Now that the temperature has really dropped to about 11 degrees C, it really feels like winter. Puffy jackets, hats and boots are out and it’s not unusual to see children dressed up like the Michelin man, unable to move their arms that stick out like snowmen.
Hong Kong really does get in the mood for Christmas, there are decorated Christmas trees in every podium, atrium, courtyard and entrance of every large building. Even small shops will be lit up and have a small tree sitting on the counter top.
Pacific Place, Landmark, IFC have their festive themes of floating trees, little Princes (looks impressive but was not well thought out for children, could have been much better..) and Santa helper bears (this display is excellently executed). Hopewell Center arguably as Wan Chai’s landmark has organized some performances leading up to Christmas.
Here’s the list:
Note that there are no performances on the 24th. I’m not sure why nothing’s happening on Christmas Eve… Perhaps all the performers are out celebrating. It’s mostly Christmas carolling I suppose. You can also cross over to Lee Tung Avenue where the main events of “dancing Santas” will be happening.
If you’re in town this Christmas, check it out if you’re in the area.
At the top of the blog, click on Menu, see the drop down list of the various pages… You can check out the graffiti and murals of Wan Chai, or the paintings in the street. My largest collection of photos is on the funnies page.
Have a laugh… Or just a giggle…
And check back for updates!
The construction of the East-West bypass is a massive reclamation project that spans from Central through Wan Chai to Causeway Bay. It’s not just impressive because of the quantity of land being reclaimed but also the simultaneous complexity of constructing an underground tunnel for vehicles and the MTR system. First they had to dredge the harbour, then fill it in with copious quantities of earth, now they are digging it up again to install huge steel and concrete piling to create the underground cavern.
The equipment required for the task is equally impressive. Massive barges with claws that release as much earth as a house for the dredging and filling, huge cranes and excavators, for the piling work. It’s so interesting to watch these large machines in full operation, except that the noise and potential dust and fumes forbid you from lingering too long.
All this construction has certainly inconvenienced residents and tourists alike. The constant pounding and hum of diesel engines are certainly annoying but worse is the re-routing of pedestrians wanting to get to the Wan Chai Star Ferry terminal. This terminal has already been moved out from its former location and juts prominently into the harbour. It is already a real trek to get there (in a way similar to Central Star Ferry). Now, with the pedestrian re-route, it’s almost discouraging passengers from using it… Reserving it only for the unsuspecting and already committed (too far from Wan Chai MTR and way too difficult to get to the bus stop/ terminus).
Look at this.
What should be a direct and accessible form of Hong Kong’s public transportation system has become very awkward to get to. It is completely wheel chair and pram accessible but if you’re the one pushing and not the one sitting then it’s a fair amount of work to get there. Assuming that 1) eventually they’ll create walkways along Tonnochy Road and 2) shift the bus terminus to back where it was diagonally opposite the Hong Kong Convention Center when the work is done, it should be a lot easier to figure out where the ferry terminal is.
Apparently the plan is to put a public park and walkway all along the waterfront connecting pedestrians from Kemnedy Town/ Sai Ying Pun all the way to Causeway Bay. A reflection of what’s been done on Kowloon side.
In the meantime, the Wan Chai Star Ferry Terminal and the bus terminal is stranded in a construction site. These aren’t the nicest ways to get to the convention Center. You’re better off walking over from Wan Chai MTR.
I hope the concessions for those food trucks don’t start until the construction is done because business will be tough when it’s dust and heavy machinery in your holiday photographs.
If you desperately need a baguette to complement your curry or a sourdough loaf for your bruschetta, this is your stop. This Wan Chai store always have a baguette for you (unlike Passion who has let me down before).
Once, I ran into a neighbour in the elevator who was eating an EK baguette plain, straight out of its paper envelope bag. He yanked off the chewy bits of bread with his teeth.. I’ve never seen anyone eat a baguette that way before but it’s an indication how delicious it must be. Or how hungry he was.
Maison Eric Kayser needs very little introduction, they’ve successfully launched premium bakeries in cities all around the world.
The Eric Kayser in Wan Chai is located prominently on Queens Road East, beside the Indigo Hotel and strategically next to the Wan Chai Market bus stop. It’s impossible to miss.
Sharing the hallway with neighbouring Fortress (electronics and appliances store), the patrons of Eric Kayser benefit from large street facing windows (2 sides) and lots of open space. Occasionally passers-by stop to salivate at the various pastries and breads displayed bountifully in the window.
The interior designer made the best of an internal pillar, creating shelves and a glass case for the creme de la creme of pastries (eclairs, tarts etc).
There’s reasonable seating for about 12-15 people inside the cafe and an additional 6 outside along the hallway. The hallway seating area is my preferred place, the chairs are more comfortable and don’t leave grid like patterns on your bum. When the doors of the building open and close, it feels almost alfresco. The purple monster pram is right at home here and small person enjoys pressing her nose on the Fortress glass walls to watch the demos on the large screen TVs. The Transformers movie and those weird slideshows on animals scratching their butts never fail to entertain.
But how good are their pastries really? I’m not impressed with the croissants (won awards in Tokyo), quite light inside but the outer texture is little rubbery. Perhaps it’s the glaze. It just tastes like bread that has been left out overnight to me. Many of their French style pastries are constructed with the same dough base, so in contemporary language, it’s all a bit “blah“.
Croissant – blah
Peach Danish – blah
Chocolate croissant – blah
Brioche- very blah
Note: If you are going to have one of these vennoiseries then please insist that they heat it up in the oven before you eat it. This extra touch makes all the difference and is not offered voluntarily by the staff.
Small person does enjoy their chocolate croissant when it’s been in the oven.
She doesn’t discriminate much when it’s chocolate.
Worth eating are the prepared sandwiches behind the payment counter. These focaccia breads and toasted baguettes stuffed to the brim with tuna, chicken curry or salads are delicious.
And here are the rest. The eclairs are pretty good but I haven’t tried the others, a tad too sweet for me. There was a lonely box of macarons, but I’d suggest you head to Passion for these.
The Wan Chai bakery makes the most of its corner location, creating pram accessible entrances on both sides. However the split level means that you can’t get down the stairs to pay after selecting your breads. I usually pop the pram by the steps where you can maintain line of sight at the payment counter.
If you’re heading in just to grab coffee and a sandwich, enter via Tai Yuen street, the side facing Indigo hotel. Otherwise for seats, enter via the main building doors on Queen’s Road East.
Whenever I have space in the freezer, a pre-sliced Kayser sourdough usually fill the space.
Can anyone tell me why these master bakers won’t buy a slicing machine in their stores so that the staff don’t need to cut the breads by hand? I can’t finish the loaves in one sitting….Bread slicing is a lot of hard work.
Peak hours to avoid 7.30-9am (working people grabbing breakfast, long lines) and lunch 12.30-2pm. Otherwise it’s mostly French mums loading up on breads for the week and people catching up in between office appointments.
It was announced in the news that a pilot scheme of food trucks will be launched in Hong Kong to provide more variety in areas that lack food choices.
Two food trucks will be permitted to ply their gastronomic wares to the public for two years at each location. One of the locations mentioned is to be at Wan Chai’sBauhinia Square right next to the Hong Kong Convention Center. Did they decide on the locations because that’s where the tourists were or whether they want more tourists to visit those locations? Right now, the area is full of barriers, cranes and construction noise. It could be political as Bauhinia Square is the site where Hong Kong’s handover to China took place. I suppose it is also the point where Hong Kong island is geographically closest to China…
No details were given on when the scheme would start but I’m curious what kind of food trucks will win the concessions and whether it’ll be a success. There isn’t much in the way of food choices out there, it’s only the few restaurants in the Convention Center and the Grand Hyatt.
A couple walked past us yesterday afternoon sporting padded winter jackets and two chocolate ice cream cones each. What an appropriate snack for a cold day.
I knew about this last week as some of my friends sent round this alert.
So if you’re up for ice cream today or tomorrow, you can head over to the Godiva in Wan Chai (between La Station and Eric Kayser bakery).
Ok this is an update. At lunchtime today 12 noon, the building management put queue lines up and the Godiva staff put up temporary signs indicating that the wait could take half an hour.
There were many people queuing despite the wet, cool, rainy day and most walking out with a cone in each fist. Amazing that if people perceive value, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, they’ll form a line.
People were buying and eating ice cream late into the evening.
I’ve finally gotten around to drawing my functional map of Swatow street, Wan Chai.
Access from Johnston Road for pram/ strollers/ wheelchairs. Everyone else take the stairs from Queen’s Road East.
Lots of cool cafes and trendy takeaway stalls are populating the street, you now see only a few electrical stores and sand/ cement shops left. There’s a friendly stationery shop that is very comprehensive.
It’s loaded up in full resolution and I’ve tried to make the text bigger this time round.
It was a balmy Sunday afternoon. During lunch, small person decided she was tired. So she requested to sit in her pram and fell asleep soon after.
What a treat. What could we do with this precious hour or two? We decided to walk to IFC to check out the sales.
After an unsuccessful shopping experience (only 20% off tags at American Vintage), we browsed the new iPads in the swanky and perpetually crowded Apple Store.
Then out onto the overhead walkway by CitySuper to cross over to the Star Ferry. There is a lift which will take you down to the ferry concourse level where it’s a 3 minute walk to the big Ferris wheel.
Note: if you exit out to the overhead bridge near the Apple Store, be prepared to carry your stroller down the stairs. (This has to be one of the most unfriendly and thoughtless designs in the entire IFC complex, a ramp would be easy to insert).
We decided to walk back to Wan Chai via the waterfront.
It was smooth going all the way from Central through to Admiralty’s Tamar Park. Then the walk from Tamar to Wan Chai was less pleasant. The construction of the east-west bypass and the new MTR line had created chaos with roads and pavements. To be fair, part of the road was sectioned off for pedestrians and since traffic was light on a Sunday, it was tolerable.
Well, it was until we hit the intersection where we cross from Admiralty into Wan Chai. To get to either the convention Center or HK Arts Center, we were forced into using an overpass to get across (large plastic road barriers prevented us from simply crossing the road).
This wide, old, circular overpass that went up two stories had steps… Very wide steps… The type that you practically have to skip down if you’re running. Not funny. So husband had to hoist the stroller with sleeping baby in it up two floors.
On the other side of this overpass, the only way down to street level without stairs is via the elevator in the HK Arts Center. Up a few steps which is still a hindrance. It would be equally easy to have included a ramp.
From here, it was again a smooth stroll past the fire station and Grand Hyatt to the lifts at the Center, which lead to the overpass back to Wan Chai MTR.
I suppose once the bypass is complete, the boardwalk above it should be the route to take. It is very important that city planners note the current flaws and aim to fix them.
For now, a temporary traffic light for a street crossing would be easy to do and provide barrier free access from this side of Wan Chai to Tamar Park.
Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty