ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “shop

FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS: Goodbye Fenwick Pier (分域碼頭), Wan Chai (灣仔), Hong Kong

Earlier version of Fenwick Pier and the Servicemen’s Guides Association at the waterfront of Gloucester Road, with the Royal Navy Dockyard in Admiralty at the back. [Photographed in 1962, wikimedia commons, public domain]

On 2 February 2022, we had our final visit to Gia Trattoria Italiana, an Italian restaurant at Fenwick Pier in Wan Chai. Two months have passed, and we have already missed their Bistecca alla Fiorentina, lobster pasta, and all the delightful moments we spent at the restaurant. A few days after our February visit, the restaurant was closed for good, as the government decided to terminate the lease of Fenwick Pier. The pier was set for demolition and the site would be redeveloped into a fire-station. A little out of the way from the closest MTR station, the 4-storey pier building looked a little worn out, with paint peeling off here and there. Occupying a small piece of land less than 150m inland from the new Wan Chai Harbourfront, the utilitarian box structure probably wouldn’t be missed if it was just an ordinary building. But Fenwick Pier was no ordinary building. For two months before returning the closing the pier, people flocked to Fenwick Pier to photograph and bid farewell to this remnant from the colonial times. The nostalgic visitors even formed a queue outside the gate in the midst of pandemic. For the latter half of 20th Century, Hong Kong was the first port of call in Asia for many American seamen and navy personnel, while Fenwick Pier served like the arrival gateway in the city. The pier fulfilled its duty till the very end, offering foreign sailors and seamen free guidebooks, free local sim cards, transportation shuttles, tourist information, shops and services such as tailoring, hairdressing, souvenirs, etc. Local Hongkongers could also join the pier membership right at the door, so that they could enjoy the facilities in the complex. Fenwick Pier offered locals a “taste of America” from fast food to fine dining, and foreign seamen a place where they could enjoy products and services that defined the concept of East meets West.

While 2022 marks the end for Fenwick Pier, and its NGO operator, the Servicemen’s Guides Association (SGA – 香港軍人輔導會), the story began in 1953 with a humble information desk on the sidewalk next to Fenwick Street to serve the arriving American military sailors during the Korean War. Later on, the SGA was granted by the colonial government a small piece of land to establish the Fenwick Pier. The pier was moved and rebuilt a few times due to typhoon damages and land reclamation, until 1970 when the current building was erected. In 1994, Fleet Arcade (海軍商場), the 4-storey shopping centre, was founded serving mainly visiting sailors. As incoming vessels have significantly declined since 1997 and the pier became landlocked in 2016 due to land reclamation, the final demise for the pier was almost certain. At its peak, the pier received almost 100 vessels with 97,000 visitors a year. Wan Chai, the area where Fenwick Pier stood, was the official hub for all foreign sailors. Restaurants, bars, strip clubs and all sort of entertainment businesses flourished in Wan Chai, during the golden age of Fenwick Pier. After receiving 1.26 million sailors in 69 years, Fenwick Pier was finally sealed off by the government, and officially became an important piece of history for Hong Kong.

Nothing fancy about the decor of Gia Trattoria Italiana, but the decent food and harbour views made the restaurant our favorite Italian restaurant in the city. [2022]
With buffet appetizer an dessert, the restaurant was a popular place for weekend brunch. [2022]
Cheese is always important for any Italian restaurant. [2022]
The once open harbour views have been lost due to recent reclamation. [2022]
The tasty Bistecca alla Fiorentina was perfect for sharing. [2021]

