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.
I have a fondness for public time keepers. You know, the buildings which have a massive clock at the top of buildings that can be seen for a few kilometres. It’s usually a big digital display reminiscent of old clock towers in British town squares (think Big Ben). It’s an easy reference for everyone in the city and I love it especially because I usually don’t wear a watch and use the “look up” method to figure out what the next appointment should be. (Far East Plaza in Singapore, Maxis building in Kuala Lumpur).
In Hong Kong, the most visible digital time display is on at ICC but unfortunately only at night, and only transiently as it rotates to other pictorial and self advertising displays. During the day, the building stands bold but cold, trying to stare down IFC across the harbour.
In Wan Chai, the big clock is an old school type analogue display. It’s positioned near street level, just above the tree line at AXA Center. This clock is visible to pedestrians walking along the public walkways of Sung Hung Kai buildings and it’s neighbours, the pedestrian bridges that cross busy Gloucester Road connecting Star ferry passengers to the heart of Wan Chai.
Well, when the clock is working that is. I was walking by at 2.45pm and the clock was stuck at the magic Cinderella hour of 12. A blown fuse? A power cut? Faulty mechanism? I was initially puzzled when I saw it was noon as I was quite certain I was late for my 2.30pm appointment.
I hope they fix it soon so that it can serve its purpose.
Have you seen any other public time displays in Hong Kong? Please share their locations 🙂
It wasn’t long ago that my favourite flower shop left Wanchai and is now under renovation to become something else. The usual frenetic and unforgiving pace of commerce in Wan Chai due to escalating rental.
I came across a new florist shop last week along Queens Road East that looked more like a fashion designer store than a florist. Here are some photos, I spent a good 15 minutes browsing around.
Done in a simple but nice black and white full glass frame with an open door, the shop looks very inviting.
Nice clean concrete floors and layered black shelving help to showcase the plants and flowers for maximum effect. I like the recessed lighting and spotlights that match the shelves.
They do nice big bouquets if you’re looking to impress a date, but I’m sure they can fix something up for you on request.
The selection of potted plants is nice and healthy.
As do the orchids and succulents. There’s something to suit every table and counter top.
I love looking at Bonsai. They have a few beautiful ones right by the window. Wish I could have one but every Bonsai I’ve owned has perished so I think it’s just not my thing…
I picked up a card when I realised that I had met the sales lady before in the other flower shop that I like. Both ladies in the shop are super nice and very helpful without being intrusive. You really feel like you can talk to them about anything.
They also have some artificial flowers which look amazing. I was quite impressed. It is similar in quality (or perhaps better) to the big scale florist at Hopewell Center but this look a lot easier to scan and decide.
I am seriously considering these artificial greenery as the recent thunderstorms have killed off all my plants. 🤔
Yup, these white roses are also artificial but they fooled me until I realised there was no water in the vase.
Speaking of vases, they have a small selection.
And at the very back of the shop, a fridge for the fresh flowers.
If you have a particular plant/ flowers you’re looking for, do contact them by phone or email. I think they can source the plants if unavailable in the store.
Find Le D’or here. It’s a 5 minute walk from the Wan Chai MTR or catch any of the 6 buses, 15, 10, 109 or 113 and get off at Lun Fat Street.
The owner is an artist, don’t forget to stop and admire the two intricate paintings by the entrance of the shop.
My brother-in-law arrived from London for a visit two weeks ago. “Jie“, he said stepping off the airport express, “do you know a place I can get my watch battery changed?”
Oh have I been waiting for that question. Almost jumping out and down, I exclaimed “yes, there’s a Sifu right outside the MTR station who does that sort of thing.”
A Sifu is a term meaning “master” usually used to address a professional tradesman who has a particular skill set or expertise.
We marched up the stairs out of the Wan Chai A3 exit, crossed the road and stood in the queue behind two others at the little repair shop I blogged about previously. Our turn came up pretty quickly. “Din chi yao man tai“(it’s a battery problem). The Sifu took his watch and turned it upside down, this way and that. He took out a little black magnifying glass which he stuck in his eye socket and peered at it again. Hmm. This wasn’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped.
After two to three minutes of him inspecting the watch and peering at it from every angle, he pronounced “mm tak, dui erm qi” (Cantonese for can’t do it, sorry). I persisted. “Dim gai mm tak?” (Why can’t it be done?) he replied “hoi mm dou, hoi mm dou” (can’t open it, x2 for emphasis).
Well that was a disappointment. But I was undeterred. “I know another place” I said, “Let’s go try there instead“.
We walked over to Tai Yuen Street and headed into the crowded corridor of shoppers.
All the way at the top of the street at the intersection of Cross Street, a watch seller Sifu plies his selection of watches and clocks along with the watch battery and watch strap replacement service. His stall is lit by a few energy saving bare fluorescent bulbs and fronts a corner cha chaan teng that does brisk business during breakfast and lunch.
This Sifu took the watch and immediately popped his eyeglass in his eye socket. He examined the watch very carefully and showed us how the back of the watch was sealed shut and there was no obvious way to open it. Then he looked closely at the bezel and crown.
“Ok“, he said. “Ngor sek jor ge la” (I know how to do it). He took out his tool box and rummaged for a tool. Then he took the watch to his velvet work top behind the stall and proceeded to pop the watch open via the crown, lifting it almost bizarrely from its front. The whole procedure took less than five minutes and he handed the watch back. HKD 40. Great stuff.
Find the watch Sifu who is friendly and up for a challenge here.
Despite being a resident, it’s fun to view daily life through a tourist lens. It never gets boring.
Spring Garden Lane for example, looks a little different every day and the mood of the street also varies according to the hour of the day. It’s tidal. The ebb of people heading towards Queens Road East for work in the morning and the flow back to the MTR station at 5pm. The smokers and queues at the Hong Kong Jockey Club branch on Saturdays, the queue for Kam Fung during breakfast and lunch hour seven days a week.
On a bright November afternoon last year, I happened to be strolling down Spring Garden Lane and saw a film crew right outside Oi Kwan’s barber shop. Most people wouldn’t even notice this hole in the wall. The barber shop occupies a narrow space between a florist and a very busy local restaurant. The reason why I noticed it at all is because I have an interest in barber shops. Well, ever since SW asked me to find one for him in Singapore many moons ago. The “where can I get a good shave“ question just had to be answered.
If you did a search for shaves in Hong Kong, you’ll probably find the most famous and classiest one in the Mandarin Oriental hotel where the barber also offers waxing and pedicure services (hey, guys only). Then you’ll get the hipster barbers in Central up by Soho where guys sport instagrammable haircuts and a couple of tattoos on each arm and an earring. Some will offer you a glass of whiskey or brandy to get you in the meditative mood. To go to these, you’d either have to be rich or trendy, probably both.
Not so at Oi Kwan. This little barber shop that started in the 1960’s seats three and there are no luxury bells and whistles. Goodness, there isn’t even a door.
It’s well lit and open on weekdays for hair cuts and shaves. You get your hair washed by sticking your head over a sink and a rudimentary shower hose douses you with water. Check out this review from a customer.
This little old barber shop has survived despite the gentrification of Wan Chai and has opened a branch at the Comix Home Base in Mallory Street.
I think it’s pretty funny that it took them half a century to open a branch, but that’s the way opportunities show up. They just launched this new branch on the 30th of March 2017. From the looks of it on the FB page, it’s a bit more upmarket and swanky, I’m sure the prices will reflect it too.
Perhaps this is to compete with all the swanky barbers in Central…
Their write up (above pic) tells you a bit more although the translation is a little dodgy. Just in case you can’t read it in the picture, I’ve typed it up here.
Living in history and a living history- best describes Oi Kwan barbers Hong Kong and China.
We walked with Hong Kong’s growth, reminded ourselves the treasure the prosperity earned through hardships.
In Spring Garden Lane where the ceiling fan turns slowly, the old radio gives its broken sound and the cut-throat razor gives you a gentle stroke, you recline on the chair, close your eyes, forget Hong Kong’s hot humid weather, forget the crowded alleys…. hold a old comic book and immerse yourself in this street corner… and 50 years passed.
Our fathers came from war shaken 1950’s China as most of the Hong Kong populations, started this little workshop. Enduring the hard times, Oi Kwan served generations to generations, from the neonates to their grandfathers, they all walked from this little alley with a refreshing and neat look.
Succeeding our fathers, we stood fast against the economic bubble of Hong Kong.
You can check them out if you need a shave in Wan Chai.
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.