Category Archives: Family Friendly

It’s life sized shining angels this year

Christmas decorations at Lee Tung Avenue

the lights come on once it’s dark, usually by 6pm.

When are the bubble snow shows?

And you can get your kid or inner kid (they have adult height wing prints) to pose as one too… just mind you don’t photobomb someone else’s picture.

Excuse me, how much was that croissant?

Wanchai has recently been experiencing a bit of a battle of the bakeries (we’ll chat soon about the battle of the burger joints).

Not more than 5 years ago, there were only local bakeries selling their sweet breads. Then Passion made its debut and was a great hit with everyone looking for something more upmarket, like an authentic croissant (Not just rough folded in the shape of a croissant aka Swiss bakery… that was just disappointment in a paper bag) or a sourdough loaf. Kayser soon muscled in and now have two bakeries within 300 meters along Queens Road East.

Now, we have a several cafes and bakeries that serve baked goods and pastries… La Station, Le Pain Quotidien, Bakehouse and most recently Big Grains on Tai Wo street (turn left at Hang Seng bank on Johnston Road).

The price of the croissant has steadily risen at each new bakery. Originally $14 at Kayser, it’s now $16 at the new Passion and LPQ. Then $18 at Bakehouse and $23 for the classic at Big Grains.

All the bakeries appear very busy and are doing brisk business with clientele either dining in or taking away. Big Grains is the only bakery with no seating section so it’s like a traditional chinese bakery with a modernised display and selection.

At $27, you’re halfway to a meal deal at a local Hong Kong Cafe. Will one of these croissants be as satisfying?

Then there’s this strange bun called “chocolate soil” charming name.

A selection of creamy sweet treats in the refrigerated section.

A new take on the Swiss roll at traditional bakeries. More cream less sponge it looks like. Check out the price for a whole roll… that’s maybe 4-5x of what the traditional bakeries like ABC, Happy Cake, A1 bakeries charge. Is it really that good? Giving Japanese bakery Yoku Moku some competition..?

Who can forget cookies? These are ovo lacto vegetarian. So if you know of anyone who is on a restricted no-egg no-dairy diet, this would be the first bakery in Wanchai to cater to them 👍. Watch out for the nuts though, and sticker shock when paying the bill.

Updates around Wan Chai

I’m still wary walking around this week as there are still lots of broken off tree branches, loose signage and chips of granite and glass on the pavement. It’s already a whole lot better, salute to the cleaning crew who work with such clinical efficiency.

I am feeling sad today for a particular tree that has been uprooted in Wan Chai. The massive and shady tree that stood as tall as the Hennessy Primary School looks to have a similar fate to the one in the news in TST. It has provided shelter to taxi drivers on their mid day break, pedestrians who just need that cover for the crossover and a green canopy (for those looking over that crazy intersection that cars need to manoeuvre) to get on to Wan Chai road from Fleming road.

Bye bye tree 😢. Corner of Takan Lodge[[[[[[
On Lee Tung Avenue, all the smaller trees that fell over are back upright and the lanterns have made their reappearance. Nothing’s gonna stop the commercial celebration of lantern festival this weekend.

The dog mascot stands sentry over the lanterns at Lee Tung Avenue

At the Blue House this Saturday evening, there’s a gathering for the mid autumn aka lantern festival. The promo leaflet is all in chinese. Essentially there’s a lantern competition for the best handmade one, a dumpling making activity and lots of general hanging around with the residents of the Blue House. I rang the organizer and was a little disappointed that you can show up but none of the listed items were actual “activities”. She postured that if you lived in the neighborhood and had “nothing else to do that evening…” you could drop by. 🤔

She also said that everyone had to bring their own food to share with others as no snacks are provided…

I attended a mid autumn festival village party in Shek O last year and it was a marvellous effort by the community to putting on a fun event for families and a whole spectrum of society, with sitting areas for eating Tong yun for the duration of the evening (made and shared for a small donation of $10-50 per person). And kids got to help out too. There were games areas with an array of prizes, a beautiful area where everyone displayed the lanterns they made. Unfortunately this year the devastation inflicted by the typhoon is so severe that the residents will probably not be in the mood to celebrate.

I’m curious to see how the Blue House organizes this and whether they can make it really nice or if it turns out to be a sloppy sort of event confined to pavements with no fun or colour to it. Let’s see.

Heading out to the bookstore? Know this…

The two largest bookstores in Wan Chai are JP books (right by exit A3 on Johnston road) and Cosmos books which is on Lun Fat and Johnston, more or less opposite Fook Lam Moon restaurant.

The JP bookshop has only one entrance and is a multilevel shop with 3 floors. The ground floor is where the entrance is and you’re required to head up to the first floor and upwards (ie if you want to get to the kids section be prepared to walk up 4 flights of stairs).Cosmos books has a similar layout, it’s a massive sprawl of books set out on two floors, in the basement and on the first floor. The ground floor serves as the main entrance.

So going to the bookstore, you’re faced with these two entrances.

If you’re heading out to the bookshop to pick up a few travel or summer reading books for yourself or the kids, remember to leave the stroller at home. These bookshops have comprehensive collections but are definitely not stroller nor disabled friendly.

Without resorting to couch purchasing on Amazon, what would your stroller options be then?

Kelly and Walsh opened recently in Pacific Place. It’s tucked into a corner sort of opposite and one level up from the cinema. That bookstore has aisles that would make mothers smile…. and an excellent selection of English books.

Alternatively if you’re in Wan Chai this weekend, you can brave the crowds and head to the book fair at the Exhibition center.

The fat Japanese ramen chef is back on Tai Wong East Street

The ramen shop that we used to frequent on Amoy Street changed hands about a year and a half ago. The fat japanese chef with the cheerful smile was replaced by three not so fat local chefs who barely acknowledged any of the customers behind those thick vapour clouds of steaming broth. We went back once after a long while, the food was decent but the service unremarkable.

On my walk along Tai Wong East Street last week, I was noting all the new coffee shops that have sprouted up.. the hipster lifestyle choices are now increasing after the launch of BakeHouse (fantastic breads but the pretzel is best in HK). I suddenly see a new lantern hanging and saw that it was a ramen shop. Curious, I stopped to check out the menu.

Hello, long time no see” (said in Cantonese), it was the waitress I knew in the previous ramen shop. She still wore her glasses but not as heavily rimmed.

She said that their previous shop had been sold and now they opened this one on their own. I told her I’d come back to try it and that’s exactly what we did last Sunday.

We ordered two of the kamitora ramen and one black garlic oil ramen. SW commented that the black garlic oil ramen used to come with black coloured noodles as well… I suppose some things have changed.

Now, there’s no longer the order chit where you get to customise your noodle thickness or toppings. But you still help yourself to iced lemon water and the condiments like chilli powder at the table. The chilli beansprouts are now a side serving that you’ll have to order.

The bowls are tall and narrow based, I thought that the portions were a bit smaller than before but this didn’t really bother us. The slice of pork was decent sized and tender. Two pork meatballs replace the other slice of pork. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meatballs… a little small and gristly for me. Just help yourself to ice lemon water in jugs on the table (how very japanese) or order a soda from the fridge.

The wordings on the wet wipes are the most hilarious… see what I mean.

There’s ample space in the restaurant (open kitchen), but it’s mostly 2 person or bar seating. There’s only one area where they can 6 people as a group so this isn’t really a big group out sorta place. We brought our stroller and it was fine. Plenty of space for it during non-rush hour.

Overall it’s not bad and as I quite dislike having to queue for anything, this place is worth checking out. Look out for the red lantern as you cruise down Tai Wong East Street.

This blackboard with opening hours was placed indoors (yes, facing IN) when I went to eat there. I suggested to the chef that he place it outside so that clients could see when they are open or shut.

New MTR exit and underpass in Wan Chai now open

Updated 2019: Hear hear, an opinion in SCMP that reflects my sentiments….

If you live in the Avenue on Lee Tung Street, you’ve now got a nice underground walkway to get you to the Wan Chai MTR station without navigating street traffic across Johnston Road. This underpass took around two and a half years to build so I’m relieved it’s finally done.

To get to it, take either escalator or lift down to the basement where the supermarket is and walk along the corridor until you get to the end where you’ll see an escalator taking you down to the tunnel.

Okay, so it’s escalators in the middle, stairs to the right. What about barrier free access?

Initially I thought this was a ramp. (Yay!). But no… it’s a lift for wheelchairs 🤔🧐.

