Police outreach program 

I was standing in the bank of China branch along Queens Road East when I heard a blaring siren. It was coming from a police MPV that had parked outside the bank. 

The siren blasted its wails every few seconds and sometimes erratically so it made me jump whenever it sounded. Well, it certainly got everyone’s attention. 

I waited about five minutes, the sirens stopped blasting and I stepped out to see what the fuss was all about. Initially I thought it was the police either doing a raid or a random street immigration inspection… or worse, arresting someone.

The security guard saw me hanging around and approached me to see if I needed help opening the door. 

“What’s happening outside?” I asked him in Cantonese.

“Police are distributing leaflets” he answered.

I stepped out onto the pavement and saw three uniformed police officers holding a stack of leaflets which they attempted to give to anyone who cared to make eye contact. 

The policewoman asked me if I lived in Wan Chai. Yes I said and she handed me this.

Pretty funny poster. It looks like it was done in-house. The message is clear though. I guess this outreach program is in response to the increasing number of people falling for scam artists and fraudsters here.

Hong Kong Monetary Authority – Coin counting and exchange service on wheels

I love quirky Hong Kong

Take this service run by the local monetary authority for example. A mobile truck equipped with coin sorting and counting machines, going district to district to help vendors unload their heavy bags of metal discs, and the rest of us who enjoy hoarding coins in glass bottles, shelves and cookie tins.
What a great service! Everywhere else in the world you’re condemned to finding a bank that will allow you to deposit any coins. In Wanchai market, vendors don’t accept anything smaller than a dollar. So the small denominations mostly get dished out at the supermarkets. 

Better yet, they help you put the money on your octopus card :).

My sincere apologies to Jack F. and J.Y. who have been waiting to unload their hundreds of dollars worth of change. I was supposed to send you an alert when the truck came round to Wan Chai (usually parked outside Wu Chung house)… 

CORRECTION! It’s still here til the end of this week!

You can check the schedule for your district here.

Ross Wine Shop: Affordable, Approachable, Every Day Wines

If you’ve had to bring wine to a friend’s house for dinner, you might have encountered something similar to this:

Me: “Ok so we should bring a bottle of red to go with the steak she’s cooking

Partner: “Watson’s or Taste (PARKnSHOP)?

Me: “err dunno, whichever is open I suppose

15 minutes later at the Watson’s wine cellar.

Me: “ok so what should we get? By country or region or price?

Partner: “Let me check my wine app…

30 minutes later…… still at the Watson’s wine cellar….

Me: “decided yet?

Partner: “let’s just go with the sticker that says it’s an award winning wine for 2016 and reviewer says it’s good.

*SIGH*… very often the wine turns out to be pricier than we thought and tasting quite mediocre. I’m not convinced that a sticker is entirely trustworthy.

The antidote to this problem is to either have a sommelier friend who can quickly assess the budget-event-palate suitability or to have a knowledgeable wine shop owner walk you through their favourites. 

In Wan Chai, the neighbourhood wine shop with the pre requisite chatty owner can be found on Stone Nullah Lane – Ross Wine. A little off the beaten track and hidden by the large logistic trucks parked there, you’ll need to look left to see the shop. It’s next to an independent art gallery and photography studio called the Wanchai Stallery.

Ross Wine on Stone Nullah Lane in Wanchai
Look left as you walk up Stone Nullah Lane

We came across the shop last year while on a walk down from Wanchai Gap. I was very curious as to who had taken over the rather strange concept Chinese Timekeeper’s bespoke watch shop. 

Ross Meder’s Everyday Wine Shop

Ross did some simple renovation but kept the hanging hexagonal lamps, glass door and the nice steel handle that looks like the bezel of a watch.

Curious, we went in for a look. Ross (the boss) was very welcoming and happy to introduce himself and his wines. We found him knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He started the business promoting wines from Australia’s Margaret River region but has expanded his footprint to include New Zealand, Italian and French wines. Rieslings or Pinot Noirs, you can see what you fancy. 

Ross has the tasting notes printed and stuck on the shelves but agrees that these can be somewhat vague and misleading. He presents his own opinion on the wines and can suggest a bottle ( just tell him with whom or what you intend to consume with it).

He’s also got some tasty beers for sale from a few different small breweries. 

We came away with a small selection of beers and wine. I liked the Waipara Springs Riesling which was gobbled down during Saturday’s Easter BBQ. It made a subsequent bottle of white wine brought by a friend taste like cheap plonk. 

Ross promotes “every day wines” -no fancy chateaus here- just affordable drinkable wines which haven’t soured on the shelf. Most importantly, they are reliably decent and won’t embarrass you in the company of wine connoisseurs. Ross curates the wines himself and takes the stress away from the selection process. This makes it easy to buy a few more bottles with confidence.

Here’s our stash.

Wild Duck Creek Shiraz Magnum, Rogue Beer, Deschutes Beer

Find Ross Wine shop here.

Map to Ross Wine Shop, Stone Nullah Lane

Bite Unite. Kitchen, Dining Space. Chefs for hire.

After our lunch at Maureen’s, we decided to walk off a bit of those noodles. SW suggested we walk up towards the Pak Tai temple where he had noticed a new cafe. 

Just when you’ve walked up as far as you can go on the tarmac, the road bends to the left (straight ahead is a path that takes you up to Kennedy Road). Here was a promising sign under the street sign. It was a blackboard with a fairly simple menu touting coffees, tea and a few pastries.

Encouraged by the menu, we proceeded down the street. Lung On Street really is a beautiful street. The banyan trees, conserved and cared for by the temple, provide shade and a sense of nature’s calm. 

At the end of the street is a cul de sac, and this is where the cafe is located, looking all cool outfitted in black and glass. 

It really reminded me of neighbourhood cafes I’ve been to in London, New York or Sydney. Simple, with some alfresco seating areas and a signboard that isn’t screaming full attention. Nicely designed. 

There was a kids cooking class that was going on. About ten children were creating a ruckus just talking to each other. All equipment had been laid out, they were definitely doing some baking. 

There wasn’t a whole lot of space internally as half of it was devoted to a professional kitchen. There was a proper large stacked oven for breads, pizzas or grilling a whole suckling pig. A nice looking fridge and some pots and pans. Importantly there was a deep wide sink and a work top. Bite Unite offers chefs a licensed kitchen for hire.

Khun Tanarak, the owner, is there as the site also serves as his office (he’s a photographer specialising in weddings). 

I asked him about his choice of location.

“Wong Chuk Hang where most kitchens are, is too far away. Most chefs just need a convenient space to pop in, prepare and get back to whatever else they need to do..”

Since he lives up on Kennedy Road, it is also convenient for him to site his office within walking distance.

He apologised as the coffee machine was under maintenance. Well, that’s a perfect excuse to come back to try the cafe another day.

Art Basel 

Most of the time, Wan Chai’s sidewalks are bustling with office workers in their suits, exhausted mothers with a baby in a sling and a kid in tow rushing for the bus, domestic helpers dragging their shopping trolleys full of food, cardboard and garbage collectors whose carts take up most of the pavement, some hip European dude wearing jeans and puffing on a cigarette, buskers, beggars, some promoters trying to either to sell you a flag sticker by preying on your conscience or handing out brochures for a new cafe, elderly or intellectually disabled people walking side by side with their helper… it’s pretty crowded.

So, when you see super hip and glamorously dressed people walking around Wan Chai MTR and around Queens Road East, you know something major is going on. 

It can only be Art Basel.

This event can be described as one of the most high-heeled and sought after by anyone with a bit of disposable income and an interest in seeing how the wealthiest live. Well, of course it’s to see the most avant garde and upcoming artists’ work and to see if you’re able to make an emotional connection to a particular piece or obtain a new perspective. 

But no. For most people, Art Basel is the most fantastic Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat selfie opportunity where every backdrop is probably worth at least 50K USD (up to millions). This particular exhibit drew a huge number of photos and selfies.

The event has become so large it takes up two floors in the Wan Chai Convention and Exhibition Center. The daily queue for the on site tickets starts at the main entrance and winds its way all the way onto the pavement towards the Renaissance hotel.

Crazy queue for daily tickets to Art Basel

 It looks so intimidating that I’m surprised people bother to queue at all. Half the day is probably wasted standing in line. Or maybe that is the point. Hmm.🤔

It must be the absolute pits when you spend the day standing in line and then you see the dude with this signboard. (Please try not to strangle him, it’s not his fault.)

All Art Basel tickets are sold out

In previous years, we queued early on the first day to buy our tickets. We never made that mistake again. Now we buy them well in advance so that we can breeze in and out during the day. It’s almost impossible to see and appreciate everything going on in there in one go. Especially since they only open the exhibit at 1pm (forget trying to get in early). 

There have been several improvements over the years. 

1) strollers and prams are permitted in (unlike the first year, which they stupidly told parents to leave strollers and all belongings in the cloak room)

2) much more F&B selection and outlets

3) benches for resting and admiring the large works in the exhibition halls (like any good art gallery would have)

There are also some annoying additions:

1) continuous loud announcements about how the exhibition is getting crowded and for everyone to move along and mind their stuff. It was so loud that it would wake babies up.

2) 2 VIP entrances and one entrance for the general public at the very far end of the corridor. What is this all about? Why do VIPs need two entrances? For crowd control they should just assign entrances depending on the number of people coming in. There were disproportionate numbers of staff at the first two entrances. 

3) what is it with only opening the exhibition at 1pm…? Wouldn’t 11am be a presentable enough hour for exhibitors to get their hair done? Unless you’re coming in from Shenzhen.

I really enjoyed the exhibits this year and I love it that the gallery owners gamely allow everyone to take as many photos as one likes, just as long as you keep your hands off the artwork. 

Here’s a small selection of what I liked best.

Monkey by Sandra Kantarovsky
Baby Blues by Sandra Kantarovsky

I wasn’t able to see all the exhibits due to limited time and the need to refuel frequently. But the Art Basel app is beautifully designed and well worth downloading if you’d like to see what was shown this year. Unless you have a favourite artist or gallery, be prepared to scroll through more than ten thousand exhibits before you find the one you like the most. 

April 2017 Appetites: Burger Eating Contest in Wan Chai

First of all, Happy April 1st everyone!! Ok this is not an April fool’s joke…. at least I hope it isn’t…

Maybe you’re a burger fanatic, maybe you’re just a really competitive person or maybe you’re just super hungry… here’s one event that’s right up your alley.

Come over to Wanchai and see if you will win? Find Ted’s Lookout here.