Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blogging From the PRC

Excuse gaps in reportage but I have been unable to get onto the blog and thought perhaps I was in Dutch with the Chinese, but today-- voila, here we go!

I'll try to catch up in order as it's now Monday morning (very very early, love that jetlag) and we are in Shenzhen in the most glorious hotel suite Ritz Carlton ever built. But I digress.

Our hotel suite at the InterContinental in Hong Kong wasn't shabby either. So I will flash back to a few days ago and fill you in on what you've missed.

I've been going to InterConti since it was The Regent. It's the same room I've enjoyed for a period of almsot twenty years and it is wonderful to come back to a hotel where they know you, where you have certain rituals and habitsnad ways of working. Even thugh we had horrible, terible, miserable jetlag for the first days, the InterConti made it much better. And gave us the first lesson in how things are changing in town, in just tiny details. Instead of Bulgari amenities in the bathroom, we had l'Occitane, nothing wrong with that, bien sur, but seems like someone is trying to economize. There was no personalized letterhead waiting for me on the desk as in years gone by. Everyone who is still in business is cutting back.

Hmmm, maybe that's not true. Shanghai Tang is going gangbusters and has opened several new stores, including an adorable one built from an old police station next to The Peninsula Hotel on Salisbury Road in Kowloon and alongside a new, glitzy mall and hotel-combo called Heritage. There's also a new Shanghy Tangy in Pacific Place Mall.

Few seem to be doing as well as Shanghai Tang and there is much down-sizing going around. This is the motto for all of Hong Kong-- stores that haven't closed have moved, downsized, tried to re-invent themselves to live to fight another day.

I've told you about the wonderful new showroom that Wah Tung China has in Western; then we found that Sam Wo-- a handbag guy-- moved from his basement hovel in The Lanes to the office building above, 5th floor. There's less stock and little that looked amazing. Still, his prices are in the under $100 USD range for those who want an easy shopping experience.

The Lanes also used to have a wonderful junky touristy Chinese stuff shop called Ribbon Store. That is gone but a few doors away is Silk Dynasty-- a similar kind of place. This is where you load up on cheapie souvenirs and $5 diamond rings.

We headed forlunch at Sevva, the hottest new 'in' table in town, right there across the street from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. This cafe, owned by Joyce Ma's sister Bonnie, reminds me of the old Joyce Cafe, for those Old China Hands among you. The restaurant is enormous, with wrap around terraces providing views of Hong Kong and the harbour. The style is glam boudoir, with petit sitting areas, cubby holes for more private dinning, stacks of art books, little tea tables, wrought iron candle-labra filled with votives and beautiful people everywhere.

Best of all was brunch-- I ordered French Toast Dai Pai Dong style. A dai pai dong is a street vendor with a cart, so this must be a popular street food that I have never dared to test. Between the two pieces of fried bread rested a layer of peanut satay sauce. It was all served with fresh butter and warm maple syrup and changed my life. I will try to re-create this for friends and family and I think surely Alain Ducasse.

After our meal, we fell into birthday celebration mode and a cake of green tea slathered in butter cream and meringue arrived at the table, with one candle and a pouf of hot pink cotton candy on top. It was not only a don't-miss-it-for-your-life experience, but the best argument ever on why we travel.

We ended up at Times Square, a mall beloved by teens in the Causeway Bay area of Honkers. We spent two hours prowling City Souper-- a gourmet grocery store that also sells health and beauty, novelty items, gifts and was pushing back to school items. I found a selection of 3M branded TM scotch tape dispensers in the shape of chocolate donuts (who could make this up?) and bought them as gifts to take home. The Shopping Detective never rests. Unfortunately, they were sold out of the chocolate scented tape that goes with it.

We had dinner with dear friends Glenn and Lucille Vessa of Honeychurch Antiques on Hollywood Road and only got there because some where in the back of my brain I remembered the address in Chinese. Years ago, Glenn taught me how to get there and once I saw our driver head off toward Kennedytown and way off base from where we needed to be, I knew I had to say something besides 'oops, wrong way, buddy.' I spoke Chinese, he understood me, and we were saved. Amen, brother.

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