Category Archive for Hong Kong + Macau
Oh, the eye-popping energy of Hong Kong! If you only have a day to explore, then I encourage you to see Causeway Bay. This district is home to my favorite shops and malls, which sell cute character toys, streetwear and smoosh-faced pet cats.
Read on for a shopping guide to Causeway Bay (including maps), and a whole lot of “maooo!”
But first… let me give you a head’s up about my next trips. I’m thrilled to be in Hong Kong again, for one of the biggest TV jobs of my career. For now, all I’m allowed to tell you is that it’s a travel TV show, for a major American network. Once the program is ready to air, I can fill you in on the details and cast — and it’ll be worth the wait, I promise you!
In addition, my friend John Skeleton (above) and I will be adventuring in a new destination…
Vietnam, at last! We’ve teamed up with Ciao Travel, a local tour company that offers bespoke journeys all over Southeast Asia. Since you gave great feedback on my recent food coverage, I’ll be continuing down this path — and sharing their unique Vietnam Food Tours with you.
John and I will be eating our way around Hanoi and Halong Bay: cooking classes, market tours, local village visits, and other authentic experiences. I’ve heard so much about the famous street food in Vietnam, and can’t wait to try it for myself. As always, if you have travel tips for us, please let us know in the comments or on my social networks (@lacarmina on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more).
(Above two photos by my friend Joey Wong, who went to Vietnam in 2011.)
Whenever I’m in Hong Kong, I pay a visit to Causeway Bay for a shopping haul. It’s easy to get here. Hong Kong’s iconic red taxis are cheap, so you can hop in and tell your driver to drop you off at Causeway Bay station, or one of the major malls such as Times Square or Hysan Place.
The MTR subway system is also clean and convenient: simply ride to Causeway Bay station on the blue island line, and exit out of D3.
Taxi drivers almost always speak English in Hong Kong (a former British colony), so we had no trouble asking ours to let us off at Times Square Mall (home to Lane Crawford and other luxury stores).
The entrance plaza usually has a funny themed display for people to pose with. Remember when John saw the One Piece exhibit, featuring a big pirate ship and life-size anime characters?
On this last visit, there was a Batman exhibition. Look up: someone in a mask is keeping close watch on Gotham City.
People could pose with the comic book walls for free. Yukiro seems to be one of the illustrated characters, cackling “Muahahaha”.
How cool to see Batman art over the years. The glass display had cute “chibi” versions of The Dark Knight.
I’m wearing a black and white skull dress from Gladnews Tokyo. The shoes are Yosuke, from Marui Shinjuku. My white purse is from Baby the Stars Shine Bright.
Unlike in Japan, anything goes in Hong Kong culture. Want to sit on the Bat-cycle? Take photos inside stores? Go for it, nobody will stop you.
I created the above shopping map for you. Save or print a copy: it’s my ultimate guide to Causeway Bay’s coolest and cutest stores.
As you can see, most locations are near the subway station (the white symbol in a red circle). Essentially, if you drop by my favorite malls — World Trade Center, Sogo, Laforet, Hysan Place, Times Square — you can’t go wrong.
I usually start with the Japanese malls, which are all next to each other: Sogo, Laforet, and the smaller Island Beverley. As you can see above, this is a popular shopping destination with a crazy cross-street like in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Ride the escalator in Sogo department store, and you’ll find all sorts of kawaii Japanese goods. Ironically, many of these aren’t found in Tokyo: such as “Nozomi and Friends” pirate shirts, and the Kilara Hello Kitty clothing line.
Hello Kitty is as popular here as in Japan. ANS makes accessories with more “adult-oriented” Sanrio designs, like these chic keychains and wallets.
Sogo’s Sanrio shop has a wall of stuffed toys, including plush Tuxedo Sams, Bad Badtz Marus, and special edition Hello Kitties. The one with the raised paw is a “jinmao,” the Chinese version of the lucky maneki neko.
Some items veer towards weird, like this My Melody paper shredder labelled “Let’s Shred!”
I love shopping for character goods in Hong Kong because prices tend to be better than in Japan, for the same or similar items. Miffy, Garfield and Astroboy — who is your favorite? (You know the answer, for me… Miffehhhh.)