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Fenwick Pier just before permanently closing for demolition. [2022]
Windows of Gia Trattoria Italiana and the main signage of the pier. [2021]
Entrance gate of Fenwick Pier across the street from Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. [2021]
The tree at the forecourt has grown to as tall as the building itself. [2021]
Towering behind the complex, the International Financial Centre (IFC) reminded visitors how close Fenwick Pier actually was from the central business district. [2021]
The exterior facades of Fenwick Pier looked a little worn out from the corrosive marine air. [2022]
The lobby of Fenwick Pier was rather low key. [2021]
With the decorations from 1990’s, stepping in the Fenwick Pier was like stepping back in time. [2021]
Despite vessels were no longer coming, colours of the interiors reminded visitors the marine identity of the complex. [2021]
The sailor wall art was one of the most eye-catching thing in the lobby of Fenwick Pier. [2021]
The entire building of Fenwick Pier was filled with a causal ambience, like a North American school building. [2021]
Many visitors loved to take selfies at the old rickshaw and the former Mac Donald’s seating from 1990’s. [2021]
Coat of arms plaques of marine related organisations lined up on walls and columns on the ground floor of Fenwick Pier. [2021]
As numbers of foreign sailors declined in recent years, the heyday of the Fleet Arcade felt like a distant past. [2022]
Bespoke tailoring was one of the most popular services at Fleet Arcade in the good old days. [2022]
11 February 2022 was the official last day for Fenwick Pier before being closed off by the government. [2021]

CHU WING KEE: HOMEWARES FROM THE MOUNTAINS (朱榮記山貨), Sheung Wan (上環), Hong Kong

In the Cat Street neighbourhood, the story of Uncle Tim might have come to an end, but another piece of collective memory from the 1960’s continues to live on. Not a cool vintage store, nor a hip design shop, the down to earth Chu Wing Kee (朱榮記) just happens to make its name as an honest and ordinary homeware shop. Local homewares shops like Chu Wing Kee were pretty common in Hong Kong before 1970’s. As the city entered the decades of economic boom, most of these shops have faded out from the urban scenery. Supermarkets, department stores, dollar shops, convenient store chain, and even online shopping have virtually wiped out these shops. As property prices skyrocketed in recent decades, a 1000 sq.ft ground floor retail space in central Hong Kong could worth about USD 4 million. For a shop owner selling housewares at a few USD a piece, selling the shop makes much more sense than continuing the business. Paying a high rent to sell everyday merchandises also doesn’t make it profitable either. The gradual death of traditional homeware shops in Hong Kong seems inevitable. But there are exceptions. Chu Wing Kee is one of these rarities.

Chu Wing Kee started in 1959 by the father of Mr. Chu, the current owner of the shop, with a street stall selling “shan for” (山貨), or “goods from the mountains”. “Shan for” literally refers to housewares and furniture made of natural materials, notably handicrafts made of rattan, bamboo, reed, wood or grass. In mid 20th century, wickenworks made with rattan were very popular. In Hong Kong, these products were handmade and sold during the dry season. In the 1970’s, Hong Kong had became a major manufacturing city of plastic products. Traditional handmade “shan for” proved to be no match against the cheaper and mass produced plastic products. “Shan for” has quietly faded out from most homes. Rattan was perceived as dated and dull, not as exciting as the colourful plastic products. Two generations have since passed. Rattan decor is making a comeback in recent years. So what actually is rattan? Rattan is a climbing plant belongs to the palm family. It can be found in rainforests in Asia, Africa and Australia. It is light, durable and relatively flexible. It serves as a good alternative to timber. Rattan usually grows under shade in rainforests, and can even be cultivated under fruit or rubber trees. However, as deforestation intensifies in recent decades, so as the population of rattan.

As a traditional shop selling “shan for” (山貨), Chu Wing Kee still offers a wide range of rattan goods and other products made locally with natural materials. Since most local craftsmen are getting quite advance in age, Mr. Chu might eventually have to rely on imported products from Southeast Asia. For now, Mr. Chu still manages to offer some local “shan for”, and other vintage housewares dated back to the 1960’s. For many, checking out Chu Wing Kee might be a nostalgic journey to hunt for childhood memories from a treasure trove. Apart from rattan items, ceramic and plastic piggy banks are two of the most popular merchandises Mr. Chu is offering Hongkongers. Other notable vintage products include plastic toys, traditional thermal bottles, metal mailboxes, ceramic chicken bowls, ceramic cooking pots and rice storage, wood laundry washboard, etc. For us living in the area, Mr. Chu’s shop offers some handy products that even supermarkets or department stores no longer carry. In early spring this year, we couldn’t resist but picked up a handmade rattan/bamboo chair. Touching the pencil marks on the bamboo chair arms reminded us how the chair was made by the chair maker, who had soaked, bend and tied the pieces together with his dexterous hands.

