Eastbourne & Beachy Head hike

birling gap

Birling Gap at Beachy Head


The hiking season has resumed! Although hiking can be an all year round activity, it is most enjoyable during the summer because the sun sets later (which means we can do longer hikes) and the temperature is warmer. My first UK hike this year was a circular hike from Eastbourne, where we hiked along the coastline and enjoyed some spectacular views of the area with plenty of sunshine. We passed by Beachy Head, a chalk headland with the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most notorious suicide spots in the country!

An article in the Telegraph recently reported that the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, a trained voluntary team that patrols the area 24/7 to save lives is under threat due to lack of funding. A significant amount is needed for the service to continue and donations can be made via their website above.


eastbourne P1090484P1090486 P1090485

Top right: East Dean Village; Bottom left & right: Sherlock Holmes’ retirement home (?) in East Dean


Before we reached Beachy Head, we walked past the village East Dean and had our picnic lunches on the village green. After lunch, I noticed a blue plaque on the front of a house, and to my surprise, the house did not belong to a painter/musician/poet but the fictional character Sherlock Holmes! Apparently Holmes experts have maintained that Holmes ended his days in East Dean after Sherlock author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hinted it in the preface of one of his books. Now thanks to the new TV series, the character is more popular than ever and a special walk is created for Holmes‘ fans!


birling gap beachy headbeachy head cliffbeachy head cliffbeachy head cliff

Bottom left: The beachy head lighthouse; Bottom middle: Birling Gap; Bottom right: Belle Tout lighthouse


One of the landmarks in the area is the Grade II listed Belle Tout lighthouse, which was featured in many films and TV productions. The lighthouse was in operation from 1832 to 1902 until a new lighthouse was built in the sea below to replace it. The lighthouse suffered damage during the second world war but was rebuilt in the 1950s. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved (in one piece) more than 17m (50ft) inland from a crumbling cliff edge due to coastal erosion. Now the lighthouse has been converted into a 6-room luxury bed and breakfast and has proved to be very popular!


eastbourne beachy head cliffbeachy head cliffbeachy head cliff beachy head cliff


After hiking up and down the cliff for miles along the coastline, we arrived at a memorial site, The Bomber Command Tribute that commemorate the RAF who lost their lives during the Second World War as Beachy Head was their final departure spot in the UK.


eastbourne eastbourneeastbourneeastbourne eastbourne

Eastbourne and the Eastbourne carnival


Finally, we arrived into the coastal town of Eastbourne and coincidentally stumbled upon the Eastbourne Sunshine Carnival taking place on the seafront. The seafront was packed and it was nice to see much excitement and joyful spirit everywhere. We had our early dinner in a pub where most locals were dressed up as pirates, so we really stood out in our hiking gear!

This hike was one of the most memorable and enjoyable in recent years, and as always I also met some lovely people. Although we were all exhausted after the long day, we all felt refreshed and content afterwards… now I just can’t wait until my next walk/hike!

Clerkenwell design week 2014

clerkenwell design week 2014kenneth grangeclerkenwell design week 2014clerkenwell design week 2014 Studio Weave's Smith pavilion

Top & bottom left: The Familoe building; Top middle: Kenneth Grange’s talk; St James’s church; Bottom right: Studio Weave‘s Smith pavilion


Over the years, I have witnessed the Clerkenwell design week growing bigger and now it has become one of the important international design events. Aside from the several main venues, showrooms, shops, and even eateries in the area would take part in the 3-day event (not exactly a week as its name suggests). I was glad to learn that our Japanese supplier, DI CLASSE would be taking part at the event and that their chief designer/owner, Domei Endo would be coming over from Japan as well.

The main venue, Familoe Building has been named as the ‘Design Factory’ this year. Aside from furniture, lighting and retail units, it also hosted free seminars. I attended Kenneth Grange’s talk and as always he is funny, humble and down-to-earth, it is hard to believe that he is 85 already. He is truly amazing and inspiring.


kyoto floor lamp by stellar worksMing chairs by Neri & HuCatellani & Smith's Stchu-MoonVibia lightingdi-classe cuore led candlesdi-classe

Top left: Kyoto floor lamp by Stellar Works; Top middle: The Ming chairs by Neri & Hu for Stellar Works ; Top right: Catellani & Smith‘s Stchu-Moon; Bottom left: Vibia lighting; Bottom middle: Cuore LED candles by DI CLASSE


DI CLASSE’s stall was on the top floor of the building which was solely dedicated to lighting. I was introduced to Mr Endo who founded his company in 1990 in Japan and has continued to grow ever since. I was later informed that Mr Endo‘s lighting received a lot of interests at the show, so it was a successful event for them.


clerkenwell design festival 2014 clerkenwell design festival 2014IMG_8357

Top left & right: the Order of St Johns; Main: Live painting at a showroom


Other venues included the Order of St Johns (Detail), the House of Detention (Platform) and a new venue, Crypt on the Green (Additions). It was refreshing to see many young designers and new companies showing at the latter venues instead of the usual big names.