John and Yukiro get spooky beneath the stacks of signs on Lockhart Road. Lots of great stores on this road, including the makeup chain SaSa (look for the pink logo).
I can’t take a trip to Hong Kong without ducking into SaSa. You can find affordable, only-in-Asia items here like My Melody eyelash glue…
… and Japanese false eyelashes, cosmetics and more for lower prices than in Tokyo.
Look above, and you’ll see this adorable awning. The Chinese name that translates to “Purebred paradise, dragon cat playground.” (Address: 527 Lockhart Road). But locals call it the “squish-faced cat shop” because that exactly describes what you’ll find inside…
… Cats with flat faces, for sale! This smooshy-faced fellow is an Exotic Shorthair.
There was a grey Scottish Fold kitten, cleaning his squishy-face with his paw.
Part of this store sells “dragon-nosed” cats (how amazing is this Chinese term?) The other part sells toys, food and other pet supplies. I got my Scottish Fold, Basil Farrow, a moving toy that looks like a panda.
Onward to Laforet, a building dedicated to Jpop fashion (which is why it shares the same name as the Harajuku department store). However, the similarities end there. Laforet is a jumble of little independent stores, housed side by side.
Each carries a variety of mostly no-name brands, meaning you can find Japanese street styles for a fraction of the price (such as a sailor-style dress for $90 HKD). Look out for the Marie Antoinette shoe store, featuring a display window of towering, glittery shoes.
The “kawaii” shops are excellent for picking up character goods at discount rates. There are quite a few cat-tastic little shops in there. This one contains nothing but feline objects, like this row of lucky cats wearing golden bells (jinmao).
This is Ginger (服裝店), a designer t-shirt and streetwear shop with a number of locations. They do collaborations both with indie artists and major mascots, like Garfield.
“We are the Robots.” By now, you can tell that funny-cute-bizarre displays are big in Hong Kong.
Some of Causeway Bay’s malls (like Lee Garden, Fashion Walk and Hysan Place) contain mostly international brands (Hollister, Valentino, etc), which don’t interest me. I prefer the offbeat Chinese street style in World Trade Center. Sugarman x Little Twin Stars encapsulates the type of streetwear you’ll find here.
In Hong Kong, you’ll see a lot of “borrowing” in character design. The Sugarman duck looks like the rubber ducky, and the mushroom creature has a Super Mario feeling.
WTC is also home to my happy place… the Miffy Shop! This white, expressionless bunny is a Dutch character, but her “kawaii” look makes her popular in Asia. China’s TwoPercent fashion brand has a branch 100% dedicated to Miffy.
All of the clothing features the rabbit in a creative way, such as silky tops with her face, or shoes decorated with her stuffed head.
Prices are reasonable and the quality is high, such as $200 HK ($25 US) for a bunny-eared hoodie.
Forget the Mongkok sneaker street shops. You can get the funniest custom sneakers right here.
You can’t find the Miffy store outside China, so put this on your must-see list.
If you purchase a few items, you’ll get a gift or discount at checkout. I bought a black and white purse, and we walked away with these free Miffy balloons! (Remember how we made Miffy drink wine at a restaurant?)
I hope you find my Causeway Bay store map helpful. Let me know if you were able to easily find these spots, or have any to add!
Isn’t Hong Kong shopping the best? I’ve been blogging about this city for years, so for more travel tips, check out my previous Hong Kong posts.
And let me know if you have Vietnam travel advice for my upcoming trip. I’m getting ready to eat a lot of pho!
Remember when my team and I went to Hong Kong twice, to participate in the opening of Hotel sáv? At last, I can unveil the colorful fruits of our labor:
2) And our video about Hong Kong’s most colorful travel attractions — from the Big Buddha statue to Miffy stores — is out. Watch it above, and published on Business Insider.
I’m constantly amazed at the opportunities that come up from travel blogging. Decorating my own room at a boutique hotel is a new milestone, and I was honored when Hotel sáv asked me to take part in their “Floor of Love” project.
In a nutshell, artists from around the world are selected to create a themed room on the 22nd floor. We visited last year before the hotel opened, and our room (#2219) was a blank canvas
The team at sáv gave us free reign to decorate the room however we wanted — as long as it fit with their message of love, community and charity.