Chu Wing Kee is located at Possession Street, the spot where the British first landed on Hong Kong Island in 1841.
Like many traditional homeware and “shan for” stores, many merchandises at Chu Wing Kee are hung above the shopfront.
The chaotic shopfront of a traditional homeware store has become a rarity nowadays. The rattan drying plates remind visitors an old style of living, when people would sundry vegetables, spices or seafood at home.
Made in Hong Kong, the eye-catching plastic piggy banks were extremely popular in the 1980’s when banks and some big companies would give out these red piggies as gifts to customers. In fact, these piggies were byproducts from the era of blooming plastic and toy manufacturing industry in Hong Kong.
Today, the red piggies greet customers from the pedestrian curb.
We ended up buying a rattan / bamboo chair from Mr. Chu, perhaps out of admiration of a fading handicraft tradition and a nostalgic considerations.
Simple plastic balls have brightened up the childhood for kids growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Peeking into the shop, we could see a wide range of rattan containers or baskets hung from the ceiling.
Given the popularity of laundry machines and coin laundry shops, traditional wood washboard is quite hard to find these days.
Ceramic rice storage container is another rarity these days.
Ceramic pots were common for making Chinese soup and braised meat.
Vintage enamel basin can be a colourful addition to the minimalist decor of contemporary interiors.
Before the emergence of plastic piggy banks, ceramic piggy banks were popular gifts for kids.
Vintage thermal flasks and thermal containers were widely used at homes or for getting takeouts in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Handmade metal mailboxes are mostly associated with tenement apartments (唐樓). Now the old apartments are being torn down across the city rapidly, and many mailbox makers are in their twilight age, the mailboxes have become been revived as a local handicraft popular among designers and the young generation.
Referring to the red plastic piggy banks, the sign “not for sale, legendary merchandise” reveals its significance to the history of Hong Kong manufacturing industry and collective memories of a generation.
Before the emergence of fancy Japanese ceramics and the affordable ones made in China swamped the market, there were once locally made ceramic housewares in Hong Kong. The most iconic one was the “chicken bowl”, a bowl decorated with brush drawn chickens.
Rattan baskets and containers come in all sides and shapes.
Products made of natural materials are making a strong comeback in recent years.
Apart from practical homewares, we can also find vintage toys in Chu Wing Kee.

DAY 4 (5/5): LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

Before returning to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel, we dropped by Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, another famous haveli in Jaisalmer.  The haveli was built for Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the chief minister of Jaisalmer who served between 1885 – 1891.  The haveli was supposedly built by two architects, Hathi and Lulu, who happened to be brothers.  Each brother started building the mansion’s from a different facade, and thus the two sides are said to carry subtle differences if looked closely.  Unlike Patwon Ki Haveli, Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is not a museum, nor is it open to the public.  Visitors like us can only reach as far as the entrance courtyard that was flanked by a few souvenir shops selling miniature paintings.  After a brief stay, we took a leisure stroll back to the hotel.  Wandering in the busy market streets of old Jaisalmer and seeing all the vibrant interactions of the locals was a delight.  Such delight would left us pleasant memories of the Golden City before we moved on to our next destination by night train.

IMG_9901Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is considered to be one of the grandest haveli in Jaisalmer.

DSC_1421The two yellow sandstone elephants of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli are iconic representations of Jaisalmer’s splendid architectural carvings.

DSC_1419Visitors can only go as far as the entrance courtyard of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli.

IMG_9909After stopping by at Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, we wandered a bit in old Jaisalmer to find our way back to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel.

IMG_9900In the maze like network of small streets, we passed by two stone workers who were preparing stone blocks from a pile of local yellow sandstone.

IMG_9644At a street intersection, a group of men gathered for some sort of discussion at a beautiful veranda.

IMG_9641Shops lined on both sides of small market streets.  Cows were free to roam around on the streets (and shops).

