Saturday, December 29, 2007

Snipping a bob in Guangzhou

Le Salon, Garden Hotel, Guangzhou

You've probably heard of the trendy hair salons in Hong Kong and Shanghai. But do you know that such a salon exists in food haven Guangzhou too? Well, at least I didn't, till I stepped foot into Garden Hotel and chanced upon Le Salon (of no relation to the Kim Robinson's Le Salon, the owner simply called it thus because he liked the generic French name of it).

I had wanted to snip one of those trendy concave bob hair-styles that Hong Kong stylists are so adept at (again, an assumption I made based purely on personal observations, seeing that you can easily spot a great bob haircut on the streets of Hong Kong). So it was sheer serendipity that while waiting for my table at Peach Blossom Restaurant (see post), I wandered into Le Salon and met owner-cum-artistic director, Jac Miller. It was pretty early in the day, so he had no appointments and I had sufficient leisure time to spare after my meal, and thus a promising haircut appointment was made.

Like the rest of Garden Hotel, Le Salon's interiors were elegant and comfortable. I was showed to a private styling room whereby I was pampered with my own private TV, the ubiquitous stash of magazines and a bonus glass panelled view of some spot of greenery.

I paid RMB 320 (USD 44, SGD 64) which I think was a great bargain for an artistic director's cut and I also had one of those good, invigorating, massage hair-washes that China is known for. Jac is actually an Indonesian-Chinese that hails from Hong Kong. He trained in London and has 20-odd years of experience, honing his skills in Hong Kong. So no worries about miscommunication due to lack of Chinese proficiency. Jac speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Owner-cum-artistic director, Jac Miller

As Jac still returns to Hong Kong to service his loyal customers, he travels to and fro between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Also, he charges cheaper for his services in Guangzhou, half the price of what he charges in Hong Kong. If you'll like to request for Jac's services, you may wish to call beforehand to pre-book.

When I visited the salon in September, I was told that it was newly opened just 6 months ago and plans are afoot to open one more salon at the shopping and commercial district of Tianhe, Guangzhou.

Le Salon
Address: Shop P08, The Garden Hotel, No. 368 Huanshi Dong Lu, Guangzhou.
Tel: (020) 83338989-3444; Mobile: 13433990621

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Place to Yum Cha in Guangzhou!

Dim Sum Brunch at The Peach Blossom

Sometimes you encounter certain dining experiences that are sheer splendour in every aspect - from the refine grandeur of the restaurant to the faultless service to the exquisiteness of the cuisine. Experiences that make you feel so pampered and indulgent that you forget your penny-pinching ways and become gladly obliged to spend a little, live a little and feel that every extravagant penny was well-spent.

What exactly am I driving at, with my effusive drivel? Experiencing yum cha at The Peach Blossom restaurant, that is.

The usual suspects of dim sum that we regularly order back home, such as the braised chicken feet, rice-flour roll and braised spare-ribs were executed impeccably.

But the dim sum of note were the egg tart and the speciality of papaya puff pastry. Both sweet dim sum dishes were done to crumbly (crust), quivering (soft, custard filling) perfection. I highly recommend these two dishes as must-tries!

We had 8 dishes and tea and the meal came up to RMB 280 (approx USD 40, SGD 55). The tea we had actually contributed to almost half of the cost. I suppose it was a superior grade of tea, thus the hefty charges. The pot of Dong Ting Biluo Chun we had, cost RMB 96.

The Peach Blossom is located on the 3rd floor of The Garden Hotel, at 368 Huanshi Dong Lu.
Tel: 83877789, 83338989~3316 3317.
Business Hours:
7:00 am to 11:30 am (Breakfast)
11:30 am to 2:30 pm (Lunch)
5:30 pm to 10:30 pm (Dinner)

* note:
Yum Cha is a Cantonese tradition. They typically start the day with a morning yum cha, which means a meal consisting of tea and dim sum. Some restaurants also offer all-day yum cha, so people can conveniently feast on dim sum either in the morning, as afternoon tea or as supper snack.

Dim Sum (点心) literally translates to "touch the heart" in Mandarin, a fittingly poetic name that refers to a variety of exquisitely prepared small-item snacks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On-board the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong

On-board the Ktt

Took a train ride from Guangzhou to Hong Kong The journey was a convenient and comfortable ride.

There are 3 train companies that ply the Guangdong Line - Ktt ( owned by Hong Kong operator KCRC) , Xinshishu and Semi-high Speed (the later two are owned by China Mainland railway authority).

All Guangzhou-Hong Kong trains depart from the Guangzhou East Station and arrive at the Hung Hom Station in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The journeys take about 2 hours; longer if your train stopover at Dong Guan (Chang Ping station) and shorter if it's a direct train.

It was my first time travelling by train in China, so I played it safe by getting the most expensive ticket, hoping that this will translate into a safer, more comfortable ride. And it was money well spent. Bought the Premium Class tickets on-board the direct-service Ktt at HKD 230 (approx USD30, SGD43) for a single trip.

The train were relatively well-kept and standards were akin to some of the better trains I've taken in Europe. The seats in the Premium Class were spacious and comfortable.

Even the next lower category First Class at HKD 190 (approx USD25, SGD35) had reasonably good, albeit, slightly narrower seats than Premium's.

Ticket price is inclusive of light refreshments - an offering of drinks, coffee or tea and cookies. Dining service is also available, with items on a menu card to be ordered at additional cost.

A gripe I have with travelling on long commutes (be it via train, plane or ship) is getting around heeding the call of nature. Without major grief or nose-pinching. So it was with great relief that I found the restrooms clean and well-maintained.

But perhaps the thing I was most grateful for (and you would think it's a given) is that the Ktt trains have a luggage holding area. Which really helps when you're travelling with medium-sized (or larger) luggages.

Due to schedule timing, I had to take the Xinshishu on the return journey, where the trains were unfortunately not as well-kept and I had to leave my luggage near the train doors as there isn't a designated holding area for them.


So being the neurotic that I am, I kept checking over my shoulder every now and then to reassure myself that the luggages were not tampered with. So yeah, would definitely recommend paying abit more and taking the Ktt trains when you can, for a better ease of mind.

The difference between the ticket price of Xinshishu (no categories; homogenised seats) and that of a Ktt Premium Class ticket is HKD 40 (approx USD5, SGD7.50) and if you travel Ktt First Class, it's the same price as a Xinshishu ticket. In my opinion, it's money well-spent for an ease of mind and hassle-free travel.

For more information on the intercity trains, schedules and purchase, refer to

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hong Kong's 1st outlet mall

Citygate Outlets

Situated at Lantau Island, Tung Chung, Citygate Outlets is a convenient shopping stop-over after a visit to the Giant Buddha or Disneyland. At only a mere 5-minute bus ride away from the international airport, it's also a place to squeeze in some last minute shopping before your check-in.

Given Hong Kong's reputation as a shopping paradise, it comes as a surprise that Citygate Outlets could actually lay claim to being the first and only discount outlet mall in Hong Kong. The 462, 800 square feet mall, spanning over 5 levels, opened within the last 2 years or so and carries international brands names, ranging from designer labels, to sports, accessories, children's wear and home, and purportedly offer 30% - 70% discount.

Special mention to the sprawling I.T. Outlet that just opened in August 2007, on level 1. The listed I.T. group is a popular chain of multi-brand stores that carry their own range of brands (izzue, b+ab, 5cm, Chocolate) as well as renowned designer labels, such as Marc Jacobs, cacharel, Hussein Chalayan, to cult labels - A Bathing Ape, 2K and Commes des Garcons. For more information, visit website:

The mall also has 17 dining establishments, ranging from the usual suspects of McDonald's, KFC and the ubiquitous coffee chains (in this case, the Pacific Coffee Company) to cafes and restaurants to a food court (a grouping of several food vendors/stalls under one concept).

I recommend the Thai restaurant located on the basement level, Golden Siam Thai Cuisine serves tasty Thai food at affordable prices. For an even cheaper alternative and more variety, the Singaporean food court chain, Food Republic offers a variety of food stalls, including some popular Singapore dishes, such as chicken rice and laksa (recipes adapted to local tastes). And if you need to grab a quick snack, there is a sprawling supermarket, Taste.

The mall is most accessible via the subway MTR. Alight at Tung Chung station and link to the mall via Exit C.

If you're travelling from Hong Kong International Airport, board buses S1, S52 or S64.

The mall is opened from 10:00 am - 10:00 pm daily. For more information on Citygate Outlets, visit website:

The Luxe Manor, Hong Kong

Stayed at a relatively new boutique hotel in Hong Kong this September 2007. The Luxe Manor is purportedly the first boutique hotel to open on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. (The Hong Kong Island side already has its Lanson Place and Philippe Starck-inspired Jia).

The Luxe Manor is a 159-room establishment that opened its doors on December 2006 and positions itself as a luxury hotel that marries a unique "surreal concept and design" (inspired by Dali and Antonio Gaudi) with advanced technology (wireless broadband throughout hotel, wireless VoIP telephony, high definition video-on-demand, LCD flat screen TV panels, keyless room security system etc.)

I took advantage of their "winter rendezvous" special offer (valid till 31 December 2007) and booked their superior room package at HKD 950 +++ (approx USD122, SGD177), almost 50% discount off their usual rack rate.

My main purpose in visiting Hong Kong was to do some sightseeing and shopping and the hotel was conveniently located at the heart of the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui, where you are surrounded by stretches of local boutiques and eateries. The Kowloon equivalent of the pubbing street, Lan Kwai Fong is the Knutsford Terrace, which is literally a stone's throw away, as its located right behind the hotel. The subway station of Tsim Sha Tsui is about a good 5 - 8 minute easy walk.

The superior room is a tad tiny. We had trouble fitting two medium-sized luggages on whatever little space was afforded, as the room was filled up with furnishings. Some may find the room décor a little busy, but I actually liked it and found the little touches of trompe l'oeil whimsical.

The special offer package also came with complimentary breakfast at the hotel's current sole-standing restaurant, Aspasia. The hotel, being a cosy, boutique establishment doesn't boast of much facilities (no swimming pool, although there is supposedly a gym that I hadn't check out, only one restaurant so far but there is a business centre). They do try to make up for it by adding little touches such as daily evening turn-down service that puts little plates of cookies or cakes in your room; scented lobby that offers much respite from the assault of olfactory senses by the street smells.

Service-wise, mostly unobtrusive. All in all, I had a pleasant stay.

For more information on The Luxe Manor, refer to website: