A short take at the cheongsam and fashion in Hong Kong

Before going to HK, I was hoping to check out some cheongsam boutiques there, but I was not sure if I had the time. It turned out that the shop which I was most interested in , Linva Tailor, is actually along the food tour I planned. What luck, and so it was added as one of the stops.


Linva is located at 38 Cochrane Street, under the Central mid-level escalator (see the overhanging bridge), just before the junction of Gage Street and Lyndhurst Terrace. In case you are not sure, look out for a 7-11 convenience store and Linva is across from it.

At the display window, you can see a row of hanging cheongsams.


It is a rather small shop, old-style, not much of any decoration, mostly racks of qipao, and a counter top with high stools next to the door. As we were waiting for Mak’s Noodle to open at 11.00AM, my husband was happy for me to browse around so that he could put Buddy down on a stool to watch the iPad.

I found out about Linva Tailor after some online research on cheongsam shops in HK, and I was especially interested in it because the tailor, Mr Leung, was said to have made some of the swoon-worthy dresses worn by Maggie Cheung in the movie “In The Mood For Love”. Since I am a big fan of the film, it was my chance to check out the dresses.


The tailor, Mr Leung, his wife and an assistant were present. I was served by the assistant and his wife, who suggested some dresses for me to try. Looking through the racks, the dresses are in the traditional cut,  with front panel opening, side zip, high collars and mostly in floral fabrics, pretty much a reflection of the shop. In fact the dresses are appropriate for the 1960’s setting of the Maggie Cheung’s movie.

I picked a simple cap-sleeved dress, which I must admit looks like what a school supervisor or teacher would wear. It is priced at HKD 2,800 (USD 361.27), and if you want to have it made to order in the same fabric, it is HKD 4,200 (USD 541.91).  Linva offers to alter the dress for it if you want to get it right away. For a custom-made dress, it will take a few days because a couple of fittings are required, and the shop will then mail the dress to you. According to Mrs Leung, they have many Singaporean customers who make used of such arrangement.


I wanted to try a sleeveless dress, considering how humid and warm the Singapore weather is. I was shown this cheongsam made using a Chanel silk fabric and was persuaded to try it. My husband later told me that at first glance, it looked a little old-fashioned for me, but after I tried it on, it turned out pretty well. But I didn’t find it comfortable because the side-zip is prickly, and I also noticed that there was a missing button at the bottom of the front flap



I took a picture of the under-seam to show the readers a close-up of the workmanship. This dress costs HKD 3,800 (USD 490.30), and a custom-made version is HKD 4,800 (USD 619.32).


I didn’t get any cheongsam at Linva though I was prepared to. Seriously, I am not impressed with the dresses. Comparing the custom made cheongsams, I can get one of similar quality at Mama & Misse at a cheaper price. And for the price of the silk cheongsam that Linva is charging, I rather get one at Laichan which offers far superior quality and workmanship. If I could, I would have checked out other renowned cheongsam shops in HK which may offer better qualities. But I suspect that I would still go for the Singapore boutiques which offer more compelling products. I  may be presumptuous, but I think  Singapore has caught up with HK in many aspects, and in the case of the cheongsam, I think we have boutique/s which may even have surpassed in term of quality.

As for the fashion scene in general, due to the lack of time, I only explored Popcorn Mall with Buddy. There are a couple of boutiques that offer rather elegant winter wear. One is this shop by the name of “Drex Fable”, which has a rather classy window display and earthy interior décor. The shop offers a preppy style which wouldn’t be out of place in the Northeastern part of the US.




I was a little surprised to spot the Bread & Butter boutique as I thought it only sells jeans (at least the one in Singapore carries branded jeans). I guess there are different shops of the same name.


While in the Central area, I hardly see anyone whom I would consider as stylish. Maybe I would have seen some fashionistas at the International Finance Center (IFC), but I certainly didn’t see any  on the street least alone any lady in cheongsam. At least in the Singapore financial district, you can still spot some well-dressed people around. But I did notice that the HK ladies are more conservative in their dressing compared to those in Singapore. I remember, eons ago, a HK acquaintance once remarked to me that she was amazed when she took the subway in Singapore, to see the local ladies dressed in tank tops and other skimpy outfits. In HK, they would cover up. In this respect, I have to say that Singapore ladies should be a little less liberal in their fashion sense, because I have seen the younger sets who look like they’re dressed for clubbing instead of work. Seriously, when did ultra-short dresses which the hemlines have to be constantly pull down, or  barebacked dress and top, or the braless style acceptable at work?  (Yes you got it right, my friend J experienced the headlights at work one day). What a difference in terms of fashion culture!

The Hong Kong food trek

As mentioned in my previous post, our first meal in HK sucks big time. We had hoped it was an anomaly and we would have a better experience during the food tour that I planned for the next day.

After we checked into the Crowne Plaza hotel, I took Buddy to Popcorn mall next door to check out the retail scene and the dining options. There were some Singapore eateries available like Putien, Crystal Jade, and even a Toast Box. Looks like the HKers have a liking for kaya butter toast,  soft-boiled eggs, and the unique coffee. The menu is partly different from that in Singapore, like there’s beef rendang with bryani rice (which is not available in the Singapore menu), and it even caters to the HKers’ liking for macaroni with egg (which I don’t think is available in Singapore either). Some of the names of the dishes have also changed from local terms to more descriptive ones, like ‘Nasi Lemak’ is called ‘Singapore Coconut Rice’, and ‘Mee Siam’ is called ‘Rice Noodles in Spicy Gravy’.

Of course we didn’t have any meal at Toast Box, but Buddy wanted a slice of Pandan cake. I don’t know why he would want Pandan cake in HK and I don’t even buy from Toast Box back home, but he insisted. Oh well, you never know kid’s taste in food.

We had a simple dinner at this restaurant, Praise House Congee and Noodle Cuisine, and the food is rather tasty. We ordered a pig liver and beef congee for my husband, while both Buddy and I shared a fried rice, and a plate of boiled Kai-Lan (Chinese kale) with oyster sauce on the side. We noticed that the HKers, or perhaps the Cantonese, have perfected the art of simplicity in vegetable dishes, which are cooked to the right crunchy texture, drizzled with a little oil, and accompanied with the oyster sauce dip. This simple but well-cooked dish is served at any self-respect Cantonese restaurants in HK.

We had breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel before setting off the next morning. The hotel offers a buffet selection of western, Chinese and Japanese food, with live stations offering waffles, noodles or eggs done the way you like. Near the entrance is the pastry table with a display of a ferris wheel with fake pretty cupcakes.



Salad and cheese platter selection.


Noodle live station.

To be honest, the food is average though my husband likes the freshly-prepared eggs., It’s typical buffet quality, so don’t have high hope despite the nice presentation. In fact my husband thought some of the food looked like leftovers from the buffet dinner of the night before.

Now, back to the main subject of the day: the food tour. I picked the venues based on recommendations from various bloggers, and they are conveniently located within the Soho area of central Hong Kong. There are five stops, starting from Central MTR station, and ending at Sheung Wan station. See Google map of the food tour, the entire distance is only 1.6 km. Well, that’s what it looks on paper.

Though the hotel being located at Tseung Kwan O, we only had to change line at North Point to reach Central, and the journey only took 25 minutes. Our first destination is Tsui Wah Restaurant at Wellington street, and so we took the D2 exit at central station. To reach the street level, we had to walk up a flight of stairs, which led to a dingy alley. It was pretty weird.