Hong Kong is a compact city, and hotel rooms are inevitably on the small side. However, sáv’s modern materials and large windows gave the space an airy feeling. Artist Naomi says, “It was from those initial views that the ideas for these paintings began.”
Our room had a vibrant view of the Hung Hom, Kowloon surroundings. I balanced on the ledge in my black-and-white Steelground Shoes – aren’t the metal heels and buckles marvelous?
The theme of “love” could take on many different meanings — where to start? I knew I wanted the room to represent the universe seen on this blog — the love for travel, Japan, alternative culture, and wild creativity.
I brought in my First Mate Naomi Rubin, who I run La Carmina & The Pirates with, to put this vision onto canvas.
In September 2014, the hotel was still under construction — only the bare skeleton was in place. My filmmakers captured the tremendous “before and after” transformation, in our new video.
Leave it to me to find something Gothic, even on a construction site.
(Photos and videos by Borderless Media.)
When we returned in February 2015, what a change! The building had blossomed into a stylish, contemporary boutique hotel.
The special 22nd floor looked like a gallery, with beautiful theme rooms and hallways lined with paintings.
Some of the pieces were by artists with disabilities. This one had tactile elements, for a blind person to enjoy.
So exciting… the placard on 2219 marks our “Love the Dream” room. (Yes, you can request to stay here when you visit!)
And here is what the La Carmina x Naomi Rubin decoration looks like! (Can’t believe this started out as a bare room, as seen at the top of the post.)
The hotel’s website says: “In this room, Naomi and La Carmina jointly created a different perspective that we have never seen through imagination, sub-consciousness and dreams. To spice up the décor, they created 5 paintings based on what they explored during their stay in Hong Kong.”
I’ll show you more photos from our room later in this post, but first, let’s see some of the other artists’ designs.
Hotel sáv brought in creative talents working in a variety of genres, from all over the world. It was inspiring to see how they all did their own unique riffs on the “love” theme.
In this room, Sarah Tse displays her pencil drawings and papermaking, inspired by her childhood memories and dreams. She included shelves of nostalgic found objects throughout the room.
Room 2201 – Love the Memory
Remember when we visited the cute character studio, Chocolate Rain in PMQ? Creator Prudence Mak filled her room with her handcrafted, smiling pieces. Her works range from postcards to bedspreads to a giant statue, all evoking the wonderland feeling of childhood.
Room 2202 – Love the Planet
I spread my wings in this room designed by E Herder, a contemporary artist living in Beijing. His “circles” are reflections on life and connectedness, drawing influences from Zen Buddhism. Meditate on these circles, and you’ll notice unexpected materials like artificial fur pressed into patterns.
Room 2203 – Love the Community
Hailing from South Africa, Janine Claase hung up works that reflect on our interactions in social media and “real” life. She explores human connections and how modern media can either help or hinder our ability to create communities.
How did we go about, decorating our own room?
Naomi prepared two circular acrylic paintings, which she cleverly framed with the skeleton of a clock. She brought these works to Hong Kong — and with the help of Eric’s arm, we figured out the best locations to hang them on the walls.
Now that’s what I call “using man-power!”
Once we had finalized the location of the artworks, Hotel sáv called in a maintenance team to nail them in place.
How many people does it take to hang a painting?
In this case, a minimum of six!
“La Carmina Room” #2219 – Love the Dream
And here you have it: our finished room! Of course, we chose purple pillows and lights as our color scheme. (Each room at Hotel sáv comes with a remote, which lets you change the color of the lights in your room.)
Artist Naomi Rubin writes: “Floor of Love can be interpreted in many ways, but because the Pirates live on travel, I wanted guests to feel like they could venture out, even while back in their own hotel room. Both pieces explore things we pirates love about travel from different views: one is up in the clouds and the other is grounded, with an aesthetically detailed view of a community.”
She adds, “The framing of the two paintings was chosen to make the pieces feel like additional windows in the room: portholes that would add to the view of the Hong Kong skyline.”
The circular paintings are acrylic on paper, and the Honk Kong drawings are ink wash with pen.
