Category Archive for Hong Kong + Macau
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scharf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?
Hong Kong is quickly taking over Japan as the “land of the cute.” On a recent trip, I encountered 1600 panda bears, Pirate Miffy toys, and googly-eyed shoes.
Enjoy this kawaii tour of Hong Kong!
Yukiro, John and I went to the 1600 Panda Bears exhibition at the art center, PMQ. Yes, you’re looking at over a thousand paper-mache bears!
French artist Paulo Grangeon made these pandas, each with a different pose and expression. Some are babies, some are adults.
Every evening, when the doors close, the staff collects the bears and locks them up. The next day, they put them all back in place.
There are only an estimated 1,600 pandas left, hence the number. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) commissioned this creative project, which uses eco-friendly materials and cuteness to share the message of wildlife conservation.
The panda-monium (ha ha) took place at PMQ (元創方). Formerly a Police Married Quarters, this 19th century building is now an art space. It’s home to innovative restaurants and design boutiques, ranging from metalwork galleries to abstract knitwear. For this special event, a few of the cafes offered panda-themed food.
The 1600 Pandas tour has moved on to other countries, but you can always see public art at PMQ Hong Kong. Check their website for free upcoming “happenings,” like drawing workshops. I’ll also take you inside the artist studios, in an upcoming article.
Every major Hong Kong neighborhood has a kawaii attraction or two… or ten. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been visiting Wonderland in Hung Hom.
Rilakkuma, Domo, Hello Kitty, Totoro… this gift store has it all, in the form of stuffed toys, figurines, stationery, and other collectibles. Wonderland is a wonderful spot for children: girls love to try on Sailor Moon backpacks, while boys enjoy the robots, anime and action figures.
You’ll find glass cases stuffed with plush toys, including obscure variations like a Pirate Miffy. (As you know, she’s my favorite mascot. There’s something about that minimal design and inscrutable X-mouth that reels me in.)
Prices are excellent — I got a “Henry Cat and Friends” Scottish Fold notebook for about $5 US, and you can’t find this brand anywhere (not even in Japan). Come to Wonderland to pick up souvenirs, and all your friends will thank you.
Since I’ve been to Hong Kong dozens of times, I never go to tourist attractions like Temple Street or the Flower Market. Instead, I head straight to Izzue to shop til I drop.
This big-eyed kawaii brand is Hyoma. Funny enough, you can’t find it in Japan. I’ve only seen it carried in the larger Izzue branches, such as the one in Mongkok.
Izzue and I.T are known for graphic print streetwear with a cute twist, like these cat-faced shirts.
Bright poppy colors and kawaii faces are Hyoma’s signature.
Some of the items are too over-the-top for me, but I love seeing them on the shelves. I’m not sure who would rock these French fry sneakers.
Is “Musium” an unfortunate typo? Or is this an edgy label? In Hong Kong, you never know.
I love shopping in Hong Kong because the prices are low (considering the great quality), and there is no tax. These galaxy-print platform shoes with eyes are only $72 US! I’d expect them to be listed for well over $100 elsewhere.
To reduce the price even more, visit an I.T Izzue outlet. I’m standing in front of the one in Citygate Outlet Mall, Tung Chung.
Inside, I found cute clothes from past seasons for more than 50% off. These included Ghostbusters collaboration shirts from Chocoolate! (And no, that’s not a typo).
I was there to visit the Hong Kong Express Airways team (I write for each issue of their magazine). It so happens that I’m wearing a Hyoma outfit, from the latest collection. The top says “Cream Skull” and the pink dress has crosses all over it.
Where else can you find kawaii makeup and gifts? Causeway Bay, the district known for its Japanese department stores and youth hangouts.
I’m a big fan of the cosmetics chain store, SaSa. You can see the pink sign above, and all over HK.
Sasa carries “only in Asia” makeup, like Hello Kitty Graffiti palettes.
Japanese brands are better-priced in Hong Kong than in Tokyo, so stock up on eyeliner pens and other necessities.
You can always find “Heroine Make” princess makeup, gyaru false eyelashes, color contacts, and more.
How adorable are these bunny-shaped lipsticks? I think the yellow one is making an angry face because he has no color.
Hello Kitty is perhaps more visible here than in Japan. She and Dear Daniel star in the Giordano “Play 4 Keeps” World Cup soccer collaboration.
Korea’s Line Friends are also growing in popularity. These figures are sold in 7-Eleven. Out of the Line characters, Brown is my favorite. Expressionless animals for the win.
On the spooky-cute side, Spider remains my favorite Hong Kong Gothic & Lolita shop.
Spider’s designs are always evolving. This time, I saw corset laced designs with a carnival feel. Everything is extremely well priced considering the high quality — the lace accessories are only a few dollars each.
Always a pleasure to see designer Natalie. If you’re looking for Hong Kong Goth clubs, parties, events and stores, check out the HK Gothic Society Facebook page.
Yukiro enjoyed browsing the stalls of Women Street, which sell fans, cheongsams, iPhone cases and other souvenirs. The vendors treated him like a rock star, and insisted on taking his photo!
We saw backpacks shaped like owls, and others studded with spikes.
Hong Kong’s MTR (metro) system is efficient, which makes it easy to visit the main districts. Spend a day shopping in Causeway Bay, Central and Mongkok, and you can’t go wrong. Just look out for these two trouble-makers!
Check out more of my Hong Kong shopping articles, for additional store recommendations. Who is your favorite kawaii mascot? I’m rooting for Miffy all the way.
One of the perks of travel writing: you get to stay in a lot of nice hotels. At this point, it takes a lot to knock my fishnets off.
But Hong Kong’s modern luxury hotel, The Upper House, left me speechless. I can’t stop thinking about the Zen interior design, and attention to “guest experience” that goes far beyond 5-stars.
And boy did we have fun, partying in our mega-suite overlooking the harbor! We hope you smile at our video about the Upper House, and Miffy-madness below.
The seamless service began as soon as Yukiro and I arrived at Hong Kong Airport. A driver welcomed us with a “La Carmina” sign, and drove us straight to the Upper House hotel in a luxury black car. Instead of having to wait in a check-in line, our “Guest Experience Manager” immediately took us up to our upgraded suite on the 41st floor. After he gave us a tour, we fell over on the floor, dazed by the unpretentious yet majestic treatment we had received!
Death rang the doorbell (aka John Skeleton). Outside, Hong Kong is humid, aggressive and stifling. But here, we felt like we were floating in a Zen cloud, far above the madness.
The bathroom is as large as an apartment in Japan (400 sq ft), and stocked with every amenity imaginable. Tweezers? Check. Eye cream? Check. The star of the show is the limestone free-standing bathtub, fronted by a curved, abstract sculpture made of sandstone.
The Upper House is located at Pacific Place in Admiralty — an ideal location, only a few stops from Central and Causeway Bay. The staff knows every guest by name, and greeted us as we entered and exited. Yukiro was easy to remember, with his rockabilly hair and fiery disposition!
An epic view requires an epic pose. My dress is a present from Nanette Lepore: it’s this exact Runaway Stripe design, which is great for traveling since it can be dressed up or down. The crochet top is by Liz Lisa.
The Upper House staff goes out of its way to make guests blissfully happy, and left these thoughtful gifts in our room. During our room orientation, Yukiro mentioned that he wanted to buy Chinese tea. The next day, there was a complimentary tea box in the room, along with a handwritten note!
The Upper House is under the Swire Hotels umbrella, and designed by young architect Andre Fu. He received international accolades for his work here, and deservedly so.
At first glance, the interiors are minimal. However, the longer you stay here, the more you’ll notice subtle elements that convey a warm and peaceful feeling. Such as symmetry, rounded shapes, and natural materials (ceramics, wood, sandstone).
Case in point: the elevator has no “Close” button, to encourage guest to slow down and breathe. Yukiro decided to push “Yes” on Death’s t-shirt instead.
The 6th floor has a secret garden with a grassy lawn. Guests can relax and join yoga classes in this oasis.
We couldn’t keep our 1230 square foot Upper Suite to ourselves. So we invited over a few friends…
Once again, an example of the glorious guest service: the manager heard we were having a get-together, so he sent up a bottle of champagne!
Have you noticed that at my parties, someone always ends up on the floor, getting kicked?
