The HK Sojourn Part 2

This continues from this HK sojourn Part 1. It chronicles my trip 10-day trip to HK. I’m the dissecting sort so I plan to take my own sweet time to journal these good bits of my travel.
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Among the many galleries on Hollywood Road
Among the many galleries on Hollywood Road

SP told us that Hollywood Road housed a good many art galleries, many of them showcasing contemporary artists. As we’d just eaten a good dim sum lunch, we felt we could stroll down the streets of Central HK with ease. Everything looked and smelled fresh and new to us, who had just gotten off the plane early that morning.
Unfortunately many galleries weren’t open on a Sunday. We contented ourselves with peering through the glass, looking at quirky artwork.
One of those things I really love about HK is the ease of getting a glass of herbal tea. Of course there are modern shops like Hung Fook Tong or HerbalWorks which sold herbal teas (HK$18 per 500ml bottle, roughly about RM9) for every ailment you could possibly have – just ensure you know how to read and order the drinks in Cantonese.
Then there are those quaint shops which smelled like centuries old, dishing out herbal teas. (During one of our jaunts in Mongkok, we found more reasonably priced herbal teas at HK$6. But then again, Mongkok is one of those working-class neighbourhoods.)
Chinese herbal tea shop in Central district
Chinese herbal tea shop in Central district

One other thing I marveled at was the enormously expensive apartments.

Here’s a real estate advert I snapped off the shop window of a property agent’s shop. Tiny lots (which we call flats) are priced in the millions. Even the moderate 500-square foot apartment where SP is renting costs around HK$1.4 million (she’s living in east Kowloon so that’s literally the boondocks to HK folks). This advert for a 379 square foot flat costs HK$2.48 million. You know how small 379 square feet is?
The one shop SP dragged us into was G.O.D, the acronym for Goods Of Desire. In Chinese characters, G.O.D translates into Zhu Hao De or Live Well. This shop, says SP, is one provocation indeed. All the kitschy and kooky are sold side by side with common yet uncommon.
“You have to take a look,” she beckoned, drawing us into one shop that sold tongue-in-cheek items.
Apparently, the founder-owner-artist-provocateur Douglas Yeung has quite a history indeed. Educated abroad as an architect, he came home to HK and decided he wanted to pay homage to his HK roots. Like most people who’ve lived away from home, HK represented something strange yet familiar. Of course he was wealthy to begin with. His grandfather ran one of the bus companies in HK.
Douglas turns the familiar into something that’s worth a second look, and a snigger, and a giggle. He turns everyday pieces into conversation starters, or at least makes tongues waggle ferociously. I think he’s really clever and he enjoys a good joke.
Like the bum-shaped mooncakes sold during Mid-Autumn Festival, a collaborative effort between G.O.D and Kei Wah, a famous HK confectionary. A lot of what he does is tied closely to the Cantonese love of word play. That’s why it’s so hilarious. You’ll need to be an English-speaking Chinese person, immersed into the Chinese context, to grasp his subtle and not-subtle jokes encased in his products. If you don’t know why his bum-shaped mooncakes sold out, go ask a Chinese friend when Mid-Autumn Festival usually occurs.
He also takes a jibe at common HK emblems such as the Chinese T’ung Shu, a book which no respectable Chinese household in those days would be caught dead without. I still remember my Grandma having one. She refered to this book for picking auspicious dates. She used this book to learn English (imagine a word like ‘Mother’ – the T’ung Shu made it easy for the Chinese to learn English by putting 2 Chinese characters – ‘ma’ and ‘de’ which sounded like Mother!). The T’ung Shu is so recognizably Chinese; in the G.O.D shop, you can tote the T’ung Shu around because it is made into a woman’s clutch! I would’ve bought it if the price wasn’t so crazy.
Aside the jibes and jokes, G.O.D is as much as a controversy-stirrer as it is a retailer. I suppose that is extremely clever marketing because how else can you explain that Douglas and his employees were taken in by the police for questioning when they found out his shops were selling t-shirts with the words “14K”?
In HK, 14K is the name of a notorious triad. He says he didn’t know about that – he just wanted 14K because it was referring to gold, not to the triad. In HK, strangely, you aren’t allowed to wear anything, t-shirts included, insinuating that you belonged to a triad. Whether he knew or not, the t-shirts sold like crazy. Douglas’ point was, what logic held that you can make movies about HK triads but you can’t wear a t-shirt which seemingly has the same name as a notorious HK gang? Good point.
But he’s not stupid. G.O.D has made a name for itself in the area of décor and stylish living, whether the police love him or not. They’re quite famous actually despite their price points.
And inside G.O.D (yeah, one has to be cocky enough to name one’s shop G.O.D and then turn around to say it’s just an acronym!), there’s a line of products called Delay No More.
Again you have to be Cantonese and a bit filthy-minded to figure out what he’s really saying. Try saying “delay no more” in typical Cantonese fashion and a lightbulb will go off in your head and you’ll go, Oh I see! Oooh, that’s dirty.
Here are some of the photos I took inside the G.O.D shop. See if you get the joke behind each piece or item.
Welcome mats with caution

The best kind of dictionary for language

Finally, we got tired of G.O.D (imagine!) and decided to rest our legs with an early dinner. The sky had grown dark although it was only 6pm. The cold was descending too. A warm dinner would do wonders. This shop which called us was brightly lit.
Outside Ngau Kee Food Cafe, No. 3, Gough St, Central, HK
Outside Ngau Kee Food Cafe, No. 3, Gough St, Central, HK. Note the 3 stools on the left. For you to wait your turn when the tables are full!

Small with hardly enough space for two elephants, we were happily welcomed into Ngau Kee Food Cafe by the efferversent owner, a lanky Cantonese. We looked a bit lost so he happily rattled off his recommendations. We had to try the famous HK milk tea or ‘nai cha’ (HK$18 per mug) – it’s similar to our Teh C but with lots more smoothness with each sip. Don’t do any currency conversion because if you do, you’ll never want to drink their milk tea at RM9!
Our dishes arrived – claypot beef brisket stew, stirfried kailan and fried bittergourd with salted egg. I’ve never had such homely food and I never had such a good appetite.
Stirfried kailan HK style & beef brisket stew
Stirfried kailan HK style & beef brisket stew

It’s true that HK food, even those served by shacks, are very tasty. Our beef brisket stew was to die for, thick and rich beef chunks in a robust broth good to the last drop. The brisket was tender and smooth.
The kailan was firm and crunchy to the bite and not oily at all. And I’ve never had such good fried bittergourd either. Price-wise, it wasn’t cheap (HK$200 +) but taste-wise, I’d go back again!
Only later we discovered that this little shop on Gough Street, Central, was famous, having been featured in newspapers. What a serendipitious discovery!
Next: Up the Peak, down the Garden!

(While you wait for my Part 3 to roll around, why not go here for a map of Hong Kong and then take a look at the 40 best foods of Hong Kong.)