Friday, October 11th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong

I am sure we are slowing down. We have done so much already though, I feel, there is so much more to come.

Gloucester Road

We started the day with a bite to eat in the room (more bakery goods) then headed out to catch the Star Ferry from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui.

Spider Outside the Modern Art Museum

We then walked up Nathan Road where we were accosted in two different ways: They approached us wanting to either sell us fake watches or for tailoring services. It was a game counting the number of each that came up to us as we walked the short distance up to Sam’s.

Sam’s is a world famous tailor in Hong Kong. He owns a small shop opposite Kowloon Park on Nathan Road in a small shopping centre. You might be forgiven for missing it were it not for the several large signs on Nathan Road with his name on it. This is not the original Sam but rather the 3rd or 4th generation who now runs the tiny shop. I have visited in the past and was very impressed by the service and quality of his work.

Entering the shop it was, as always, fairly busy. There are piles of cloth on shelves lining all of the walls and glass display cases in front of each with sales people standing behind each busy with talking to customers, taking orders, or, in the case of Sam, directing everyone around him. Between the fabric on the walls there are pictures of all of the famous people that have visited: Michael Jackson, President Bush, etc, etc. At the back there are two crowded dressing rooms, or should I say, closets as they are extremely small with enough room for a chair and a small space to stand in but not much more (there is one that is even smaller near the front as well hidden around a corner). To the left of those is their small office with barely enough room for two small desks and computers. Considering the whole shop can’t be more than 60 square meters they cram a lot in it.

We were here for some clothes. Mel has never had tailored clothes so we thought this would be a bit of fun as well as provide her with some clothing that fits (due to her petite size this is often difficult to find). I was really looking for some trousers and shirts since I really don’t wear suits but after being sized up in the middle of the room and taken to the side for ordering I was quickly talked into picking up a suit and several shirts. Sam took a particular interest in my sizing as my chest is slightly larger than normal due to my asthma (extra muscles in my lungs) so made sure the measurements were taken correctly by the tailor.

While Mel was off to the side I chatted a bit with Sam who did not think it was terribly busy despite the constant chatter around us - I can imagine it does get a bit hairy sometimes there. After the necessaries were accomplished we were asked to come back at 6 pm for an initial fitting. They work quickly here!

Nathan Road is manic with traffic and it’s many shops - not really our cup of tea, so we headed across the road to visit Kowloon Park. Climbing a large number of steps was not really fun in the heat and humidity but we eventually made it and came out into the sculpture garden section of the park with a number of interesting modern artworks.

Sculpture Garden

I particularly liked a large black spider sculpture (about 2m high) that I recalled also seeing outside the Modern Art museum earlier. The park really is a haven from the hussle that surrounds it so we enjoyed slowly walking down into the park proper and over to the bird pond. Here there are a large number of exotic birds - Well, exotic to us, local to here! - Including a number of pink flamingos. We spent a few minutes having a look.

Birds in Kowloon Park

We were surrounded by trees, hills and plants with tall buildings beyond visible in snatches.

Beginning to relax we visited the small “McDonald’s Cafe” booth that has been in the middle of the park for many years. It only serves drinks and desserts.

McDonald's Cafe in Kowloon Park

I had the “Black Sesame Crunch McFlurry” which was absolutely incredible - Rich, crunchy and very delicious despite it being quite an off-putting black-grey colour. Mel had the “Raspberry McFlurry” which she thought was OK but when she tried a spoonful of mine she preferred that. A bit of technical difficulties scuttered my trying to purchase a coke from a machine (it ate my money!) so I bought one from McDonald’s as we continued our tour of the park.

Across from the bird pond there is a rather high hill on the top of which is the aviary. We headed up to have a look. There is a large circular cage here split into separate compartments for the different species. There were a number parrots, cockatoos, more hornbills, etc here that we spent some time having a look at. Mel had a bit of a rest while I headed off to find some toilets - Seriously, the public toilets here are a lot nicer than the ones in the UK…

At the northern end of the park there is a large public pool complex. I say “complex” because there appears to be two large exterior public “fun” pools (not rectangular) as well as an indoor traditional Olympic-style pool. It was not expensive and it looked like a lot of fun. The pools are immaculate and certainly well used.