Getting to Wellington street requires us to walk up a slope, and that is the beginning of the food trek (literally). We realized, only back in Singapore, that there is an ascending escalator a stone’s throw away from Wellington street. Because of our ignorance, navigating the slopes and steps was akin to being in a Spartan race. Worse, upon reaching where Tsui Wah Restaurant is located, it was closed for renovation. Goddammit! It’s not even indicated in the bloody website! Moral of the story: call ahead to find out, which I didn’t think to do beforehand.

The next stop was supposed to be Yat Lok for roast meat like roast goose and char siew. But my husband didn’t want that at 10.00AM, and so we moved on to Mak’s Noodle for wanton mee (shrimp dumpling noodle soup). Unfortunately I didn’t take note of the opening hour which is 11.00AM. By then, my husband’s patience was running thin, especially since he had to carry a 15 kg (33 lbs) toddler around. (The pavement is narrow with a lot of steps, and there are even heavy vehicles on the narrow streets.) And I had to lug along the diaper bag with a first-generation ipad that weighs a ton.

We decided to get some egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery at 35 Lyndhurst Terrace before looking for a “Cha Chaan Teng” (HK-style café).

I only bought two egg tarts at Tai Cheong (at HKD 8 / USD 1 each) for sampling since we were not sure if we could trust the food blogs, and my husband was not in any mood to try other pastries. I asked the staff at the bakery for a cafe close by as we wanted a drink, but they were not helpful at all. One went, “Cha Chaan Teng? Hmm, not sure what is close by..” Just then the phone rang and she promptly picked it up. After less than a minute she put it down and forgot about my question. As for the other staff, she conveniently left it to her co-worker to handle my query.

We left the shop and asked a passerby who directed us to a cafe just round the corner, less than a minute walk away. It turned out to be Lan Fong Yuen (兰芳园 /蘭芳園), a hole-in-the-wall place which is also recommended by some food blogs.


When I pointed it to my husband, he exclaimed, “what cafe? There is no seating!”
“There are seats inside!” And I led the way in.

To be honest, if not for me being in the know, I wouldn’t have recognized this ramshackle place is a cafe. I didn’t pick this as a foodie stop because it was described as a place where you sit back to back with other customers. But beggars can’t be choosers, and besides we had the chance to check out how true the reviews are.

We were led to a table next to the wall right inside the tiny cafe, while staff instructed us, “Sit closer!” It’s true that the interior is rather cramped, and sharing table is compulsory if your group doesn’t occupy it entirely. In fact the staff try to squeeze as many people as possible inside the limited space.

I first placed order for an iced milk tea, an iced Ovaltine (I don’t see Milo around other than at Toast Box), and a Po Lo bun (pineapple bun). The staff then said to me dourly, “you’re still short of the minimum order.” I looked at my husband who only stared back at me grimly, without saying a word. So I had to order another Po Lo bun and a thick toast with butter.

It turned out we had entered a Nazi cafe, because each patron has to have a minimum order of HKD25 (S $4.60 / US $3.20), even for a toddler as long as he or she occupies a seat. Thank God they didn’t see the diaper bag that I placed on a chair under the table, otherwise I would have to order something for it too. But even if it could have a drink, it would have spat it out.

My husband’s face grimaced after he had a sip of the ice milk tea, “This is so crappy!”

Even Buddy didn’t like the iced Ovaltine, and  I could understand why. It didn’t have a chocolatey taste unlike an iced Milo, least alone an iced chocolate. It was basically a condensed milk  drink with a tinge of chocolate flavor. There were two Singaporean women who shared table with us, whom from their conversations, it sounded like they are residents in HK. So I guess they knew what to order, because  they had 7-Up soda. As for the food, the Po-Lo buns were surprisingly better than expected, and Buddy actually chomped down the thick toast. Perhaps this Nazi café is not known for its drinks.  I checked up on it back in Singapore and found that it’s more famous for its pork chop bun.

Anyway I mentioned earlier about heavy vehicles on the narrow street, the below picture shows what I meant. This was taken outside  Lan Fong Yuen. Look at the big truck going down the ultra narrow street, barely touching the stalls lined alongside. It doesn’t look like there are any traffic restrictions in place. I think this is an accident waiting to happen. If the driver loses control, it’ll be a disaster!


While at Lan Fong Yuen, we discovered that the idiotic staff at Tai Cheong had given me two sugared doughnuts instead of egg tarts. We then marched back to ask for the switch. The same two staff were there, and they looked rather sullen as one replied, “You took so long to return these!” I told her point-blank that I had to look for a Cha Chaan Teng, and they reluctantly did the change. My husband tried the egg tarts later, and thought they were pretty good. Buddy also had a liking for them. But with such sully attitude, I’m not sure if I want to patronize the shop again. I mean, I know HK is known for its rudeness, but it will remain so as long tourists continue to tolerate the bad behaviors.

We then made our way to Mak ‘s Noodle at 77 Wellington Street, just after 11.00AM. It is an unassuming small restaurant, but the staff were friendlier. We were led to a booth table where we didn’t have to share with other customers. One old female staff even suggested that Buddy should sit next to the wall, so that he didn’t get spilled by hot soup.


There is no minimum order at Mak’s Noodle. Both my husband and I each had a bowl of the Wanton Mee, and we also ordered a plate of boiled Kai-Lan with oyster sauce. Offhand I cannot remember exactly how much was each bowl, but it might be only HKD 35 ( USD 4.50) though it’s a small portion.  When the noodle was served, the wantons (shrimp dumplings) were hidden (top picture). You have to dig deep into the noodle to find them.



From what I read on the Internet, Mak’s Noodle has supposedly received a Michelin star for its food. Seriously, I’m not sure how it justified that. Sure, the noodle is springy, and the wantons are tasty, but the broth is bland. My husband asked the staff for green chili, but was given the reply, “We don’t serve chili.” There is some dipping sauce provided, but we feel that the wanton noodle is best taken with sliced green chili which we do in Singapore. Maybe the HKers think that chili will overpower the taste, but when it is used appropriately, it can enhance the taste by adding another dimension to the flavor. Maybe we should have added some condiment to flavor the noodle and broth.  but I just feel that it is rather one-note, even the wantons, and is really no big deal. It baffles me that many foodies think this is “die, die, must try”. However, the Kai-Lan is good, and as mentioned earlier, the restaurants do know how to serve a good simple vegetable dish.

After the somewhat disappointing tasting experience at Mak’s, we moved on to Yat Lok Roast Goose Restaurant at 34 Stanley Street. We were lucky to be there before noon, and were able to get seats inside the (expectedly) cramp interior immediately. When we left, there was a line forming outside it.


The kitchen is located at the back of the restaurant. I am not sure why the owner bothered to put up a TV on the wall; the customers are not expected to watch the screening drama while taking the roast goose leisurely. No, this is a “chop, chop, off you go” place.


Because we had the wonton noodle earlier, we only ordered a plate of roast goose with char siew to share, which I think it was about HKD 35 or 40. Thank God Yat Lok is also not Nazi, and there is no minimum order as well. But there is also no chili available! (I guess the mantra of HK F&B outlets is “We’re HKers, we don’t serve chili!”) On the food, I must say the roast goose is pretty well done, the skin is rather crispy and there is no gamey taste. My husband thinks the char siew is quite good, but can do with a little more fat. In fact , there were these 3 blue-collared workers sitting across us at our table, and one of them (who looks like he is the supervisor) asked his colleague who didn’t seem to be enjoying his char siew with rice, “You don’t like it? Not enough fat?”


I wouldn’t mind going for the roast goose at Yat Lok if there is no queue. But to line up for it, I’m not sure. It’s not exactly so fabulous that I must have it for my last meal. (Now, I will be willing to wait in line for Joe Stone’s Crab and the Havana Dream pie.)

The final stop of our food trip was Kau Kee Beef Brisket, located at 21 Gough Street. As we were walking along, checking out for street signs, we suddenly heard a loud pounding sound “THOMP! THOMP!” going non-stop in regular intervals. I was puzzled, wondering if it was some rock concert nearby. But who hold a concert in a claustrophobic neighborhood in mid-day, and how come the ground literally shook with each loud thud? Buddy looked a little scared. My husband turned to me and explained, “That’s the sound of foundation being pounded into the ground.” He continued, “In Singapore, if you get this at construction sites, the PAP would have been thrown out! You notice how it is relatively quieter at the construction sites back home, and no vibration? They used the high-tech methods like drilling.  The site here must be using circa 19th century  technology.” Around us, the locals walked about nonchalantly, as if they could not hear nor feel the poundings.  My husband then said, “it’s amazing the people here accept this!”

Luckily when we got to Gough Street, we couldn’t hear nor feel the pounding. But we could see a line outside Kau Kee as we got nearer, half of whom were tourists.


I was feeling rather full then, and not exactly crazy over beef brisket noodle. As Buddy started to doze off on my husband’s shoulder, I suggested I would wait with Buddy for my husband since there were benches next to the line. It moved rather fast though, and it didn’t take long before he got a seat. So this food review was done by him who described the eatery as small and cramp (this must be the typical description of any low-cost F&B outlet in HK), and he had to share a table with a family and another individual. Like at Yat Lok, Kau Kee is also a “chop chop, eat and leave” place. But here is where it deviates from the previous tasting. He raved about the fabulous beef noodle which doesn’t require any chili to enhance its flavor, the beef was really tender, and the broth was amazingly flavorful. He called it “the BEST beef brisket noodle I ever had!”. He liken it to the moment when he was bowled over by the beef pho at Pho Gia Truyen at Hanoi. Perhaps I should have tried it too, but it would be difficult to carry a sleeping child while having a hot bowl of noodle soup. According to my husband, he paid something like S$8 (US$6.50) for it.


That evening, we went to Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao restaurant at Popcorn Mall for dinner. I know it is strange that we would pick a Singapore restaurant in Hong Kong, but my husband wanted a simple dinner with double-boiled soup for dinner. I was initially hesitant because Crystal Jade does not exactly serve very good food back home, and I feel that Imperial Treasures (its competitor) has better quality. But he thought that Crystal Jade might have upped its game in HK considering the stiffer competition there. So we gave it a try. There were people waiting for their turns at the entrance, and we actually had to wait for 10-15 minutes before we were given a table. .

We ordered (picture from top to bottom) a fried multi-grain rice with dried shrimp and conpoy, stir-fried Chinese spinach with broad bean, hairy crab with minced pork dumplings (it’s hairy crab season), and a double-boiled chicken soup.





What can I say? My husband was right, and I was wrong. The food was better than expected. The fried rice has a nutty flavor because of the added grains, and the dried shrimps and conpoy give it a slight crunchy texture. It’s a multi-dimensional rice dish which is very tasty. The vegetable is, needless to say, very well cooked. In fact I think Singapore Chinese restaurants should learn how to prepare a simple but very cooked vegetable dish. The hairy crab dumplings are even better than the crab dumplings from Din Tai Fung. There’s this distinctive flavor of the hairy crab which adds a smoky flavor to the dumplings. As for the chicken soup, it has such a full-bodied flavor that I feel it’s truly medicinal for the body. I highly recommend this restaurant for a very satisfying meal.

To top it off, we decided to make a trip to Cong Sau Dessert (聰嫂私房甜品). I found out about this famous dessert shop from the internet, and it has three locations in HK. I had initially thought we could make it to the one at Causeway Bay for the second part of the food trip. But the Central food trek turned out to be too tiring for us and so we skipped round two. Cong Sau’s other two outlets are in the Tseung Kwan O area, which turns out to be more convenient for us. One of them is located at Hau Tak Estate, which is only 2 minutes’ walk from Hang Hau MTR station, one stop away from TKO station. So we went to look for it. Unfortunately we were confused by the signs, and went on a garden path before realizing Hau Tak Estate is only across the road from the station. (When you exit from the station, cross the road at the traffic light, and Hau Tak estate is right there.) The shop is not very big, but surprisingly it’s not as cramped as the usual cheap diners. Perhaps because we were there at around 9.00PM, it was not crazy crowded nor bustling.


Many customers highly recommend the durian ice puree with sago, even those from Singapore/Malaysia whom you can count on being durian experts. However, my husband preferred  the milk pudding with ginger sauce, given that the evening was turning a little chilly due to the rain.


Buddy and I went for the durian. Like us, he is a durian lover. But he kept asking for the durian flesh, which my husband mixed into the coconut-milk covered crushed ice. In the end I had most of it, which was fine by me, because it was reeeaaallly good! The durian taste like it was from Malaysia (which we get in Singapore), and I love coconut milk. So it was a perfect combo for me. I know that both have shockingly high calories, which I ignored for the sake of food  tasting.


Buddy was not satisfied with the durian dessert. So we decided to get a mango dessert for him: cubed sized mango with soya bean curd in sweetened soup. Again, he only wanted the fruit, and ate most of the mango. Of course I had to try this for review, and it’s quite good, but I prefer the durian dessert. The bean curd (aka Tau Huey) is nothing special, though it’s rather smooth. But we get pretty good bean curd in Singapore anyway. However we don’t get the durian dessert in Singapore, and I don’t know why considering that durian is a favored fruit in the country. Each bowl of dessert is around HKD 25 (USD 3.23).


So this was our food tour on the second of the trip. Our views are that in term of quality, Singapore has caught up in many areas, and there not many food where Hong Kong is better than Singapore. One thing we feel is that the local cuisine seems to have stagnated and there is little experiments with spices or a reluctance to do so. I have to go back to the use of chili. Singapore/Malaysia cuisines have become unique because of the marriage of cultures, and local Chinese were adventurous to add spices to their food and created interesting dishes as a result. We have learned to use pepper, chili, curry to make the food interesting and multi-dimensional. But the HKers seem happy to stick to the traditional Cantonese culinary style. Perhaps the high-end restaurants do have innovative dishes, but my husband feel that innovation should not  be the domain of only the expensive restaurants. 

My husband also made an interesting observation while we walked around the Soho area: segregation of diners by race in the different restaurants. The eateries that serve western cuisine tend to be filled with mostly Caucasians while the local eateries are packed with the Chinese. I am not sure if this is a true situation or just coincidence. It’s just that in Singapore, you see a good mix of both foreigners and locals in western restaurants though there are also lot more locals in local eateries here.

Anyway, during this trip, I admit we didn’t try as many food as we had wanted, like dim sum, seafood or congee. We didn’t go to Causeway Bay nor Sai Kung Town (though our hotel is relatively close to it). The food trek at Central was exhausting for us, plus inhaling the smog in the city also added to the toll. Though it’s convenient taking the subway, we now know that it’s not a good idea to bring along babies, young kids or old folks for a cheap food tour in HK. The problem is that unlike the newer MTR stations in the new territories which have disabled-friendly facilities like elevators, those much older stations located in central HK are lacking in them. When we walked around, we hardly see young children or babies, and the numbers of strollers I saw can be counted on just one hand.  There are not many old folks either, and needless to say, I have never seen anyone on wheelchairs. My friend, J, told me that most old folks are relegated to certain towns in the new territories. Honestly, with the central areas (inclusive of Tsim Sha Tsui/Kowloon) being so unfriendly to the disabled and the frail, this not surprising.