Torqued Bowls designed by Nichole Cross and David Morgan from Wasatch design collective  Sarah DehandschutterIMG_8313IMG_8319georgoehlerJuliette Bigley Brooksbank & Collins's Me-Far TriaYas-ming ceramics Chisel & Mouse

Top left: Torqued Bowls designed by Nichole Cross and David Morgan from Wasatch design collective; Top right: Sarah Dehandschutter‘s beautiful knitted fabric lamps; 2nd row middle: Robert Scott‘s Roxanne; 2nd row right: Georg Oehler‘s Nagoire Light Case; 3rd row left: Juliette Bigley; 3rd row right: Brooksbank & Collins‘s Me-Far Tria; Bottom left: Yas-ming ceramics; Bottom right: Chisel & Mouse‘s architectural sculptures


One of most interesting exhibitions during the event was ‘Tailor my Tom Vac’ exhibition at Vitra‘s showroom celebrating 15 years of Ron Arad‘s iconic Tom Vac chair. Vitra invited the 22g designers/design studios to interpret the brief: ‘to explore both novelty and memory in design, art and architecture’ with no restrictions on medium or discipline, in line with Arad’s original response.

The winner was Hawkins\Brown‘s ‘Pamela’, the designers extended the legs and turned the chair into a lifeguard chair. And its name paid homage to the famous baywatch star.


tailor my tom vac Get into the Groove '97' by ID:SR'Tom Woof' by Coffey Architects'mVac+ don't sit, just listen...' by Scott Brownrigg'Transforming objects into memories' by Studio Tilt

Ron Arad’s Tom Vac chair exhibition/competition at Vitra – Top right: ‘Get into the Groove ’97’ by ID:SR; Bottom left: ‘Tom Woof’ by Coffey Architects; Bottom middle: ‘mVac+ don’t sit, just listen…’ by Scott Brownrigg; Bottom right: ‘Transforming objects into memories’ by Studio Tilt



Collect crafts fair 2014

saatchi gallery kaori tatebayashicollect 2014 Richard Slee & James Maskreyclare twomey 1000 bowlsSachi Fujikake Shigekazu Nagae

Top left: Saatchi Gallery; Top right: Kaori Tatebayashi; 2nd row middle: Richard Slee & James Maskrey; 2nd row right: Clare Twomey’s ‘1000 bowls’; Bottom left: Sachi Fujikake; Bottom right: Shigekazu Nagae


May and Sept must be two of the busiest months in London for designers and crafts people as there are many trade events and fairs taking place all over the city.

Collect is one of important fairs for contemporary crafts in the UK, and it showcases not only homegrown talents but also talents from other parts of the world.


Theresa Nguyen im Hyunju: Have a Dream IIIIMG_8011Andrew Lamb

Main: Theresa Nguyen’s Spiritus Waves; Bottom left: Hyunju Kim: Have a Dream III; Bottom right: Andrew Lamb


As soon as I entered the first gallery, I was drawn by British Vietnamese silversmith, Theresa Nguyen‘s exquisite silver ‘Spiritus Waves’. Several other pieces by Theresa were showcased amongst a few other silversmiths as part of the Bishopsland collection. I spoke to Theresa (who is lovely) and found out that she is based in Birmingham and has a workshop in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. I love her nature-inspired pieces, although they are made of silver, they appear to be soft and flowy, and her detailed craftsmanship is top-notch.

Theresa and I also spent some time admiring the nearby jewellery pieces by Scottish silversmith, Andrew Lamb. Andrew‘s delicate and sculptural pieces have rippling textures and subtle colour variations, hence creating movements and changes in colours when being worn.


kevin callaghan Lee Jung WonRupert Merton  Ann beth borselius's Tree of life IMG_7978

Top left: Kevin Callaghan; Top right: Lee Jung Won; Main: Rupert Merton; Bottom left: Anne Beth Borselius’s Tree of life; Bottom right: Kris Campo


Ceramics often are predominant at crafts fair, and it is no exception at Collect. I particular like London-based potter Rupert Merton‘s simple, primitive and colourful oriental-inspired pottery. Nearby, Roger Law‘s(the mastermind behind ‘Spitting image’) humourous biography stood out and it explained how he moved his focus from TV to ceramics. Law‘s reinterpretation of Chinese porcelain is fascinating, although he uses traditional Chinese techniques (they are all made in China’s porcelain city, Jingdezhen), his witty and quirky caricatures seen on the porcelain inject a sense of playfulness and eccentricity into something seemingly traditional and ideal.


IMG_7996 jina Sim Geoffrey Mann IMG_8010 Jeongsun Choi  Mikiko Minewaki Junko Mori

Top right: Jina Sim; 2nd row left: Geoffrey Mann’s 3-d printed lighting; 2nd row right: Jeongsun Choi; Bottom left: Mikiko Minewaki; Bottom right: Junko Mori


Aside from local and European galleries, there were also several Korean and Japanese stands showcasing talents from the two countries. And one of them was Korea Craft and Design Foundation, which showcased some intriguing work including silversmith, Hyunju Kim‘s Have a Dream III, Jina Sim‘s Means and Jeongsun Choi‘s playful jewellery.

Last year, I discovered Wales-based Japanese silversmith, Junko Mori at the fair, and so I was glad to see her new and sensational organism-inspired metal pieces on display again. I was also drawn to Japanese designer, Mikiko Minewaki‘s new take on traditional Japanese lacquer. Her lacquer jewellery design is very refreshing and contemporary.


Louis thompson  Bouke de Vries - memory vesselRoger LawLisa FarmerIMG_7965 Pascal Oudet Natalie Doyen  Dorothée Van Biesen

Top left: Louis Thompson; Top right: Bouke de Vries’s Memory vessel; 2nd row left: Roger Law; 2nd row middle: Lisa Farmer; Main: Pascal Oudet; Bottom left: Natalie Doyen; Bottom right: Dorothée Van Biesen


While many people still prefer to collect traditional forms of art like paintings and sculptures, I personally would rather invest in craft pieces especially because the quality and standard of craftsmanship is very high nowadays. I rarely get excited by what I see in the art world today, crafts however, evoke some excitement and I hope that in the future crafts will be seen as collectable as other art forms. Judging from the growing popularity of the show and other crafts fairs, this may well happen one day.


A week of silence in Devon

devondevon gaia house

Main: The 13th century Grade I listed West Ogwell Church; bottom right: Gaia house


Not long after I returned from Asia, I went to Devon for my first week-long silent meditation retreat at Gaia House, a well-known Buddhist meditation retreat centre which was a former convent. Although I have been meditating regularly for the a number of years and have been to various group meditation retreats including weekend silent ones, I still found the idea of not communicating, reading nor writing for a week rather daunting.

The reason why I wanted to do this particular retreat was because of the retreat teachers, Martine & Stephen Batchelor. I have read some of Stephen‘s books and articles, and I found his agnostic and secular approach towards Buddhism stimulating and appealing. As someone who has issues with hierarchies and institutions, for years I struggled to fit into one particular Buddhist institution/organisation even though I found the Buddhist teachings, ethics and meditation immensely beneficial. I was particular bothered by some Buddhists who apply the dogmatic attitude from other religions to Buddhism. Personally, I don’t regard Buddhism as a religion nor merely a philosophy. From what I understand, Buddhism is essentially a practice and training, it is about our direct experiences rather than a theory or a dogma.

Martine and Stephen‘s teachings are scientific (In fact, Buddhism has many parallels with science), rational, practical and most of all, contemporary. They emphasise the importance of Buddhist ethics/values while using meditation as a practical tool. Instead of treating the four Noble truths as a set of doctrine or rules, Stephen suggests that they can be viewed as ‘tasks’ to be performed in our daily lives. His thought-provoking insights may not be accepted by many traditional Buddhists, but they resonate well with me.

