Over the year, we've been chipping away at what it means to be a 'local'. We've dabbled on many different perspectives and guess what? We don't have an answer, which I truthfully tend prefer. However, the point that seems to keep coming up again and again, it seems people tend to feel like a local when a place "feels like home". Very excited to have Hong Kong's prop stylist and social media content creator Sam @SamIsHome as our tour guide this week. She's originally from the USA/Canada but has "called many places 'home' including NYC and Toronto." Having spent a bit of her childhood in Hong Kong, after graduation @SamIsHome returned and has been back for 6 years now. "Hong Kong has a strong but vibrant personality that glitters well into the night and buzzes in the morning to the sound of ambition and hard work. It is a vertical city with a dense community of people who are striving to reach higher. Ironically it's when I'm back in Toronto with my parents that I realize how great Hong Kong is. While Toronto is more laid back and spacious, Hong Kong is efficient and convenient. It's not better but just different.
Prop styling allows me to paint a portrait of a person solely through products but leaves room for the viewer to imagine who this individual may be. However my job is now slowly shifting from becoming solely a prop stylist to creating visual content for brands. I collaborated with Cartier to create 'The Colours of Hong Kong' social media campaign. It was featured on both my blog (samishome.com) and on their micro site to highlight their Amulette de Cartier necklaces in the city's unique landscape."
Hello Locals, welcome to Hong Kong! This is Sam (@samishome) and this week I hope to show you around this city I call Home.
One thing you'll notice is in the mornings most locals will prefer a strong cup of milk tea over coffee. The streets are littered with 'cha chaan tengs' which literally translates to 'tea restaurant'. Unlike their dim sum counterparts, the cha chaan teng is the Hong Kong take on British cuisine with an emphasis on speed and affordability. Since I grew up in Canada, my Chinese is limited but most cafes will serve the classics: pineapple buns stuffed with butter, soup noodles, french toast and of course hot or iced milk tea*. The food doesn't change much over the course of the day so it's perfect for those 4pm cravings and to get away from the heat. Look out for retro style cafe interiors including checkered floors, tables with built-in utensil drawers and booth seating (don't be surprised if you're sharing with strangers!). The food is not everyone's cup of tea but you have to try it if you're here. *Tip: you can customize your drink with less sugar or ice!
(at Mido Cafe)
Oh this cliche view of Hong Kong! By far the most touristy of them all but the Peak gives you a panoramic view of the city. Hong Kong is a vertical city packed with towering skyscrapers that offer different perspectives of the same skyline. Over the years I've collected a list of places to enjoy the view, for the price of a cocktail or a slice of cake, so one can go postcard view hopping or to enjoy the fireworks during the Chinese festivities:
1. The Peak Lookout for the HK to Kowloon angle
2. Cafe Gray Deluxe from the Upperhouse (@upperhouse_hkg)
3. Al fresco at the Starbucks on Avenue of Stars (perfect HK view)
4. Sugar Bar at East Hotel (@easthk) for a view of Kowloon
5. West Kowloon: either pack a picnic for the park or tea on the 103rd floor of the Ritz (@ritzcarlton)
(at The Peak - Hongkong)
Today I'm (@samishome) calling it an early night in because tomorrow I have a shoot with @cathaypacific! As a prop stylist, I'm always at the Prince Edward Flower Market sourcing cut florals because of the better variety and it's lot cheaper than the HK side.
You'll notice each block of the market is for different plants and can be categorized by the following: potted plants/succulents, retail cut flowers, wholesale cut flowers, fake plants and orchid specialists. For tourists, the Bird Market is conveniently around the corner so you can kill 2 birds with one stone. In this photo, we just had a coffee break at a florist/cafe called Hayfever, before hauling all our bouquets back home. -
On Sundays, when my schedule is slower, I like taking the 10 minute ferry ride to Kowloon. The Star Ferry is one of our iconic modes of transportation that defines the city. The ferry symbolizes the unique landscape of Hong Kong of being both set in city/nature and mountain/water, gives you a scenic view of the island and allows you to visit the Kowloon side for less than a USD $1!
Even on days that are misty with a blurred skyline of HK, you can still capture beautiful photos and this one has always been my favourite.
Okay, let's talk about afternoon tea; a special treat to share with guests in town. Many hotels and fancier restaurants will offer a 3pm menu with their own spin on the classic British 'cream tea' consisting of scones and hot pot of tea. To avoid ruining your appetite for dinner, we always order half the number of tea sets to split between everyone.
