The bowties and handkerchiefs we’ve been working on for Lane Crawford are tagged, chopped, wrapped, signed, sealed and delivered- all the way to the rural hinterland of Hong Kong for “processing” before they venture back to IFC for the August relaunch of their menswear department. We’re quite honored to be a part of it, and humbled to share the floor with some of our favorite brands and designers. Though my camera (friend or foe?!?) ran out of batteries just as I started photographing, I did manage to get a couple of shots before the shipment was whisked away, so I thought I’d share them with you. Stay tuned for updates on the opening…
We first heard about Tai O- the “Venice of Hong Kong”- when Brandice wrote about it for the j.a.daye Guide to Hong Kong. This ancient village, a major center of salt production during the Ming Dynasty, just might be the most remote place I’ve ever visited in Hong Kong. Located in Western Lantau, directly underneath the Po Lin Monatery and Big Buddha- but infinitely more interesting than either- the journey to Tai O is just under 2 hours, whether it is undertaken by ferry and bus or bus and MTR. Maybe this is why almost no one I know in Hong Kong has ever been! We made a day trip out on Hong Kong independence day (known here, rather prosaically as SAR Establishment Day) fearing it would be chock-a-block with holiday-makers; luckily, even though it was an undoubtedly busy day for the sleepy village, the vibe was very mellow and the crowds completely civilized.
Don’t skip the somewhat unfortunately named Tai O Rural Committee Historic and Cultural Showroom – a strong contender in the cut throat competition to be the city’s quirkiest museum- cleverly located adjacent to the bus stop and so a bit difficult to avoid. Filled with the bits and bobs of a seafaring people, both Ellis and I thought it would have made a much better store! I guess we really have been in Hong Kong too long…
Even though it was absolutely boiling out, we couldn’t resist wondering about to have a look at the architecture, which alternated between the fantastically-dilapidated-colonial-school and the made-out-of-whatever-scraps-were-lying around-movement, always lovingly accessorized with many potted plants.
Since Tai O is both a Chinese fishing village and a former salt manufacturer, it stands to reason that dried seafood is going to feature prominently and, oftentimes, dramatically.
What doesn’t stand to reason, in fact, what doesn’t make any sense at all and is thus one of the most delightful discoveries to be had in Tai O is the prevalence of folk art, presumably all donated by artist behind this Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fantasy garden.
For art lovers of a more traditional orientation, there is a lovely little shop selling scroll paintings and calligraphy.
Of course, no trip to a Hong Kong fishing village is complete without lunch at a big banquet table; surprisingly, there are precious few of the seafood emporiums so common in most of seaside Hong Kong. In fact, on our first stroll down the main street, we stumbled first upon an establishment that wouldn’t have been out of place in Williamsburg or Daikanyama- but certainly was in Tai O!: a lovely cafe serving drip coffee and playing folk rock so gently it was almost inaudible. Called SoLo, and located on a lovely stretch of waterfront real estate, it is undoubtedly Tai O’s most stytlish guest house as well.
Since we were by this point hungrier for more than cakes and pastries, we asked our very trendy waiter to point us in the direction of the best place for lunch in the village. After giving it a bit of thought, he jotted down this name for us and sent us back out into the mid-afternoon sun.
And thankful we were, for we had passed this unassuming little place several times without even realizing it was a restaurant. Our waiter, who by the sound of it studied at the Casey Casem School of English, led us through a derelict go-down onto a covered terrace with a nice view of the canal. The lunch was a more sophisticated version of the rustic fare one finds in all the seaside villages in Hong Kong- deep fried beancurd, fried rice, steamed fish and crabs, all washed down with buckets of Tsingtao beer- all the more delicious on an empty terrace overlooking one of the most unexpected, fascinating and picturesque landscapes in the whole of Hong Kong. If you are thinking of heading to South Bay or Shek-O this weekend and dreading the hours long queue for a bus or taxi at the end of the day, I kindly recommend a trip to Tai O instead. It might take a while to get there, but once you have arrived, you couldn’t feel farther away from Hong Kong.