Category Archives: Family Friendly

Urban Canvas and School Art Exhibit at Comics Home Base 動漫基地

At the Comics Home Base 動漫基地 on Mallory Street, Urban Canvas has put up a booth along side an exhibition of artworks by children and teenagers from different school districts. The resulting art is very interesting and provides an insight into what local kids are into and how they view their city. 

The opening installation is a large wall of graffiti with a quote from world famous graffiti artist Banksy. 

“Graffiti is an honest way to express yourself as an artist. It doesn’t cost much to create, you don’t need special knowledge to appreciate and you don’t have to pay to see it!”


Nice one. Take a look at the more elegant graffiti around Wanchai. (It’s my personal collection, let me know if there are any nice ones I’ve missed).

There’s one gallery space dedicated to Cantonese opera rod puppets. I’ve personally always found these to be somewhat freakish to look at but suppose they are essential to storytelling. Move over Jim Henson. 

Is this a demon? Evil monkey? Sinister robot?
A Buddhist kung fu master with the Goddess of Mercy
Taoist priest

In another gallery, students used cardboard to shape life sized portraits using a lettering technique. I thought it showed the textures and reliefs beautifully. So simple yet it required careful measurements and cutting skills to get the shapes right. A great statement of versatility in an everyday packing material.


The next gallery featured clay work. Students were given head models on which to depict a theme or storyline. None of these had titles so I’m making up my own.

Harlequin or Alice in Wonderland?
Global warming. The last island for the next generation.
Chinese opera & Canteen food frustration

There are many more of these busts, some more twisted than these. I highly recommend you check them out. 

The final student artwork is of lampshades. Each red lampshade (typically used in the markets), has a painted interior reflecting some aspect of Hong Kong. I really liked this one showcasing the typical constituents of a meal at a cha chaan teng (茶餐厅,local coffee shop). 

Lampshade – HK 茶餐厅 food theme
Various lampshades

If you’re planning to be in Wanchai and would like to check it out, here are the exhibits and opening hours. 

The Urban Canvas exhibit is a small panelled display with photos of the collaborators. There’s a short clip with the artists talking and explaining their conceptualisation of the project. There’s also a booth up with two staff to promote their app. I had already downloaded it earlier in the week but they can guide you if you need some help with that. If you show them that you’ve got the app, you get a free roll of tape. There are three to choose from, each with a unique design of an old Hong Kong profession or image. If you “like” their FB page, you get a set of 4 postcards to decorate your own stall shutters. Very thoughtful and creative.

The Urban Canvas project promoted collaboration between the city’s young artists with old shops plying their trade around Wan Chai or Central. The artist gets to decorate the shutters of the shop with a graffiti style spray. The image reflects the shop’s trade, at least stylistically. It’s fun and it helps shop’s stand out when they are shut. Of course this means that you’ll need to go after office hours if you want to see it for yourself. After hours could be the best time of day to be on the streets anyway.  

Alternatively download the Urban Canvas app and see them all on your screen. 

Urban Canvas app
Urban Canvas Wan Chai Tours

Maureen Noodle Shop leaves Wanchai 

My pregnant friend YK was craving salmon spinach noodles yesterday and headed over to Maureen’s. To her great disappointment, Maureen’s was not only shut but the little eatery was shuttered. 

On the door, a hurried hand written note:

“CLOSED! We are moving to Citic Tower. See you there or at the Foodtruck!

Thank you for your patronage and support over these 5 years!”


And with the interior of the shop in complete disarray, she’s gone. 

World Music Day: Barcella playing at 1563, Hopewell Center (Who is Barcella?)

A new signboard went up outside Hopewell Center advertising the events for World Music Day.

If you’re free on Saturday the 17th of June, you might want to catch Barcella performing Puzzle -a French singer- live on stage at 3.30pm for free. He’s subsequently performing at 8pm at 1563 for a cover charge of HKD 280. 

You can have a look at some of his colourful and dramatic, satirical videos online but this video Ma Douce featuring a sexy stripper is particularly entertaining.


If you don’t understand French (I don’t), the lyrics would be completely lost on you. It’s part of Le French May so a French artist is not at all surprising. Here are the lyrics to the song Puzzle translated into English (courtesy of google translate). Maybe the lyrics might still be lost on you 🙂

PUZZLE by BARCELLA

Cursed Poet Seeks a Supreme Ruler

Melancholy seeks fragile heart

Origami looking for abyss

But how to make the pair?

Tapatoudi seeks end of film

Toutifrouti looks for vitamin

Small Mowgli seeks solid lianas

To get laid in the air

On the other side there is probably someone

I do not know who, what I do not know what

This I do not know

Step by step, step by step

I weave the ties

Our lives are Chinese puzzles

For harlequin

Knotted throat looking heart blooms

Kiss stolen looking nursery

Timidity cherhce grain d’folie

To sing the misery

Facalam seeks confetti

Pockieman looking for Dame Woggy

Girl injured looking for disease

To probe the mystery

On the other side there is probably someone

I do not know who, what I do not know what

This I do not know

Step by step, step by step

I weave the ties

Our lives are Chinese puzzles

Alexandrine

Belly empty cherhce gingerbread

Mantoline looking for melodist

Melanine looks beautiful licorice

To build rainbow

Paste-to-modeler in Paste-à-fix

Catapult seeks cataclysm

Grain of beauty seeks between your thighs

To empty hot air balloon

On the other side there is probably someone

I do not know who, what I do not know what

This I do not know

Step by step, step by step

I weave the ties

Our lives are Chinese puzzles

For harlequin

On the other side there is probably someone

I do not know who, what I do not know what

This I do not know

Step by step, step by step

I weave the ties

Our lives are Chinese puzzles

Too small

Point

First flea market at the newly renovated Blue House 藍屋 in Wan Chai

If you live in Wan Chai and looking for a flea market today, you’ll find it at the Blue House (藍屋). It’s a lively scene. A small courtyard with music and packed with lots of traders each occupying a mat no larger than a meter square. I’m not sure who is buying… perhaps it may have been busier earlier in the day. It shuts at 6pm and with only an hour to go, I can still see lots of items on display. 

Scenes from the Flea market

My point is this. It’s poorly publicised. I wouldn’t have known about it except that I happened to walk right by it on Queens road east. Not a brochure, poster or banner anywhere in the neighbourhood until today. Why?

I’m keen to find out if the traders thought it was a worthwhile economic activity… perhaps just to get their branding and name featured on the launch of the Blue House

—————-//—————–

I headed back there at 6pm to catch everyone tidying up. I wasn’t terribly impressed with what was for sale, it looked like bric-a-brac and some handicraft, a couple of purse stalls that looked like they were bought from Sham Shui Po (no offence meant, it’s just that they didn’t look special). 

A lady was singing “moon represents my heart” by Teresa Teng accompanied by a guitarist. It was a bit karaoke and folksy. 


There was a sign indicating where the snack booths were so I went in for a look. It was disappointing. The two booths had packed up and the room was small and cramped. Can’t have been much fun being stuffed into a corner.

On the bright side, there was a lady there who was selling twisty balloons. She was giving a few away free to the kids. One girl got an Elsa (from the Disney movie Frozen) and I was handed a Spider-Man for the baby. Well, why not. I asked her how business was today and if the event was well attended… “ma ma teh ler” (so-so in Cantonese) was her reply. 

An enterprise promoting cargo bikes and street hawking

At the intersection of Stone Nullah Lane and Queens Road East, there was an interview taking place. It looked like a PR stunt for a company making “cargo bikes”, essentially stalls hitched onto a bicycle (think ice cream man, 1950’s style). A model of one was parked just outside Stone Nullah Tavern and another by the fruit farm chicken shop. I couldn’t quite figure whether the company plans to sell or rent them to small enterprises for use at flea markets and art fairs. Or perhaps it might be legal in Hong Kong to hawk wares on sidewalks and pavements again?


I’m really hoping that the St. James settlement (who managed the renovation of the Blue House and decides its fate) is going to hold nice events and not turn it into a dumpy, junky kind of event venue. I’m certainly less impressed with what they’ve done with the renovation (quality wise) vis-a-vis the Comix Home Base in Mallory Street where there is a theme, distinct sense of purpose, a nice library where kids hang out to read and updated Cha Chan Teng (茶餐厅)where you can have a decent milk tea in air conditioned comfort. 

A hike from the Wong Nai Chung reservoir to Violet Hill

It’s getting quite warm now in Hong Kong so hikes need to be done early in the morning or on a cloudy day. On Sunday morning we got bounced out of bed for a hike up to Violet Hill at 7.30am.


We got the taxi to drop us off at Wong Nai Chung reservoir, which is on the left of the road towards Parkview. From there, walk around the reservoir’ path (stop to look at the terrapins in the water if you wish) and follow it to the steps just beyond. This is the trailhead.

Our Violet Hill hiking route – start at reservoir, end at Parkview
 It starts off nice and green. You will see the steps amidst all the foliage.



After a few minutes uphill, we came across a rest hut. Stop here if you need to catch your breath. But there isn’t much to see so the girls decided it was best to carry on.


Up and up the steps, very quickly we were up looking over the buildings.


And the foliage gradually changes.

Pine trees up on the hill

There’s a mild uphill for a bit on a meandering path. Walk slowly here to admire some flora.

Twisted tree trunks that look like gnarled fingers
Baby fern emerging

This walk has some unpaved bits, but it’s not hard for children. We had an 8 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old and an 8 month-old with us (in a sling).

Rocky path or just a deteriorating stone stair?

Spot the flowers and bush fruits on the walk, keep your eyes open as there really aren’t many of them. The flowers are often found low to the ground, easier for pollination by crawling insects.



There were also a few fungal fruiting bodies among the dead leaves. Not sure if any of these are edible so please leave them where they are.


Then up a long stairway into the mist.

Young bamboo sprouts

On the way, look out for bamboo sprouting their new shoots, beautiful stars on a trajectory. I think each little star can become a bamboo plant.

After another bit of foliage, you get to the trigonometry point.


Well, trigonometry points usually have views but it was a very misty day and we couldn’t see anything beyond 20 feet. So after a brief hangout, a bit of orange eating, water drinking and sitting on the trig base, it was time to continue.

The Violet Hill Trigonometry Point, Hong Kong


Then it was downhill on a dirt path, a little rocky but nothing a four year old in a dress couldn’t handle.

Panoramic view of Violet Hill trail

You can see the wonderful view I had. White mist..! The bright side of it is that there was a fantastic breeze and so so cool. For anyone with acrophobia, it’s the perfect day to go hiking. Couldn’t make out the ravines at all.

Down, down, down we go
Down we went back into the subtropical foliage

Subsequently, it was a bit flat then a slightly rocky uphill again.

Along this path, there were some interesting objects and flowers.

Beautiful lonely purple blue orchid
Whose glasses are these?

Then the uphill ended at an intersection, whereupon we went towards Parkview.


After a short flat open path, it was downhill again, we met our first big group of hikers coming the other way. We stopped briefly to let them pass.


The slope became flat and open again. We saw a mango tree in bloom, a small centipede and a tree that was devoid of leaves and possibly dead.


About 5 minutes after that we went past some huge rocks and got to some stairs leading down.



We descended down into a paved path and a long stairway which put us on the main road just outside Parkview.


You might like to use this ordinance map to get a feel for the terrain. I’d highly recommend it for kids 3 and above. It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the circuit (maybe 2 if your kids keep stopping to check out the views or dig for quartz).


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.