Monthly Archives: February 2011

You’re history! (Like a beat-up car!): Hong Kong Museum Of History review

‘The History Museum perpetuates the myth that Hong Kong has no culture by providing a sterile and clinical retelling of Hong Kong’s rich past.’

History geek boyfriend (shown above) on Hong Kong’s History Museum

This review of Hong Kong’s Museum Of History was a long time coming. You may have seen my review of their special exhibition The Evergreen Classic: Transformation Of The Qipao but I actually managed to check out their main exhibition, The Hong Kong Story, twice in the space of two weeks. Not through scholarly enthusiasm but on a trip with my kindergarten class and again, when my boyfriend and I showed up a month early for aforementioned qipao exhibition – and I’m afraid that I wasn’t too impressed.

The Hong Kong Story contains a lot of what I brand ‘fake history’ – lots of replicas and not many authentic artefacts. It traces Hong Kong from its beginnings as a barely-populated jungle filled with tigers (apparently) through its time as a British colony via displays about traditional Chinese folk culture before reaching modern-day HK. But given it opts for building replicas of trams, boats, fishermen, puppets, a tower of buns, schools, banks and practically everything else you can think of, the true authentic visceral sense of history is forsaken. Most of your information is gleaned from reading the placards beside each replica (or listening to your audio guide!) and looking at blown-up reprinted old photographs, meaning that you’re not really getting that much of a different experience from reading a history textbook, except you’re getting to stretch your legs and battle snap-happy visitors in the process.

In my opinion, the most riveting part of Hong Kong’s history is wartime and the Japanese occupation – parts which are dealt with much more effectively and movingly in the Museum Of Coastal Defence, which at least has some genuine bullet-strewn walls, cannons, caponniers and torpedoes to make for a more well-rounded experience (plus there’s currently the amazing Escape To Wai Chow exhibition – check out the full review here).

Elsewhere, it’s only interesting to those who have absolutely no working knowledge of Hong Kong’s history and given the plastic-ness of most of the exhibits, it doesn’t really reward repeated visits – although obviously I overdid it a bit! It’s certainly not an essential tourist stop nor, speaking from experience, is it much fun for very young visitors.

My photos illustrate the few parts that, not being too bothered by models of Neanderthals making fire in prehistoric HK, I actually did find interesting. And oh dear, déjà vu, it includes some vintage calendar prints of girls wearing qi pao. Moving on…

This is the interior of one of HK’s oldest traditional Chinese medicine shops. A REAL interior, not a fake replica. When it closed its doors for the last time, the LCSD managed to procure its décor and stick it in the history museum. There’s also an audio recording from the shop’s owner (plus English translation!). It’s interesting because it feels real and what with Hong Kong’s record in demolishing sites of historical interest, the sort of thing the government should be doing much more of. You’ll find it in a street filled with less interesting replicas of other early Hong Kong shops.

Social history inevitably has a lot more to offer than a plastic model. The section on Hong Kong’s early schooling system has glass cases filled with old exercise books and report cards. and, if you can decipher the spidery handwriting, being basically quite nosy is always absorbing!

I know it might sound like my bugbear, having gone on about it at other tourist destinations (like the Museum Of Coastal Defence and the Botanical Gardens), but the eating facilities here would be the laughing stock of any Western cultural hotspot. The Museum Of History’s school cafeteria may be cheap, clean and offer an abundance of chicken wings, but it could be so much more. Flogging a mix of instant noodles and junk food (not in one dish… although I wouldn’t put it past them), it mostly serves as a last resort or for people looking for somewhere quiet where they can crab free Wifi for as long as possible. It did, however, have beautiful lamps made to look like birdcages.

Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by having “real history” in practically every back garden in the UK, but I found the Hong Kong Museum Of History’s Hong Kong Story exhibition rather uninspiring. I’d rather pick up a history book from Page One and hop across the way to the Science Museum, which is a LOT more fun. And hopefully you’ll believe me when I say that I’ll review that museum very soon – i.e. sometime before 2012, fingers crossed!

The Hong Kong Story, Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, 2724 9042.

Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday- Saturday, 10am-6pm, Sunday and Public Holiday 10am-7pm, closed Tuesdays. Admission $10 (free on Wednesdays). For further details, visit their website here.

OPI Miami Beet nail polish review

OPI’s Miami Beet was another result of my abortive attempt to buy some colours from their new Texas Collection (abandoned as the ‘sorbet’ finish being too sheer for my liking). OPI are apparently famed for their berry cremes and chucking one or two out with nearly every collection – and if Miami Beet is anything to go by, I can see why!

I applied Miami Beet at night and was concerned that it looked too much like Essie’s slightly dull Rock Star Skinny. Thankfully, Miami Beet is much more a morning lark than a night owl and came gloriously alive (if not quite chirping!) in the daylight. The very definition of a rich raspberry, it’s the ideal half-way house between dark cerise and beetroot purple (and not as bright or as magenta as the bottle appears either).

It was also one of the best formulas I have rocked from OPI in a loooong time (don’t be fooled by that watery first coat!). Glassily glossy, creamily smooth and opaque in an even two coats, it dried quickly and stayed chip-free.

Having wanted to nibble at my nails all last week thanks to China Glaze’s delicious Heli-Yum (my other anti-sorbet purchase), Miami Beet was just as edible. We seem to be in the midst of a frozen yoghurt craze here in HK and I could barely look at my nails without thinking ‘Mmmm… Very Berry’! Mulberry, raspberry, loganberry, cranberry – take your pick! (Or, if you want to go for fruit in a slightly different state… claret, burgundy or sherry!)

It’s muted and mature enough to work for work but not so dull that it fades into the background. It also transcends seasons – warm and rich enough to fit in with velvety fall shades but light and bright enough for summer too (and it was actually released in spring!).

Like Essie’s Silken Cord, a red so perfect I’ve not felt the need to have any others in my collection, Miami Beet will definitely be my go-to berry shade for the foreseeable future. And not a ‘sorbet’ finish in sight!

Looks good with: just about everything
Drying time: 3-5 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: +5 days

OPI Miami Beet nail polish, Spring/Summer 2009 South Beach Collection, $70, Cher2

Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen restaurant review – bao down for the best xiao long bao in Hong Kong!

Now for a blog that’s short on pictures but long on love… a review of one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong, Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen.

My boyfriend has a stock list of restaurants he suggests whenever I ask where we should go for lunch: McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, Express Teppanyaki and instant noodles from 7-Eleven. Yup, he’s a classy sort. So imagine my surprise when one day, having been dating him and asking this same question for at least 18 months, he suddenly threw ‘Shanghainese’ into the mix.

Which Shanghainese did he mean? Hong Kong has its fair share of good but now overrated Shanghainese joints – the New York Times apparently reckons that the Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung is one of the ten best restaurants in the world (I can think of ten better in Hong Kong!) and it regularly features on blogs battling for the title of ‘best xiao long bao in HK’ with another Shanghainese called Crystal Jade (curiously neither actually originate from China). In fact, he meant neither of these places and his choice of Grand Cuisine, tucked away near his old work place in Quarry Bay, has xiao long bao that blow those two out of the water.

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China Glaze Heli-Yum nail polish

Remember my quest for the perfect hot pink? It wasn’t quite as long-winded as my search for Pixie Lott’s yellow, nor as die-hard as my search for a true turquoise and it certainly didn’t entail as many miles as my search for Gosh’s Gasoline but it eventually ended abruptly and slightly unhappily with Essie’s Fiesta, a colour that looked perfect in the bottle, on samples and indeed, in photos but which looked like I’d scribbled my nails in with a Muji gel pen in real-life. Well, I’m now happy to report I found my perfect hot pink without even looking. It’s China Glaze’s Heli-Yum.

I’d originally intended to buy one of the pinks from OPI’s Spring Texas Collection, yet on seeing the supposedly innovative “sorbet” finish (i.e. too sheer for me), I was guided towards the more easily opaque Heli-Yum. A candy-coated bright raspberry creme, it looked even more edible on my fingers than it did in the shop.

China Glaze are fast becoming my favourite brand – the cheapest in Cher2 but with a gorgeous array of colours and consistently high quality results. I was a little worried as Light As Air, which came from the same Spring 2010 collection Up & Away, had been a little gloopy with a lumpy finish but no such problems with Heli-Yum. In fact, it was probably the best yet I’ve tried in terms of formula and application, a smooth and glossy one-coater that dried quickly to boot.

I totally loved Heli-Yum. It was almost good enough to eat (please note: Through The Looking Glass does not recommend you actually try and eat it). It’s the picture perfect shade of hot pink for me, a creamy cerise that’s supremely flattering rather than being sunglasses-needed shocking.

Truly scrumptious!

Looks good with: summer brights, sweets, fun
Drying time: 3-5 mins
Coats required: 1
Chips: +5 days

China Glaze Heli-Yum nail polish, Spring 2010 Up & Away Collection, $60, Cher2

Red Carpet Rundown: 2011 Bafta Awards

Initially, I wasn’t going to write about 2011’s Bafta Awards, which were a bit low on star wattage compared to previous years. But then I found I needed a distraction from the slag-heap of ugly and tacky that was this year’s Grammys and Brits, so here we are.

Thandie Newton in Monique Lhuillier – Thandie, as she so very often is, was my best-dressed at this event. Not only is Ms Newton blessed with exquisite good looks but she seems to have exquisite taste too, as I can’t remember the last time I saw her put a foot wrong on the red carpet. It’s a dramatic gown in a dramatic colour, yet Thandie carries it off with effortless elegance. A dream.

Emma Stone in Lanvin – I’m still not sold on Emma as a blonde but this is an outfit she probably could have never worked as a redhead and she looks fabulous. Blake Lively wore a gown from the same collection and looked like she was auditioning to be some Valkyrie-inspired superhero; Emma looks like a gilded Grecian goddess. I love the warm colour palette that’s tying everything together, right down to her gold clutch and hoop earrings. That smile is just adorable. I just want to caterwaul ‘I’ve got a pocketful, pocketful of sunshine!’ every time I look at her.

Rosamund Pike in Alexander McQueen – I’ve loved Rosamund Pike’s style for years as she can make youthful edgy outfits feel classy and lady-like. This mustard McQueen is carefree boho grown up and done to red carpet standards (something I felt Mila Kunis didn’t quite pull off at the SAGs). Could her hair be any more perfect?

Amy Adams in Elie Saab – Yes! Amy Adams is back! Gone are the done-to-death jewel tones and instead we have a look that is just outrageously pretty. No one brings the pretty quite like Elie Saab and Adams positively glows. I never expected coral to work with red hair but Amy delightfully proves me wrong. This couldn’t get more springy and refreshing unless those shimmers came from a sprinkling of morning dew and a fluffy bunny bounded across the picture.

Julianne Moore in Tom Ford – I wanted Amy to step away from the jewel tones; I frankly couldn’t wait for Julianne to get back to them. After a really terrible run of late, which has seen Moore mired in a series of shapeless fits, unwarranted sleeves, unflattering colours and even a pair of knock-off Ugg boots, this marked a return to her red carpet best – old-school Hollywood glamour. The deep sapphire velvet gown, smouldering smoky eyes, bright red lips and tumbling Titian hair are just a perfect combo – and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the Tom Ford-shaped arm candy she sported for most of the night!

Gemma Arterton in YSL – My boundless love for Gemma (she was the sole reason I sat through St Trinians 2) is the main reason she’s here as I’m still undecided over whether the bed-head hair and gift-wrap bow work. What I am sure of is that she is working the hell out of it and that she should wear scarlet lipstick ALL the time. This isn’t a red carpet picture but it was the only one I could find where it’s obvious that her handbag is a fish, which is obviously all kinds of amazing. Marriage proposal’s in the post, Gemma.

Jameela Jamil in Dolce & Gabanna – There were lots of randomers on this red carpet, although thankfully, the Kardashians have yet to spread their tentacles across the Atlantic. Quite what Rachel Stevens, Sarah Harding or even Tracey Emin were doing there has yet to be explained and Jamil (a T4 presenter?) gets another shrug of the shoulders from me. She’s here purely on the merits of her dress, which is just gorgeous. However many tacky Anne Summers lingerie sets get produced, red and black will always be one of my favourite colour combinations and this dress is just so flirty and feminine – lace! ribbon! flowers! Another hit for red lippie too.

