Friday, August 14, 2009

The View From Here

Kowloon Harbour is spread beneath me, somewhat gray and choppy, as I sit in the Club Lounge of the InterConti Hong Kong, watching for the first glint of diamonds on the water, of sun across on Central, illuminating the towers. Instead, I am content that there is no rain.

We woke yseterday to such a rain storm that I feared we would swim to North Point and never need find a ferry. But the day cleared up, dried up and offered a humidity of such richness that you could breathe deeply and know you were in Asia in August.

After a meeting with the magazine editors of Discovery Magazine, the inflight for Cathay Pacific, we went to Western and met up with the guys from Wah Tung. For those silly souls who do not know this brand, Wah Tung has been the kingpin in local procelains and dishes (and even lamps) on the scene here for over 100 years. They just closed their warehouses in Aberdeen (6 floors of overwhelming wonders) to open a brand new showroom in Western.

The new Wah Tung showroom is much more user friendly than the old one-- it's on one floor so you can see everything and remember what you saw, or go back to it. The showroom has various rooms with an organizational scheme, so there's a Blue & White room that will knock your socks off, a monochrome room that is especially big on celadon, and a room of smalls and gift items. When you walk in, you almost immediately see a table dressed with wonderful gift items-- all under $100 US.

As usual, they wrap for you to carry, they deliver to your hotel or they ship for you. The warehouse, as all warehouses should be, is in an industrial complex, so you need a tiny bit of brave to get here if you are a first timer.

You can call Wah Tung and they will send someone to escort you or pay for your taxi; the new showroom is conveniently located right at the mouth of the new Western Tunnel-- so it's directly across the harbour from theW Hotel, the site of the soon to be opened Ritz-Carlton Hotel and is just five minutes from the Four Seasons Hotel and IFC Tower & Mall. There is a map on the web You can also get here on a variety of buses, which is a fun adventure.

The china wares are mostly reproductions from famous antiquities and/or pieces seen in Sotheby's catalogues. There's vases, platters, bird cages, dishes and even plain white wares. In the past years, I've had lamps made and shipped, sent giant ginger jars to rest on my mantle at home and bought small jars to fill with bath salts as gift items for the luxury set. Expect to spend at least an hour here.

Then you can pop into a taxi, pop right through the Western Tunnel, and pop,pop, pop upstairs and into Ashneil, the most famous handbag guru of all Hong Kong, maybe China. What makes this man different from all others and why isn't he a fake, a fraud or a scholockmeister?

To begin with, his goods are all legal, no cheap fakes. Then there's the fact that they are made in Italy, not in China and made with high grade leather-- not fancy PVC meant to trick the eye or hand, as elsewhere. With the average drop-dead designer style being $1000 and upward in the US, Ashniel offers stunning choices beginning around $250 and going over $1,000 but usually more in the $350-550 range.

His latest trends are python and skins; ask him about 'pythons on botox', hot colors (I got a raspberry bag) and still the metallics. There's lotsa demand for Bottega woven styles, for soft, crushable leather, for linings made of buttersoft suede as well as evening bags in tubes with trick clasps.

The selection is so mind boggling you will think you are in heaven. Then you remember this is what Hong Kong is all about.

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