Monday, August 19, 2013

A Beginners Guide for Hong Kong

Updated: 9-14-2013

We all know how it typically takes a while to uncover the best shopping and dining options when moving to a new city.  But thankfully, you can always count on the local Target to restore all order on the home front.  However, this is not the case when moving abroad.  Target, The Container Store, Home Depot (or anything like) do not exist here.  Not working with any foreigners to ask for guidance, finding it hard to make friends with the whole "work longer hours, not smarter hours" local mentality and not hitting the streets as often as I should have, I'm sure all contributed to my bumpy transition.

Last night I met a couple that recently moved here from the states.  After the normal introduction of meeting a newbie, (... How long have you been here? Where do you live?  How long do you plan to stay?  How are you handling this heat and being wet all the time?... ) I learned they just arrived last May.  That's when it started... all the locals at the table started sharing our helpful hints for living in Hong Kong.  Since successfully setting up "life" in this city can be a little overwhelming, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite HK discoverers.  

Hong Kong doesn't exactly support the home enthusiasts, but if the rumours are correct that will change when Crate and Barrel lands in Hong Kong (along with CB2), as they did in Singapore recently.  But for now, here are my discoverers.  I don't typically suggest going to Causeway Bay (most densely polluted neighborhood on Hong Kong Island), but it's probably your best bet for home items.  All within a few blocks of each other you'll find IKEA, Francfranc, MUJI and SOGO.  


3/F, Harbour City Mall (in the Gateway Arcade Tower), 25 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
The only next best thing to CB, CB2, Resto, PB or West Elm is this Spanish based home retailer.  Finally in Hong Kong (!!!!) ZARA Home offers current (yay!) trend home decor and essentials for every room of your home.  This store is just downstairs from my office, and every time I take a look inside the displays tables and beds have all been changed.  Yes, you heard me, they have bedding!!  With floor sets changing monthly, it's a must stop shop throughout the year.  [side note: I NEVER thought I would EVER get this excited over a Zara Home, but anything new here is soooo freaking refreshing!]

Flagship Store: 4/F, Harbor City Mall, 17 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Island Location: 4/F, World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
This Japanese home retailers offers simply designed private branded products at reasonable prices.  When I first moved to HK I didn't think I would ever find a toilet brush that wasn't bright pink or royal blue, but then I discovered MUJI.  Everything is all natural or in shades of white... my favorite colors!   Along with a good selection of home goods (kitchen, bath, storage, living, office) they also offer casual apparel for men, women and children.  


Flagship Store: G/F, 8 Kingston Street, Causeway Bay
Another Japanese home retailer, Francfranc offers low price items for your complete home.  If IKEA offered a designer section it would probably look like Francfranc, and being located across the street from IKEA in CWB, definitely helps with managing your day.  


555 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
For the time being, SOGO (another Japanese concept) is the largest department store in Hong Kong.  It's similar to a Sears or JCPenny back home.  The only place worse than the overcrowded sidewalks in Causeway Bay are the escalators in SOGO!  However, you will find home essentials at SOGO no other retailer offers in the city.

G.O.D. (Goods of Desire)
G-1/F, 48 Hollywood Road, Soho
Finally... something not from Japan!  ha!  G.O.D. is Hong Kong's version of Pier 1 Imports, but less decor and more home essentials.   The ground floor at their Soho location is focused on touristy items (HK themed T-shirts, travel books, posters)  but upstairs you'll find their home section (kitchen, bath, storage, entertaining, office).  A good mix of private and international brands.  

Wing On 

B/L 211 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan
The first locally owned department store to open in Hong Kong, Wing On is the place to go for those hard to find Target items like picture hangers, trash bins, plastic storage containers, ironing boards, flash lights, gardening items, step stools, vacuum cleaners, mops/brooms...  Wing On (dare I say...) is your one stop shop!

Also, don't be intimidated by those little cheap (what looks like nothing but junk) shops, which are located everywhere!  Along with brushing up on your charade game skills, you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you'll find at these little...   shops

Junk Shops (Is this caption even needed??)

Now let's talk about food!

I promise, there is food on the island... you just have to know where to look.

