lundi, décembre 22, 2014

Hong Kong with Younger Sister (September 2014)

Hong Kong Island seen from Avenue of the Stars (Kowloon)

I mentioned somewhere that I've travelled quite a bit in the past few months. Not as much as Hub for work, nor as much as this Singaporean GF of another friend who apparently travels to Singapore every month just for a hair cut.

One memorable trip I made recently was with my younger sister D in September. We are Lotus and Phoenix, with 4 years between us. I think we sometimes fail to realise how time truly flies, and how we tend to procrastinate in so many ways, not just in things we have to do physically. Though I try to return to Singapore every one to two years, D and I have not seen each other much in the last 19 years and before you know it, we are fat Obasans with a number of kids each in tow.

The idea was to meet up somewhere for a quick getaway: away from our daily chores, endless duties and routines, away from the grumpy Hubs, the demanding, ungrateful kids and in her case, the cook-the-same-food-everyday FIL.

No, we didn't go to HK to shop. When you have as many kids as we do to feed and educate, shopping is no longer a priority. And when you have husbands who are ready to pounce on yet another "unnecessary" purchase, you prefer to indulge in stuff that you can ingest and digest quickly leaving minimum evidence behind for scrutiny. When you are already padded like us, a few extra kilos at the end of a short trip wouldn't make much of a difference either (there, I caught your thought!).    

Wanchai on HK Island
And of course, the idea really was to spend some precious time together, to catch up and bond. We used to share a room when we were kids and often talked through the night. I guess we didn't imagine then that all that would become just a part of our memories and no longer part of our lives once we leave home.

We met at the airport in HK and  stayed at the OZO WESLEY in vibrant Wanchai. The boutique hotel was renovated in 2013, the room was simple and modern. Hotel lobby smelled of detergent most of the time though which I found disturbing as we all know it could be cancerous. Conveniently located  between Admiralty and Wanchai with a tram stop just in front.

Our room at Ozo Wesley, Wanchai
We took the Star Ferry from Wanchai Pier and crossed the sea to Tsim Sha Tsui. Took in the usual sights (The Peninsular Hotel etc) and then found our way to the Avenue of the Stars. OK, this stretch of walkway on the sea front is fairly kitsch and was filled with Chinese tourists who took pictures of themselves with anything that was standing and which could be used as a background. And if the floor was filled with hand prints of HK Stars (many whom we knew from our lost TV-watching youth), then they could be found almost on all fours for that important souvenir picture. Seeing that it took me months, why not years, to deal with the few photos I've taken on my trips, I wonder how they cope with the thousands of photos they must have taken on each trip, limited only by the memory of their SD cards.

But we were there just before sunset and it was the most beautiful moment of the day for admiring HK Island opposite. I was actually pretty awed by the colours facing me, colours reflected by the buildings as the sun started to go down. And it was always lovely breathing in the sea breeze, knowing that there would be no need to prepare dinner nor supervise the kids' homework nor hurry to make oneself charming for the Hubs.

HK like most important cities is easy to explore on foot and it is recommended that one take in the sights and smells by taking one's time to do so. The island has lots of good things to eat that one would probably discover by chance as one is wandering around.  
Some of our snacks, Sift has great cupcakes!
We came across the famous Mak Noodles as we made our way to Ashley St and needless to say sat down promptly to gobble down a tiny bowl each of the springy egg noodles in its rich broth. A few steps down the street we saw a famous dessert shop and also settled down for a little something - all that before our planned dinner at Ned Kelly's Last Stand!

It's kind of unfathomable when you are Singaporean to make plans and not stick to them, so of course we had our dinner of burger and chips and everything's that greasy in the Australian pub run mainly by Filipinos.

Dinner, cocktails and jazz at Ned Kelly's Last Stand
The highlight of the evening starting from 9:30pm (but Happy Hour finishes at 9) is always the jazz band and I wanted D to hear them play. The English leader works as a manager in Ocean Park in the day (and he's married to a Singaporean, by the way) and sings/plays in the band most evenings. Heard he has been doing this for a few decades now.

On the evening we were there the band was pretty small, but I was told during an earlier visit that at certain times of the year they were perfectly capable of sitting 16 musicians where there were currently 6 or 7!

You don't have to pay a cover charge to hear the band play nor do you have to eat, but you have to order a few drinks, of course, in order to be able to sit in. The food is usually quite decent in the pub so I actually just make a point to dine there before the jazz.

The Star Precinct in Wanchai with its little boutiques and restaurants
D and I speak Cantonese so HK wasn't complicated for us, in fact I welcome the opportunity to practise the dialect as it makes me feel nostalgic for our parents' home. HK seems very modern on the one hand, and also so broken down here and there, like Singapore such a very long time ago. I like this mix very much, the way the old and the new co-exist and I also feel comfortable there because we share a British colonial past with many shared references (not to forget street/building names). However, I think they are also much more Chinese than us. The only darker-skinned folks you see around are the Indonesian and Filipino maids. And under many bridges you find old Chinese ladies hitting photos with shoes and slippers - like in that ghost movie I last watched when I was in Singapore. 

The next morning my dear friend and ex-neighbour J met us in the hotel lobby and took us out for a walk and we ended up having dim sum at the famous Maxim's in City Hall. As usual we ate a little too much too fast, wanting to order everything we saw in the carts. I have to admit that at such a moment, I think the Hub is pretty awesome because I know that he can usually afford to pay the bill. The afternoon was spent walking around Times' Square and we ended up in a diner near our hotel for an almost home-cooked dinner that was quite delicious. We are very fond of simple meals too, you listen to the waiters banter and gossip in Cantonese and you try to remind yourself not to give them any reason to scold you.

With J at Maxim's, the soy bean curd with ginger syrup was divine!
Neighbourhood diner near our hotel

Saturday's highlight was lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Hub insisted on inviting us to lunch there and we accepted his invitation graciously. The Head Chef had left to set up his own restaurant a few months ago and the second Chef was about to leave for Singapore MBS. The food was fine and creative as usual and we even had nice cocktails to go with it. I always make sure to request for a seat away from the entrance as I dislike having my back to the door, and this time we didn't go for the longest set menu as we were hoping to keep some space in the stomach for other stuff later in the day.  Still, the meal was filling and we couldn't finish the petits fours at the end of the meal. Merci, mon chéri!

The CBD (love the trams)

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 3* Michelin in HK

The potato puree was made with ratte potatoes imported from France

Needless to say it was important to walk off the calories, and I think I forced things a little too much and poor D ended up with a very inflamed ankle before the end of the day. We've taken the escalators to the Mid Levels, taken a look at Lan Kwai Fong, walked to PMQ and spent some time looking through the little boutiques there, even took in an Hermes exhibition that was quite amazing. They don't do things in half measures, so you get to touch the fabulous leather, admire one of their artisans at work, and dream your way through all the bags and shoes and gowns. Actually I'm still not at all quite a fan of the famous Birkin or Kelly, though I rather like their leather boots and suitcases.

Around the escalators leading to the Mid-Levels

The red door frame was part of Man Ho Temple,
looked kind of eerie from the outside
The PMQ was apparently a new trendy spot to visit in HK when we were there. They have converted the former Police Married Quarters and Clubhouse into a market place with café. There are floors and floors of small shops and ateliers that you basically have to pop in and out in order to visit.

I am vague about the geography but I know that it's somewhere between Central and Sheung Wan, and it's also on the way to Man Ho Temple which is near an antiques street and the Holiday Inn Express I've stayed in once with Hub. I'm very fond of the Sheung Wan area though recently I read an article about it being kind of haunted because of its past, but well I guess it makes it all the more exciting as such.

PMQ (and one of its toilets)
D was quite excited at one point when we wandered into a room and there was this doll with fat head surrounded by pink at the entrance. I have never heard of Chocolate Rain before that, but well, now I know. I think I've left Asia for too long a time because I don't have this Asian fondness for cute stuff. Can't believe people actually spend a fortune collecting pens, umbrellas, bags, mugs, bedsheets etc etc with this character printed on them.

We didn't buy anything at PMQ because much of the stuff was actually quite expensive and probably too original for us. A French company was selling perfumed underwear for men, for example. Releases the good stuff during contact with perspiration... 

D is crazy about this Chocolate Rain

Hermes exhibition

FOC and very well done
There was a French lady showing off her stitching and I talked to her to find out about her training and career. Pretty interesting and it more or less confirmed what I found out once watching a video about Hermes during one of my plane journeys.

At the same time, what she's doing is a dying art as it costs too much to maintain this kind of standards and systems. All those major houses like Prada, BV, SF all claim to only make their leather goods in Europe, but my Chinese neighbour made his fortune making part of SF's shoes here in China and a friend who used to work for Prada in Shanghai told me she suspected that part of the manufacturing was done here in the South, but all very hush hush, of course.

Under Bridge Spicy Crab in Wanchai
That evening, we met J again for dinner and she invited us to...Under Bridge Spicy Crab!!! So very generous of her as those crabs cost a small fortune. Basically the crab was buried under a mountain of fried garlic, so not exactly the kind of dinner you want to make with a new suitor, for example.

Had a lovely time catching up with her, really miss those days when we would lunch out together almost every week with F as well. J returned to HK last December and F left a few days ago for the USA...I've just lost my 2 good friends in Shanghai, probably almost time for me to leave too.

Voila a quick weekend getaway in HK for 2 sisters and we agreed that we should make a habit of it and do this again.

4 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…


I made a comment earlier on a older post and I can't seem to find it. In it, I was asking if you recommend the OZO Wesley in Hong Kong. I noticed this was the hotel you and your sister stayed at. Did you like it? Would you stay there again? Highly recommend it? I appreciate your time in sharing your thoughts. Thank you!

Anonyme a dit…

I found my earlier post and you had replied. YAY! Please refer to it, under "Walking in Puxi (浦西) Autumn 2012" because I asked a follow-up question. Sorry to bother. Thank you so much! BTW, your food photos make me hungry! =)

Beau Lotus 涟 a dit…

I liked OZO very much as it was clean and modern and easily reached by tram, but a longer walk to the MTR as it's between 2 stations (still not too far). There are restaurants, eateries, supermarket etc just next to it.

Otherwise I can also recommend 99 Bonham if you like the Sheungwan neighbourhood and don't mind paying more, it's my favourite hotel thus far in HK. I've also stayed at JPlus in Causeway Bay which was lovely too, but even more expensive than 99 Bonham.

Anonyme a dit…

THANK YOU!!!! So nice of you to share your input and suggestions!