Thursday, 20 March 2014

Shopping for Kawaii in Hong Kong

Shopping and Hong Kong are synonymous but how many people do you know who equate shopping for kawaii with Hong Kong?  Its no secret that after Japan, Hong Kong scores as the best place to shop for kawaii. Besides, the prices promise you more 'cuteness' for the buck. Here's what I found.

Let's start with Bento boxes. These moulds can transform the five essential food groups into little morsels of yummy cuteness.
Little animal themed containers, a little surprise in each one.
Food picks, irresistible aren't they? I resisted and I regret now.
All these bento box essentials and more can be bought at City Super's four locations in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Shatin.
If the culinary arts and kawaii are your thing then head to Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon to browse the wholesale crockery and cutlery shops. Great place to buy that long yearned for Hello Kitty cake pan, bamboo picks topped with little wooden hearts and smiley faces and cute chocolate fondue sets in bright happy colours which only requires a tea light to keep the chocolate warm and molten. You can also stock up on cupcake cases and doilies which are sold in large wholesale packs.

Sham Shui Po which is haberdashery heaven and needless to say a treasure trove of kawaii. I spent half a day in a quandary trying to make up my mind about what not to buy. I couldn't resist tiny centimetre and a half maneki neko bells which make adorable cellphone charms and miniature wooden clothes pegs with tiny wooden ladybirds stuck on them. There are ribbons, buttons, sew on patches,beads of different sizes and shapes and an array of fabrics.
Visit Sasa, a chain of cosmetic stores where I saw the most amazing range of Dolly Wink false eyelashes and if its kawaii and cosmetics you seek Sasa won't disappoint.
The 7 Eleven chain in Hong Kong celebrated the 40th anniversary of Hello Kitty with a special 'Hello Party' themed edition of thirty collectable toy editions of Hello Kitty and her friends. Hello Kitty and her friends are dressed up as popular fairytale characters and aristocrats. Hello Kitty is a princess, Dear Daniel a prince, Kerookerokeroppi as a bishop. HK$ 20 spent at any 7 Eleven got you a special bonus sticker.You had to collect 16 special bonus stickers or 6 stickers and HK$ 20 in order to redeem a collectable toy. I managed to acquire Patty and Jimmy dressed up as guards and I've left instructions with my nephew to collect bonus stickers for any future kawaii promotions.
Hong Kong's Octopus Card Company has had launches of their cards in conjunction with Hello Kitty products in the past. You might want to check if there is a promotion running when you visit Hong Kong, after all you may need to buy yourself an Octopus card to get around.  
McDonalds is another good place to garner yourself some kawaii merchandise.

Sanrio has multiple stores in Hong Kong for Hello Kitty products and San-X's Rilakkuma is equally popular.
Kawaii extends to food as well. There is a Hello Kitty Le Petit Cafe  in the SOGO store in Causeway Bay. The cute horse themed mochi in the picture above were photographed in City Super. Look out for kawaii themed food and beverages in the little bakeries and cafes that dot the city.

Two other must visit locations are Stanley Market in Stanley and Fa Yeun Street in Central. There's Fa Yeun Street East and West which are alleyways between huge office towers. The small stalls and shops sell inexpensive souvenirs, knick knacks, clothing and accessories.I had a modest collection of kawaii after a morning of shopping at Elegant Tang Dynasty on Fa Yeun Street.

Kawaii is serious business and I've barely scratched the surface in this post. I've decided when I get a chance to visit Japan, the mothership of all things kawaii, it will be dedicated to the aquisition of unique kawaii merchandise.
I'm keeping in touch with the world of kawaii through vlogs on YouTube and blogs which are dedicated to the pursuit and purchase of kawaii. I'm creating a list and on it are squishies and Re-Ment boxes and the elusive Konapun kits. The list will grow as I delve into this sub culture of all things cute.  

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 As an affiliate, Flipkart and Amazon will pay me a small percentage of the total amount you spend.You will not be paying anything extra. Thank you.  

Friday, 7 March 2014

Four things to do on a weekend in the Nilgiris.

The Nilgiris or the Blue Mountains have a laid back magic for which you need time to revel in the magic but if you're short on time here are my four suggestions which give you an opportunity to re connect with nature and discover an appreciation for the simple things.

Wake up early and listen to the birdsong and identify the local flora.
Step out in the morning and give yourself a sensory workout.
Breathe in the fresh air scented with eucalyptus and pine. Most people in the Nilgiris are proud of their gardens so try and identify the local flora. There are perennials like the Geraniums, Azalea, Agapanthus lily, Hydrangea, Camellia to name a few. 
The seasonals to look out for are the Jacaranda trees which turn the hillsides misty purple in March - April and the Poinsettia put on a great show from December - March.
There is the Kurinji flower which grows wild on the hillsides and bloom once in twelve years turning entire hillsides purple. They are expected to bloom next in 2018 between July and December.
If the birdsong doesn't wake you up then listen to the birdsong while you sip your morning cuppa.You will be delighted by the antics of the busy little birds.March to April you may find nests and fledglings like this Bulbul in its nest.
You might come across Gaur or Bison grazing in the tea estates, please don't approach them, watch them from a good hundred feet or more because they are wild and can be unpredictable especially if there are calves.  

Take a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Do some part of the 26 kilometers the Nilgiri passenger covers from Ooty to Mettupalayam. Travelling through 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. The entire journey will take you close to five hours if you are going uphill from Mettupalayam to Ooty and three and a half hours if you are travelling down hill from Ooty to Mettupalayam.
There are ten stations on the journey not including Mettupalayam and Ooty and they are Kallar where the rack rail begins. Adderly , Hillgrove, Runneymede, Kateri Road Station, Coonoor which is the main intermediate station and the top end of the rack rail. The locomotive is noramlly changed here. Wellington Station, Aruvankadu, Ketti , Lovedale and finally Ooty.
 The shortest distance would be Ooty to Lovedale from where one can take a bus back to Ooty or else make a day trip to Coonoor and take in the sights there, Sims park, Lambs Rock and Dolphin's Nose.

Buy Local
Local brands are worth looking out for and sampling when you are in the Nilgiris.
Last Forest is a brand promoted by Keystone Foundation in Kotagiri. They have a wide range of products on offer - spices, honey, soaps and balms to name a few. They have their own shop in Bedford, Coonoor called The Green Shop.
 Grey's Hill  for the most delicious jams, chutneys and preserves made with seasonal produce such as billberry and plum.
Acres Wild for cheese.Date and walnut cake and Shortbread from Green Acres in Ketti.
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to tea. Local brands are Korakundah, Chamraj,Glendale to name a few.
All these brands are available at Modern Stores near Assembly Rooms in Ooty and Bakers Junction, Bedford in Coonoor.
Modern Stores has an impressive selection of chocolates which you must indulge in.

Dine at Shinkows
For all those studying in the boarding schools in Ooty, Shinkows is an institution. Forty years back it was the only restaurant in town and eating at Shinkows was a treat. Its good wholesome food, don't expect the regular Indian Chinese.
The decor in the Zodiac room hasn't changed nor the menu. Chilly Chicken is still 13A and you are still handed a little pad and pen to note down your order from the menu which has a number for every dish.
Hand your order list to the waiter and he'll confirm your order, rattling off the names of dishes just looking at the numbers. 

Have you visited the Nilgiris? What would your recommendations be for a short break in the Blue Mountains?

If you shop on line I would appreciate it if you would click on the Amazon link here or the Flipkart link here to browse and make your purchases.
 As an affiliate, Flipkart and Amazon will pay me a small percentage of the total amount you spend.You will not be paying anything extra. Thank you.