For me, this was the real challenge!  Every time I tried making one of my favorite dishes, I ended up having to go to 3-5 grocery stores and still not always finding what I needed.  After almost two years, I'm still surprised at what will prove to become the new hard to find ingredient for a recipe.  Just  a few weeks ago I couldn't find tomato soup.  I found tomato bisque, cream of tomato, tomato with basil, but no plain old tomato soup!  Crazy indeed.   


188 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan
Daily Hours: 10:00am - 7:00pm
Free on Island delivery for purchases over HK$850

Gateway is kind of like a teeny tiny Costco.  Down a narrow staircase to yet another HK basement, beyond a strange smell and annoying humming sound coming from the fluorescent lighting, you will find GRAPE JELLY!!!!!  After a few minutes of running amok with complete excitement and disbelief, don't be surprised or embarrassed if you notice a little pee stain on your pants.  It is a normal reaction.

Found it at Gateway:

Tide detergent
Paper Towels
Pine Sol cleaner
Welch's grape jelly (big score!)
Corn Bread mixes
Reynolds aluminum foil
Jiffy creamy peanut butter (life has been restored!)
Uncle Ben's cream of wheat
Canned black beans
Frito-Lay products (manufactured in America, not Vietnam)
Nabisco Wheat Thins
A&W root beer
Glad kitchen sized trash bags


209 Stanley Plaza, Stanley
Daily Hours: 9:30am - 7:30pm
Free on Island delivery for purchases over HK$800

I discovered A&M long before Gateway, in fact I witnessed their grand opening!  Like Gateway, they only have non-refrigerated products.  And like Gateway, every visit you will find something new.  A&M and Gateway offer similar items, but both also offer items the other doesn't have.  A&M has your cereal addiction covered with a huge assortment along with a good selection of American spices, marinades and condiments.  A&M also carries boxed Rice-A-Roni mixes, Velveeta Mac and Cheese and all those other unhealthy, highly beloved American staples!  

Found it at A&M:

Rotel (!!!!!!!!!)
Hershey's products (manufactured in America, not China)
Oven Cleaner

They also have your baking needs covered...

C&H Sugar (big score!)
Powdered Sugar
Brown Sugar
Spray Pam


2/F, Prince's Building, 33 Queens Road, Central
Daily Hours: 8:30am - 8:00pm
Free on Island Delivery for purchases over HK$500

Oliver's is just like any basic grocery store in the states, but it's considered high-end shopping for Hong Kong.  Most of the time, I find more items on my list at Oliver's than any other grocery store in Hong Kong.  They also have the best rotisserie chicken in HK and at the lowest price in town.  Honestly, it's the best roasted chicken I've ever had anywhere!  

Found it at Oliver's:

Ready made pie crust and canned pie filling (don't judge!)
Pillsbury canned cinnamon rolls and biscuits (Admit it...  you've been looking for these!)
Dean and Deluca coffee beans
Starbucks coffee beans
Imported meats and poultry (unlike Wellcome or Park-N-Shop, this meat and poultry will never be found left in the heat on the sidewalk growing salmonella, while the stock boy disappears for hours.)
White corn tortillas

Well, there you have it ...  my favorite hard to find grocery stores for those hard to find items.  As for the easy to find stores... Wellcome and Park-N-Shop are also good options, but only for packaged foods.  I don't find their produce very tasty and their meat and poultry scares me.   I have also noticed Wellcome and Park-N-Shop offer a much broader assortment online than in-store, so definitely check out their online home delivery services.  Great in the basement of Pacific Place Mall is another great option for hard to find items, but hauling groceries through a mall and having to stand in a very long taxi queue isn't exactly fun.  City Super is okay, but it's not very Western infused.  And for whatever the reason, the IFC City Super location is always full of tourist and shopping is much like walking the sidewalks in Causeway Bay... packed with people that have absolutely nothing better to do than to slightly move.  

Welcome to Hong Kong. 


I am still looking for Thai peanut sauce.  If anyone knows where this may be found, please let me know!  In the states I bought Bangkok's Thai Peanut Sauce.  After a very misunderstood and embarrassing "lost in translation" moment at a Bangkok grocery store, I am still looking!