Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang, in case anyone was wondering, is dragging his footstool around my beloved former home, Washington DC. According to the government press release, he has dropped in on the ‘renowned’ Heritage Foundation, perhaps to congratulate them on their recent anti-Motherland tract South China Sea: It’s Not Beijing’s Lake.
The free-market think-tank might have enjoyed hearing Sir Bow-Tie’s enthusiastic cheerleading for China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, but for some reason he saved it for the wishy-washy liberals over at the Brookings Institution. Under the Stalinesque decree commanding the world’s second-biggest economy, Hong Kong is required to serve as an international financial centre – which by luck we already are – with a production target of 20,000 metric tons of IPOs a year by 2015.
The local press inexplicably fails to give the CE’s US trip much coverage. The Standard finds the election in San Francisco of a mayor who once studied in Hong Kong more compelling, while the South China Morning Post proposes that we line our kitchen walls with tiles made of leather. A logical extension of the use-the-whole-animal culinary movement, perhaps?
It seems only a few weeks ago that hordes of pale, friendless-looking people were standing in line for days in order to be one of the first to buy whatever Apple gizmo it was, and now they’re back again for another one. So valuable are these latest items that you can instantly re-sell them at a 20% mark-up, and not surprisingly entrepreneurs are hiring impoverished maids, African refugees and specially trained border collies to stand patiently in the queue outside IFC Mall. My suspicions that Apple boss Steve Jobs faked his own death grow stronger still.
One problem is that the line of gizmo-addicts is becoming tangled up in the long crowd of the caffeine-dependent that stretches into the distance from Pret a Manger. There was a time when there were three coffee/beverage/snack places in that strip of the mall. The juice place Mix closed, to be replaced – if I recall – by the shop that sells espresso machines and pricy capsules endorsed by that grey-haired actor who represents all those other products. Now Pacific Coffee has closed its doors, shortly to reopen as the Franco-Singaporean TWG Tea Shoppe (est. 1571). (Curious how the remorseless pursuit of higher rental per square foot nonetheless follows a liquid-refreshments theme. Is this the Sun Hung Kai estate managers’ idea of irony?) So Pret a Manger is now besieged by office folk all demanding their hot brown watery fix from the only remaining outlet for at least 200 yards around, not counting the poky little Starbucks in Exchange Square.
It can’t be long before Pret a Manger is forced to give way to an up-market store selling exclusive, gift-wrapped, Olde Worlde gold-embossed, diamond-studded cookies as eaten by George Clooney, with a customer base comprising Imelda Marcos and the Mugabe family. Then, just as coffee-deprived zombies are about to start sucking the blood of full-time Apple-queue agents, an outbreak of SARS, US protectionism or the final disintegration of the euro will come to the rescue, empty and bankrupt the designer-label emporia, and return the mall to the cheapish and cheerful-ish shopping centre God surely intended.
On this optimistic note, the weekend is hereby declared open.
I have to second the comment that Walter de Havilland made a few days ago. These glamorised malls – IFC, Pacific Place, Landmark, Elements, Harbour City, Time Square – are no longer catered for local Hong Kongers or expats. They are purely aimed at Mainland tourists, preferrably those with a few extra bob to spend. Go to any of these places on a Saturday afternoon and it becomes quickly apparent.
We have trained ourselves in Hong Kong to be so dependent on Mainland tourist dollars that our survival depends on it. Hence, our whole city is being bent, shaped and distorted to appease their needs at the expense of local residents. There goes our economic – and political – automony…
Surely, the government can come up with more original ways of raising government revenue than selling LV bags and reclaimed land? Judging by the current state of things, I seriously doubt it.
Sometimes you steer a very narrow line between what is certainly not important ( e.g. the Thoughts of Chairman Bow-Tie) and what MOST certainly important i.e coffee quality
My investment in a small home-size Nespresso machine ( actually by DeLonghi) was the best-ever investment I ever made
Sure the capsules are expensive ( outrageously so…) but still cheaper than going to the nearest Pacific Coffee Shop
And far more convenient
Re the weekend : Let’s let Donald Duck and John the Idiot FS duck and strut their silly stuff undisturbed for 2 days . Duck-a-duck. Strut-a-strut .
Seconded re the Nespresso comment. A homemade latte with one capsule and a cup of microwaved milk is far superior and cheaper (and in fact quicker) than anything that ever came out of Starbucks or Pacific Coffee).
The Clooney/Malkovich Nespresso ads are, well, heavenly!
Coffee … for me it all depends on time and context. A hazelnut latte is lovely after my morning stroll with Mrs DH around the Peak. But the best coffee I was ever served was atop Tai Mo Shan early one Sunday morning as I struggled along the Trailwalker course…bless.
Sipping a brew in a bland shopping mall, watching gormless Mainlanders watching the Gwailoo, does not work for me.
Glad that we all seem to agree on one point for once before a weekend comes up
Coffee rules OK !
Off to old Blighty tonight for a week’s hard time and where a “bob” is now 5 Peee and all the airport staff come from India
Guess when I get back even Sir Bow-Tie will seem a good thing compared to the idiots running UK and Europe, and I might even be tempted to kiss Henry’s ass, so happy to get back to this small part of the world where things do actually work and there is real progress.
I agree with A Pinsent’s sentiment above, but have to disagree with this bit:
“We have trained ourselves in Hong Kong to be so dependent on Mainland tourist dollars that our survival depends on it. Hence, our whole city is being bent, shaped and distorted to appease their needs at the expense of local residents.”
The only people in this town who have come to depend on mainland tourists, settlers and retail are a.) property developers; and b.) relatively low-level white and brown collar service workers who would have been low-level service workers in industries serving locals if it weren’t for the distortions you describe. If luxury goods became duty-free on the mainland and the mainlanders stopped coming here for them, the only people who would feel a lasting effect would be the mall developers and the people who have invested in them. The average HKer would be left much better off.
Hemlock, I love your declaration of opening of weekends! 😀
China’s property market will have gone tits up I reckon by CNY so things may change sooner rather than later with regard to dull soulless mall’s filled with the same dull shops.
The weather has turned. Surely it’s time for the seasonal celebration of the return of knee high boots on the escalator.