The city seems perpetually covered in haze during the days we were there.  The place is not littered with garbage, and generally clean. But the pace of life is rather frenetic, and people tend to rush about. I got bumped aside quite a few times at Central and was pretty annoyed because it wasn’t as if the path was packed with people and nobody offered any apologies. My husband suggested that I stick out my elbows. (He didn’t get bumped because he has a “don’t mess with me” look.) It turned out that I wasn’t the only unfortunate one, because J also got bumped too when she was here. She used her shopping bags to jab them back, and because she is taller than most (and HKers are comparatively petite), they tend to stumble, and would (quoting her) give her the “I am f**king hurt” look. She refused to back off because she felt that they could have walked around her instead of pushing her aside, and I absolutely agree.  These people just bulldoze their way through!

But my husband was more empathetic though.  He feels that the HKers live a generally hard life, and all they can care about is trying to make a living. They are like zombies, unthinking creatures moving about in pursuit of money.  Perhaps this is why they ignore the construction poundings, they don’t bother with politeness or graciousness, they allow the property tycoons to take charge (which cause escalating property prices beyond the reach of many), and they take risks (whether right or wrong). The city is a reflection of its people.


The Hong Kong observations – after a long absence

It must have been more than a decade since I last stepped foot into HK. In fact I think the last time I was in the territory might be 13 or so years ago.

The Jetstar flight coming here was uneventful. The seat is of a comfy size for Buddy, though to me, it is a little uncomfortable and too cramped. But my husband feels it’s no different from that of a full service airlines. Well, Jetstar is a budget carrier, I guess expectations are low. It’s Ok for short-haul flights, but for long distance, best to take full service airlines.

At Changi airport, the gate for Jetstar is located at the far end since it’s cheaper. At Hong Kong airport, not only is it far from immigration but the plane is not even connected to the terminal. We had to walk down to the tarmac to board a bus. And this turned out to be the beginning of the trek to immigration. After alighting off the bus, we followed the crowd, and I saw a signage “Please do not run, the train would arrive shortly.” I was puzzled and wondered why the airport express was located here before we even cleared immigration. And unsurprisingly, some people ran towards the waiting train as if they were rushing for their incarnations. Upon spotting the train, my husband remarked, “Jetstar is so cheap that the plane dropped off passengers in some godforsaken part of the airport.” Yes, we had to take the train to the main terminal. I don’t know why Jetstar cannot get a gate there.

We took Buddy to change his diaper as he pooped upon landing. (Thank God he didn’t poo mid-flight.) The baby changing room is quite roomy, and even has a bottle warmer available.

The toilet is quite clean with the usual amenities like paper towel and baby changing table, but my husband remarked that it seems a little more shabby that those available at Changi airport. I don’t think so. But I do think the airport authorities should have allocated a bigger area for immigration clearance. They make the passengers walk in a snaking line before assigning them to different counters, with queues at some slow counters backed up against the cordon barrier, and other passengers trying to get past to line up at those they were assigned to.

After clearing immigration, it was almost mid afternoon and we were hungry. My husband checked out what were the dining options available, and it was either Tsui Wah or a recommended congee place. Unfortunately, both are located in the transit area. Out at arrival hall, we could see a McDonald’s (yucks!) or a local eating joint that offers roast meat, Tai Hung. Naturally we went for local eat, I mean why would we wanna have McD in HK? I ordered the roast goose and char siew (BBQ pork) rice. It turns out to be one of the worst meals I had, the roast goose was bland, and there was measly char siew for Buddy. In fact when my husband saw the plate of food, he asked, “where is the char siew?” You needed a magnifying glass to find it. I think, maybe we would have a better meal at McD.

I was fortunate my colleague loan me the local subway value cards (Octopus) for two adults and a child. The line for the airport express ticket is damn long. With the octopus cards, I only had to top up its value for train rides. I must say the train ride is pretty comfortable, and the journey is smooth. We reached Kowloon station in only 24 minutes’ time. Too bad there is no free shuttle bus to our hotel, which is located in the new territories, and is considered too far away. So we took a taxi instead, and that was our first taste of the road and traffic after a long absence.

My boss, who was in HK a couple of weeks ago, told me that the territory hasn’t changed since two years ago when he was last here, and he finds the place boring. Though my husband and I cannot remember much but it does seem to us that most buildings still look old and shabby. We drove past some new looking private apartments, and were amazed at how narrow they are. And they are located close to each others, not very much different from the sad old grimy buildings that still stand. In fact when the plane was about to land, we had a glimpse of Hong Kong Island and could see that there were many tall buildings interspersed by compact shorter ones. The city is basically very dense.


Though we took the taxi shortly after 4pm, traffic along Kowloon was pretty bad, as roads are rather narrow and yet there are so many vehicles around. The place still has a rundown feel, with few vegetation around. It is only when we get closer to the new territories that we see more greenery, but the area is still compact with buildings.

Opposite our hotel, Crowne Plaza Kowloon East, there is a private apartment located above the Popcorn mall, surrounded by what looks like public housings.

The private apartments and mall are developed by the MTR corporation, which is the subway company. This is replicated in many of the stations located in the new territories, and they are relatively newer compared to those in the older parts of Hong Kong like in Tsim Sha Tsui and HK island areas. I must say this is the first time I see a subway company which also operates as a property developer.

One thing that caught our notice is that the private apartments are no different from the public ones is that the residents hang their laundry out at the balcony.

My husband remarked, "It's ok to hang your laundry outside your expensive apartment since it won't affect property price. Just don't show your red undie."

My friend, J, explained that the residents have no choice since the apartments are pretty small. I’m not sure if you can see from the pictures that the apartment units are seriously tiny! Though I have not been into one myself but friends have all related their own experience, where the bedroom can only fit a bed and nothing else. Or that the apartment is so small that there is no balcony or yard to even hang the laundry. Worse, the developers even include the areas of the aircon ledge and external corridor to the rubbish chute as part of the apartment unit.
Apparently this is the reason why HKers rather stay out than remain at home. Imagine being cooped up in a tiny apartment! I will surely go mad.

All packed and ready to go.

As expected, we only completed our packing the morning before we left for the trip. But unlike before, I didn’t rush around like a headless chicken grabbing stuff before getting out of the door. We had everything ready to go 5 minutes before the cab arrived. Buddy was pretty excited about the trip to Toyland (our term for “Disneyland”), and he put on his shoes even without us telling him to do so.

We packed light, a couple of carry-on plus the diaper bag and a bag of snacks.

With Buddy travelling with us, I find myself being a little paranoid when planning for the trip. One of the essentials is medicines for every one. Then there is the transport issue. We are not taking along the stroller nor car seat because Hong Kong is not disabled nor child friendly. I was told that a number of subway stations do not have convenient escalators, and street pavements are narrow and very crowded which makes pushing a stroller difficult.

Though it’s convenient to take a cab from airport to the hotel, my husband is not keen since Buddy won’t be able to strap down like us, and the driver is likely to speed along the highway into the city. And besides he thinks Buddy will enjoy taking the airport express train. The plan is to take the train to Kowloon station and switch to a taxi to go to the hotel from there.

My husband will carry Buddy while I handle the bags. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a little paranoid about Buddy’s safety. A vacation is supposed to be relaxing but at the back of my mind, I’m telling myself to be on alert in a foreign land, that we have to keep Buddy in our sight 24/7.

