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Wednesday 11 June 2014

Virgin Atlantic Blog: The Moustache Guide to Shopping in Kowloon

When you move to a new city, whether it's 5 or 5,000 miles from your hometown, the first couple of weeks are spent in a giddy blur of getting lost and new discoveries. Cut to a month in, and you've got your route to work sorted, you've found your favourite coffeeshop, local bar and supermarket and you've pretty much packed away your exploring shoes, not to be unearthed again until your next move. Now and then you might venture somewhere different to try a new restaurant or hotly-tipped cocktail spot, but just going for an aimless stroll along streets you've never wandered before isn't really how you'd choose to spend your downtime.

I've been in Hong Kong for five and a half years now and, other than when I have guests in town, I tend to stick to pretty well-trodden paths around a relatively teeny, tiny area of Hong Kong island. I try new places that open within my patch, and now and then I'll make a special effort to 'mission' out to 'far flung' beaches and friends' houses, but by and large, Central HK is where the majority of my life takes place.

Two things recently encouraged me to get out of my rut and take off my longtime-city resident blinkers. Firstly, I read this micro-adventures piece in the Sunday Times which urges you to start walking, at least a little, on the wild side. Secondly, I started contributing to the Virgin Atlantic blog and the first piece I was commisioned to write was a Kowloon Shopping Guide.

Hong Kongers will be well aware that Islanders are usually as likely to be able to put together a guide to Kowloon as they are to the moon. Kowloon, or the 'dark side', may only be a very short glide across the harbour away, but most of us can count on two hands the number of times we've headed for a shopping trip or night out over there when we haven't had visitors in tow. Luckily the piece demanded that I find a local designer to give me their picks of where to shop in Kowloon, so my mission was on to find someone more clued up on Kowloon shopping than me (not hard)...

Oh Hello there Hong Kong experts and uber-cool menswear designers - Alex Daye and Ellis Kreuger - you fit the bill perfectly!

If you haven't come across Daye & Kreuger yet, get yourself down to their menswear boutique, Moustache, immediately for a slice of sixties-inspired tailoring and tropical casual-wear. 

Not a man? Well you'll still be wanting to head Moustache-wards to nab your copy of the Moustache guide to Hong Kong. What started as a gift for the pair's bespoke tailoring customers, has snowballed into a runaway success in it's own right. The Kreuger/Daye Guide to Hong Kong is now on it's fourth edition and a favourite of all Hong Kongers in the know. Gift a copy to visiting friends and family on arrival and not only will you have very happy guests, but you'll also be at least partially relieved of tour guide duties - win, win! 
Very fortunately for me, Alex and Ellis agreed to come to my rescue and help with the Virgin Atlantic piece. You can read their Kowloon Shopping Guide over on the Virgin Atlantic Blog.

As for my wandering, well, I realised that I hadn't ventured to a handful of the places in the guide myself. You can't write a travel piece without having checked out the spots you're featuring. So, one very sunny day a couple of weekends ago, I strapped on my exploring shoes, slung my SLR over my shoulder and set off for a micro-adventure to the dark side.

Mido Café
This Hong Kong institution has somehow eluded me until now. The fabulously old-school tilework and furniture have featured in many a film and photo shoot and although the Canto-Western cuisine may not be gourmet, a pit stop here is a quintessential Hong Kong experience. I refreshed and refuelled with an iced milk tea and a slab of ridiculously calorific french toast before leaving the air-conditioned oasis of cool and hitting the steamy streets to continue my wandering.

Mido Café, 63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei.

Shanghai Street
I'm a huge fan of Hong Kong's neatly divided shopping districts. Need a bunch of roses? Head to the Flower Market. After a parrot? You'll want Yuen Po Bird Market. Looking for a new fishy friend? Zip across to the the the Goldfish Market. A complete bargain hunters paradise - what could be better than being able to hop from shop to shop comparing goods and bartering prices down.

One shopping district I hadn't heard about before though was kitchenware central, Shanghai Street. Head here to stock-up on baking essentials, beautiful ceramics and chopsticks at a snip. I staggered away laden down with a stack of gorgeous blue and white plates for just HK$140. 


Master Zee's Shoes
Having walked and walked and walked some more, I finally arrived in TST. Avoiding the lure of the glossy temples to luxury labels, I ventured along to a grubby looking bazaar tucked down a side street in search of a hotly-tipped cobbler. According to Alex & Ellis, Zee's Leather Co. is the place to head for hand-made shoes and luggage. Master Zee (who’s in his seventies) makes beautiful bespoke leather accessories for women and men and can work from a photo or a sketch. I'll be back very soon weilding August's Vogue...

Zee’s Leather Co., Shop 18, G/F, 5-6 Middle Road, Far East Mansion Arcade, Tsim Sha Tsui.

Star Ferry
Last but not least, was the trip back home across the water courtesy of the Star Ferry. This one wasn't new to me. In fact, if I'm ever feeling in need of a reminder of why I live in Hong Kong, a trip across the harbour on this floating method of public transport sorts me out pretty quick sharp. Incredible views of what has to be the world's best skyline (I may be biased), staff dressed in sailor suits and chairs with flip backs so that you're always facing in the right direction. Add in a stellar sunset, and you pretty much have me at the ticket barrier you gorgeous hunk of a boat...

I arrived home hot and tired with a camera full of photos and a renewed love for my adopted home city. If your exploring shoes are gathering dust in a corner somewhere, why not whip them out this weekend and see where they take you...
You can find Moustache at 31 Aberdeen Street, Sheung Wan and if you hop over to the Virgin Blog you can read the full article with even more Kowloon gems to adventure to.

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