Bonnie Wright in Clements Ribeiro – Another victory for redheads, another victory for print and another victory for red hot lipstick. I like the dress a lot, even if there’s something a bit ‘charity lunch/day at the races’ about it, and the floral print is another deliciously light spring touch. Yet given how rarely I give two hoots about bags on the red carpet (unless they’re shaped like a fish obviously), that this drab black clutch sticks out quite so badly means it must be really awful.

Annette Bening in Marchesa – This dress makes me think of a snowflake. In a good way. I’m not sure I can get much more coherent than that.

Noomi Rapace in Givenchy Couture – Some are saying Vegas showgirl; I’m saying ghetto frigging fabulous! Ultimately, glitter appeals to our baser instincts (the kind that meant all your kindergarten artwork would invariably be covered in sequins given the chance) and in the same way that Marion Cotillard used to pep up proceedings with sequin-covered dresses that made her look like a mermaid or an angel, so it falls to another European actress to inject some vitality into the night. Sporting more gold bling than a rapper with a point to prove, Noomi looks sensational.

Jessica Alba in Atelier Versace – Alba is walking away with many people’s best-dressed of the night and whilst there’s no denying that this electrifying blast of cobalt is stunning on its own right, Jessica just never does it for me. She sits alongside Jessica Biel and Kate Bosworth as perennial red carpet bores, partly because they seem to have about as much personality as a tin of paint and partly because said tin of paint could probably out-act them too (I’d include Camilla Belle in this group yet I’ve never actually seen her act, or attempt to anyway). They could probably pull a Gaga or Bjork on the red carpet and merely elicit a yawn. Back to the outfit, which made her look pregnant – and she’s just announced that she is so pats on the back all-round – and yet another winning blast of crimson lips. Unlike many, I actually like the milkmaid plaits as well

Jennifer Lawrence in Stella McCartney – Lawrence continues to mine her saloon girl dress-up box with this dress, which might have been pretty had someone hoiked it up and superglued it about three inches higher. The cheap-looking choker makes her look like a heroine from the front cover of a Mills & Boon romance – from the 80s – but mostly, you just feel sorry for her boobs.

Emma Watson in Valentino – Let’s end things with everyone’s favourite. I’m going to come out and say it – I just do not like that hair. It has killed every one of Emma’s outfits of late for me, even the pretty ones, but I don’t particularly think this is one of those either. Whether it’s the washed-out colour, frill overload and mumsy print that makes her look frumpy, or whether it’s the frumpy hair that makes the dress look mumsy, I’m not sure. Either way, I can’t wait for her hair to grow back.

The more I’ve written about this red carpet, the more I’ve decided I liked it after all; it’s nice to see some people other than the usual Hollywood roll-call of likely suspects. Unusual prints, interesting colours and red lipstick worked to within an inch of its life – not a bad showing after all.

OPI Not Like The Movies nail polish review

Remember when I said that China Glaze’s IDK nail polish reminded me of what you imagined butterflies’ wings to be when you were little? Well, we can also file OPI’s Not Like The Movies into the Ethereal Wings Collection. Except that its iridescent mix of shimmering silver, pink, green and purple is clearly a fairy’s wing instead.

Alas, no nail polish company has actually created an Ethereal Wings Collection (though they can bill me for it later!). Not Like The Movies is instead part of OPI’s much-hyped collaboration with Katy Perry, who is at least famous for her colourful and crazy nails, as opposed to another of their recent tie-ins Justin Bieber, who is not. Since this is my first post about one of the Katy Perry colours, I’m going to give in to my rant about how uninspiring this potentially exciting range ended up.

