Everyone told me that I had to get a suit while in Hong Kong. I had just picked up a couple of tailored suits in the States less than a year ago. So I settled on fitted shirts, taking Josh’s recommendation to visit the world-famous Sam’s Tailor in Kowloon. Manu himself greeted me, but left the order-taking to one of his associates. I picked out bolts of white and blue cloth off the shelves, while Sylvia helped me settle on a third in steel gray. A hunched old man, no taller than my elbow, measured me with trembling hands while another attendant gave me a bottle of water. The process took 15 minutes and I paid less than $50 U.S. for each of three bespoke shirts.
There was some confusion over whether I’d come back the next day for a fitting or whether the shirts would be delivered. As it turned out, Sam’s delivered the shirts that same evening, leaving a package with the hotel concierge. I tried them on the next morning and each fit like a glove. There was also some confusion over cuffs. I’d originally said button cuffs on all three, but changed my mind and asked for French cuffs on the gray. All three were button cuffs when they arrived. However, I’m not so attached to cufflinks that I wanted to send them back.
While we were still on Nathan Road (that morning), Sylvia found a leather goods store. She picked out a new suitcase ($360 HKD) and a leather handbag ($600 HKD). The man behind the counter punched a handheld calculator, doubling the price either through clumsiness or as a way to pass a fast one on some gwailo. “Sixteen hundred,” he said. “You mean nine-sixty?” Sylvia asked. The old man nodded. She talked him down further to nine hundred HKD, which (for those of you who don’t have the exchange rates memorized) means she walked away with a new handbag and suitcase for about $115. She inspected the lining of each piece before paying and tested the zippers and fasteners, because mama didn’t raise no fool.
I got to do some haggling of my own the next day at the legendary Temple Street night market. Temple Street is taken over by street vendors from 4pm to midnight every night. This is the opposite end of the scale from the major label outlets you’ll find in Central and TST. Here are the knockoffs, the remainders and the goods of questionable provenance. I bought a wallet and journal, both bound in rich leather. “Two hundred,” the lady said. “Ninety?” I offered. She laughed: “One-eighty.” We eventually met at one-fifty. I could probably have gone lower, but we both walked away happy (me at flexing some bargaining muscles; she at clearing a profit on some cheap leather goods) and that’s the best kind of trade.
Sam’s Tailor was famous enough that I wanted to check them out anyway, but it came recommended by Sylvia’s expat friends Josh and Emma. Traveling with locals is essential for Hong Kong. You see so much that’s off the beaten path. On Sunday they took us out for dim sum, or yum cha, as the locals call it; dim sum is the food, yum cha is the outing. We ate at a banquet-sized restaurant in Fortress Hill, far enough from downtown that we were the only white faces in the building. They then took us to a teahouse tucked away on the 23rd floor of an office building in SoHo, featuring excellent views of downtown, Victoria Harbor and Kowloon. We would never have found the place without them.
Based on that, my big tip for HK tourists would be to go into random buildings and see what you find. Hong Kong is built vertically. In the West, retail is on the ground floor of a building while the higher floors are all offices or residences. In HK, any floor could be anything. In one building, you might find a teahouse on one floor, a beauty salon on another, a massage parlor, a bakery, a brokerage, a realtor, and another teahouse. Sylvia and I found a sushi bar in Kowloon by wandering into a building and going up escalators until we found a place we liked. Chefs put fresh sushi on plates of varying colors, which slid around a rotating conveyor belt for patrons to pick up. Each plate had a different price, so the waiter would check your dishes and give you a tally when you were done. It was a wide variety of the freshest sushi I’d ever eaten and the total bill was about $16 U.S.
- hong kong, part 3
- hong kong, part 5