Judging from the popularity of their retreats (they have been leading this since the 80s), talks and books, I know I am not the only person who has difficulties with the traditional approaches and institutions. Their retreats are free from religious rituals and chanting which suit me well too. While some people like to call themselves secular Buddhists, I don’t think a label is necessary as it ends up segregating and confining people into boxes, which I think is pointless. Our constant need to identify ourselves with certain groups is an act that confines and limits us, and ultimately leads to unnecessary conflicts and discrimination.


devonSAM_9052 SAM_9056


The first two days at the retreat were extremely difficult as I was not familiar with the surrounding and sharing a room with four strangers without direct communication was an awkward experience. Yet the most challenging part was the long sitting meditation sessions (about 6 hours per day excluding the walking meditation), which caused much aches and pain for all of us.

Nevertheless, things started to change on the third day, and instead of counting the days/hours (and wondering why I was torturing myself), I started to lose track of time and began to ‘enjoy’ my experience while accepting the aches and other uncomfortable feelings. During one listening meditation session, I was able to detect sounds from five different birds outside, which I found quite exhilarating as it seldom happens in the city.


devon devondevon


When friends asked me what I did for a week without talking, reading nor writing, I said, “Aside from meditation and walking… NOTHING!” I did not even take photographs until the last day as I did not want to be occupied by the act either. The best thing about these retreats is that they allow us to just ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ as we are so preoccupied with doing and thinking these days that most of us have forgotten how to ‘be’ anymore. Our culture today does not celebrate idleness, so the idea of not doing anything sounds completely absurd to many. Yet with my work, I always have to be ‘connected’ and so it was a liberation for me to enjoy the silence, idleness and nature without distraction from the outside world.


devon devon devon


Martine and Stephen‘s teaching styles are distinctively different, Stephen is rational, articulate, philosophical and thought-provoking with a sense of irony; whereas Martine is light-hearted, engaging and practical, yet they complement each other very well. Their emphasis on how to creatively engage ourselves in different situations is perhaps one of the reasons why many of the retreatants (I later learned) are from the creative industry. At the end of the retreat, they reminded us that the most important aspect of the retreat was to apply what we learned and incorporate it into our daily lives. Having been to many meditation retreats before, this was by far the most challenging yet fulfilling and much clarity was gained during and after the retreat.

After spending so much time in nature, I almost did not want to leave… I loved walking in the countryside (even though I did get lost one day and ended up in the nearby village asking for directions), and spending time observing nature and sheep (they are quite adorable). And after I got back to London, I noticed that my senses were stronger than ever, not only I could detect odour from my surroundings (not recommended on tubes and other public transport), but I could even differentiate layers of different sounds! Though it was a challenging retreat, it was also extremely rewarding and I would most definitely do it again in the future.


Pick me up 2014 exhibition

pick me up pick me upIMG_7907pick me upartomaticpick me up

Main: Jessica Das’ Cat island; bottom middle: Artomatic; Bottom right: Hey


Life has been rather hectic since I got back to London, so there is a backlog of entries… Back in May, I visited the fifth Pick me up 2014 exhibition at the Somerset house, a contemporary graphic arts festival that showcases graphic art in all forms.

I have visited the show a few times before and it seems to be getting more popular every year, which is very encouraging. The festival not only provides an opportunity for the public to view contemporary graphic arts by artists, illustrators and designers working in various fields today, affordable artwork can also be bought at the venue. Here are some of the artists featured at the festival:


Edward Carvalho Monaghan IMG_7911andrew grovesjack hudsonLynnie ZuluAnnu Kilpeläinen

Top left: Edward Carvalho Monaghan; Main: Andrew Groves; Bottom left: Jack Hudson; Bottom middle: Lynnie Zulu; Bottom right: Annu Kilpeläinen 


On the ground floor, Parisan/American illustrator Jessica Das’s Cat island was especially fun and eye-catching, whereas Finnish illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen‘s colourful illustrations have this 1980s retro feel to them. Strong colour palettes are used by London-based designer Edward Carvalho Monaghan and Scottish illustrator Lynnie Zulu‘s African-influenced prints.

Barcelona’s graphics studio Hey‘s prints are clean, bold and graphical, while British illustrator Jack Hudson‘s work is slightly retro, playful and quirky. I also like British illustrator Andrew Groves‘ nature inspired prints, the colour scheme is simple but effective.


Isabel Greenberg Hvass&HannibalIsabel GreenbergKyle PlattsLinda Linko

Top & 2nd row left: Isabel Greenberg; Top right: Hvass&Hannibal at Outline artists; Bottom middle: Kyle Platts; Bottom right: Linda Linko


London-based comic artist and illustrator Isabel Greenberg‘s wonderful folklore, myth and nature inspired work is quite unique and attracted many visitors. I found Finnish illustrator Linda Linko‘s abstract illustrations very refreshing, though her style cannot be more different from the nearby cartoon style prints by London-based illustrator Kyle Platts. His detailed, humourous and rather disturbing drawings require the eyes to adjust, but they certainly highlight the ‘issues’ with people in our society today.


sort letterpress sort letterpressIMG_7917IMG_7909SAM_9107

Top left and right: Sort letterpress; Bottom left: Puck Collective; Bottom right: Handsome Frank


On the upper floor, it was occupied by different illustration agencies with booths and workshop areas. Some of the ones included Outline Artists, Puck Collective, Handsome frank, Animaux circus, Artomatic, and Beach London etc.


SAM_9119SAM_9122 Kristjana S WilliamsIMG_7908SAM_9121Hvass&Hannibal

Main: Amimaux Circus; 2nd row right: Kristjana S Williams at Outline artists; Bottom left: Handsome Frank; Bottom right: Hvass&Hannibal at Outline artists


After visiting the festival, I also took the opportunity to visit another on-site photography exhibition, The Sony World Photography Awards. As one of the world’s leading photography competitions, the exhibition showcased the winning and shortlisted photographers from the 139,000 submissions from across all disciplines, from fine art to photojournalism to lifestyle. And below are some of the highlights from the exhibition:


Hao Li Li ChenSamara by Wolfgang WeinhardtSophie Gamand's wet dogs Disaster zone by AliC

Top left: Hao Li; Top right: Li Chen; Main: Samara by Wolfgang Weinhardt; bottom left: Sophie Gamand’s Wet dogs; Bottom right: Disaster zone by AliC



Revisiting Hong Kong’s Western district


The Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences 


Last year I wrote about Hong Kong’s mid-levels and Sheung Wan districts, and within a year, the streetscape has changed immensely in this rapidly-changing city, so I have returned to see what is new and how things have changed.

My journey began from Mid-Level’s Caine Road, the once quiet residential street is now more bustling than ever thanks to the opening of new cafes and eateries. One of the new addition is IPC foodlab (38A), an organic cafe that advocates locally grown produce. The cafe provides eat-in or takeaway options and sells a range of healthy food products from around the world. Right next to it is Maison Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger Café, the French boulanger’s third outlet in Hong Kong. Aside from the bakery, there is also a small bar area for quick lunched/coffees, although the sandwiches are pricey, the quality is high. Another good lunch option is il bel paese (85), a long-standing Italian deli/grocery shop that has a few tables in the quiet back room where one can have a simple meal or coffee.


IMG_7140 IMG_6021 IMG_5911 IMG_7142

Top left: IPC foodlab; top right: Rosie Jean’s cafe; bottom left: salad at il bel paese; Bottom right: Freshness coffee


It is hard to miss the global coffee craze in recent years, and as a coffee lover, I would be more than happy try a new independent coffee shop than the regular chains. And this craze is evident on the west side on Caine street as there are three new cafes here including the kids-friendly Rosie Jean’s Cafe (119), which provides a playground on the terrace for kids to play while parents can chill inside; one for the grown up and coffee connaisseur, Filters lane (111); and a cosy and friendly Freshness coffee (138). Having tasted Filter Lane‘s americano and drip filter, I would say that latter tastes better as I find their americano too acidic for my liking. Like Filter Lane, Freshness coffee is opened by a coffee enthusiast, I enjoyed their coffee but I found the service a bit too attentive, which made me feel slightly uneasy as I was the only customer there at the time.


ladder streetladder streethong kong sheung wansheung wan man mo temple

Flats or trainers are preferable here as there are steps and slopes everywhere…


The central and the western district of Hong Kong is full of steps and slopes, so high-heels are not recommended if you intend to walk a lot around this area. Ladder Street is one of the famous street (or rather steps) that starts from Queen’s Road Central and ends on Caine Road. And the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences is just off Ladder Street and 5 mins walk from Caine Road.


