Pulse & May design series in London

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Main: Taste Taiwan at Pulse 2013; Bottom left & right: Our Taiwanese supplier, 25 Togo’s products on display


May is packed full of trade events in London, so I had to run around town even though I had lots of work to be completed at my desk!

I met Ashley from 25Togo in Taiwan and one day I received her email invitation to their Taste Taiwan opening at Pulse, an annual design-led gift trade show in Earls Court. I am impressed by Taiwan’s effort to promote its local designs because less than a month ago, I was at the Taiwan design booth at the Hong Kong gifts fair, it seems that they are trying hard to reach the global market.

At the show, Ashley kindly introduced me to other Taiwanese design companies, whose representatives were all eager to show me their interesting work. Since I started the business, I came to realise that the U.K. market is more conservative than the U.S. and European markets ( in terms of how consumers buy and how retail buyers place orders). I think it would a struggle for these designers or companies to receive large orders from U.K. retailers due to the environment of the market and the cultural differences in certain products that may not translate well.

As much as I would like to support them, there is a limit to the products that our small e-shop can carry. This is the reason why we need more independent shops or etailers because we are more likely to take risks than most department stores or the more mainstream retailers whose buyers would spend most of their time checking the numbers on their spreadsheets.


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Top left: Fun installation by Inflate; Main: Architonic; Bottom left: The Bibliochaise by Nobody & Co.; Bottom right: Karim Rashid giving a talk on design


A week later, I visited a new interior trade show called May Design Series in ExCel. One of the highlights of the show was a talk given by the high-profile multi-disciplinary designer, Karim Rashid. I can’t say that I am a fan but I was curious to hear what he had to say. As expected, the seminar area was packed and I felt like I was at a film premiere waiting for the celebrity star to appear.

Karim is charismatic and energetic in real life ( not surprising). He insisted that designers need to break away from the archetype and find a new design language by observing what is happening now rather than looking for inspiration from the past. However, the woman next to me was not impressed because she kept yawning and looking at her watch throughout the talk, a sharp contrast from those who queued up to take photographs with the designer after the talk!

Aside from the regular booths, there was a Material Xperience section displaying a wide range of materials where visitors were encouraged to touch and feel. Elsewhere, I was drawn to Dutch designer Ernst Koning/ Ilias Ernst‘s quirky designs like the Nail cloud lamp. But the most interesting was seeing some upcycled furniture produced by a new social enterprise, The living furniture project. It is an organisation that reduces landfill waste and provide jobs and training to the homeless. It teams up with different furniture designers to produce unique pieces on commission. It is great to see more social enterprises ( and merging with design) starting up and working towards making the society a better place for people to live in. The world definitely needs more of them!


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Top left & middle left: Material Xperience; Helen Amy Murray’s sculptural textile; Middle middle: Ilias Ernst’s Nail cloud; Middle right: Ilias Ernst’s illumimate; Bottom left: Ilias Ernst; Upcycle furniture by Nic Parnell at The Living furniture project



COLLECT contemporary craft Fair 2013

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Top right: “Double bowl” by Momoko Kumai; Main; Top left & main: Metal work by Junko Mori


After three months in Asia, I finally returned back to London… and in time to visit COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects at the Saatchi gallery. With 32 international galleries taking part, it was a great opportunity to see works by contemporary artists and craftsmen including Art Fund winners.


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Top left: Ceramic sculptures by Merete Rasmussen ( Art Fund winner); Top right: Daniel Widrig in Project Space; Bottom left: “Forms in succession” by Nagae Shigekazu ( Art Fund winner)


The highlight of the fair was Project Space on the second floor featuring installations by 11 different artists. The most eye-catching installation in the first room was Laura Ellen Bacon’s In the Thick of It: A Woven Space” ( see below). The life-size pieces are like architectural structures, yet very organic and raw.

Nearby, there were also a range of objects that have been ‘repaired’ in Paulo Goldstein‘s “Repair is Beautiful” series including an almost unrecognisable iPod! And right opposite was a cool installation of 3D printed sculptures by London-based Daniel Widrig.


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Top left: Laura Ellen Bacon’s “In the Thick of It: A Woven Space” in Project Space; Top right: Michael Peterson’s wooden sculpture; Middle left: “Repair is Beautiful” by Paulo Goldstein; Middle middle: James Maskrey; Middle right: Pelicano & Saltamontes in Project Space; Bottom left: Peter Marigold’s Dodai bench; Bottom right: Koji Hatakeyama


Besides the Project Space, there were plenty of interesting work to be found. I particularly liked the delicate metal work by Junko Mori, the organic and poetic wood sculptures by American artist, Michael Peterson, the bold and colourful ceramic sculptures by Danish artist, Merete Rasmussen, and the minimal yet powerful sculptures by the leading Japanese porcelain artist, Nagae Shigekazu.


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Top right: Anna Barlow; Bottom right: ‘Hyper Activity: Scenes From An Other Reality’ by John Rainey in Project Space


In recent years, crafts have made a comeback and as seen at the show there are still many beautiful and skillful work being made by artists and craftsmen around the world. I think this year’s show has been the most compelling I have seen so far, so I look forward to the show next year!


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Middle left: Thérèse Lebrun; Middle right: Christian Burchard; Bottom left: Hugo Meert; Bottom right: Matthew Chambers



Hong Kong’s neighbourhood: Mid-Levels

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Main: Government House on Government Hill; bottom left: Hong Kong Botanical garden; bottom right: View from Government Hill


Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels has always been a prestigious residential area and only the English were allowed to live in the area back in the early colonial period! It was relatively quiet and ‘unspoilt’ until the world’s longest outdoor escalator was built in 1993, then the area started to change. Due to Hong Kong Island’s unique geography… hilly with steep slopes and narrow street, the escalator was proposed for residents from the area to commute to and from Central ( the business district) without the need of transport.


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Left: the Mid-Level escalator; middle: a view of the street from the escalator; one of the streets connecting mid-levels to Sai Ying Pun.


The escalator, which starts from Central and goes all the way up to Conduit Street has turned the entire area from a quiet residential area into a bustling and trendy district full of restaurants, bars and galleries ( as depicted in Wong Kar Wai‘s Chungking Express). Due to lack of regulations, many low-rise ‘tong lau’ have been demolished and are replaced by residential high rise. The area is now over-developed and over-priced, is this still the ideal residential area in Hong Kong? Perhaps not anymore. However, having said that, as we move away from the escalator, there are still interesting and historical sights that are not very touristy and can be explored on foot.


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Princes Terrace, a quiet street just off the escalator


Dr Sun Yat-Sen museum is located in a beautiful historical building called Kom Tong Hall on Castle Road ( No.7). The Hall was built in 1914 and was named after the former owner of the Mansion, Ho Kom-tong, the younger brother of the prominent philanthropist Sir Robert Ho Tung.

The museum has both permanent and temporary exhibitions where visitors can learn about Dr Sun Yat-Sen‘s life, his revolutionary activities and Chinese and Hong Kong history from the late 19th century. But the highlight is the building itself, it is hard to find charming buildings like this in Hong Kong now that have not been stripped away and turned into some kind of commercial-related premises.


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Hong Kong University is not only the oldest university but it is also considered to be the most prestigious in Hong Kong and one of the best within the region. The university’s main campus covers 160,000 square metres of land on Bonham Road and Pok Fu Lam Road, and the main building is one of the few best remaining examples of colonial architecture in Hong Kong. As you walk around the building or campus, you feel like you have been transported to another era or continent ( Europe) even and it feels so different from the Hong Kong we are normally used to.

The campus is open to the public and visitors can either book on free tours given by their Green Gown Guides ( who are student volunteers) or plan your own self-guided tours, iTour which can be found on the website.


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Main & bottom left: The main building at Hong Kong University; bottom right: Hung Hing Ying Building on the campus


Before reaching the main entrance of the university, there is the Fung Ping Shan building, which was original built in 1932 as a library for Chinese books. In 1953, it was converted into the University Museum and Art Gallery ( 94 Bonham Road), which is the oldest museum in Hong Kong and it is free to the public.

The museum and art gallery has both permanent and temporary exhibitions, and houses a thousand Chinese antiquities, ceramics, sculptures, calligraphy and paintings. Often there are interesting exhibitions and retrospectives on contemporary local and Chinese artists that are perhaps less established internationally. There is also a tea gallery where one can enjoy Chinese tea in a subdue environment. This is one of my favourite museums in Hong Kong because it is never too busy, and you can really slow down and enjoy the art in your own pace.


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Top left: map of the campus; Bottom right: The Fung Ping Shan building, entrance to the University Museum and Art Gallery


For those who are interested in the British colonial architecture, there are plenty to be found in this area partly because many historical schools are located in this area including two that have been declared as monuments in recent years: King’s College ( 63A Bonham Road) and St Stephen’s Girls College ( 2 Lyttelton Road).

There is also the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences ( 2 Caine Lane), an Edwardian-style building that was The Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, founded in 1887 by the London Missionary Society. Since 1996, it has been turned into a museum that is dedicated to the historical development of medical sciences in Hong Kong.