IMG_9876It was strange to see cows roaming freely on the streets while some ended up becoming leather goods in shops.

DSC_1425Despite the remote desert location, fresh vegetables were sold in abundance.

DSC_1426It was late in the afternoon and there were only two vendors left at this market square.

DSC_1430Most shops were completely open to the streets, including these tailor shops.

IMG_9913Just like other places in Rajasthan, garments of vivid colours were always the most popular among locals.

IMG_2266For snacks, sweet pastries seemed to be the way to go.

IMG_9928Cakes with sharp colours and sweet flavour: Indian style.

IMG_9931We passed by the popular Bhatia Sweets near the first gate of the fort.  Both locals and foreign visitors gathered here for their regional sweets ghotua laddu, kalakand, etc.

IMG_9635We returned to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel near the fort, where we had dinner at the rooftop restaurant again.  Despite we had already check out of our room, the manager let us stay at the massage room until it was time for us to leave for our midnight train.

 

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Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 4 (5/6): NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

In October 2014, we stumbled upon a small shop in the shopping centre Tokyo Midtown.  Utensils, furniture, cloths, and other miscellaneous household items were on display on wooden shelves and stands.  Merchandises were displayed in clusters according to brands from different parts of Japan.  The design of that attractive small shop in the middle of a high-end shopping arcade, according designer Yusuke Seki, was inspired by shotengai (traditional shopping street).  We stayed at the shop for quite some time, and ended up picking up a blue umbrella with a nice wooden handle.  At its underside, there was a small label with an illustration of two deer and a traditional logo saying Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten (中川政七商店).  Later on, we did some online research and realized that Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten originates in Nara, and has been around for three centuries.

Opened in 1716, Nara’s Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten just celebrated its 300th anniversary.  Originally, the small Nara shop produced hand woven textiles for samurai and monk ceremonial robes.  The textile was known as Narazashi, or sarashi bleached hemp textile.  During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the society went through a dramatic change.  Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten was forced to diversify its focus on other products such as table cloths and handkerchief.  Entering the modern age, the shop defied all odds of modernization, persistently remained faithful to its traditional techniques and craftsmanship.  Nakagawa, the 13th president who joined the family business in the last 15 years or so, tested the potentials of his traditional shop to a new level.  Not only did he opened new shops outside of Nara like Tokyo and Osaka, Nakagawa also re-branded the company, and gave new life to old products such as using the old technique of mosquito net making for the new best selling fukin (Japanese style table cloth).  Furthermore, Nakagawa proactively engaged in fruitful collaborations with other craft companies across the country to come up with new brands and merchandises suitable for the contemporary era.

This time around, we were in Nara after a long day of temple hoping.  We promised ourselves that we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店), the flagship store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten located at a tranquil alleyway near Sanjo Dori.  At one corner of the shop, several merchandises commemorating the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten were on display.  A beige cloth with beautiful embroidery was a reproduction of their 1925 product exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, the design world fair that gave birth to Art Deco.   90 years on, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is still standing at the crossroad between the old and new, advocating a good mix of traditional crafts and contemporary aesthetics.  At their 300th anniversary, their locally made fabrics and household merchandises are as cool and modern as ever.

15The subtle wooden machiya (町屋) facade of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop provides a perfect fit for the shop that advocates high quality local crafts and products.

14The design of Yu Nakagawa is a comfortable blend of traditional and contemporary elements.

dsc_3595The signage of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店) with the iconic deer symbolizing the city of Nara.

dsc_3602Rows of colourful textiles behind the cashier counter attracted our attention right from the beginning.

16Cloths, bags, paper products, socks, scarfs, utensils, etc were on display in the pleasant interior.

dsc_3599Most items on display came from their own brands, such as 2&9, their line of well made socks.

dsc_3605It was already dark by the time we left Yu Nakagawa Main Shop.

17Before we left Nara, we also stopped by Nipponichi (日本市) at Sanjo Dori.  Nipponichi is also a brand from Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focused on selling Japanese made souvenirs.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan