Tag Archives: wanchai

A meeting with a McLaren 

One of my neighbours told me that he was invited to test drive a Rolls Royce in Hong Kong via LinkedIn last week. 

He was very surprised to have made it onto the target list and quite intrigued about how the algorithm/ marketing person decides what job titles would be the right level for Rolls Royce ownership. (R, if you do go, can we join you for the ride?)

I walk past the McLaren and Rolls Royce dealerships in Wu Chung House, Wanchai, almost everyday. I’ve seen parties thrown in the Rolls Royce showroom but never seen anyone browsing. The “Wraiths” do disappear from time to time, presumably for photo shoots, display elsewhere or perhaps test drives. It’s always a sight when the staff open those glass doors and drive the Rolls straight out onto the pavement, off the curb bouncing off onto the street.

Interview in the McLaren Showroom

The McLaren showroom is a different matter. Linked to the Rolls showroom by an internal door (same owner perhaps), it’s starkly contrasted by having a black interior floor and ceiling. The Rolls Royce showroom is lit up in a “heavenly white” (sort of a creamy butter-white actually). 


The McLaren showroom hasn’t hosted any parties but it does occasionally host interviews and provides a backdrop. A sports supercar or two do occasionally disappear for a day or two but nowhere near as often as the Rolls Royce. 


The McLaren cars are quite a marvel to look at, although I wish that the owner and staff would not be such anti social and marketing idiots. I mean, why put a toy McLaren car in the window that says “Not For Sale”? 


If it’s not for interacting, why display it at all? Tesla on the other hand has a toy car in the window and it is for sale. You can get the same colour car for your kid. Inspiration and aspiration both rolled into one.


Why have a showroom on the ground floor by a bus stop if you’re not inviting people in?

Here’s a list of speeds versus price of McLaren versus the new everyday supercar, Tesla. Now that’s a value proposition.

Tesla versus sports supercars speed versus price by Bloomberg

 Unfortunately McLaren is spelt incorrectly in the table above but you get the idea.

Hong Kong’s first typhoon 8 signal of 2017

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.

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. 

Watch repair and battery replacement part 2: (the real Si Fu)

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.

Watch stall on Tai Yuen Street, Wanchai market

Repeat drill. 

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. 

The Sifu changing the watch battery

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.

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

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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. 

Why you should engage La Station Coffee Shop to throw your next corporate party

La Station, one of my favourite neighbourhood coffee shops just celebrated their second anniversary. 
I met up with a friend, (founder of Ookus) at La Station for breakfast early in the week. As I was leaving, the eternally effervescent blonde manager Kat (a sort of Asian version of Jessica Alba) chased after me and presented me with a card.


“It’s our second anniversary this Thursday” she breathed, “will you come?”

I was in a bit of a hurry but promised that I’d be there. I marked it down in my calendar, it was a party running from 7-10pm on Thursday evening. What fun. I haven’t been out at night in the neighbourhood for quite a while.

We got there around 8pm and as we turned the corner at Eric Kayser onto Tai Yuen Street, a wonderful party scene greeted us. 


Very hip-looking friends of the owners had turned up in full force and they were drinking beers and champagne on the pavement, faces lit by the La Station signboard overhead. 

The perch counter near the fridge display area was converted into a makeshift bar where Alan bartended ice chilled beers in bottles, champagne and lemonade for the non-alcoholics. The funky lounge tunes made it seem as though everyone was queuing outside a newly opened club. 



Inside, people were gathered in chattering groups, taking selfies and photos of the fabulous food. 


There were mini sausage rolls, quiche, ham and cheese croissants and Croque Monsieurs. 


We sampled each one and it was all consistent of the La Station / Paul Lafayet standard. 


After half an hour, the desserts were put on display. This is Julian figuring out how they should sit on the tray.


Each dessert was no bigger than your thumb but packed a huge flavour punch. The chocolate squares of cake and ganache were moist and addictive. I had to restrain myself from devouring a second piece. 

These desserts were mini masterpieces… I kid you not. LPQ and Kayser attempts at these sweets are left in the dust.


Small person grabbed a Paul Lafayet creme brûlée and chiselled away at the caramelised topping, gleefully shoving it into her mouth. This is after Pete had gifted her a pink macaroon and she had polished off a ham cheese croissant. Well, it isn’t every day that she gets to indulge.

After the macaroon, a ham cheese croissant


Somehow the delicious breakfast food went super well with the booze and dessert. I can see how this scene can be replicated successfully elsewhere. Apparently the team has been hired frequently for stylish Lane Crawford events. 

La Station is one of those coffee shops that hires people who bother to remember your name and beverage preference. It’s this familiarity and excellent food and beverages that keep the loyal customers returning despite not having much of a seating area. If you do decide to sit at their counters, you’ll see that the tables are small but there’s room for your bags. Just hang them on the hooks underneath by your legs. 

I went for another beer which Alan happily obliged. 



These guys know how to throw a good party.

Here’s a shout out to their team – Pete, Kat, Binny, Stella, Alan, Vivian, Julian. It was a great party and we look forward to more 🙂