The big pain is that you can’t just use it like in other buildings, you have to call the staff to switch it on. (Call in advance! 3791 2103) That is just so lame. Why couldn’t they just put in a ramp or just leave it on for the convenience of anyone in need of it. Why create another step and waiting time?? MTR Corp you are slowing down my journey!!! Hell, I’ll just use the escalator for my stroller. I feel sorry for the wheelchair users.

When you do get down into the tunnel, it’s nice and wide (at least 3 meters wide), slopes uphill going to mtr station and downhill if you’re walking to Lee Tung Avenue. From the design of it, Sino Land and Hopewell seem to expect a crowd heading in their direction. I suppose this is in anticipation of their next development and continued connection to Hopewell Center II. There are spaces created for a few new retailers in the station too.

That’s a new circle K shop coming up next to the platform lift (under repair until May 2018).

And here’s another shop undergoing renovation on the left opposite Circle K. Not sure what it is yet.

I’m not sure if behind this white sheet there will be a shop or an advertising installation. You can see beyond it however that there’s a corridor for future expansion into Southorn Playground’s new underground mall when that gets done.

So this exit is D and here’s a reminder of the opening hours.

I guess the arcade corridor access and lifts to the surface remain operational during these hours too. Check out the promotions from the basement arcade shops below.

Kamachi Pro Sport Shop- Wetsuits and rash guards all year round

If you’re looking for a simple non-fancy wetsuit in an easy to find location, Kamachi Pro Sport is a great place to pick one up.

Prices are relatively inexpensive and quality is decent, they have several of the usual designs (with or without zip, front or back zip, long or short, black or patterned etc).

The two lady staff are helpful and friendly, mostly Cantonese speaking but with the simple selection, it isn’t difficult to point out what you need in simple hand gestures. There’s a small area at the back of the shop where you can try on the suits behind a curtain.

The swimsuits and rash guards occupy the top hanging shelf and the wetsuits for kids and adults are below. The selection looked fuller in the summer, it that’s probably because it was summertime swimming season and more stock and sizes were out on display.

Here’s a kids wetsuit. Same one we got for my kid except that it’s now on 20% discount.

Here’s a sleeveless neoprene vest for adults. Ah….., it reminds me of the days when I used to go diving off Malaysia.

These are the adult rashguards (kid sizes also available).

And these are some exercise mats for yoga or just general stretching. Very cheap, less than 100 HKD per mat.

The shop sells other swim related stuff like goggles, swim hats, and dive related stuff like wet shoes. They also have a small selection of exercise training equipment.

This is what it looks like from the front, it’s between two tea shops on Johnston Road opposite Tai Yau Plaza, right on the intersection of Johnston and Wanchai Road.

More locations are listed on their card ☝️if you’re not in Wan Chai.

A very strange playground off Bowen Road

Bowen Road has been undergoing some remodelling and renovations recently, mostly slope reinforcements and a refurbishment of decade-old toilets 👍.

But still no concession stands or octopus pay drink machines anywhere, which would be nice if LCSD could address. (I mean sometimes we forget to bring our water bottles and snacks for kids and ourselves…. how about allowing a pop up juice bar- coffee shop with croissants and bo-lo-baos that operates on weekends? Or a food truck?) Anyway, on my walk yesterday I noted the completion of a new playground off the fitness path. I really don’t know what to make of it. I think it’s neither here nor there.

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only two rocking horses and a small platform that's not even a slide. Oh yeah that's exciting. Yawn.

A badminton court surrounded by trees. Hmm, great for blocking the wind I suppose but kind of dark and enclosed.

It seems like a bit of a tick the box we have these facilities type thing. What a waste of money. To get kids and parents to go down those stairs to get to rocking horses and then back up is probably too much for most Hong Kong families. Mums with babies and toddlers wouldn’t go if they had a stroller. Who is this for exactly? Someone who has a kid of 2-5yrs and a 2 teenagers who play badminton?

ok, the space and area layout is sort of awkward but they should have done a fun looking playground based on a theme. Or just put in an awesome swing set with a view.

Maintaining it is quite a job in itself too. Poor sweepers looking at the stairs are likely to hate it.

Wish those in charge had been a little more innovative in design, then maybe it would be worth the effort.

If you want to see what inspiring playgrounds look like, check out the pics at the end of this post.