Sunday, September 11, 2005

My First Summer in Hong Kong.

Me: au train/MTR de Causeway Bay à Sheung Wan à 1240h.

Lin Heung: fragrant as hell, chicken steamed in walnut leaves. hou-sek!

Harvey Nicks has arrived at Landmark!

Lin Heung: beef siew mai

SecondFloorRetail: In land-scarce Hong Kong, the only way to go is up!

Causeway Bay: circular logic

Central: clash of the old and the new

Lin Heung: Ngau/Beef Cheong Fun

It’s my first time being in Hong Kong in summer. And boy was it hot. I was absolutely dripping with perspiration making my way from Sheung Wan to Central one rainy evening past midnight. During the long trek I took in sights like Wellington Street and Wyndham Street and quite a few chic florists worthy of being transplanted onto Avenue Montaigne at the Four Seasons George V/Paris. I had myself a whirl wind tour that brought back memories of old Hong Kong experiences at Rice Bar, Works, still-hip Dragon-I, eventually winding up at Propaganda/PP for quiet drinks. I ran into Raymond the Lou-Yeh with his boys again, and we did a bit of catching up. Barring the last time we saw each other in Happy/Singapore, our first and last time was way back in Xmas/2003 in Hong Kong, where a big group of us like Dennis, Singaporean residing in HK, Maggie Q (who threw a Xmas [Eve] dinner at Gaia/Sheung Wan, thanks to Pino, and baked us a cheese cake which we shared at Dennis’ spacious Midlevels apartment) went partying at Dragon-I and PP on Boxing Day after happy hour drinks at Post 97 and dinner at Indochine. We made a note to meet again the next time I was in Hong Kong and I slowly made my way out of SoHo. I descended into Central where I actually managed to catch a Mongkok-bound (by way of the Causeway Bay tunnel) minibus back to my hotel in Causeway Bay. On the way, 2 other gwai-mui (s) (white girls) hopped on the mini to take advantage of the HKD5 ride!

In the day, I was back in Central again to yum cha at the legendary Lin Heung near Chin Huat’s apartment, which Jeffrey and I so fancy. It’s dripping with old world charm, and authentic to the extent that its rough edges, uncommon dishes like beef siew mai(s) and take-no-nonsense staff all allude to a past era. I had a quick brunch of beef siew mai, chicken steamed in walnut leaves and beef fun cheong and a pot of heong pin to wash everything down.

I dropped by at Thye Cheong bakery at Lyndhurst Terrace, which sells Chris Patten’s and my fave daan taat in Hong Kong—but unfortunately, it’s closed down, or probably relocated. By then, beads of perspiration were already forming profusely. Eventually I settled for pineapple, honeydew, mandarin tarts at Kee Wah, another famous bakery. I triple-jumped into the store to get some air-conditioning when I saw its slick façade!

In typical Singaporean fashion, I was off to the next airconditioned mall, this time, the Landmark. Finally, Harvey Nicks has arrived in Hong Kong and occupies a small space in the Landmark Shopping Centre. It sure has a very, very refined air about it, just like Joyce/HK but better than HarveyNicks/London. Unfortunately, it suffers the misfortune of crammed conditions and lack of variety. Given more time, I’d eat at Fourth (or Fifth?) floor. I didn’t plan on lunching there because I was not sure if Harvey Nicks had already opened its doors to Hongkongers. Then, there’s the swanky Mandarin Oriental Landmark next door which is super cool with its Adam Tihany-designed restaurant, Amber, and bar, MO. Definitely worth a stop next trip.

This trip, however pleasant, to Hong Kong reminded me of unfriendly Hanoi. There’s a general cruel unfriendliness in the air, a certain lack of warmth (even in this 31 degree heat) in this city. Hongkongers can be ethnocentric to the extent that you, as a tourist, are expected to know how things work—any sort of hesitation or inability to make quick decisions when ordering at a restaurant for instance, like at Lin Heung, is not tolerated because it’s a plain waste of the staff’s time. Service personnel at the airport, Airport Express station or MTR stations will only dispense smiles at a cost, it seems. There is also a lack of eye contact and willingness to engage in this city.

Hanoians, like Hongkongers, work very hard for a living in societies dictated by the capitalist mode of production, imbued by a ‘Chinese’, work ethic which I would loosely term ‘Confucianist’. They, like Hong Kongers, are proud (perhaps to the point of being conceited) of their hard work and hard-earned money, and are unlikely to slow down a step to let emotions rear its head—unless you are their friend. On the façade, Hanoians present status is too humble to be compared to their affluent Pearl River Delta counterpart, but I have a feeling, based on the fact that Hanoi has been influenced by the Chinese culture for centuries and is geographically a Southern Chinese city after all (if not for the territorial demarcation introduced by Westerners), Hanoians are actually very similar to Hongkongers in their persuasions and will most likely come to have socio-economic trajectories similar to Hong Kong’s.


At 10:58 AM, Blogger Ron said...

I seriously think you should become a travel writer i.e. publish your own book! There's wealth of materials in just this post (and I'm not even talking about other previous posts yet) - I do hope you save your entries (just as a backup) because my students will benefit from your writing next time.

You are very much a Geographer, D. In just this post I can teach retail, social/cultural, transport, urban planning and even climate. Which makes your blog so appealing (to me). I'm going to sound like a teacher: KEEP IT UP!

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Dennis She said...

hey ron
thanks for your most encouraging comments. Once i get in touch with the a respectable (and irreverent) publisher, i shall get to publishing my first book. ;)

i am so happy to hear that my voyageur-bloga(d)ventures are worthy of the classroom!

i will keep it up, and i really look forward to travelling with you again, Ron. it's been too long since Krabi!

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous S said...

Hiya Dennis

Glad you found us. I'm looking forward to stopping by more often. So, Harvey Nic's a little underwhelming in HK, huh? Darn. I've been looking forward to it.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Dennis She said...

Glad to have you come by!

Yes, Harvey Nicks failed to impress, but Amber and MO at Mandarin Oriental should cushion the disappointment ;)


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