It was Naomi’s first time in Hong Kong. She says, “Above the bed are 5 pieces that I did while in Hong Kong during the hotel Sáv opening. These show a more personal record of how I absorb some of those same elements of travel shown in the window paintings: people, family, fashion, and the balance of nature with human architecture.”
“While both porthole paintings feature imagery based on the things that La Carmina & the Pirates focus on when traveling, the Window Community piece goes a bit deeper, drawing from Japanese and neo-victorian fashion and buildings. There is even a reference to one of the Pirate’s favorite Tokyo late-night eateries in the background.”
(See more of Naomi’s art on her Naomiyaki website.)
If you’re coming to Hong Kong, wouldn’t you like to stay in the La Carmina room? Well, you can! Just book Room 2219 via the Hotel sáv website.
Best of all, you’ll be making a contribution to charity. When you stay on the Floor of Love, 15% of your fee will be donated to “Make-A-Wish Foundation” and “Arts with the Disabled Association” in Hong Kong. After a year, all of these art pieces will be auctioned to raise funds for charitable organizations.
If you need more reason to stay at Hotel sáv, then watch our travel video about the many cool attractions nearby.
These include Arome Bakery, who make the infamous Miffy cake!
Walk down the street from the hotel, and you’ll find Wonderland. This store that sells every character good imaginable, even pirate Miffy.
This nearby flower shop sums up the “color journey” of the hotel. Sav’s philosophy is that colors can inspire and elevate a guest’s stay, and encourage positive action in the community.
Their name sums it up: S is for style, A for attitude, and V for vision.
Thank you to the staff for inviting us to take part in this artistic love-in! Find out more — and book a stay in the La Carmina room! — through the Hotel sáv website.
And please take a moment to watch our travel video here. Wouldn’t you like to visit Hong Kong for yourself? (Above is a joyous memory from the hotel’s Lion Dance, one of the Chinese New Year celebrations that we experienced.)
I’ll never get tired of writing about Hong Kong — I discover something new, every time I visit. The above image sums up the eccentric energy of the city, especially in the Central district. I was trying to take an outfit photo, but this dapper old Chinese man stole the show!
Read on for my favorite memories from HK: including food, fashion, lucky cats, and Miffy galore.
And what are these prismatic marvels on my forehead! Round, trippy, kaleidoscope glasses from H0les Eyewear! Lady Gaga and others are fans of these light-refracting sunglasses. I wore them as forehead goggles, since I can’t actually see clearly through them (everything shatters into a prism).
My cyber-kitty look fit with the colors and chaos of Hong Kong. In the Central district, be prepared to walk uphill and on uneven steps.
My Pirate crew and I had lunch at NOM, which stands for “Not Only Meatballs” (Address: 1-5 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, HK)
John Skeleton gives it five stars: “NOM lived up to its name by serving up one surprising twist on rustic Italian comfort food after another. ”
“Chef Fabrizio Napolitano told us that he wanted NOM to be the kind of place you go with family and close friends to enjoy an intimate atmosphere. With each dish, the chef personally came to our table to tell us about the story and inspiration behind each dish, including some of his own grandmother’s recipes.”
“We tasted an array of cocktails, my personal favorite being a red beet whiskey concoction with hint of thyme.”
I could have eaten five plates of NOM’s burrata (cheese) and tomato salad. What appears to be simple ingredients are chosen with the utmost care.
The classic meatballs lived up to their name: nom, nom, nom! Chef Napolitano only purchases beef from family businesses in New Zealand and Australia, which take an ethical approach to raising livestock.
The sliders were also a hit, and a perfect example of how the chef brings modern interpretations to heritage flavors.
We lapped up every bite of the caramelized banana/ginger/sesame seed dessert topped wdith goat milk gelato. I also adored the lemon tart, and ordered a second scoop of the cardamom gelato. (You can order this for yourself, at NOM in Central.)
We walked down the street to visit an interior design store, Homeless. Look who is peering from the window… Miffehhh!
This lifestyle store sells a wide array of modern furniture, lights, home decor and gifts… Such as these fat-faced Miffy bunny toys.
Their ears look a bit like my horns hairstyle, which is the work of Stephanie Hoy at Stratosphere Hair in Vancouver. (Can’t get enough of these prismatic H0les Sunglasses.)
The Netherlands lighting designer also has a smiling child and bear lamp, both carried in the HK Homeless store.
We continued our walk to PMQ, a constantly changing hub of artist studios and shops. (I wrote about PMQ in this post, with tons of photos from inside.)
Posing in front of the deconstructed, meat-like Year of the Goat statue.
It was inspiring to see how artists created modern works that celebrated Chinese New Year. This one strings together gold origami to form a giant sheep.
On the cute and weird side… There was a sheep-carousel that let children pedal tricycles in a circle.
The Refinery always has something quirky on the racks, such as this Nelson Blackle dress with a retro video game motif.
Time to eat again (that’s what locals do, in Hong Kong!) I was intrigued by Check-In Taipei, a new restaurant that takes inspiration from Taiwanese street food. (Address: G/F, 27 Hollywood Road, Central)
My Pirate team and I sampled the Chinese New Year “lucky menu”. We were impressed by the creative dishes, like purple yam mochi balls served on a Ping Pong platter.
John writes: “I have to admit that I wasn’t all that aware of what kinds of dishes defined Taiwanese cuisine, but after checking out of Check-In Taipei, I felt like I had taken a grand tour of the country’s finest. Everything is taken one step beyond to elevate each aspect of the dining experience. The pearls in the bubble tea are not just handmade every day, but they are also only kept for a few hours before being replaced in order to ensure that every single one has the right texture and consistency.”
I enjoyed hearing the folktakes that inspired the “lucky” dishes. Braised Pork Nachos are mixed to symbolize success, pepper pig ears remind you to “listen and learn,” while barbeque prawns encourage you to “laugh out loud.”
John recommends the chicken and waffles, which is “elevated to haute cuisine here. The chicken is marinated in an array of spices, and pineapple chutney joins the waffle to create a satisfying combination of texture and flavor.”
Don’t leave without trying the “Tea-Ramisu” cocktail. John says, “The Taiwanese are apparently known for their hospitality, and Check-In Taipei certainly takes that to heart, as I left with a full stomach and a warm feeling that told me it wouldn’t be long before I checked in again.”
It’s a good thing that you walk a lot in Hong Kong… because we seem to eat nonstop here! As you probably gleamed by now, the hottest new restaurants are usually in the Central district.
(Photos by Naomiyaki, Eric Bergemann, Melissa Rundle and La Carmina.)
We had a cozy meal together at Linguini Fini (49 Elgin Street, Central). John writes: “Home-style Italian cooking is the name of the game here, and judging by the packed seating and lively atmosphere that we experienced, it’s definitely a hit with the locals in Hong Kong.”
“Linguini Fini keeps it simple and casual, the perfect place to relax with a group of friends and share a few slices of mouthwatering brick-oven pizza and a bowl of pasta. The Radiatore alla Vodka was particularly memorable, with the vodka adding an unusual but surprisingly delicious touch to the mix of homemade pasta, ‘Nduja, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and basil.”
I’ll leave you with photos of “fortune cats” in Hong Kong. This one was guarding the back of our taxi.
Manek nekos aren’t only popular in Japan. You’ll see them everywhere in Hong Kong, waving their paws to bring in luck.
Hello Kitty is also huge in Hong Kong. Literally: this light display took up the front of a building.
Yet another “maoo maoo”, towering over pedestrians in Tsim Sha Tsui. Love the random-ness of HK.
I leave you with my two latest nail art designs, by Glam Nail Studio. Chinese New Year and sakura blossom nails, with my Scottish Fold cat raising his paw. Currently, I have steampunk Gothic nail art… in time for my trip to England and Iceland!
And I just confirmed… I’ll be reporting from the RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons extravaganza in Reykjavik! These all-star drag queens will be heating it up, in the land of ice. Can’t wait to cheer on my favorites like Sharon Needles and Bianca del Rio (who I saw in San Francisco).
You too can see the ladies in the UK, Iceland and Barcelona during their world tour, happening now. Join me and pick up tickets on the RuPaul BOTS World Tour site.
I’ll be interviewing the performers backstage — got questions for your favorite drag queen? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to keep track of my Iceland adventures on my Instagram @lacarmina.
