I’d never been to Hong Kong before. Ian had, many times but in the 80s and 90s when he was frequently there for work. We found the right taxi to get us to Kowloon – there’s a red taxi and a green taxi and I think the other was yellow and they all go to different areas. I was amazed by the expressways and the incredible bridges. And the container ships – there were masses of them.On the way into the city, the heavens opened and we experienced a proper tropical rainstorm. The streets were awash and it was almost impossible to see out of the windscreen.
We stayed at the Hyatt Tsim Sha Tsiu, apparently almost brand new and in a very central location in Kowloon. We had a fantastic room on the 20th floor with views of the harbor and over to Hong Kong. Ian certainly saved the best bathroom for last – it was incredible. With a wet room, shower/bath and enormous vanity, I was in love.We were keen to see if it was still possible to get some custom tailoring in five days. We made some enquiries with the concierge and were given a few options. Of course we could also have gone with one of the many touts on the street, ‘you wanna cheap suit sir, tailor made, copy bags, copy watch’. 'NO!' These guys were incessant. I just smiled and said nothing and found that was the best approach by far.
We decided to visit a lady called Linda Chow. Okay, so she’s definitely not the cheapest tailor going around – and she will tell you that straight up, but I’m quite sure she could be the funniest. She was happy to give us a price and there was absolutely no pressure whatsoever to go through with having the garment made. But I did. I’ve had a Cue jacket for about ten years that I love. But the lining is worn out and it’s a little past its prime so I had Linda make me a replica jacket in slightly different fabric. Ian decided to get a suit too. Linda had a wall of celebrity clients including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hilary Clinton, Jamie Lee Curtis and our very own Deborah Hutton.
I found walking around outside somewhat of a challenge, not being at all acclimatized. The many shopping centres along the harbour held a certain appeal (mainly for their airconditioning), although once inside I was fairly keen to get back to the hotel – they are so expensive. I was amazed by the number of high end boutiques – seriously who can afford to buy Chanel and Prada and Valentino when they pop out to what is the equivalent of the local Westfields? Apparently not many of the locals, as the shopping bags were few and far between.
I had to laugh (and take photos) in one section of the mall where there was a row of high end children’s stores including Dior Baby, Fendi Kids, Chanel Kids, Polo Kids etc etc. They went on and on. So that’s where Suri Cruise buys all her clothes. Even in New York and London we never saw such a proliferation of obscenely expensive kidswear stores in the one place.We had a fun morning in the Ladies Markets and I learned that my husband is a superstar haggler. I, on the other hand just kept my mouth closed. We walked away with some great bargains.
Our main reason for stopping in Hong Kong was to meet David Parrish from Random House UK, who we spent a day with, touring various bookstores and learning about the local book business. We met Christa who runs the Blooming Club for Commercial Press. She made us feel so welcome and took us for a fabulous lunch too. The Commercial Press Shop in the Miramar Shopping Centre on Nathan Road is absolutely beautiful, as is their specialist children’s shop at the Olympian Centre.We also met the irrepressible Shonee, who with her sister owns a fabulous chain of stores called Bookazine. They are very clever young women with loads of added extras instore to attract children back time and again. I certainly look forward to returning to Hong Kong next year for some events in schools and working with both ladies.
David took us to see some of the Page One stores as well, which are huge and very well stocked. Dymocks is a big chain in Hong Kong too.
We travelled with David on the MTR which is clean and efficient. You cannot eat or drink on the train or in the station and what a difference that makes to the level of cleanliness. We had a short walk around the Hong Kong side of the city and then caught the Star Ferry back across to Kowloon.
That night we went to dinner at a fabulous restaurant on the 31st floor of a relatively new building called iSquare. It was our last night of the tour so there was much to celebrate.On Wednesday morning we had a final fitting with Linda Chow. We were both pleased with our purchases and they arrived pressed and packaged at the hotel half an hour before our departure for the airport. I love the fact that in Hong Kong, as soon as we checked in they asked what time our flight was and then extended our check out until 3pm so we could go straight to the airport from the hotel.
I am really looking forward to returning to Hong Kong (probably at a cooler time of year). It was the perfect end to our incredible journey, as I spent quite a lot of time in the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel, working on Alice-Miranda’s Parisian adventure but there was just enough sightseeing to give me a taste of the city and most importantly, we met David and got some insights into the book industry as well as making some great contacts for the future.