Soon, we had a fabulous mix of fashion bloggers, designers, models, photographers, illustrators, Instagram stars…
Hong Kong doesn’t really have an underground or alternative clubbing scene. The best parties tend to be private get-togethers, like ours.
Everyone enjoyed relaxing on the bespoke furniture. Each room has an iPod touch and stereo set-up, so Death plugged in and DJ-ed.
Erm… things got a bit crazy…
How spooky, the far left face! Our guests ate up everything in the complimentary Maxi Bar: free coconut water, juices, beer, sweets, cookies.
We put the big bathtub to good use. I think we fit about 10 people in there!
The lighting and design make the Upper House an ideal place for Instagramming.
Want to see our Italo Disco dancing and shenanigans? Check out our silly video.
The next day, we discovered Miffy in the comfy bed. She refused to move from the 400 thread count linen.
She worked off her hangover by taking a bath, while gazing at the skyline view.
Oh Miffeh… that’s enough beer for you! And don’t try to leave with that robe!
One of my favorite parts of the Upper House was this dark entry tunnel. As guests ascend, they enter into a serene mindset, leaving behind the bustle and noise of the city.
My Cream Skull top and pink dress with Goth crosses are from Hyoma, Izzue / I.T store.
Andre Fu designed the space to feel like a private residence, hence the absence of a check-in counter and other typical “hotel” elements. Tranquility is the key here…
… communicated thorugh subtle design elements. We didn’t notice this Zen sand arrangement by the escalators until a few days later.
A peaceful pool, to encourage reflection.
I particularly loved the choice of contemporary art. Light and shadow near the restaurant, a “cocoon” in the elevator, all integrated naturally into the design.
I’m still thinking of my breakfast at Cafe Gray Deluxe. Yukiro enjoyed berry pancakes with creme fraiche, while I had truffled eggs on a croissant. Everything is made fresh to order.
I wish I could have spent more time on the 49th floor Sky Lounge, which has a fireplace, snacks, and reading materials. How about this view of Wan Chai and the Peak?
This photo says it all: we didn’t want to leave the Upper House Hotel! The most basic rooms are $700 US a night, but the numerous perks and attentive service make it worth the value. The staff cares about your experience, and doesn’t nickle-and-dime you for extras. For a special occasion, this is a splurge that is truly memorable. At the very least, come for dinner with a view, at Cafe Gray Deluxe restaurant (we reviewed it in this post.)
Thanks to the Upper House for this unforgettable stay. I felt rejuvenated, and renewed my appreciation for my friends and Hong Kong. It does’t get better than that.
PS: Don’t forget to watch our funny video about how we enjoyed our suite!
Ready for a double-dose of cuteness? My spooky friend John Skeleton has a special report for you — about the Hello Kitty cafe (My Melody & Kuromi pop-up) and One Piece exhibition in Hong Kong.
Quick, the “Sanrio Star Chef Institute” only runs until September 14 at Langham Place mall in Mongkok… so I hope you make it there on time.
If you miss it, you can instead visit the permanent Hello Kitty Secret Garden cafe (address: 19 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang near Causeway Bay). The “secret” seems to be arriving early, since this is a small cafe that is specially packed on the weekends. They don’t take advance reservations, and patrons often must line up for hours to get a table.
Back to John, who braved the Sunday crowds to visit the Sanrio pop-up. “If you’re looking for cute character goods in Hong Kong, Mong Kok is the place to go. The cuteness doesn’t just stop with plush dolls and accessories though.”
“Now at Langham Place, the kawaii invasion is in full swing, with a mini Sanrio village in the main atrium and Sanrio Star Dining taking over some of the stylish cafés in the upper floor.” (Address: 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, HK.)
As you can see from his photos, the mall is filled with your favorite Sanrio characters, past and present. The Twin Stars, popular in the 1980s, have made a comeback (probably because their retro-pastel color scheme fits with the current pastel-goth and fairy kei styling).
You know the 1990s revival is in full swing when you see Bad Badtz Maru, the angsty black penguin. For some reason, I always thought he was a crow.
Kiki and Lala seem to be teaching a molecular cocktail lesson. All the Sanrio mascots appear in a food context, since this is a theme cafe takeover.