Jetstar doesn’t have check-in counters at the airport. Instead the budget carrier takes cost-cutting literally, by setting up self-check terminals and self-check baggage systems with only a couple of service staff around. I was initially concerned if one of our baggage might not be allowed as a carry-on. The thing is bloody Jetstar reduced the carry-on baggage to 7 kg per passenger and any excess is charged an arm and a leg if we don’t pre-pay for check-in bags.

The staff helping us at the terminal told us the security at the gate would weight the bags and we could pay to check them in later, so I was relieved about it. But when we asked the customer service desk at the transit area, we were told no such service is available and that the airlines staff would have checked in the baggage if they don’t qualify as carry-on. My husband said Jetstar might be trying to scare the passengers to pack light or pay for check-in baggage, though I, on the other hand, was still worried that the carrier might screw us at the gate. My husband was dismissive, “wanna bet?”

We went for breakfast after clearing immigration. There was not much good dining options inside Terminal 1 transit, and most eateries are located near to each others. The food court is the most convenient choice and so we parked ourselves there. I was surprised to find some people having noodles and rice with dishes in the early morning. I can’t do that. Instead I wanted to get a couple of mineral water. Maybe because we’re inside the transit area but each bottle is S $2! And I bought two bottles without first checking if I could take them into the plane!!!

Anyway I think we might have been a little too relaxed when we settled down for breakfast, because by the time I realized we should get going it was 25 minutes to departure. And I still wanted to withdraw cash at the ATM, get a HK SIM card and get more bottled water. Luckily there are ATMs next to the travel shop, Changi Recommends , which offers WiFi routers and SIM cards, among other things, but too bad all HK routers are taken.

I checked the flight info screens and next to our flight was the remark “gate is closing”, and I panicked. It was 15 minutes before take-off. There wasn’t time to get more water. I rushed my husband and son to get going, and thank God for the travellators, which help to speed us up. My heart was pounding as I moved quickly, and at the same time thinking up of excuses if we were stopped at the gate, like Buddy had stomach ache or someone accosted us along the way. My poor husband had to carry Buddy and pull along a luggage and couldn’t move as fast as I, and I heard Buddy yelling at me, “mama, mama!”

It was relieved when we arrived at the gate and I saw a couple of stragglers having their bags checked at the xray machine. (Admittedly we are too.) My husband looked at me puzzled, wondering why I was in a mad rush, he was not perturbed that we were the last passengers at the gate at less than 10 minutes before departure. And guess what, the security allowed us to take in the bottled water. Still we don’t have enough water for everyone, and I should have expected the airlines to take the chance to gouge the captive passengers. It costs S$4 each on board. What can I say?

Perhaps because Jetstar being a budget airlines, the gate is located at the end of the terminal, so it took quite a while to taxi to the runway for take off. I realized that the air traffic is so busy. There is literally a line of planes waiting to depart

So how has Buddy been so far? He was a little naughty at the airport, refusing to walk and wanted my husband to carry him, and ignoring all strangers who spoke to him. But otherwise he handled the flight pretty well, though a little tense as the plane was taxi-ing on the runway but curiosity got the better of him. He didn’t want to nap on the flight, and instead rather watched the ipad. At least that kept him entertained.

Naughty little squirrel!

No, I wasn’t pranked by any squirrel, it’s the title of a Chinese book and what I call Buddy when he is naughty “捣蛋小松鼠”. As he gains more self-awareness, he is increasingly pushing the boundaries and becoming more rebellious.

During one meal time:
Me, “Alex, don’t throw food on the floor!”
Buddy (looking at me for my reaction) proceeded to let go of the pasta in his fingers, which promptly fell on the ground.

When it’s time for nap:
Me/husband, “Alex, time for nap!”
Buddy *silent while continues to play with his toys*.
Me/husband, “Alex, if you sleep now, I will give you a star.”
Buddy *still silent and playing*.
Me/husband (trying to be patient like Buddha), “Alex, after your nap, I will give you cake / ice cream.”
Buddy *no reaction*.
Me/husband (trying to not to blow up), “Alex, if you don’t nap, you cannot go Toyland!”
Buddy *ignore*.
Me/husband (in exasperation), “if you don’t nap now, you will sit outside (on the play mat)!!!” (The time-out punishment.)
Buddy *proceeds to cry*.

Then there is the most favored word of children:

Me, “Alex, it’s time for bath.”
Buddy, “No!”
Me, “Alex, after bath, mama will read to you.”
Buddy, “No!”
Me, “Alex, it’s getting late, you have to bathe!
Buddy, “No!”
Me (getting desperate), ” If you bathe, mama will get Toby (train) for you.”
Buddy, “No!”

It’s time like this that I understand why parents in the past resorted to spanking or smacking, and even now some still do so. Not that I condone physical violence on kids, but you really have to have the patience of Jesus Christ or Buddha to deal with a rebellious or whiny kid. No wonder they didn’t bother to have a family. Because if either of them have a young kid who keeps repeating every 2 minutes, “I want to see Godzilla (or whatever was in vogue then)”, even they might turn into the monster.

I know many child experts like to advocate reasoning to children, and not using rewards to make them comply, and instead encourage their intrinsic willingness to do the right thing, blah blah blah. Well, either they have no kids or they are damn lucky to have compliant ones. Because, as far as I am concerned, there are many times I cannot reason with Buddy. And half the times, incentives don’t work, and I have also tried the star reward system (but he doesn’t care very much for it). Many times, only threats get him moving.

Worse, he’s becoming a smart-aleck.
Me, “Alex, it’s time for enrichment. Put side your toys.”
Buddy, “No, I want to play.”
Me, “Alex, you can play after enrichment.”
Buddy, “No, I want to play.”
Me, “Alex, there is a time for play, and a time for enrichment.”
Buddy, “Mama, don’t bully me!”
Me: *speechless*

And recently…

Me, “Alex, do you want use the potty?” (I am trying to toilet train him.)
Buddy, “I am busy!”
(My husband later asked me, “did he tell you make an appointment with his secretary?”)

Sometimes, instead of the silent treatment, we will receive a dinosaur roar from him.
“Alex, don’t be naughty!”
Buddy, “Rawhhh!”

Then there is another form of the silent treatment: turning his back to us. Yes, this naughty boy is rather creative in different ways of protest. And when we lecture or threaten him, he will make himself into a victim, either sobbed like he is wronged, or sniffle with teary eyes looking like Puss in the movie “Shrek”.

Luckily, one thing Buddy doesn’t do is to make a big scene in public by bawling his eyes out or rolling and screaming on the floor. Still, my husband and I know that we have to nip his bad behaviors in the bud. We don’t tolerate the silent treatments or the roaring, and definitely not the defiant no. So, regardless of what the child experts say, we will use the most effective disciplinary means including threats of punishment so that Buddy doesn’t think he can get away doing whatever he wants. And we all know when kids get away with bad behaviors right from the start, it’s going to get worse.

Planning for a family trip

Now that Buddy is almost 3.5 years old, we decided to try an overseas vacation. We were rather reluctant to take him on a flight when he was younger because we were afraid he wouldn’t like being on a plane. (Well, actually we were also not sure if we could handle him since he would be restless and might end up crying and making the whole plane-load of people hate us.)  He’s now at an age when he can articulates what he wants, and this makes it easier to manage him. Besides we’ll be bringing along the ipad to keep him entertained.

I’m not sure if we are being overly cautious, but we had to consider the location carefully. Since Buddy is still young, the place should be one where it is easy to get good medical treatment, and preferably no language problem. Add to that, we don’t want to travel too far since it’s Buddy first trip, and there must be some attraction for him. So we decided on Hong Kong as the destination where we can take him to Disneyland. (He calls it “Toyland” after he saw the Toy Story characters at the resort on a YouTube video.)

