I’ve been down with the flu off and on for the past two weeks, which is why blogging has been lighter than usual. But I was feeling better on Saturday and the weather was gorgeous, so it was time to get out and get caught up on errands and life.
We started off in Sheung Wan. I wanted to check Wing On, my favorite local department store, for a few things. But when we got there, we could barely squeeze into the store. Because if you only stick to the local English language newspapers, as I do unfortunately, there was no way to know they were having a 4 day 30% off almost everything in the store sale. The result was literally wall-to-wall people. After about 5 minutes of trying to get anywhere in there, the only answer seemed to be to get the hell out.
So across the street to Gateway, a shop that gets all its stuff from Costco in the US. All the cheap Kirkland stuff – not as cheap, of course, once you factor in shipping and Hong Kong rents. Naturally they don’t sell refrigerated or frozen goods but lots of other sorts of stuff to stock up on, from Chewy Chips Ahoy to Milkbone biscuits for the dogs. “Organic” Heinz Ketchup in a 44 ounce jumbo container – sure. It’s a weird selection of stuff and you never know from one visit to another what they’re gonna have or not have but we always find something.
At 4 PM, breakfast (don’t ask) at Nha Trang, the always reliable cheap ‘n cheerful Vietnamese place on Wellington. This time I thought I should order a bunch of things that we hadn’t tried before. That meant huge hunks of beef wrapped in pandanus leaves; a cold “salad” of prawns on top of aubergines, further topped with chives and garlic; Vietnamese “crepes” stuffed with veggies, prawn and pork – served with a basket of lettuce, basil and mint; our one standard dish, the cold rice noodle roll wrapped around salad and prawn. All this food plus a couple of young coconuts to drink for around 300 bucks. Can’t complain about the price or the food! The one thing about Nha Trang is that it’s so popular, the only time to go here is at some off hour unless you don’t mind lining up down the street and waiting for a table.
Then over to Pottinger Street where we loaded up on Halloween stuff. What did we pick for our costumes? You’ll have to come to the Halloween Party at PASM Workshop this Friday to find out!
My girlfriend is looking for skin products by Murad. Someone told her she could find them at Landmark but they didn’t tell her which shop. I sat at the fountain in the center court while she went off on a search. The view on a Saturday is excellent – non-stop hot mainland Chinese women with their older, richer boyfriends and husbands heading for Harvey Nichols and Dior. (As a matter of fact, we later both agreed that it must have been Leg Day in Central – everywhere we looked, nothing but hot women in tiny shorts or tiny skirts.) Stops into Sasa and Bonjour also didn’t yield any Murad. Anyone out there know of any place in HK that sells this?
Finally time for some r ‘n r. Over to Bar 109 – one of the few bars in Wanchai where one can legally smoke. Soon we were joined by a couple of friends and when one of the front tables opened up, we moved to there so we could enjoy the view on the street, though there wasn’t much view last night. I kept looking across the street at the empty space – now being renovated – next to Coyote. I have a concept for a bar/restaurant that I think would work really well on that stretch of Lockhart Road, I just don’t have the money. And obviously someone has already rented the space and is renovating.
After awhile, we moved over to Amazonia. It’s funny, as much as I enjoy both bands that play there and as friendly as I am with almost everyone in those bands, I haven’t sat inside the bar and heard them play in months. Willy, the amazing lead guitarist in Icebox, finally cut his hair after two years, going from shoulder length to just a bit longer than a crew cut. It seemed to me that these guys have stepped up their game since I last saw them – it’s not just a factor of playing 8 sets a night 6 nights a week for year after year because there are lots of these cover bands in HK doing that who never get to the level these guys are at. So perhaps it’s a sense of competition between the two bands?
I stepped outside for a smoke with a friend and we stared up at the empty space that used to be Rockschool. Would my Lockhart Road bar concept work there? Probably not. Or my idea for a Hong Kong version of CBGB’s? Maybe, but it would not just take a lot of money, it would take constant hard work to make a run of it. I’m sure I could do a better job of it than Rockschool did but maybe that’s just my ego talking. The location sucks. Most people are content to stop on the street level at Joe Banana’s. Most of those who get in the lift are headed for Traffik for you know what. How to get them to stop at the floor in between? The answer is you have to offer something not just different but special on an ongoing basis. Rockschool never managed that.
Finally around 11 we were ready to head home. I noted that Cul de Sac is no more, replaced by Uncle Hiro’s – the menu is essentially the same. We grabbed a kebab at Ebeneezer’s. Honestly, I can’t understand it. A few years ago I thought they were the best kebabs in the world. And I really admire them for going from one tiny shop to 10 or 12 or however many they have now (plus all the Subway locations). And yet … these don’t taste anything close to what they used to taste like. Our chicken tikka kebab left us searching for flavor that we never found.
Today is also a beautiful day out. But I need to rest up to get back into my normal work routine tomorrow. A busy week that will culminate with me giving a recruitment speech for my company at CUHK on Friday; will anyone actually turn up? Followed by the party at PASM – combination of our first anniversary and Halloween. Phooey has been talking about getting an entire pig and an entire lamb to roast out on the balcony, not sure if that will really happen but it will be fun nonetheless.