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Top left: the Neo-classical exterior of King’s college; top right & main: the back and side gates of St Stephen’s Girls College


Walking towards Sai Ying Pun, there is one building that really stood out and I later learned that it used to be an old mental hospital but now it is used as Sai Ying Pun Community Complex ( 2 High Street). Built in 1892, the original building was designed by Danby & Leigh (now Leigh & Orange), however, only the the granite facade and arched verandah were preserved because it was abandoned for 20 years from the 1970s and was badly ruined by two fires. Interestingly, the building is also known locally as the ‘High Street Haunted House’ before it was restored and rebuilt as a community complex in 2001. With or without ghosts, this historical building is fascinating and is definitely one of its kind in Hong Kong.


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Top left: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; top middle: a blue ‘tong lau’ on Bonham Road; top right, middle left & main: the old mental hospital; Middle right: an old ‘mansion’ on Robinson Road


Religious monuments

Hong Kong’s multiculturalism and multi-faith society is evident in this area because of the different religious monuments here. One of them is the Gothic revival style Hong Kong Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception ( 16 Caine Road) built in 1888 and serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. Nearby there is also another historical Catholic chapel, Sacred Heart Chapel ( 34 Caine Road) built in 1907.

Walking up towards Robinson Road, there is the rather ‘hidden’ and ‘mysterious’ Ohel Leah Synagogue ( 70 Robinson Road) was commissioned by a Jewish banker, by a banker, Sir Jacob E. Sassoon and designed by Leigh & Orange in 1902. (There are no photos because I was told by the security guard that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the building’s exterior even though I was standing on the street!) I have been wanting to visit the synagogue for a long time but never got round to it, so will have to wait until my next visit. Tours at the synagogue can be arranged via their website, but visitors can also attend their Shabbat services and enjoy their Shabbat dinners.

By coincidence, I stumbled upon the other ‘mysterious’ monument, Jamia Mosque‘s ( 30 Shelley Street) open day while I was traveling up the Mid-Levels escalator one afternoon. I was thrilled especially knowing that it is normally only open to Muslims! The Mosque was built in 1849 while the extension of the building took place in 1915. The green Arabic style building looks so exotic next to the residential high rise in the area, it was a shame that I didn’t have my camera on me at the time. The mosque also offers shelters to poor disciples, and currently there is a small community of around 20 Pakistani households living in the vicinity.


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Apart from the botanical garden ( which had written about in the earlier post), there are some small local parks and gardens ( parks and gardens in Hong Kong are not the same as Western ones, there is usually no grass or lawn!) like the historical ( built in 1936) King George V Memorial Park ( EasternStreet and Hospital Road) and the rather hidden and quiet West End Park right next to St Stephen’s Girls College on Lyttelton Road.


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Top left: West End Park; top right: A small communal garden ‘hidden’ bewteen Kotewall and Conduit Road; Bottom left: King George V Park; Bottom right: Old staircases can still be seen in the area


Coffee, cafes & bakeries

There are many eateries in the area, but I will just list a few places for coffee, tea and bakeries around the Mid-Levels rather than the trendy SoHo:

Books & Co. ( 8-10 Park Road) was mentioned in my previous entries on secondhand books.

BO-LO’GNE café 41 Aberdeen St) – I discovered this tiny Japanese-style bakery and cafe a few years ago before it was featured in a TV food programme, then it suddenly became the ‘hottest’ bakery/ cafe in town with long queues outside daily. Soon afterwards franchises appeared in shopping malls and so the queues finally disappeared. This bakery originated from Kyoto and is famous for their Danish style buttery bread ( nice but rather pricey). Aside from bread, the cafe also serves Japanese style Western dishes like fish roe spaghetti and pork cutlet sandwich. The cafe is usually quiet in the weekdays after lunch hour, so it’s a great place to relax with a book without feeling rushed.

Il Bel Paese ( 95 Caine Road) is actually an Italian deli but in its back room there are a few tables for lunch and snacks. The deli is well-known for their tiramisu, I have never tried it, but I did enjoy their homemade salad and bread.

New Blue Pool Restaurant & Bakery ( 71 Caine Road) has been serving freshly-baked Hong Kong style bread and quick lunches in the area for over 40 years. It is especially popular with students, local residents and nearby office workers because of its no frills, substantial lunches at very reasonable prices. Traditional bakeries are disappearing fast in Hong Kong, so many still come here for nostalgic reasons and for their fresh traditional style bread, cookies and cakes.


