Friday, August 04, 2006

Typhoons, Belgian brews and the Hong Kong flu-ey

So I got back from Hong Kong last night, surprisingly energised but come Sunday, I'm all out of air. This top pic is a t-shirt I bought for SO... he likes dragons. It's not exactly what I had in mind (something a lot cooler, but I couldn't find it) so I will continue to look.

In short, I stitched a little. I stashed a little. I worked hard. I probably partied harder. Instead of doing the overall winding story, here's the blow by blow account

Wednesday night
arrive in Hong Kong well past midnight. Turbulence, strong winds, slashing rain made the plane land late, so by the time I get to the hotel -- Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, possibly the best I've ever stayed in, it is well past midnight. GHHH has got an interesting contrast of rooms... the bathrooms were all black marble and gold taps, v. 80s uber-yuppie Dynasty TV show style, complete with a fat bathtub. The bedroom itself is zen, with sepia pictures of China scenes, and you can't find things like cubby holes, the minibar, even electric socket points because it's so well hidden.

As for the view... ahhh... the room overlooks the pool area and since GHHH has a circular-style structure, my room is partially safe from the pelting rain (some people complained they could not sleep) and I can see outward into the sea.

Day 2 -

Conference begins (let's not talk about work, shall we?) Top executives talk and talk, and want to tell you great things, but don't really reveal anything. I send in a story. But my office doesn't use it.
I'm not discouraged. It is, after all, close to the weekend and I know what work at home can be like. So I take the opportunity to call up an old pal, a managing ed. of a venture capitalist mag out for lunch. Behave like my usual obnoxious self (mainly because I can get away with it), and then he gallantly offers to save me from corporate humdrum by a drinky session in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong's bustling, fashionable nightspot district.

Pic is of blackwork, adapted from Lesley Wilkins' Blackwork book... this is a band sampler, and it constitutes one of the vertical borders. Am surprised how quickly it works.

I hurriedly take in a session of blackwork (this comes shortly after I purchased Papillon Creations' Eightsome Reel, which I am now chafing at the bit to start 8some) before going for dinner. I get a decent filet mignon. End up having to sit with a couple of nice gentlemen and ladies, and a few other total f***ing bores. (boars? not a bad substitute of words too). Irritated enough to take in 2 glasses of white wine, 1 of red.
Stomp back to the hotel, a little disappointed with countrymen's behaviour... why can't some of us behave with a little more elegance in the appropriate setting sometimes? Then I get a call from my pal with a nudge to head to the Foreign Correspondent's Club (FCC) in Lan Kwai Fong. Oh... major journalist's (now also catering to corporate schmooze-noses) drinking joint, so how can anyone resist that?

I take a taxi in the heavy drizzle.... the cabbie asks me what I do, and then acts surprised. You don't look like a journalist, he says. Mainly because you're too .... well-dressed. (me, well dressed in fancypants Hong Kong... come on). Drops me off near the FCC, and with my limited Cantonese, can't understand exactly where the front of the building is. I get out and ask some pimply, concave-stomached slouchy youths -- pimply concave-stomached slouchy youths seem to abound in ANY corner of the world -- who don't know what I'm talking about. "De EFF SEE SEE... you know?" After mouthing that for four times to receive the non-comprende replies, I thank them and step around the corner and the freaking FCC is bang smack staring at me in the face!

Ahhh.. well, think very English Old Boys' Club. White walls, high ceilings, old style wood fixings. My kind of place! Journalists can spot fellow hacks a mile off... look for scruffy edges even in the cleanest of lines, and there you have it. Seasoned ones, old ones, retired ones, young ones, wannabe hotshot ones were all there. Later, I learn that there's a little old lady, over 90, but still coherent, but with failing eyesight who goes in almost every day to the FCC to eat and drink and read her newspaper. She's also credited as the first journalist to send a breaking story ... well, one of The breaking stories of the past century -- she phoned in the first story that World War Two had begun. Now how cool is that!! I didn't see her, but just knowing I'm visiting the same place this spunky old biddy was special.

My editor friend (Prat, for short) is late, so I wander around the huge square bar and take a look at some photos (Later, I find a supposedly unrigged magazine cover shot of two bare-breasted Tahitian girls back in the 1960s -- very beautiful, they are, that Prat describes as a dream assignment. The Prat (he knows this is an term of friendship and affection, ofcourse) arrives just as I am about to step out of the bar and head for upstairs or downstairs and shoots me an utterly apologetic look. I know he felt shitty having me wait. But I, of course, take full opportunity, tap my watch in a manner most reproving and say , "Oi, first rule of journalism. BE ON TIME!"

We get a few glasses of wine in our systems, then I get dragged to see the jazz bar downstairs (a bit more low key, but with a saxophonist going hog wild on a phrase... nice place to hang out and smoke a cigar, I think.

Then it's out into the rain and dashing over to inner LKF. I mention "The Cavern", which is where some of the conference ppl said they were heading. And I get this semi-negative look and a reluctant... 'if you like' reply, but in retrospect, it was good just to hear about the place. They play covers, and it's app a bit of a sleaze pit ... which won't be anything very different from Kuala Lumpur spots in some places.

We head for Hong Kong brewery, best known for an excellent selection of beers from around the world. The brew of choice is to come from Belgium, and I get piled with some GREAT choices. Malaysia is so set on its pilsners and lagers that it leaves little room for other things... red beers and dark beers and bitters, for instance. I won't go into the details but between shop talk, hang out conversation and mutual friendly insults, managed to put in a red Leffe, two very very excellent Chimays, a light fruity beer to which i forget the name, and a few others.

Hong Kong begins to storm. We get the picture, and the Prat sees me to my cab and says, "Tomorrow, clubbing!"

I get home and shower again, watch a little Rock Star Supernova on MTV and doze off after putting in some more blackwork.

Day 3 -
Wake up fresh. I can't believe this. (the Prat, apparently, had a mother of a hangover haha!) Head down for breakfast and dash up to shower. This is also day 2 of the conference. (let's really not talk about it) I make some plans to interview the local office, and ask for an appointment but the PR people forget. Oh well, I'll get to it once back in Malaysia.
But now, I'm hungry to explore. Hoffman's Distributing links indicated that the majority of LNSes are in Kowloon, and a ferry across and back cannot be done on time, so I look for a subsidiary shop of one of the LNS's, located in busy Causeway Bay.
Instead of doing the plebeian thing of taking a MTR over, I cabbed it to some of the busiest thoroughfares of central HK... now, I was on an LNS hunt and it is like trying to sniff out a good story. Nothing gets in my way. The cab driver is confused, but it IS the right road, on Hennessy Road. No one knows where it is, so I take out the address which I cribbed on a piece of paper earlier and hunt for it on foot. I run up a few shoplots, up against tight, dark stairways. Maybe it's tight because my butt is getting bigger.. ugh

Sometimes, I get some pretty hostile looks. And no one seems to know where it is, what it is or bother, but I know I'm on the right trail. Finally, I end at this place without a number or business front-sign and ring the doorbell ... if this t urns out to be an illegal gambling den, I'm just going to turn around and get back to the hotel and order a JCC Fantasies of the Sea from HAED (as it turns out, I did that anyway thanks to the sale... *cough*).

Round the corner to face a cantankerous old man. But! He points me to the LNS! It's hidden away, neatly tucked into a corner no one can see. T&A Needlecraft, here I come. I walk in to face... a wall of yarn. Literally. I turn to find... more walls of yarn. Acrylic, cotton, wool, etc... all in big bags.

well, come on! This is A Hoffman retailer... so I round the corner, and the shop suddenly 'grows'. Everything is in a royal mess. The shop is having its annual spring clean. Everything is jumbled up, all higgledy-piggledy, but there's some method to the madness, the shop assistant tells me. The Patckwork and embroidery things are on their own shelves. And 3 big ones dedicated to cross stitch. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I'm going 'pls pls pls maybe a rare sampler' but no such luck... apparently, Hong Kong stitchers like
a) flowers
b) landscapes
c) Oriental things
d) Christian things
I'm an Oriental fan, but they didn't have anything I wanted. One interesting discovery is that DMC in different countries chart their own things... the Philippines, for instance, had a lot of Catholic-style motifs and pictures. From Tthailand are rustic pictures. I found some of the stylistic faceless women in lavish ball gowns from DMC designer Helene Tran who has done a lot of the fashion-style charts and kits for DMC... but not the At The Ball (multi coloured and bright) that I want.

I turn to look at kits... and lo and behold, hidden behind a pile of things (nothing was arranged) were some L&Ls and two Mirabilias. And right at the back, way waywayway way behind... L&L Rose Sampler. And Mirabilia's Autumn Queen, which is my favourite of all the queens! I have to rescue the poor charts from its doom of staying dusty, tired and un loved. So it was purely an act of selflessness and generosity (for sake of chart) that it received succour and claimed refugee status at the Malaysian border. Rose Sampler and Autumn Queen, I am pleased to report, have rehabilitated well and are living in their new home in my room, together with new friends like the other Miras and L&Ls, my Papillon, Vermillions, PINNS, HAEDs and DMCs and others. See, it takes a kind soul to *cough cough* put them in a better place.

Well pleased with my hunt, I head for Times Square, a big mall where Lane Crawford is. At first I thought it was that line for women with big breasts and full butts (you know... real women, not stick figures) but remembered it was Lane BRYANT.. argh. Hong Kong was in a sale madness but I was looking for something cool to take home to wear... a pity that my tastes are little more edgy than a t-shirt with a new print.

I dash back to the hotel, but the prospect of another soulless evening making small talk with people who will make some lame joke in place of humour led me to phone the Prat again. so I duck out of the dinner, strap on my clubbing gear, and he says, "let's eat dinner". I get ragged a lot for not knowing the difference between Beijing and Shanghai cuisine as am Chinese.

After that, we walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. I think about whinging when I remember that I was the one who asked for the scenic tour. I got to see a big part of commercial Hong Kong at night, which is not a common sight if you are a tourist.

First significant nightspot we hit is called The Peak, up by Soho. I ask him about a famous naughty shop in the area that I had heard of and in fact, saw in passing in my first trip to HK 8 years ago, but that has closed down due to puritan authorities (though I hear that it was actually because the shop didn't pay enough bribe money). Then we hit the bar and order a few draught beers. Being the good buddy, I help him scope out the cute girls (I know... the things I do for my friends). I wouldn't say that HK girls are more beautiful but they can be sharper dressers, and are very savvy on how to make themselves more attractive. Quite different from, say, Malaysia, where girls tend to favour brighter colours, or Australia where natural beauty is more popular.

Then walking. More walking. And more walking. I thank my common sense that I didn't do the stupid thing by wearing a dress and heels. We enter Yumla, a smaller, more intimate sort of club, with expensive booze but some of the sweetest drum n bass and breakbeat I've ever heard. By 11pm, i'm already jumping on the dance floor... the music is edgy, very very addictive, but we get a summons to hit Dragon-i, Hong Kong's most glam nightspot... so we trudge off to it... it's an eye opener because it's like fashionable KL, only about 25 times more vamped up. The place is crawling with models, male and female, and some very good looking gay men (Sorry, girls ,no piccies). the music is so-so, they did do a good mix of Eurythmics and a Jamiroquai tune but it was nothing anywhere closed to Yumla's beats.

After that, we dash over to Drop, which has a good after hours crowd, as well. I get a pleasant surprise ... on the decks is none other than Joel Lai, Hong Kong's dj extraordinaire, in GREAT form, and still wearing his trademark glasses. It's so tight in there, because people are in there dancing and being 'happening' at the same time. We get some sweet house music and bop some more, as the music is so damn infectious but I remember that I also have a flight to catch ... and finally exit Hong Kong's nightlife and close a most amazing night I will likely never forget, at 4.30am in the morning. I get back to the hotel and call the Significant Other, and then slip into bed.

And to the Prat who put up with my jokes, insults, stupid questions, took me to a fab dinner, took me out drinking and partying, and who's handed me sound advice and is a great bouncing board for ideas and problems for so many years - THANK YOU!!!! I had a great time in Hong Kong thanks to you.

Day 4 - Not too exhausted yet. But it is time to go home. Regretting that I didn't ferry it out to Kowloon but there really isn't time because the PR firm apparently screwed up some travel details of a colleague who was travelling with me so in the ensuing confusion, I gave up one last go at the shops. But I did some hardanger (to match the first four I made for mom) on the plane. Here is a WIP.

But I came home, tired and sleepy and hungering to stitch a BAP. So I finished the first 20 rows of Sisters of the Sea before heading to bed last night.

1 comment:

jmk said...

I'm exhausted just reading about your trip!

I was thinking of getting Eightsome Reel but now I'm leaning towards their Quaker Gameboard.