We left the park and after checking the GPS on my phone we walked over to the MTR station “Austin” to get to where we wanted to be for lunch - Another big, modern MTR station. Unfortunately I read the map wrong…”Tsuen Kwan O Line” does NOT go to “Olympic” so we ended up getting out at “Nam Cheong” station and back-tracking on the “Tung Chung” line. “Olympic” is home to several large shopping complexes, imaginatively titled “Olympian City 1”, “Olympian City 2” and, you guessed, “Olympian City 3”. They are quite large and full of the shops I am sure you know the names of so I will not bore you with them. We were headed over to “Olympian City 2” so, after consulting several mall maps we found it: “Tim Ho Wan”.

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan (my restaurant review here)is known as the cheapest one-star Michelin restaurant in the world. It is renown for it’s dim sum and enormous queues to get in. We had planned it so that we were there in the middle of the afternoon when it should be less crowded - About 2:30. Leaving the mall through a side exit we found the restaurant on the street just to our left (still in the mall, mind you, just on the outside of it). It is quite a modern looking restaurant and not all that large. The interior is quite light with an industrial ceiling but white and beige seating - Both bench and chairs. Arriving there was no queue so we were shown to a table straight away immediately beside the kitchen which was open for us to see into - Not very large, really but stacked with steamers. The menu is somewhat traditional dim-sum where you have a small slip of paper listing dishes that you select by indicating a quantity in a box. We chose the following:

  • Glutinous rice dumpling ($26)
  • Deep fried spring roll filled with egg white & shrimp ($24) - Very light and delicious.
  • Baked bun with BBQ pork ($19) - Amazing, it was like a normal baked bun but with crisp topping and a moist, delicious interior. The highlight of the menu (this is not only our opinion, this is also what most of the reviews say as well).
  • Steamed fresh shrimp dumplings (ha jiao - $24)
  • Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($24)
  • Deep fried dumplings filled with meat ($14)

At about $140 this was a bargain. We noted that we will have to come back again to work our way through the other items on the menu. The staff were very friendly and helpful as well. We left happy and headed out to our next destination…The Flower Market.

On the map the distance was not that great so we decided to walk. We passed a number of apartment buildings and schools were letting out so a number of children were walking around as well. The tall, quite impersonal, and small apartments we agreed were not for us - We could not imagine living there.


After about 15 minutes of walking we realised we were heading in the wrong direction - My only excuse is that it is easy to get disoriented here. I realised we had been heading south rather than east and we ended up quite a way away from where we needed to be. Normally this would not be a problem but by this point we were both pretty hot and tired so once we realized this we headed due east to the nearest MTR station - Yau Ma Tei. Along the way we passed by what looked to be a bit of a shanty village but turned out to be a number of fruit and vegetable wholesalers. Their small, crowded, dark shops a functional minimum with boxes stacked high in every conceivable location including under a flyover opposite.

Eventually we arrived in the air conditioned comfort of Yau Ma Tei and took the train two stops north to Prince Edward (interesting how the English names mix with the Chinese). Walking away from the station (in the correct direction this time, making very sure we knew where we were going) we came to the flower market which is a series of shops selling all manner of plant and supplies. The small shops often look like jungles so crammed they are with plants which often spill out onto the pavement making, of course, a perfect display window. The sheer variety of what was on offer was very interesting to both of us. The “market” stretches east over several blocks on two parallel streets ending at Yuen Po Street Bird Garden.

Flower Market

The “Bird Garden” is a much more sanitised version of the bird market I visited on my first trip to Hong Kong. The market was completely redeveloped after the bird flu epidemic a few years ago. It is now a much more tranquil affair with a sidewalk leading off of the street past a number of racks in trees on the left where local people could hang their bird cages up (they take their birds for a daily airing in the park you see) on the right there are a number of stalls selling not only birds but their food (often in the form of live locusts, grasshoppers and mealworms), cages, and other supplies.


By and large the birds for sale look to be in good condition though we did see a number of cages where it looked very crowded indeed but, of course, it is in the sellers best interest to ensure that the birds are in as good a condition as possible so by and large they were taken care of. There were a lot of very small, green, yet noisy song birds that seemed to be the choice pick here with their tiny yellow plastic cages often stacked 12 or more high. Mel enjoys animals so enjoyed seeing them here and had several conversations with them…Not sure that they understood a lot of English though.


...and more Birds!

From here we headed west back out through the Flower Market along a side street. We were headed to the “Goldfish Market” (or the “Pet Market” depending on what you hear) which was located down a side street just a short distance from the MTR station. I always like to visit this market as you always see the most interesting things and, as I have owned aquariums in the past, I am interested in what is on offer. The shops selling the fish have small entrances often having mesh screen jutting out onto the sidewalk with small plastic bags containing water and their live cargo. They form walls of water with splashes of colour from the fish. Of course the shops have large aquariums as well inside but it these bags that draw you in. Prices are often written in marker on the outside of the bags making shopping very easy. For me more than the fish is the crustaceans also on offer - We saw small prawns, lobsters and crabs being sold as well - The tiny 2” lobsters threw me a bit as I have never seen those before and I wonder how big they will grow in a tank.

Bags of Fish

More Bags...

It was amazing to see that there were so many different items on sale for both fresh and salt-water tanks. Most of the time you expect to see the most colourful and spectacular fish in the salt-water but here there were some amazing specimens for fresh water as well.

Crab in Plastic

There are more than just goldfish in the “Goldfish Market”. Amongst the fish shops there are also other shops selling other types of pets as well: Mel enjoyed seeing the dogs, rabbits, turtles, and cats as well (often all babies to maximize their saleability, no doubt).

Five minutes to 6 - We had to get moving. Sam’s was supposed to close at 6! We caught the train back to Tsim Sha Tsui then walked the short distance to Sam’s - Beginning to have a homing instinct for the shop now…Many people were there having their first fittings as well so the place was quite crowded though, of course, they were expecting us so I was given a half-completed set of trousers to try on (in the office since the two change rooms were occupied - thankfully they asked the lady working on the computer in the office to leave while I did this) which ended up in my being chastised for not having tucked in my shirt! They had me try on my jacket as well while they made a number of notes and poked and prodded. Mel was doing the same off to the side with their female shop assistant. They were taking a lot of care and Mel was being very specific about how she wanted it to fit so this took a bit of time.

Sam's Tailor

The total cost for all of this is $7100 which is not too bad considering that Mel is getting two trousers, and two shirts while I am getting a suit with two shirts - All of which are, of course, custom made.

As we walked back to the Star Ferry pier, of course, we were once again accosted for fake Rolexes and tailors but we left them behind as we passed under the road through a shopping centre to emerge at the art museum beside the harbour.

The Peninsula

A short while later we were back in Wan Chai returning to the hotel.

The Convention Centre in Wan Chai

We stopped at Yoshinoya which is a Japanese fast food chain where I ordered some Beef Curry for takeaway. We lingered at the back for a few minutes while they prepared my order. We also stopped at a local bakery for a bit of something for breakfast before heading back to the hotel.

Mel is considering selling the flat she owns in Toronto right now so we are having some work done on it. Tonight we had to pay for an hour on the Internet so she could transfer some money to Canada to pay for this work. It is a bit goaling to have to pay $33 for one hour!

Watched television, copied photos to laptop, charge the phones/cameras (in the somewhat oversubscribed power outlet on the wall), did a bit more laundry, ate my curry, Mel had a bit of fruit/bakery items, and we both had a drink of water.

⇒ Continue to Saturday, October 12th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong