the place looking like home. It’s more rural and less built up than the city. We get food cooked daily and there are no bills. The only downside is a short bus ride to the nearest metro station. My wife is writing a blog on this move soon, to give you more of an idea of life in a boarding house.!
We spent Christmas with family in Hong Kong. It was great to have everyone together at such a special time and even better to see my niece and nephew opening their presents!
Finally, we had New Year in Shenzhen. With a few friends from school to share a glass or two with. On New Years day we decided to check out Mission Hills resort which includes an enormous shopping centre, a 216 hole golf club and a Hardrock hotel. As with Christmas Day we were amazed to see everything open as usual.
In summary- this was an epic year and I’m sure 2019 will be equally as fun with new travels and adventures. Our daily routines bear no resemblance to pre-China, as life is so different now. We always miss our family and friends and we’re really looking forward to visiting them the UK in the summer. I’ll even do a blog post about it!
As we approach six months in China, I’ll put together a post celebrating our anniversary. Until then, Happy Chinese New Year to you all and I hope 2019 is full of joy and wealth, year of the pig 🙂