On a very hot and quite polluted Monday evening, the sidewalks of Queens Road East were particularly busy near the Indigo Hotel and Wu Chung House. People were hanging around a place they had no business to be hanging around. Those pavements are narrow and at busy road intersections.
I guess the safety aspect was marginally addressed by the peak hour slow moving traffic. The pedestrian traffic was also similarly slowed by the concentration of humans occupying a sidewalk that is lined with recycling bins on one side and trees on another.
Look at this:
I was literally having to wade through a bunch of zombies to get to the bus stop.
If you crossed the road, the situation wasn’t much better.
All these zombies milling around anxiously looking at their phones. No one acknowledged each other, though they all knew why they were there. Perhaps they were fighting to the death online and that makes them enemies in real life too.
I sneaked a look at one of the player’s screens. POKEMON.
There were 3 decent health food/ nutrition shops in Wanchai. Just Green, Food For Life and Redwood Nutrition. (I’m excluding Green Common only because it is more of an organic supermarket rather than a nutrition shop).
Feeling the need to re-start my probiotic routine, I went and had a look at what was available in each shop. Redwood nutrition carried a rather expensive brand, I wasn’t quite convinced about paying almost $500 for a month’s supply of bacteria. Redwood Nutrition down the road has Udo’s probiotics on discount, buy 4 get 1 free, averaging around $290 for a month’s supply. The only thing that irks me is the sales lady. She’s a bit aggressive and I don’t enjoy the ultra aggressive marketing style. My final stop was Just Green where I’m usually able to find a wider selection of brands, and I get a members discount.
Just Green was located down an alley, literally down, as in you have to go down some stairs. They usually have a poster stand outside the door and you can see the light from inside the shop through the windows. I walked up St Francis Street and peered down the alley. Hmm. Did I get the wrong alley? It seemed deserted and bare.
Just Green has left..! Just to be sure, I went down the stairs to check. Recent removal marked the walls and window sills.
That’s really too bad. It was a nice nook and my go to shop for supplements.
The next alley in the direction of Queens Road East has a new tenant. They decorated the entire wall with a mural. Great advertising of you get the permission to do it and a good artist. Well, they are in the art business. In a manner of speaking.
The tattoo parlours were in cooler places like Soho’s Pottinger street but it looks like that cool is gradually spreading East. Hong Kong Underground Tattoo is right at the end of the alley.
Wan Chai is getting a new equilibrium but I hope businesses that set up here are also encouraging for residents and not just occasional visitors. I’m half expecting to see more tattooed people walking around the neighbourhood… and no, it’s not the chinese gang labourers working in construction.
Wan Chai MTR station has been super crowded since last Thursday. It’s the annual Hong Kong Book Fair and Sports & Leisure Fair. It feels like all of Hong Kong’s residents decided to come.
Crazy crowded isn’t it. Literally walking shoulder to shoulder, the bridge must be at almost maximum loading. It was very slow moving, there was no way to overtake people and there were choke points where people were trying to “change lanes” to get to the other side of the foot bridge (separated by steel barricades) or decide which exit to take.
With the typhoon gone, it was a hot, steamy afternoon. I guess the organisers are making up for lost time today.
Most people going to the book fair and Sports Leisure Fair were advised to turn off here and walk through those Greek key mazes to the convention centre.
If you made it to Immigration Tower, police are in full force and everyone has to follow the lines and signs.
No, no I didn’t go. I was just running an errand at Immigration Tower.
Last Thursday and Friday, there were staff (or volunteers) from Save the Children in their red t-shirts handing out brochures for the Peppa Pig Family Carnival in Lee Tung Avenue.
Now, if you’re a mother of any children between the ages of 2-8 years, you will know that this is absolutely irresistible to your kids. They will whine and demand to go, simultaneously declaring their love for the Peppa Pig characters.
The staff were friendly, the colours of the panels vivid and the booths were well spaced out. However, the content lacked substance and there was nothing to take home unless you were coerced into making a purchase of useless and un-environmentally friendly Peppa Pig paraphernalia in the name of charity.
What did the booths have?
There was a Virtual reality booth which had the clunky goggles ($80 per go) you put on to look around. It was empty on the Friday and I didn’t think the goggles were too comfortable. There were only two goggles on display.
Then there is the string art zone, where the lady in charge explained that kids get some string and get to tie it around the metal protrusions to weave family bonds. Hmm. A bit abstract for kids, I struggled with the thought of it myself in a small dark booth.