IMG_6040 hong kong museum of medical sciencesIMG_6042hong kong museum of medical scienceshong kong museum of medical scienceshk museum of medical sciences IMG_6049IMG_6052IMG_6069 IMG_6071

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences


Shamefully when I lived in Hong Kong (quite a while ago), I rarely visited local museums and I only found out about this ‘hidden’ museum in recent years. Established in 1996, this unique institution charts the historical development of medical sciences in Hong Kong. The institute occupies the original site of The Old Bacteriological institute, established in 1906 as the first purpose-built medical laboratory in Hong Kong and later the Pathological Institute. The listed Edwardian style architecture is a hidden gem in Hong Kong and it even has a small but pleasant herbal garden. The entrance fee to the museum is $20, and visitors can wander around the 11 galleries including a temporary exhibition on the ground floor. The museum is not very big but there are many interesting displays including x-rays of bounded feet, old medical tools and equipments, and information on historical events such as plagues to recent epidemic outbreaks in Hong Kong. I am glad that many original architectural details have been preserved inside the building, and it is one of the few places left in Hong Kong where visitors can imagine what it used to be like back in the colonial days.


po hing fongpo's atelier po hing fongpo's atelierpo hing fongBlake Garden

 Po Hing Fong – 2nd & bottom row left: Po’s Atelier; bottom right: Blake garden


The back of the entrance of the museum are steps that lead me to Po Hing Fong and Blake garden, an area where the bubonic plague broke out in Hong Kong back in 1894. Now the area is becoming trendier where new shops and cafes can be found, and one of them is Po’s Atelier (62 Po Hing Fong), a artisinal bakery/cafe opened by Japanese baker and chef, Masami Asano. I bought a small but pricey Oolong tea-flavoured loaf to try and I found it ok rather than outstanding. Right next to it is Cafe Deadend that serves food all day in a relaxing setting. Nearby on Tai Ping Shan Street, there is also a new tea house, Teakha, which is popular with tea lovers.


sheung wan sheung wandroogdroog hong kongsquare streetsaffron cafe IMG_7182

Square Street – 2nd row left & middle: Droog; 2nd row right: Square Street; Bottom left: Saffron bakery cafe; Bottom right: Lof 10, a new cafe on Lam Terrace


Walking towards the east, I was pleasantly surprised by Dutch design collective, Droog‘s new store in Hong Kong on Square Street (47). Aside from the store, it also offers a gallery, dining room, outdoor kitchen, rooftop terrace and a bedroom. I love the calories-calculating stairs, it’s humourous, quirky and very ‘droog’.

Further down, there is a lifestyle/fashion accessoires shop Square Street (15) founded by Swedish designers, David Ericsson and Alexis Holm. All products here are designed and developed by the founders themselves, David is the designer of VOID Watches while Alexis is the designer of gram Footwear.


Man Mo cafe Man Mo cafesheung wan cupping room cupping roomcupping room IMG_7176

Top left & right: Man Mo cafe; Main: Bibo and Upper Lascar Row; 3rd & bottom row left: Cupping room; Bottom right: Catfe


Upper Lascar Row or Cat street has been a popular tourist attraction for years because of the row of antique shops and stalls here. Bargains and authentic items are hard to find these days, but with two new eateries, the street is no longer confined to tourists or bargain seekers.

Bibo is a new art-centric French restaurant that showcases installations and works from established names from Basquiat, Kusama, Hirst, Koons, and Murakami to Banksy, Kaws and Invader. Further down is Man Mo cafe, a new fusion dim sum cafe opened by a Swiss chef. I had lunch with my friend here and we really enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere. However, the dim sum was slightly hit and miss, some dishes were excellent while some were average. Yet it is a courageous move for this expat to reinvent dim sum in a city that is well known for it.

On Queens Road Central, the Assie-style Cupping Room is popular choice for coffee lovers. The cafe is bright and modern, accompanied by friendly and attentive service. The owner of the cafe is a 2-time Hong Kong Barista Champion, and the cafe is renowned for their single origin filter coffees (brewed to order). I was recommended Boa Vista and it arrived with some information on its origin and taste. The coffee does not come with milk, which shows how ‘serious’ they are about the coffee… for around $60 per cup, it is not something that I would order daily, so this was a treat for me. On Jervois street nearby, there are also two cafes where serious coffee is being served including the tiny Catfe (85) and Barista Jam (126-128).


king george V Park king george V Parkking george V Parkking george V Parkking george V Park

King George V memorial park


Over the past decade, new restaurants, shops and galleries have all moved upwards and westwards from Central, and this gentrification has caused business owners to look beyond Sheung Wan towards the more residential Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town.