What’s it like to celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? Loud and colorful, with fireworks and lions!
In February, Hotel sáv flew us in to ring in the Year of the Sheep (or Goat), and soft-launch their new hotel in Kowloon. We even got to decorate our own “La Carmina room” inside!
Even though I’ve traveled to Hong Kong over 20 times, I’ve never been here for “Gung hay fat choi” festivities. Thanks to sáv, I saw the rituals up close… maybe too close, since I got attacked by a hungry purple lion!
The newly-opened hotel has a lifestyle philosophy that connects with me. They want guests to have an elevated stay: connecting them with local art / culture, and enriching the body / mind.
(Hotel Sav address: 83 Wuhu Street, Hung Kom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. See map and Chinese directions.)
Sav’s modern lobby reflects the “Color Journey” approach. Each shade represents qualities such as creativity, peace and vitality. To give guests a personal experience, every room has a different color.
Sav hotel brought in lion dancers, to celebrate the Year of the Sheep (or Goat – both are used interchangeably in Asia).
Color, energy, inspiration — these qualities make the hotel stand apart.
I worked up the courage to pet the furry pink lion…
Unfortunately, the purple lion got jealous. He raised himself on his hind legs… and swallowed me whole!
(These Goth buckle shoes are by Steel Ground Shoes. I adore their alternative designs — check them out if you’re looking for edgy new footwear.)
When you see our video, you’ll know this was a raucous performance. Musicians banged on traditional drums and symbols, while the lions twirled and danced.
The yellow dancer scurried up the bamboo pole, a feat that requires expert coordination. The music built up a crescendo… and finally, the lions released confetti and a scroll from their mouths. (The Chinese characters express the wish that “everything will be better than you expect.”)
Everyone cheered, and the Sav hospitality team cut the roast pig down the middle. This offering of food and incense is a classic good luck ritual, in China.
Cheers to the Hotel sáv team. We see them working long hours each day, ensuring that every detail is in place for the guests.
Their hard work has paid off. The lobby design is remarkable: the lights and logos are constantly changing colors.
Since it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to wear something with red (the lucky color). My dress is by Hong Kong designer Spider — it has a carnival, festive feeling that matches the occasion. The lace black cape is from Black Milk Clothing. My cat-ears hairstyle is by Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Salon, Vancouver.
The hotel is now open to guests, but some of the amenities are still being finished. I can’t wait to see the completed patio and bar, equipped with an impressive sound system.
The indoor lounge bar, Amplitude, will also open soon. The space will offer specially created cocktails, and can be rented for private events.
I don’t actually know how to play the bongos, but I did my best. (Photos by Naomiyaki and Melissa Rundle. In the next post, I’ll show you how Naomi made art for our custom room!)
We looked forward to eating at Palette Restaurant every day. Their motto is that “Food should do two things: it should taste completely delicious, and it should contain things that do your body good.”
Palette’s chefs source local and seasonal ingredients, to make a global menu. No MSG or grease here. (I personally recommend the Singapore laksa, fish balls and vegetables soup, steamed shrimp dumplings, and Thai curry.)
Even if you’re not a guest at Hotel Sav, you can come to experience the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Save room for desserts!
Decisions, decisions… Which drink to try first? Sav makes some of the healthiest cocktails around, using fresh fruit such as strawberries rolled up to resemble a rose.
True to the theme, each hand-created fruit cocktail corresponds to a color. The lime/rum and orange/honey were my favorites.
How else did we celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? John Skeleton dropped by, with his new goat-head rings.
Hong Kong puts on a stunning fireworks display every year. I don’t recommend going to the Tsim Sha Tsui harbor to watch, since you’ll get crushed by the crowds. My friends and I watched them from my uncle’s apartment on the Kowloon side. We also got lucky red pockets filled with money — one of the best rituals of the season!
On a different night, we dropped by the TST waterfront to see the Chinese lantern displays. Above is more proof that cuteness reigns in Asia.
Rows of gigantic lanterns, featured smiling and waving sheep.
Are you familiar with Chinese New Year celebrations? Ever see a lion dance?
Next, I’ll take you inside our custom-decorated Hotel sáv room, and show you more of Hong Kong!