My favourites include Cafe Causette at The Mandarin Oriental (@mo_hkg), The Upperhouse (@upperhouse_hkg) and The Envoy (featured here with dishes from @loveramics) at The Pottinger Hotel (@thepottingerhongkong). My friend Amanda, is also the mixologist at The Envoy (@theenvoyhk) and they create super cool cocktails with an Asian twist: pandan + jasmine tea cocktails anyone? 📷:@samishome
(at The Envoy)
Latitude22N (@latitude22n) is a ceramics studio and shop in Chai Wan. Beyond their own line of ceramics, Jesse and Julie create bespoke wares for restaurants and hotels around town: their latest collection done with boutique hotel, Tribute Hotels (@tributehotels) in Yau Ma Tei.
Their work often references a lot of classical Hong Kong motifs such as retro iron windows and floor tiles. But what I also really love is checking out Jesse's more experimental, of-a-kind pieces that have a quirky, human touch to them. It's a great place to pick up non-cliche souvenirs for friends who love homeware!
(at Latitude 22N)
With summer temperatures going well into October, finding a good beach to relax at is essential. My favourite is Big Wave Bay located near it's sister beach, Shek O, which is accessible by mini bus. We often grab beers and burgers at the nearby tuck shop, sunbathe and watch people surf on the gentle waves. When it gets cooler, we hike Dragon's Back (about 1.5 hours) and end up at Big Wave Bay where we can sit and enjoy a light picnic. 📷: @samishome
(at Big Wave Bay Beach)
But first, coffee. ☕️ Usually I prefer tea in the morning and as the day goes on, a strong cup of coffee to get me through till dinner. Favourite Hong Kong haunts for friends and I are: Cupping Room (@cuppingroomhk) because they open super early and serve breakfast, Ethos (@ethosstores)- a work friendly environment for freelancers, and Lof10 (@lof10hk) serving Blue Bottle Coffee and for LA cool vibes .
If you want the more retro side of Hong Kong in all its glorious neon lights and towering signage, it's best to head over towards the Kowloon area.
I used to live in Jordan so I'd always take friends around the underrated corners of Kowloon. Neighbourhoods to visit include Shanghai St on Yau Ma Tei (check out Kubrick Cafe), Mongkok for all the markets/street food- a local haunt for teenagers, Prince Edward for the bird/flower/goldfish market and Sham Shui Po to pick up fabrics, electronics and admire the historical architecture (check out Mei Ho House).
(at Fa Yuen Street 花園街)
Every great weekend starts off with ice cream. Here in Hong Kong we're crazy about our soft serves- decorated with eggettes (gai dan zhai), multi-colored swirls, or served with mochi and fruit, we love our twists in the tropical heat.
But my favourite, by far, is @viatokyocafe. I admit there are times we go there twice a week. They serve a very narrow selection of tea-based flavors: matcha and Hokkaido milk. Wednesdays their menu becomes Hojicha only. The one featured here was a limited-time Royal Milk Tea twist with a cookie. But be prepared to wait- even at dinner hour- because seating is tight in this cafe.
(at Via Tokyo)
The Hong Kong high rise life can be overwhelming.
For a slice of serenity and modern design in the middle of the city, the Asia Society (@asiasocietyhk) is set on a lush hill in Admiralty. Originally 4 British military buildings, the Asia Society is a blend of both the new and colonial architecture of red tiled roofs and teak doors. The jade green Chinese marble pavilion blends seamlessly with the glass and concrete bridges that carry you from floor to floor. Occasionally we come to see the art such as the Yoshimoto Nara exhibit that just finished and it's a great place to just slow down from the city life because very few people know about this hidden jewel.
📷: @samishome -
Chinese food revolves around sharing and gathering around the table. Whether it's Sunday family suppers or simply with friends, a communal table setting is an integral part of Asian food culture. From dim sum to hot pot to 10 course wedding banquets, Hong Kong has a lot of variety of low key and lavish spots. Here's a few we're returning customers to:
1. Che's Cantonese (Sunday dinners with family. Pre-order the BBQ pork buns)
2. Ye Shanghai (for special occasions. Go to the Tsim Sha Tsui branch)
3. Tak Kee (unpretentious and boisterous family atmosphere and just good food)
4. Fu Sing Seafood (good dim sum and family style dinners)
5. The Social Place (modern dim sum with a twist)
(at American Restaurant)
As we come to the end of our journey, one last Hong Kong favourite of mine is one which most of you will have to go to: the airport. It's fast, efficient, clean and I love the energy and the travel buzz around it. Sometimes we'll get there a little early to just grab a meal and walk around the stores before boarding our flight. So bon voyage and you can find me at @samishome for more of Hong Kong life and travel!