Then there’s the kite drawing zone. Here for a $20 donation, kids get a small paper kite (not a real kite) each and sit down for a few minutes to decorate and then the kite gets hung on a big kite board with metal pins.
So all that individual effort goes up onto a collective board and it’s an instagrammable moment for the organisers but what does the kid get as a memory?
“Mama they took my kite away. I got nothing.”
Perhaps the organisers would like to reconsider their activities and strategies to have something for the kids to take home. The string bonding thing is also quite worthless even though the concept probably sounded interesting on paper.
The most striking and entertaining activity on display was the pipe telephone. So simple, free and fun. They could’ve made it more like a 3-D maze but it’s a good effort.
There are different coloured pipes linking one side of the board to the other, at different heights to for adult/child play.
Well, there was a stage and some music and dancing going on, on Saturday but baby was asleep in the sling and I gave it a pass.
What made #1 happy was the opportunity for a photo with Peppa’s family.
Here’s how the overhead kite display looked during Typhoon 3, I wish the wind had been strong enough to make them take flight.
Tip: Get your walking shoes on and walk everywhere.
This weekend is especially crazy in Wanchai due to the Chinese President’s visit. Police are all over Wan Chai, in the MTR stations, patrolling the streets, policing bad street parking. It’s never been so quiet on the roads on a weekday. No honking of cars, no fire engines and ambulances roaring by every half an hour.
The MTR station is chock-a-block, full of people every minute of the day. No one wants to use the buses due to diversions and possibly long traffic jams in any given direction.
If you’re planning on catching the fireworks in Wanchai, it’s best you secure your spot well before 7pm when the lockdown begins. And police have full discretion over when the roads re-open… it could be early tomorrow morning. Here’s my hand drawn map (based on information from the traffic department) to give you an idea of the chaos that could ensue given that half of Wanchai could be closed tomorrow evening.
The area around the Convention centre and Grand Hyatt and Renaissance hotels is already on lockdown as the President is staying there with his entourage. The hosting and toasting will also happen there so count on the roads being exclusively used for anyone going to the party.
The Stubbs road closure for heavy goods vehicles and all lay by areas is in anticipation of lots of people heading up to the Peak to watch the fireworks. It will really be mass pandemonium up there since the weather is perfect for fireworks right now.
Here’s a few events happening in Wanchai. (I took these from the HKSAR 20 website which has the full list.)
This dinner is on tonight at 6pm. But we’re not invited so just stay away!
Then the VIP entertainment at 8pm. It’s on TV so you can watch it at home (if you have a TV).
Some other celebratory stuff going on in Wan Chai over the weekend:
A dragon dance on Sunday at Southorn Playground between 4-9pm.
A football match you can view tomorrow (Saturday) between 9am -2.30pm at Southorn Playground.
Free rides on the Star Ferry between TST and Wan Chai and TST and Central all Sunday when the festivities are over and the VIPs have left.
The first typhoon of the year that sweeps into town usually generates a lot of excitement. You’ll hear everyone talking about it and stocking up on groceries as though a civil war is about to erupt. Intermittent rain, gusty winds make for a fun time to be outdoors as long as you’re properly attired. This weather calls for sturdy waterproof Wellington boots and wind-proof umbrellas.
All the shops tape their glass panels to prevent shattering and staff are dismissed once the signal 8 is “hoisted” by the Hong Kong Observatory. The pavements empty out but the streets are full of stuck traffic. Heavy buses loaded with people, underground station platforms are shoulder to shoulder, everyone trying to get on a train home. The trains run less frequently during a typhoon and that contributes to the messy gridlock.
Here are a few photos of diligent shops taping up their windows. It’s a sight that we never see in South East Asia.
Hay! Restaurant has a lot of glass panels to tape up.
I sense that Tesla only did it because everyone else was… their Xs are too small for the window panel and wouldn’t hold the glass together if something struck it.
MUJI doesn’t take any chances…taped glass top to bottom with another screen behind it.. they’re well prepared for a serious typhoon. This company really has their SOPs down.
Okashi gallery also did a nice taping job.
Sunlight tower taped their doors but it also looks somewhat decorative.
Here’s a video of the outdoor Wan Chai market at 5pm. All stalls are shut but there is barely any rain or wind. Hmm. The typhoon will probably be gone by tonight, which is too bad as it would be nice to sleep in to the sounds of rain.
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!”
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.
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.
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).
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.