First thing on the planning list is airline: should we opt for full-service or budget. My husband feels that since we are on a vacation with no time pressure, and flight time is only a few hours, we can go for budget. A colleague who went with her family, including a 3.5 years old son, to Hong Kong in June, opted for full service airline instead as she wanted the entertainment for her kids. To be honest, I’m not sure if Buddy is willing to put on the headset. (He’s very particular, and doesn’t jump into the bandwagon like most kids.) So taking the full-service airline may not be much use to us, and besides we’ll bring along the ipad for him. As for food, the budget airlines do provide it as well. So it doesn’t seem logical to pay a premium when the differences are not stark for a short distance trip.

Anyway I did check out the fares for both the full service and budget Airlines. After all, the former do offer promotional fares in response to the stiff competition. Unfortunately, for the full service airlines, either the cheap fares are unavailable on the date of the trip or the flight time sucks. On the other hand, the budget Jetstar airlines offer pretty reasonable fares and good timings.

However when I realized that the fare is not refundable, I didn’t want to make the booking right away, though I suspect the fare might go up nearer to the departure date. I was afraid there might be last minute changes, like something might happen which stop us from going on the selected date. So I waited, and when I wanted to book the flights about a month from departure, the total fare had increased by more than a hundred buck. My husband told me I was irrational to wait, since I was able to confirm my leave and I should go ahead with the booking then. My fear of any last minute changes basically doesn’t make sense when unpredictability is part of life. So, too bad, I have to pay more for a lesson learnt.

It’s the same with accommodation, prepayment rate is cheaper than the refundable one. And I had the same nutty fear of non-refundable rate even though the discount can be quite substantial. Then there is also the question of where to stay. As expected, most people stay within the city, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok, Nathan or Jordan areas, or within the central area of Hong Kong Island. But a Hong Konger colleague adviced that it was alright to stay in the suburbs because the public transport system is efficient and doesn’t take long to get to the city. Besides the hotel rate is much cheaper and rooms are spacious.

Since we don’t plan to shop in HK, the idea of an accommodation in the suburbs sounds appealing. Especially when we can have a king size bed in a spacious room (which would have cost an arm and a leg for a hotel close to the city). I used Booking.com to check for good rates and found Crowne Plaza at East Kowloon. This is a relatively new hotel located at Tseung Kwan O, near to Sai Kung town. The guest reviews are pretty positive, many are pleased with the amenities, room size, and the friendly staff. The hotel is located atop a mall and a subway station, so transportation is convenient. In fact one guest wrote that he timed the journey from hotel to city on the subway and it took only 25 minutes. Best of all, for me, I can reserve the room on the website and not having to prepay until 2 days before check in. Of course, I can only know for sure what the hotel experience is when I am there, but so far we are happy with what we have found out. For a 2-night stay plus breakfast for two, the cost is only $399 excluding tax.

For the Disneyland trip, we decided that it will be easier to stay for a night at one of the two hotels there to maximize our time at the resort, as well as a chance to watch the fireworks in the comfort of our room if we want to. We have to make upfront payment, and bought the early bird package for one room night and 2 two-day passes while getting an extra child pass for Buddy. (To be honest, there is almost no difference between the early bird and other similar packages available.)

The aim of the trip is not just Disneyland, but also for food. So I have done some research on the places to go for some famous HK cuisine such as the roast goose/meat and shrimp dumpling noodle (wanton meen). This turns out to be quite easy because there is so much information out there, in various blogs. Type in “recommended food in HK” and you get a long list of sites to check out. Anyway, considering that we only have one day for food crawl, we will focus only on two areas: Central and Causeway Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these eateries are located pretty close to each others. Like within Central, we can go from Tsui Wah Restaurant (tea café or “Cha Chan Tang”) to Yat Lok (for roast meat), followed by Mak’s Noodle for wanton noodle, then to Tai Cheong Bakery for egg tarts, and Kau Kee for beef brisket. From the Central train station to each of these dining joints and finally to Sheung Wan train station (nearest to Kau Kee), the distance is only about 1.5 km. If we have time and energy, we will check out Causeway Bay for congee and dessert.

So far the plan is for a 4-day/3 nigh trip, when we will take it easy on the first day after arrival. Perhaps to check out Sai Kung town if we feel up to it. Otherwise we can go to the mall below the hotel, which has a Tim Ho Wan restaurant. The second day is allocated to food crawl, and we will move to Disneyland on the third day.

Though I hope to visit the famous cheongsam shop, Linva, I am not sure if that is possible with a little monkey in tow (Buddy). Maybe I will have a chance to take a picture of the dresses since it is located in central area. So let’s see.

The cheongsams are back!

Sorry for the long gap in between posts as I have been running dry of ideas for my blog. Luckily I have some recent news on the cheongsam. In fact the title refers to those from The Happy Cheongsam, which made a return after a long hiatus when designer/founder, Ming, was on maternity leave earlier this year. The latest collection 11 was launched last Friday (9 October) with the theme “The Playground”. This was a smaller than usual collection comprising of four dresses and two tops, though there are actually only three designs.

First, we have the shift dress which comes in either black or white.

Then there are the pleated skirt cheongsams: black or pastel blue.

Finally, the two tops.


I guess May is trying to get back into the design groove, and hopefully she will do so soon. Because, to be honest, I am indifferent to this range other than the tops. But I wish the prints are more interesting or sophisticated instead of the vehicle motif.

Our Bitsy Prints is launching it’s 26th collection after a hiatus too. (Oh my, has it been so many since?) The theme is “Cool Blue”, and I have noticed there is a change in the model. Anyway you can get your hands on the dresses tomorrow (13 October) at12 noon. (In fact OBP has also changed it launch time to daytime.)

I don’t have the closed-up pictures, but looking at the collection, the collars seem a little low. I feel that some of the dresses seems less like cheongsams and more like typical frocks. The collection is just not exciting enough for me to stand by at launch time to rush out an order email.






I hoping that we’ll see more interesting designs as Christmas and subsequently Chinese New Year draw closer.

A simple cheongsam

I admit I haven’t been following my schedule of putting up a post once a week, and that is because, lately, there are hardly any materials for my blog. Not sure the reasons why, but there aren’t that many new designs for cheongsams. So far, I have taken a look at Shanghai Tang‘s autumn/winter collection for 2015.

For this season, ST has gone for the simple and uncluttered look. Check out these dresses.


An A-line dress with leather trimmings. Reminds me of the 60’s mod fashion.


Trimmings and pleated skirt.


A pretty pleated dress in a beautiful sapphire blue color.

For those who prefer the straight fit cheongsams, here are a few options.



Joli Pretty launched its 15th collection a couple of weeks ago, which is amazing since it seems to be pushing out dresses every month. There are some new designs this time, which I think will appeal to the office ladies (OL), and the collection is also a showcase of simplicity.





I took pictures of a couple of cheongsams from Hana recently, and you can see that they are also in line with the simple theme.


If you ask me what I think of these dresses, I have to say, sure, it’s good to be simple. However I find them looking a little boring and even bordering on stale. Unfortunately the staid-looking prints are not helping to liven up the dresses. The only designs which look somewhat interesting  are the A-line black dress and blue pleated dresses from ST. I’m afraid it looks like there won’t be much of anything to gush about in the next couple of months, and we’ll have to wait till December when we’ll get a fair dose of exciting designs in anticipation of Chinese New Year.

