Two days in Sham Shui Po

6 03 2017



I spent the weekend in Sham Shui Po, eating delicious bread at the Xinjiang Muslim restaurant and shopping for toys and vinyl at Paul’s Records.
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Along the way I stumbled upon a local recreation of the Sistine Chapel, worshippers making offerings of fatty pork to the White Tiger Spirit at a local shrine, a pawn store, herbalists selling dried snakes and turtles, a woman sitting on the subway with acupuncture needles stuck in her head, street vendors selling floppy discs and 80s porn outside the Dragon Centre and a bizarre rundown mall in neighbouring Mongkok selling only coins and stamps.

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But the highlight was undoubtedly the musty and cramped Paul’s Records, where local icon and former street market seller Paul presides over his precious stash of “musical orphans.” We spent an hour or two in the cramped one-room store listening to Paul’s thoughts on Wong Kar Wai and Hong Kong’s historic resistance to Latin music, his memories of a Jackson 5 cover band being killed in the Vietnam War and his complaints about mainland money inflating the value of Teresa Teng records. Amazing stuff.

Tai Ping Shan: street

28 11 2016

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Le Than Thon

30 07 2016


The Japanese and Korean enclave, which starts by the river and spreads down Le Than Thon, is one of the city’s nicest places to wander, with its bakeries and sushi bars. Small alleyways branch off the main strip, into grids of tiny, self-contained streets, maze-like and filled with tucked-away bars, jazz clubs and cafes. Some of the streets are decorated with paper Japanese lanterns, and others with street art.

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Ainu for dinner tonight?

4 04 2016


Its always fun to spend a lazy afternoon hanging around in Thonglor. One such day I wandered up past the Thonglor Art Space to 1979 Vinyl and Unknown Pleasures to flick through some vinyl and pick up a local indie CD. I met a friend at the Roots Farmers garden, where an expat childrens’ birthday party was in progress and I sipped kombucha in the onsite bamboo hut by the goats and the chickens and then we headed to the Commons for dinner (see above), followed by pandan yadong (Thai hard liquor) cocktails and Cuban music at Studio Lam. And wandering the backstreets, as the late afternoon heat settled and the sun set over the palm trees, as ever in Bangkok, unearthed a few unexpected sights. There was a hipster bar made from shipping crates, a Korean youth hostel, the cute Okinawan restaurant I always mean to try and a restaurant/bar with an Ainu (indigenous Japanese minority) theme. And valet parking. Very Thonglor.

The mysterious East

1 02 2016

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Heng Fa Chuen is probably the least distinguished station on Hong Kong island’s MTR line. In the four years I have been in the city, I am pretty sure I have never heard anyone mention it. Located in the Eastern stretch of the island, just before the Chai Wan terminus, it is a no-mans land of middle class housing estates and old industrial buildings around a working harbour, overlooked by hills covered in graves.


But its also home, I discovered this week, to a bizarre “Paradise mall” with faux-Roman interior and “suicide angel” art work. Even more surprising is that a little walk away, about half the way to Chai Wan, hidden away in the port district is one of HK’s cooler stores, from Japanese brand Undercover. Featuring some cool (and I thought, reasonably priced) designer gear, a canopy of lightbulbs and a door made of a photo-collage with eyes cut out crazy style, it provides a hip edge to what is still a quite a rough and ready part of town, with its looming vacant blocks and windowless canyon streets of concrete industrial silos.

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Backstreets of Kagurazaka

12 01 2016


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4 01 2016


The Eastern suburb of Yanaka has recently become fashionable for its old-skool Shitamachi atmosphere. It is littered with shrines, and its Twentieth century-style shopping streets along the Yanaka Ginza and Hebi Michi (the winding “snake road”) have now been augmented by cafes and galleries as well as, in some places, tourist shops.

We went to find Maruhi, a pocket-sized gallery and cafe located in a 1920s house only to find it closed for the new year, as was the popular SCAI Bathhouse – a contemporary art space located in a repurposed sento.


Luckily the graveyards with their napping taxi drivers and squawking crows, and Nezu Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most beautiful with its Kyoto-like arcade of red torii arches, were still there.