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Top left, middle & bottom left: Another fine day tea saloon; Top right: Olympia Graeco Egyptian Coffee; Bottom right: BO-LO’GNE Café 


Tea Saloon by Another Fine Day ( 80-82 Peel Street) – My friends who opened One Fine Day ( which I have mentioned before) on Princes Terrace have opened a more spacious new tea saloon round the corner. Their new saloon serves lunch, afternoon tea and specialty tea. For those who enjoy British style afternoon tea sets and don’t feel comfortable inside the 5-star hotel settings, then this is a more relaxing and cozy option.

Olympia Graeco Egyptian Coffee ( 24 Old Bailey) – Although this is not a cafe and I have written about this before, but I still can’t resist recommending this coffee bean shop just off Caine Road. Since Mr Ho passed away about 2 years ago, his son and daughter have taken over and are continuing to serve customers like their father has done for decades. Now they even deliver to offices and residential addresses, so hopefully more people will enjoy their high quality and reasonably priced coffee.



Last but not least, the trees as in other parts of Hong Kong are rather interesting esp. the one on the top of Aberdeen Street that has a stall leaning against it!


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There are many other historical and fascinating districts in Hong Kong and I will write more on them in the future…


Hong Kong’s neighbourhood: Sheung Wan

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Main: Tai Ping Shing Street; bottom right: Xin Xin gallery


I often feel blessed to have lived in different cities around the world, which I believe helps me to be open minded about different cultures and people. Yet I have always felt like an outsider ( not always by choice), and never felt that I belong anywhere. In the past, I have tried to conform and ‘fit in’ but failed miserably; over time I learned to use my ‘outsider’ identity to observe the world and have never felt more comfortable and happier.

As an outsider, you have a slightly different perspective from the locals and sometimes pick up on what they miss or take for granted. As an ex-resident and regular visitor of Hong Kong, I may not have the comprehensive or ‘insider’ knowledge but I can share from an outsider’s point of view of a city full of chaos, contradictions and surprises:


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Top left: Gough Street; Main: Hollywood Road; Bottom left: Dried food on Hollywood Road; bottom right: An old style grocery/ convenient store


Sheung Wan is a fascinating historical part of Hong Kong and has become ‘hip’ in recent years with new restaurants, galleries and independent shops opening constantly. Luckily, many old buildings and shops still stand, and the ‘old’ and ‘new’ seem to mix well together. The area is quieter than the nearby bustling Central with many slopes, narrow alleys and streets, making it an interesting area to stroll around. Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail covers part of Central and Sheung Wan, so it is a good starting point ( even though most of the original sites are no longer there anymore).



Pak Tsz Lane Park is unlikely to be high on most tourists’ sightseeing lists, but it is a $40 million urban regeneration project that has won the HKILA Silver Award 2012 for its landscape design. The park is like an oasis ‘hidden’ in between buildings and can be accessed via a few narrow alleyways, which can be easily missed as well.


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Top left: Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail; Top right and main: Pak Tsz Lane park


Opened in 2012, the park was designed by Ronald Lu & Partners commemorating the anti-Qing Dynasty revolutionary societies and their members who took part in the 1911 Chinese Revolution. Pak Tsz Lane was home to Furen Literary Society and a meeting place for the revolutionists ( because it is well-hidden and with many escape routes), and it was also where one of them, Yeung Kui-wan was eventually assassinated.

It was great to see elderly from the local community using this park as a ‘hang-out’, but probably more would benefit from it if they are aware of its existence!


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Wing Lee Street is unqiue for two reasons: 1. It is the last remaining street in Hong Kong that is lined entirely with 1950s tong lau ( Chinese-style tenement buildings built in the late 19th century to the 1960s). 2. It was saved from demolition/ redevelopment after a series of protests and a plea from the filmmakers of the award-winning film, Echoes of the Rainbow ( which was filmed on this street)

Since then, Urban Renewal Authority has renovated several buildings which it acquired and has engaged the Hong Kong Arts Centre to run an artist-in-residence programme. Currently, there is also a small exhibition centre where visitors can learn about the history of the street and the conservation project. Interestingly, there are still some old tenants who are living in the rather ‘slummy’ buildings, which makes the street looks slightly inconsistent but more interesting!


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Built in 1847, Man Mo Temple ( No.126) is a famous Daoist temple and tourist attraction on Hollywood Road. And not far from it, there is a less well-known but equally fascinating Kwong Fook I Tsz inside Pak Sing temple ( 42 Tai Ping Shan St). Built in 1851, the Kwong Fook I Tsz houses about 3,000 ancestral tablets of the poor/ homeless deceased Mainland Chinese who died without relatives during the plague in 1894.


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Top left: Kwong Fook I Tsz; Main: Man Mo Temple



Hollywood Road used to be known for antiques and vintage shops, but in recent years, many new independent shops started appearing in the area. Around Gough Street and Tai Ping Shan Street, there are several design shops including the popular furniture and lifestyle shop, Homeless ( 29 Gough Street) which opened its flagship shop here in 2005.

In 2011, the conceptual store Konzepp ( 50 Tung Street) opened its doors, focusing on design-driven objects with a communal space for artist and designers to collaborate. Since then, it has opened more shops in the area focusing on fashion and accessories.

Nearby, there are also the multi-use space and lifestyle store, Zixag ( 40 Sai St.), AboDe design store ( 32-34 Tai Ping Shan St) and the ceramic tableware brand, Loveramics (37 Tung St). For those ( like me) who can’t stand soulless shopping malls and boring chained stores, this area provides a different kind of shopping experience and with more unique products available.


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Top left: Homeless; top right: Aesop; Main: Konzepp; Middle left: Zixag; Bottom left: Loveramics; Bottom middle: Abode design


For those who don’t want to pay high prices for designed products, Wing Kut Street ( lies between Des Voeux Road Central and Queen’s Road Central) is a vibrant street that is lined with shops specialising in costume jewellery ( wholesale and retail) and stalls selling low-cost fashion. You can also find one of Hong Kong’s oldest record shop, Percival Records ( No. 35) here which specialises in classical music.


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Top left: Wing Kut Street; top right: a street stall at the bottom of Aberdeen street selling miniature food models; Main: A very cool junk shop on Tai Ping Shan Street; Bottom left: an interior decorating stall on Gough Street; Bottom right: a printer stall



For a city which is dominated by two coffee chains: Starbucks and Pacific Coffee, it is hard to find decent independent coffee shops for a real taste of coffee. Luckily, as coffee became more popular in recent years, ( thanks to the influence from Taipei’s coffee culture and Hong Kong TV actor Moses Chan, who is a coffee lover and has made tv programmes and published books on coffee) more coffee shops are popping up here and there.

Cafe Loisl ( 8A Tai On Terrace) is a cafe that specialises in Austrian fare such as Wiener Schnitzel, Viennese coffees and apple strudels. Its European style setting and ambience will make you forget that you are in Hong Kong!

On Tai Ping Shan Street, there is a tiny home-style cafe called Homei ( 22-24A) which is also a cute place for coffee, milk tea and cakes and sandwiches.


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Left & middle: Cafe Loisl; Right Homei


Local flavours

This is not a food blog, so I don’t want to rate restaurants here, but I want to list a few places that the locals are fond of:

Lin Heung Lau Tea House ( 77 Wellington Street) is an old institute since 1926, serving traditional dim sum from trolleys in an unpretentious and nostalgic setting.

Kau Kee ( 21 Gough Street) is another institute with 90 years of history ( way before the street became hip!) and it is particularly famous for its beef brisket ( with or without noodles) in clear broth or curry soup.

Sing Heung Yuen ( 2 Mei Lun Street) – I have never eaten at this Dai Pai Dong before, but I can tell its popularity by the constant long queues here. If you are up for a real taste of local, then this is THE place!

Shugetsu ( 5 Gough Street) – Not exactly ‘local’ ( it serves ramen) but it is very popular with the locals as you can always see queues outside of this narrow Japanese ramen joint.

Kong Chai Kee ( 2 Kau U Fong Road) is one of my favourite places for Chiu Chow style fish balls ( or a quick lunch). This restaurant is small and often quite busy, but it is cheap and serves good quality fish balls.

For Kee ( Shop J-K., 200 Hollywood Road) is a Hong Kong style restaurant famous for its pork chop with rice and Hong Kong style milk tea.


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Top left: For Kee restaurant; top middle: ramen at Shugetsu; bottom left: Lemon King on Wing Kut Street; bottom middle: Won ton & shrimp dumplings ho fan at Mak An Kee; bottom right: fish ball ho fan at Kong Chai Kee


Mak An Kee/ Chung Kee ( 37 Wing Kut St) is a less well-known won ton noodle restaurant tucked away on Wing Kut Street but its owner’s father is actually the founder of the famous ( and pricier) won ton institute, Mak’s noodles. The portions here are bigger than Mak’s but the quality is equally good, and it is definitely less ‘flashy’.

Lemon King ( a street stall on Wing Kut Street) is a traditional Chinese snack stall that is well-known for its preserved lemon and liquorice snack. The founder has been selling from its wooden trolley here for over 30 years, and now it is run by his son and was finally granted a permanent licence here in 2008. It is loved by the locals not only for nostalgic reasons but also for its high quality products.

Chan Yee Chai  ( 176D Queen’s Rd) is another traditional homemade biscuits and snacks shop has been around since 1927 and it is particularly popular with Japanese tourists.



The architecture in this area is interesting because there are many historical buildings and tong lau esp. along Ladder Street…


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Top left: Part of the Ladder Street; Bottom left: The Church of Christ in China China Congregational Church, Bridges Street; bottom right: Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, Bridges Street.


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 Street art/ graffiti

Graffiti is common to find in Hong Kong and Sheung Wan seems to be a popular place for graffiti and street art.


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Horse racing in Hong Kong

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An evening at the Hong Kong Jockey club in Happy Valley


Perhaps the British never imagined that horse racing would be a legacy of its colonial rule in Hong Kong! Now it is THE most popular sport event for locals and tourists alike, attracting crowds every week for ten months of the year. Whether you like gambling or not, it is a fun, sociable and eye-opening event that will enable you to feel and possibly understand what the thrill is about.


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Main: An untamed winning horse


Unlike horse racing events like the Ascot in the U.K. where many would dress up for the occasion, horse racing in Hong Kong is casual and down to earth. I once watched the races while having dinner at the member’s restaurant above the racecourse and the atmosphere was completely different… it was way too civilised! Hence, drinking from plastic cups and eating kebabs next to the gamblers felt much more atmospheric and authentic!


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Racehorse is a great place for people-watching


Aside from the ecstatic atmosphere, the racecourse is a great place for people-watching. It makes you wonder about the psychology behind gambling and its addictive effect on people. I betted, and although I won, it did not cover my original bet payment, which was about $40. I was tempted to bet again, but my rational mind stepped in and decided against it in the end…


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Homeless shelters outside of the racecourse


As we left the racecourse, we walked past a few homeless shelters in the underpass right outside. It prompted me to wonder if they were once gamblers who lost everything to the Jockey Club? And surprisingly, they looked quite clean and organised compared to other homeless shelters that I have seen, which made me wonder more about the stories behind.

The contrast between the worlds ( inside and outside of the racecourses) is a good testimony of the widening wealth gap in Hong Kong, but unfortunately, I can’t see much light at the end of the(ir) tunnel. It is sad but true nonetheless.


Hong Kong’s secondhand bookstores

While poverty is a growing issue in Hong Kong, it is still a city of plenty for many. Consumption is a way of life, but the mindset for recycling is still not very popular nor widespread.

A few years ago, I started to change my buying habit and cut down my consumption on non-essential items like fashion, dvds, cds and books. I started to rent films from online film rental company or the local library, downloaded music from itune, sold unwanted fashion items, books & cds on ebay and Amazon, and even joined book exchange clubs. Instead of accumulating more things, I am finally getting rid of them, slowly but surely.


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Top left, bottom left & middle: Flow books; Top right & bottom right: The Book Attic


In Hong Kong, it is not easy to run secondhand bookstores especially because of the outrageous property rental prices; hence, it is almost a miracle to find these bookstores still around! But thanks to the persistence and passion of their owners, these bookstores are attracting more supporters and making people become aware of the importance of recycling and living with ‘less’!

Here are some that are making a difference in this city:

The Book Attic ( Cockloft, 2 Elgin Street, Central) – I first visited The Book Attic when it was still located in Wan Chai, but sadly it had to move because of regeneration in the area and the landlord took the opportunity to increase the rent outrageously. The owner, Jennifer ( a passionate book lover and collector) told me that the landlord would rather have the space empty than to settle for a lower amount ( which is surprisingly common in Hong Kong). It took her a while and help from her loyal customers to find this new upstairs location in SoHo.

The book shop is bright, tidy, quiet and specialises in English books. Most books are in excellent and like-new condition, and donors would get discounts when they purchase books here. Not sure if it is a coincidence or it is related to Jennifer’s Buddhist background, but there is very good selection of books on Buddhism and spirituality here (* Update: the book shop closed in Feb 2014 and there is no further notice on when or if it will reopen again).

Flow books ( 1A Wing On building, 38 Hollywood Road, Central) – Flow has been in business for over 12 years and has moved from Lyndhurst Terrace to Hollywood Road ( twice) recently. Although more cramped and less organised than The Book Attic, Flow sells a wide range of books and dvds ( slightly more mainstream and with an emphasis on fiction), and provides free dvds and books rental regularly to their customers.


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Top left & main: Books & Co.; Top middle & right: Collectables


Collectables ( 2/F, 11 Queen Victoria Street, Central) – When I first discovered this secondhand books and music shop, I was quite stunned by its record collection and its hidden but central location ( in the middle of Central)! This shop has been around for 21 years and has the largest vinyl collection in town. There are also a wide range of classical, jazz, soundtracks and world music cds, art house and foreign language dvds and even old magazines. The book selection and condition is also very good with both English and Chinese books available.