The word Sai means “west” and Ying Pun means “camp”, especially military camp because this was where the early British military stayed. One of the landmark in the area is the King George V memorial park built in 1936, the year that King George V died. Built on a slope, the masonry walls of the park were found to be the remnant of an important medical complex in early Hong Kong. There are many old trees growing on the walls here and it is quite relaxing to walk under the shades. At the moment, part of the park is closed due to a new MTR station being built here, things will no doubt change a lot when the station finally opens later in the year.


IMG_7480glow hong kongglowglow hong kong glow hong kong

Top left: La Rotisserie on Third Street; the rest: Glow on Second Street


Apart from the MTR station, the completion of the city’s second outdoor escalator on Centre Street (right by the Centre Street market) has also brought about changes to the area. On both High street and Second Street, new Western style restaurants are opening up constantly. I stumbled upon a small oyster bar and seafood grill, Glow on Second Street and decided to try it out. The lunch set included a ceasar salad, garlic bread and half a grilled lobster with a side purple potato mash. And together with coffee, the bill came to HK$168, which is fairly reasonable for the quality and environment.


western districtwestern districtwestern district IMG_7509IMG_7481IMG_7508IMG_7507 IMG_7512western districtIMG_7527IMG_7510

Top left and middle: Centre Street and the new escalator; top right: Centre Street market; 2nd row left: a noodle shop; 2nd row middle, right & 3rd row left: Tsi Lai Heung Egg Roll Shop


Like the original escalator in Soho, this new escalator has brought convenience to the local residents and injected a new vibe to the area, but the downside is that property and rental prices are now soaring. This also means local businesses have been squeezed out and the once vibrant local community will soon disappear.

I love the small traditional family-run shops in Hong Kong, but sadly they are disappearing quicker than the opening of Starbucks. Years ago, my friend took me to Tsi Lai Heung Egg Roll Shop on Third Street (66) where egg rolls and other traditional Chinese sweets are freshly made by hand on the premise. I don’t come here often but when I do, I can never resist buying a few packets of egg rolls, ‘Phoenix roll’ (a flat egg roll filled with shredded coconut) and other traditional snacks because the quality is so much better than the prepacked ones from other more well-known brands.

Further down on Centre Street, there is a long-standing dessert shop, Yuen Kee (32), which is famous for their traditional Chinese dessert soups like sweet almond, black sesame or walnut. This family business has been around for a hundred years, and the current owner is the third-generation of their family. The place has barely changed over the years, yet it remains popular with the locals, people don’t just come for the desserts but also for nostalgic reasons. It would be a real shame to see these shops disappear due to gentrification in the area.


IMG_7506IMG_7482cacheIMG_7483 IMG_7484IMG_7490cachecachecachecachecache

Top left: Kau Yan Tsung Tsin Church; the rest: the old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital & The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage


My last stop in the area ends at The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage (CACHe), a non-profit conservation group on 36A Western Street. At first, I did not realise that the entrance to the centre is actually on Third Street, but I was happy to wander around the old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital (now the Western District Community Centre). The three-storey Georgian style building is a listed building built in 1922. The maternity hospital was opened by the English missionary group London Missionary Society, but it eventually moved to a new premise on Hospital Road (opposite the King George V memorial park) in 1955 due to bed shortages and limited places for patients.

It took me a while to find the entrance as it was covered by scaffolding, but once inside, I was pleasantly surprised to see many original architectural features like the windows, fireplaces and high ceiling. In the main room, there was an exhibition Hong Kong in the Storm – Hong Kong Typhoon Historical Photo Exhibition showcasing many historical photos and invaluable collectibles that documents the history of Typhoons in Kong Kong. The centre also organises workshops, talks and walks related to Hong Kong’s heritage, so it is worth checking the website out for future events.


sai ying punsai ying punIMG_7516IMG_7519 IMG_7567 IMG_6118IMG_6101IMG_6099IMG_6105


Walking in the area, I noticed some old ‘tong laus’ (tenement buildings built in late 19th century to the 1960s) and it would be sad to see these buildings being demolished. Gentrification is not the issue, but the government or urban planning team needs to get more involved to maintain a balance between the old and the new. I hope that even when the new MTR station opens, the area will not completely lose its authentic feel, but then again, this may only be my wishful thinking.