The four colours in OPI’s Katy Perry line are named after songs from her second album – Teenage Dream (a soft pink glitter), Last Friday Night (a blue glitter), The One That Got Away (a bright fuchsia) and Not Like The Movies (silver). Firstly, when you think about the rest of her album, you can instead mourn for the colours that could have been (as invented by me and if KP does another line, she can mail me the royalties later!):

  • California Gurls (bright Smurf blue, like her hair in the video, or vibrant beach-y yellow)
  • Firework (multi-coloured sparkly glitter)
  • Peacock (blue/green peacock’s feathers)
  • Pearl (barely-there pearlised shimmer)
  • Hummingbird Heartbeat (tropical coral or turquoise)
  • Who Am I Living For (angsty edgy blackened purple)

Secondly, the existing colours are ALL WRONG. Although the pale pink glitter does suit the romance of Teenage Dream, the mention of ‘skin-tight jeans’ (plus shots of frolicking in the sea in the video) means it should have been the blue glitter, which applies much paler and dream-like than the bottle colour anyway. This opens up the pale pink glitter for The One That Got Away (which is basically Teenage Dream Part 2 and therefore does not suit a bright colour at all), leaving Last Friday Night to morph into a party colour befitting its feelgood vibe – the fuchsia if you must, yet anything bright and glittery would do. This means the only one OPI actually get right is Not Like The Movies – and get it right they most certainly do!

It’s a wistful shimmering silver that OPI’s PR and photography department aren’t doing any justice to whatsoever. They’re labelling it a ‘sultry silver’ with photos that make it look like your average gun-metal grey. Which it most definitely is not.

With a spectrum of colours almost as difficult to capture as a fairy itself, it’s a beautiful blend of dreamy shimmers and glimmers that casts a spell on all who look at it. It’s rather sheer, taking three to four coats to build up opacity, and since I bought the mini nail lacquer set, I found the simultaneously tiny-yet-fat brush really hard to work with. But it was very much worth it.

A pale iridescent silver flecked with tiny sparkles of silver micro-glitter, it also becomes a romantic pink, a metallic lavender and a sea-foam green whenever the mood takes it. It’s an absolutely enchanting effect that shows up better in the bottle than on my nails in some of my photos but it’s ridiculously captivating in real-life.

The only possible explanation for it so beautiful? Well, I’m settling for a sprinkling of fairy dust, of course!

Looks good with: princess dresses, pretty things, believing in magic
Drying time: 5-7 minutes
Coats required: 3-4
Chips: +5 days

Read my reviews of the rest of the OPI Katy Perry Collection:
     The One That Got Away
     Teenage Dream

OPI Not Like The Movies nail polish, Spring 2011 Katy Perry collection, $168 for set of four minis, selected Mannings

Ice is back with a brand new invention!

I remember there being quite a lot of hype for these ice-cold Coke vending machines when the first one popped up under Island Beverly (near Sogo) in Causeway Bay. Alas, Hong Kong’s combination of heat and humidity meant the machine apparently didn’t work too well during one of our trademark sticky sweaty summers. It quietly disappeared a few months later.

But that wasn’t the last of these icy Coke vending machines. We spotted one, classily located next to a dingy back alley, on our epic trek round Wan Chai on my quest for Gosh cosmetics. My boyfriend (a Coca-Cola connoisseur… or simple addict… who has fizzing black gold constantly coursing through his veins) decided to give it a go, at $11 a bottle (Octopus card only). I was on hand to commemorate the experience photographically.

Alas, the Coke didn’t arrive via a polar bear wearing shades.

As you can see above, there were handy pictorial instructions, plus plenty of choices of beverage…

The first step was to open the bottle and take a quick sip – I presume this was to prevent the bottle exploding due to contraction/expansion caused by freezing (science geeks, feel free to clear up my ignorance in the comments). This step was boring so no photos here.

Second, slowly turn the bottle upside-down, whereupon ice crystals start to form in your Coke. To compensate for no pictures of the last step, I took two pictures of this one. Yay! Ice magic! You can really see it in the close-up below.

Finally, tip back your head and quaff that frozen Coke right away! Dingy back alley optional.

It was a cool day so everything worked perfectly and the Coke stayed icy for ages. It tastes like a Coke slushie, only you don’t have to put up with a surly-faced cinema employee to get it. It would probably taste even better on a hot summer’s day – providing the technology still works, that is!

I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for this, but I prefer to think the Coke fairies did it.

What next for vending machines?! Umbrellas?! Oh wait…