As you ascend the elevators, the statues indicate there is cute food on the way. Panda cake rolls, anyone?
Hana Maru, the white seal from the Bad Badtz universe, seems to be directing the crowd into an orderly queue. Hong Kong locals adore Hello Kitty and friends, so this exhibition got an enormous attendance.
It’s interesting to note that the usual star of the show — Miss Hello Kitty — is not the main focus. In fact, Kuromi and My Melody are the major players since they have their own temporary cafe here.
These gates welcome you into the culinary institute of Kitty. Notice that her pink hair bow is topped with a chef’s hat, forming a vaguely phallic symbol.
The kid’s face on the far left says it all. This is fun, fun, fun.
Everyone can pose and take photos with the giant statues of Sanrio characters. The backdrops are designed for 3D interaction, so that you can pretend to ride an ice cream truck with Hello Kitty, or take the cone from her hand. (I went to a similar exhibition in Songshan Park, Taipei — photos coming up soon.)
Every section was packed with people, especially families. John and his friend ate lunch at one of the themed eateries, “a collaboration with ishiyaki+café, known for its Japanese stone pot (ishiyaki) dishes.”
He says, “While the food is normally worth the price, now you can find enjoy your favorite cuisine surrounded by My Melody and Kuromi.”
“My latte, wrap, and scrumptious dessert were graced with the image of the mischievous Kuromi…”
“… while My Melody was featured in the stone pot dish surrounded by fresh salmon sashimi.”
“If you plan to visit, make sure you arrive well in advance, as the wait time was five hours when I stopped by! If you’re willing to brave the queue, ishiyaki-café’s My Melody and Kuromi pop-up café is more than enough to satisfy your craving for food, sweets, and extreme levels of cuteness.”
Langham Place also has a Little Twin Stars Pop-up Café at the moment. How creative are these decorations? I’d be tempted to eat the pastel Twin Stars macaroons, Kuromi berry tart and Pom Pom Purin pannecotta.
Remember that this Sanrio food fiesta closes on September 14 in Hong Kong, so get there stat.
Mr Skeleton went to another quirky Hong Kong exhibition, this time starring your favorite Japanese anime pirates.
“Avast, One Piece lovers, and prepare to be boarded! One Piece Docks in Hong Kong’s Times Square!”
The Straw Hat Pirates seem to have left a souvenir on top of the Causeway Bay clock. Unfortunately, the One Piece ship has sailed, but you should still check out Times Square Mall for its ever-changing free exhibits. (Address: 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay)
My Pirate reports, “First appearing in 1997 in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump, Oda Eichirō’s beloved manga has spawned 74 volumes to date and has also become a hugely successful animated television series.”
“One Piece (ワンピース) is now a global phenomenon, and Hong Kongers are also in love with the story of Monkey D. Luffy and his quest to become the Pirate King.”
“I visited Times Square to relive these favorite moments with Luffy and his crew, and an 11-meter-tall replica of their pirate vessel! If you’re brave enough to face the lines (up to 90 minutes!), you can even board the vessel for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.”
“Inside Times Square there is more pirate mayhem to be found, including life-sized statues of One Piece’s most memorable characters, and massive displays of the many figurines available.”
This little boy seems more enraptured with the toys than the gargantuan Battle Frankies, a type of battleship.
“Don’t forget to check out the Marketplace, where you can find a wide range of One Piece goods.”
“And be sure to get your picture with everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic reindeer, Tony Tony Chopper.”
Photography is allowed — unlike in Japan, the attitude towards photo-taking is more relaxed in Hong Kong. Regardless, this statue seem to be crossing her arms to say “forbidden” (or “dah-meh”) in Japanese.
Hong Kong always has funny, kawaii exhibitions — most are free, and open to the public. When you visit HK, make an effort to find out what’s currently on (most take place at PMQ, Langham Place, Times Square, and Tsim Sha Tsui terminal).
We also posed for photos at a Batman display — I’ll put those up soon too.
Thanks to John Skeleton for the photos and guest post on my blog! Stay tuned for the news about where I’ll be next… hint, I’ll be in three very different cities.
Who is your favorite Sanrio character? Do you watch or read One Piece?