“Most people, when they talk about Hong Kong, they're like, ‘Oh, the parties, the bars, the shopping,'” says Jade Lai (top row, center), the Hong Kong-raised owner of Creatures of Comfort, a boutique with locations in New York and Los Angeles, and the designer of its in-house clothing and accessories line. “That’s all nice, but for me it’s about spending time with family, hiking, going to the beach, food.”
Lai’s recent 10-day escape to the city included all of those things, and she was often in the company of her father, brothers, nieces and nephews (a niece, Meg, is pictured above at left). One highlight was a jaunt on her father’s boat to the island of Kau Sai Chau and its small fishing village. The Lais ate at a small storefront run by an elderly couple. “You can call in ahead of time and say you want seafood, and the man will go out and catch it himself,” says Lai, whose lunch that day featured shrimp (bottom right) and crab (bottom left, pictured next to a Peruvian hat she’s thinking about reproducing). Her favorite hiking and sunning spot? Shek O (top right), a verdant peninsula extending from the southeastern part of Hong Kong Island. “There are beaches and hills, and you can walk up and get a great view of the ocean,” she says.
Below, Lai shares a handful of other Hong Kong highlights.
“Close to my dad’s house, there’s a park area and this area called the Bird Market. These stores open at 5 a.m. and all the old men bring their birdcages and hang out. The birds sing to each other. You can buy birds, cages, crickets and all this weird stuff. My dad doesn’t have any birds, but he has this wooden box with a cricket inside that he carries with him when he travels, to have the sound of crickets nearby.”
“The Australia Dairy Company is this very old-school Hong Kong diner. You can get macaroni in soup with a piece of ham, or toast with condensed milk, or scrambled eggs. The famous Hong Kong drink is a duet, which is half instant coffee, half Lipton tea, mixed together with a lot of condensed milk. I like the aesthetic of this place â€” it’s very Wong Kar-wai.”
“This area called Sheung Wan has a lot of old pharmacies that sell dried seafood for medicinal use, you can get dried lizard and starfish and stuff, and supposedly you go and make it into a soup and drink it. I’ve never done that before. But I get dried scallops and stuff for congee.”
“The Luk Yu Tea House has been around for 80 years and it’s basically locals-only. My dad wakes up really early and we go there for breakfast. He goes in at 6:30 a.m., before they even turn the lights on, and he has his regular table. You can see people trying to roam in and the whole place will be empty and they’ll say, ‘There’s no seat for you.’ I also like to go to this handmade shoe place. This little old man will make any kind of shoes you want, and the place looks like a little hut. We’re making some shoes that kind of look like this pair for next season.'”