Dinosaur parade

I have mentioned in an earlier post (dated 21 July “Being dino-mad”) that Buddy loves dinosaurs. The other day, I suggested to him to form a dinosaur parade just like in the book of the same name by Shari Halpern. He agreed excitedly, and this was what we did. I lined a few of the big ones up front but he wanted to have the rest in pairs (maybe inspired by Noah’s Ark). Rounding up at the rear is Rex, the T Rex soft toy (hence the name).



If you’re wondering about the size of the leading dinosaur, yes it is really big at 34cm tall and 40cm long.

This is a Brachiosaurus by the way, and one of the biggest dinosaurs ever discovered. It’s made by the French toy model company, Papo, and is very well sculpted and sturdy. Buddy even tried to ride on it. There were a couple of times he wanted to take it out (which would have caused a sensation among other kids), but my husband stopped him, “Don’t take brachio out! It’s too big, unless you’re going to a bad neighborhood.” Yes, it’s heavy enough to be a weapon!

I first bought Buddy some mini dinosaur figures for his birthday this year, and they were from Bullyland, a German toy maker.  As his interests in dinosaurs grow, I want to get him a couple of bigger ones and Bullyland was a natural choice. The mini ones were bought from Natures Collection, at S$5.50 each, but the bigger ones are retailing for at least S$25 each. Being someone who likes to arbitrage (my husband can testify to that), I decided to go online to see if I can get them cheaper.


It was during the search online that I found a couple of pretty useful websites. One is Dino Dojo which provides a guide to building a child’s dinosaur collection. The author is rather critical of Bullyland figures, citing that those bought have peeling paintwork, and he/she highly recommends Papo figures instead. After checking them out at The Better Toy Store (which seems to be the only retail shops selling them in Singapore), I understand the raving reviews they received: they are pretty realistic with amazing details and beautiful paintwork. In fact, I’m not even sure if they should be considered as toys, particularly the dinosaurs.

I also found out that there is a group of people out there who are avid dino figure collectors, which brings me to the site of Dino Toy Blog. This site provides a treasure trove of reviews of various dino figures which also guide what I get for Buddy, like the Stegosaurus figure from Papo below. Look at how amazing it is, with its mouth opened in a silent cry. Buddy sometimes wants to take it to bed with him. But I don’t recommend it, because being hit by one of those horns around the frill can be rather painful.


If you’re wondering, yes I bought the Papo dinosaurs online, from Everything Dinosaur, a British online store which has a wide selections of dinosaur merchandise at reasonable prices. The service and delivery are pretty good, and the owners are friendly and helpful. Mike, the owner expert, even provides data sheet on each of the dinosaur purchased. (Please note that I am not paid to write this, and instead this is based on my pleasant experience buying from the store.) I first bought a baby Pachycephalosaurus and a baby T Rex for Buddy because he asked for them.



Some time later, Buddy got interested in Velociraptor. After doing some research, I found out that the Bullyland figure is highly rated. (In case you’re wondering, those figures which are high on scientific accuracy and beautifully sculpted are favored by the collectors.) Firstly it has feathers (apparently Paleontologists think it did), unlike figures from other toy companies which made them with reptilian skin (like the one from Papo). Secondly it is a beautiful model with an animated feel about it. Buddy likes it a lot, and of course he plays with it rather often. True to what Dino Dojo said, the paintwork started peeling within a month, compared to those from Papo. (Even the mini Bullyland dinos are starting to get a little scruffy too.) Like figures from other toy companies, these are hand painted. But I don’t know what type of paint the company uses or how many costs are given that caused the colors to peel off so easily. I guess the adults don’t handle their figures roughly and so they don’t experience this, but with kids, rough play is par for the course.

In addition to the Velociraptor, I also got a Utahraptor (below picture) for Buddy. There are not many options for this dinosaur, and other than the gimmicky movie tie-in, the only figure in production is this from CollectA (surprisingly, a Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer). This is actually a pretty big dinosaur, but unfortunately, the figure size is not to scale, and the model is smaller than the above Velociraptor (which in reality is only 1 meter tall). The figure is also not as detailed as those from other  companies, but at least it has feathers. There are very few Utahraptor models in the market and this is the best I can find, since the better ones have been retired and may be available only in eBay at a premium.


However, I found out that this year CollectA has launched a number of really interesting dino models, including obscure dinos. One figure that I want to get my hands on is the feathered T-Rex, which Buddy has asked for (to be exact, papa T-Rex). Yes, contrary to popular belief, scientists have concluded that T-Rex and perhaps all dinosaurs are actually covered in feathers. (Now you know why the birds and chickens are descendants of the dinosaurs.)

T -rex

Then Buddy was fascinated with the Parasaurolophus, and naturally I gravitated to the Papo figure. It turns out that the Schleich version is a better choice because it’s more accurate. (Schleich is another German toy maker.) According to the collectors, Papo didn’t mold its figure accurately, for instance it has front teeth which is not in line with the fossil findings. Unfortunately, the Schleich model, launched in 2012, has been retired by the company, and ED doesn’t have any stock. So I had to search in Amazon, and managed to find a seller who ships to Singapore.

At the same time, I bought the below dino figure of Dacentrusus from Amazon as well. This is from the American toy maker, Battat, which retails its model figures under the Terra brand exclusively at Target. I found out from collectors that the Battat dinos are highly sought after for being scientifally accurate, and the company doesn’t launch many of them. Apparently those older models launched in the 1990’s are highly prized.

But too bad Target doesn’t ship to Singapore and not even going through vPost helps. ED doesn’t carry it, and even the online store at Dino Toy has no stocks; in fact I have never seen them in Singapore either. Thank God I found the Dacentrusus figure in Amazon, but I had to pay a premium compared to the bargain basement prices Target is selling them at. (Looks like Target regards them purely as kiddy toys.)


I also managed to arrange for my brother-in-law to get the Cryolophosaurus figure, and this time round from Target online store, after I found out he’s coming.


Not everything I bought for Buddy is considered collector’s item. This Ankylosaurus figure from Hasbro is a merchandise tie-in  for the Jurassic World movie. This was one of the first dino toys I bought for Buddy (from a department store), before I started doing serious research on the figures. You can see that it’s not as sophisticated compared to those featured above. (Well, what do you expect from Hasbro?) I later found out that this toy was reviewed in Dino Toy forum as well, and received a mixed review. Main reasons being inaccurate armour and a suspicious resemblance to the Papo’s Ankylosaurus but a poorer form (see below it). Also the toy has screw holes, which made the collectors dissed Hasbro for not trying to make it look better. According to a comment, it’s suspected that Hasbro took a digital scan of the Papo figure and so able to dull the details and reduce sculpting time.



Another kiddy dino toy is this Styracosaurus, that we initially thought was a Triceraptops (but Buddy pointed out it doesn’t have 3 horns on its face). My father-in-law bought this for Buddy’s birthday, and so I don’t know which company made this. It’s battery-operated and able to move and make sound, but this scares Buddy. My husband tried using Blu tack to cover up the holes to dampen the noise, but since Buddy doesn’t like it moving, it suits us just fine. Anyway it’s not a favorite of his, and so he doesn’t play with it much.

Finally, we have Rex, the Gund soft toy T Rex, which is perfectly safe to bring it to bed.
Initially I wasn’t sure if we should get Rex since Buddy has sensitive nose. But the toy is machine-washable, and my husband suggested that we could wash it regularly to prevent dust accumulation.

Confused by the confusion: the AHPETC saga (updated)

How time flies, it’s General Election time again. I still remember 2011 when I was a big supporter of Worker’s Party. I was dazzled by Chen Show Mao’s credentials, and thought we finally had a potential future PM or minister from the opposition party. There was much euphoria when WP won Aljunied GRC, and I thought WP would develop into a viable alternative party for us. How wrong was I! WP did not even bother to put up any alternative policy papers at all, other than an ill-thought out population white paper, not worthy of parliament, in response to the one published by the ruling party. (At least Singapore Democratic Party, SDP, made the first step in proposing well thought out alternatives to healthcare, education and housing etc, despite not being in parliament.)

So, over time, I became more disappointed with WP for its passiveness. Then came the Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga. I had written my thoughts about this in an earlier post dated 26 February this year “A follow-up to Unsupporting You – It’s worse than I thought”. Basically WP has shown very poor corporate governance and terribly weak financial management.

I want to state here that I will not mention any numbers, as I did not analyse WP’s audited statements, which by the way, have never been unqualified since 2011. Instead I read the opinions given by their appointed auditors to get an overview of the corporate and financial governance.
Since 2011, the auditors have not provided any opinion on the TC finances in the annual reports. Basically they couldn’t say if the numbers were a fair representation of the financial status within the town council – as a result there can be no assurance that public funds have been properly spent and accounted for. The reason they couldn’t verify the numbers is because the TC management could not (whether voluntarily or otherwise is open to question) provide documentation evidence to back them up. There were repeated mentions of AHPETC not putting money into sinking funds, as a result millions are owed to the sinking fund. In the FY13/14 report, the auditors also raised the concern of conflict of interests because the employees at the TC were shareholders of the company that provided services to the TC. These TC employees were signing off payment vouchers issued to their own company (or basically themselves). As of today, remarkably, all AHPTEC’s financial statements since 2011, continues to be qualified, accountants and investors will tell you, is not worth the paper it is printed.
If I am an investor and looking at AHPETC, I would drop it like a hot potato since I do not know what the hell is going on within the TC. AHPTEC is also fighting in the High Court to avoid a definitive forensic audit with more legal powers to follow the money trail unlike a normal audit. Why would they want to prevent an audit which could clear their name, if they had nothing to hide? So far, because AHPTEC is governed under the Town Council Act, the High Court judge had to disallow the audit; the Ministry of National Development is appealing the judgement with HDB. Let me quote the judgement of the presiding High Court judge, Quentin Loh, on the mismanagement at AHPETC:
“…travesty for AHPETC to have ignored their duties and obligations imposed on them by the Town Councils Act and Town Council Financial Rules.”
“They owe a duty and a heavy responsibility to their constituents to run AHPETC properly and it is incumbent on them to put their house and finances in order.”
“If AHPETC was a managing corporation … I have no doubt that AHPETC or its officers will be exposed to to the possibility of civil liability or, in an extreme scenario, criminal liability,”.
Let me try a Q&A here to answer the confusion over the whole saga.
Q: What did Justice Loh mean by “If AHPETC was a managing corporation”?
A: Town councils function similarly to private condo managers called “management corporations” that manage the operations of private estates. Also, like the TC, the management corporation has to manage a sinking fund for capital projects. But there is one big difference between them; the management corporation is governed under the Companies’ Act whereas the TC is governed under the Town Council Act. Contraventions of the Companies Act by condo managers are very serious offenses and will result in investigations by the enforcement agencies, sometimes leading to civil and even criminal prosecutions.
Q: If that’s the case, how come there is no investigation into AHPETC?
A: As mentioned earlier, AHPETC (and other town councils) are governed under the Town Council Act which, unfortunately, is rather loosey goosey. There are only three offences listed under the law: a) misuse of town council funds, b) Contraventions of lift upgrading rules, c) wilful withholding of information from auditors. The first two attract fine of not more than $5,000, while the third has a fine of not more than $1,000. No jail terms, believe it or not. Note that it is not even an offense for not putting money into sinking fund. In fact, when I looked at the offences in the law, it doesn’t look like they are easy to prove. For instance, the Sinking fund can be used for a variety of projects, including “any other works… prescribed from time to time.” In other words, anything goes. The Town Council will work only if the managers are ethical as it gives them wide latitude. Having unethical people running the Town Council, no matter how nice, helpful and responsive they are to Town Council residents, will be like allowing wolves to guard the henhouse.
Q: If it is hard to prove to prove misuse or contraventions, why still harp on it?
A: There are actions which are unethical but not punishable by the weak law. Using an extreme example, say I make my parents sleep in the balcony or corridor. I don’t think there is any law that says I committed a crime, but you will certainly agree that my actions are terrible and morally wrong. Or perhaps the law states “children must let parents sleep in a sheltered area. Otherwise there is a fine of $1000.” I can argue the balcony or corridor is sheltered, and since it can be interpreted that way, the authorities will be hard-pressed to sue me. But I’m sure you will agree that something needs to be done about it, since it’s wrong of me to make my parents sleep in the balcony. So you see, this is the issue we have with the the Town Council act. Something needs to be done about AHPTEC. Lets hope MND and HDB succeeds in launching a forensic audit – it is in the public’s interest.
Q: What’s the big deal with the AHPETC’s accounts? So what if they didn’t put in money into sinking fund and the numbers cannot be verified?
A: The money belongs to taxpayers, yours and mine. Don’t you want to know that your money is properly accounted for? I certainly don’t want mine to go into wasteful projects, grossly overpriced projects meant for profiteering,or worse, disappear for no reason at all. The money in the Sinking fund is used for capital projects like upgrading works for HDB flats. If there is not enough money, how can the estate be maintained? Wouldn’t the estate fall into disrepair? Wouldn’t a taxpayer bailout be necessary eventually?
Managing a TC is a good little test of the ethics, management and operational skills of the people running it. Don’t forget it is much less complicated than running a country.
Q: But government service, stat boards, People’s Associations also have lapses. Why is the PAP targeting WP?
A: Please remember that the civil service is a big organization, and of course there will be some bad eggs around. We should be worried if such lapses are not reported with claims from the government that everything is fine. In fact, the audit reports on government service and statutory boards are tabled before parliament for debate. So warts and all are revealed to the public and the opposition MPs can demand for explanation from the government.
There is no government in the world that dares to claim it is 100% corruption free or lapse-free. There will be always be people trying to take short cuts or flout the regulations or take advantage of loop holes. What matters is whether the corruption/lapses are widespread or are mere exceptions. The fact that Singapore has been consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world should tell you something.
Also, think very carefully before you say we should put in check and balance in every step. The bureaucracy will burden all of us, as well as kill the economy. For instance India has one hell of a bureaucratic system and it’s almost impossible to get anything sensible done. Does it help to reduce lapses? No, people will just grease the palms to speed things up, encouraging more not less corruption.
Besides, let me quote a wise adage “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Let’s say an opposition MP was caught having extramarital affairs. A short while later, a PAP MP was also caught doing the same. What would you say if the PAP gave the excuse, “the opposition MP also made the same mistake. Plus, he had affairs with more than one woman; and I only had it with one. So I am not as bad.” Does the argument make sense?
This is the same argument used by a number of WP supporters. Why are we resorting to pandering to the lowest common denominator? Why are we not aiming for the better party, which sets higher ethical and competence benchmarks? When we insist on the PAP having integrity, honesty and transparency, we should apply the same to the opposition parties. There should not be double standards here. If you insist on voting in opposition regardless, you are basically “cutting off the nose to spite the face”. As for those who think that since we have an efficient civil service, it doesn’t matter who is in power, that is a fallacy. The civil service requires direction and leadership to operate, and it does not have the mandate of the people. The political leadership is given the mandate to provide direction, and set policies. It is very important that we get the policies right because the civil service cannot change course for the country. Who is in the leadership role is vital to this country!