Coffee books/ Books & Co. ( G/F, 10 Park Road, Mid-Levels) – this rather unknown secondhand bookshop and cafe is one of a kind in Hong Kong. It feels like it could be in Europe or U.K. because of its laid back and low-key atmosphere. The selection of books here is wide, ranging from educational to cookery, travel, fiction, non-fiction, hobbies and children, with cds and dvds available as well. Aside from coffee, tea and cakes, the cafe also serves simple dishes at lunch time ( catering mainly for students nearby). It is so rare to find a quiet and ‘slow’ place in this city these days, so this cafe is ideal for those who want to relax, read, linger, and pretend that you are sitting inside an antique bookshop in Europe rather than a fast-paced Hong Kong.


Hong Kong’s new contemporary art scene

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Top left: Hong Kong eye exhibition at Artistree; top right: Object Oriented Objects by Justin Wong; Main: Down The Rabbit Hole, “TAXI” says Alice by Amy Cheung Wan Man; Bottom left: Counterpoints & Map by Joao Vasco Paiva; Bottom right: In Search Of Primordial Idiolect IV by Adrian Wong Ho Yin


Although Hong Kong has always had an art scene, it was hardly exciting nor happening until a few years ago. Once described as a ‘cultural desert’, Hong Kong’s art scene was inaccessible to the general public and local artists were regarded dreamers who were out of touch with the ‘real’ world! How things have changed in such a short time!

Now art in Hong Kong means big bucks, and even international art galleries and organisations like Art Basel ( which will take charge of the Hong Kong Art Fair for the first time this year), Affordable Art Fair, White Cube and Gagosian are joining the club. But will all these change the way the locals view art and have an impact on the younger generation who want to pursue art as their future career?


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Top left: Looking for poetry in Wanchai by Annie Wan Lai Kuen; Middle: Upon the esculator by Silas Fong; Top right: Landscape GPS by Kui Ting Leung; Bottom left: Clay work by Evelyna Yee Woo Kan; Bottom right: A Halo Of Counting Down by Otto Lin Tun Lun


I attended the Hong Kong Art Fair last year ( see my earlier post here) and took part in the Hong Kong ArtWalk this year. Within a year, new galleries are springing up not only in Central, Sheung Wan, but also in the unlikely industrial areas such as Chai Wan, Aberdeen and even Kwun Tong. However, most of the artists represented/ exhibited seem to be from other parts of Asia ( esp. from China and Korea), local names are still few and far between.


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Top left: Ho Sin-tung’s Map: Discreet charm of the Proletartian; Middle: Paper globe of Hong Kong by Sheung Chi Kwan; Top right: Extend 3 by Kum Chi-Keung; Bottom left: Five Tallest Buildings in Hong Kong’ by Wilson Shieh


I was pretty clueless about the local contemporary art scene until I saw the Hong Kong eye exhibition on Hong Kong contemporary art currently showing at ArtisTree. And I was quite pleasantly surprised by what I saw especially since I had no expectation beforehand. Founded by Parallel Media Group chairman David Ciclitira and his wife Serenella, Hong Kong eye debuted at the Saatchi Gallery in December ( which I missed), so it was good to catch up on what is going on locally.

Previously, a lack of identity ( and voice) was a major issue that occurred across Hong Kong’s art, design and even music scenes. Perhaps it was partly due to its prosperous and stable economy ( usually the most creative work appears during the most unstable and turbulent times), so it is no surprise that finally more interesting work is surfacing during this unsettling period in Hong Kong.



Hong Kong ArtWalk 2013


My favourite at the show is work by Sin Tung Ho, her detailed illustrative maps of Hong Kong esp.Hills won’t healcarry a nostalgic factor with interesting narratives and strong messages behind them. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based Portuguese artist, João Vasco Paiva‘s video and installation work is also interesting because of his unique identity, which allows him to have a different perspective of Hong Kong.

Earlier at the Hong Kong ArtWalk, I also came across Annysa Ng, a local artist who was trained in Hong Kong, New York and Germany. Her new series of work Celestial Revolution is graphical, bold and unique, which gives a new take on the term ‘East meets West’.


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Top left: Spring gallery in Aberdeen; Top right: Anusapati at Sin Sin Gallery; Main & bottom left: Wim Delvoye at Galerie Perrotin; Bottom right: Damien Hirst at White Cube


Overall, it is encouraging to see new changes and growing attention on the Hong Kong art scene, but it will still take time for the general public to ’embrace’ art and not see it as something that can only be enjoyed by the privilege. The Andy Warhol exhibition, giant rubber duck and the outdoor sculptures at Mobile M+ Inflation! are helping to break the barrier, so I look forward to seeing a wider variety of art work being shown in the future.