Slow living on Peng Chau Island

peng chau


While I was in Hong Kong, the weather was greyer and cooler than usual and I hardly saw the sun. Hence when the sun came out one day, I decided to take the opportunity to get out of the city. But where? I browsed through the little booklet on Hong Kong’s outlying islands that I picked up from the Hong Kong tourism Association office and I decided to head for Peng Chau, a small island that I have never visited before. I took a cab to the Central ferry pier and boarded onto a (fast) ferry heading towards Peng Chau, and less than 30 mins later, I felt like I was on a different planet!


peng chau peng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chau


Another reason why I picked Peng Chau is to do with the fact that it is still considered as ‘rural’ and much less developed than other islands. From what my friends told me, Lamma island is now full of expats and trendy cafes and bars, and even Cheung Chau is becoming more touristy than ever.

For someone who wants to get away from city life and be in touch with nature, Peng Chau is ideal. There were hardly any tourists on the day (it was a weekday) and when I arrived on the car-free island, I saw mostly elderly sitting in groups by the pier or riding leisurely on their bikes. The pace here is slow and laidback, so immediately I felt relaxed and calm.


peng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chauP1090196peng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chau


Unlike other outlying islands of Hong Kong, the ‘centre’ of Peng Chau is rather sleepy and I did not come across any Western bars/restaurant/cafe except for one on near the main square. On the main covered high street (Wing On Street), there is a stretch of inexpensive shops and Hong Kong-style cafes but many were closed on the day. I had a quick and inexpensive lunch at a Vietnamese cafe before setting of to explore the island.

I was quite taken aback to see the centre being so run down, the huge blue building where the former Peng Chau theatre once stood reveals that it wasn’t always the case. Peng Chau was once a thriving centre for lime and matchsticks productions during the 70s and 80s. Public can visit the former sites of the lime kiln and match factory (now just ruins), but I skipped them and visited some nearby temples instead.


peng chau temple peng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chaupeng chau peng chau

Top & second row left & middle: Tin Hau temple; 2nd row right & 3rd row left: The Golden Flower Shrine; 3rd row right: Temple of Morality (Taoist); Bottom left: A small shrine near a village; Bottom right: Seven sisters temple


There are several temples on this small island, the easiest one to locate is the historical Tin Hau temple, located about 5 mins walk for the pier near Wong On Street. The temple was restored in 1798 and rebuilt in 1882, but the exact history of the original temple has yet to be traced. Tin Hau Goddess is the most worshipped deity in Hong Kong, there are over 100 temples dedicated to her in Hong Kong. She is said to protect fishermen and sailors, and the island celebrates a yearly Tin Hau festival on the 21st day of the 7th lunar month.

Not far from it is The Golden Flower Shrine dedicated to Lady Golden Flower, which sits under an old banyan tree. Worshippers believe that Lady Golden Flower can grant many generations of descendants.

Another interesting temple is the Seven sisters temple on Pak Wan. The ‘seven sisters’ are somewhat versatile deities; while they usually help young women improve their needlecraft (not sure how many women would be praying for this nowadays), at this temple, they aid couples who want to start families.


peng chau peng chaubamboo in peng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chau

Nature on the island


After visiting the temples, I walked up to the highest point of the island, Finger Hill to check out the view. I was hoping to see a panoramic view of the island from the top but was disappointing to find the trees blocking the view. Hence I walked towards the sea and chilled out at the pavilion where I could see Hong Kong island from a distance.


peng chau peng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chau


It didn’t take me too long to walk around the island, but it would have helped if there was more signage for directions. Though I was happy to see many empty beaches, I was also bothered by the rubbish on these beaches esp. by the Fisherman rock. I am not sure if the rubbish came from the sea or was left by visitors, either way it is a nuisance when people do not respect the environment and nature.

After spending about 5 hours on this island, it was time to leave… as I was approaching the pier, commuters were starting to return home from Hong Kong island. I felt incredibly exuberant as I headed back to the city, and I sincerely wish that the island will continue to remain ‘local’ and not be over-developed like the other outlying islands. Yet this may be wishful thinking because new modern housing is already being developed now, and Peng Chau may soon loses the authentic and tranquil quality. I hope that this will not be the case but the government needs to protect Hong Kong’s nature and not sacrifice the citizen’s quality of life for economic growth/development. As a so-called international city, Hong Kong is very behind in its environmental effort ( air pollution is a good example) and urban planning, when will they wake up and smell the roses? If they continue to ignore these important issues, then there will be no roses to smell soon!


peng chau peng chaupeng chaupeng chaupeng chau peng chaupeng chau