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Top left: Yayoi Kusama at Opera Gallery; Top middle & right: Takashi Murakami at Gagosian gallery; Bottom left & right: Andy Warhol 15 minutes eternal exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art


Hong Kong Eye: Hong Kong at ArtisTree will end on 31st May.


Inflatable art in Hong Kong

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The giant rubber duck in Kowloon


Hong Kong has suddenly been turned into a “playground” for inflatable art sculptures this month. The arrival of the giant rubber duck by Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman has caused a huge stir in the city attracting tens of thousands flocked to see it ( including myself). I like the concept behind the project and its ability to bring smiles to people’s faces, but I am surprised by all the buzz and hype, which I think is slightly over the top!


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Top right: Choi Jeong Hwa‘s Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness; Main & bottom left: Sacrilege by Jeremy Deller; Bottom right: Paul McCarthy‘s deflated Complex Pile


Over in the West Kowloon cultural district, the outdoor inflatable art sculptures at Mobile M+: Inflation! exhibition are not only overshadowed by the giant duck, but are doomed due to the continously rain and storm.

The 15.5 metre-tall Complex Pile, by acclaimed American artist Paul McCarthy is now deflated because it was damaged by the rain, whereas Tomás Saraceno‘s “Poetic Cosmos of the Breath” experimental performance only takes place under certain climatic conditions. And there was no sight of Liu Jaikun‘s “With the wind” when I was there, I wonder what had happened to it?


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Falling into the Mundane World by Tam Wai Ping


Okay, three absent but five intact… Luckily, I managed to avoid the heavy downpour and it only drizzled a little when I was there. I was especially excited to see “Sacrilege” by London-based/ Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller. A bouncy-castle Stonehenge in Hong Kong might sound bizarre, but it is as ‘healing’ as the a giant rubber duck floating in Victoria Harbour… simply check out the people’s faces on the bouncy castle!

Elsewhere, the pink pig/ “House of Treasures” by Chinese artist Cao Fei is immensely fun, whereas “Falling into the Mundane World by Hong Kong artist Tam Wai Ping is dark and striking. I was also particularly intrigued by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa‘s giant black lotus: “Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness( I saw the smaller and gold version last year at the Hong Kong Art Fair). It was very interesting to see the movement of the petals in the wind, and you don’t need to be a Buddhist to understand the symbolic meaning behind this work.

It is a shame that all the publicity is focused more on the duck ( apart from when the poo popped!) and not so much on these fascinating pieces, though the bad weather doesn’t help either. I hope that the weather will get better soon and more people can visit this site before it ends.


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Main & bottom left: House of Treasures by Cao Fei; bottom right: poster of the exhibition


Mobile M+: Inflation! at West Kowloon cultural district is free and will remain open to public until 9th June. ( however, the park is currenly closed due to thunderstorm warning, so it’s best to check the website for updates).


Hong Kong Houseware & Gifts Fairs

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Houseware and gifts fairs at the Hong Kong Convention Centre


April was a busy month for trade fairs in Hong Kong, two large fairs: Houseware and textiles, Gifts and printing fairs all took place within two weeks. Apart from local design studios, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, there were also companies from around the world exhibiting at these fairs.


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Left: Taiwanese design booth at the Gift Fair; Right: Smart Gifts Design Awards 2013


At the Gift Fair, there was an area exhibiting the winners and finalists of the Hong Kong Smart Gifts Design Awards 2013. Overall, I think the standard is not outstanding because many items are too “designed” ( just my opinion) and out of all the work, my favourite is the eco pinhole camera designed by Kam Yat Hui from Skyhui Works & Creations, which is fun, nostalgic and unique.


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Left: Seminar at the Gift Fair; Right: Charming Everyday Things calendar


While I was at the Gift Fair, I also attended the free seminars on giftware trends and e-commerce marketing, given by Ms Yoko Kawashima from Future Design Lab. of Itochu Fashion System ( who is also an adjudicator of the Good Design Award in Japan) and Mr Kinsen Lee from Radica Systems. The seminars were informative and insightful, but I was particularly intrigued by Charming Everyday Things, a project initiated by Ms Kawashima that introduces 365 Japanese daily items in a calendar-style format. Aside from the calendar ( which I later found out is not for sale), the 365 items were also exhibited and sold in Paris and throughout Japan last year. I love the concept and I think it is a brilliant way to discover new items or even items that people take for granted sometimes.