Jaspas Junks calls time

The fun never ended on a Jaspas Junk – their Seabreezes were legendary

In a shock announcement, catering group Castelo Concepts has said it will be ceasing its Jaspas Junk business as of May 1.

Citing rising operational costs and the high levels of expensive maintenance required to keep its ageing fleet of boats running, Castelo co-founders Brian and Wayne Parfitt say they will be concentrating on the group’s chain of restaurants moving forward.

“Although we will no longer be chartering the junks, we will offer a variety of catering options via our restaurants for guests to book when they take out their own junk, or book a third party charter option.” The pair also own oceanfront restaurant Jaspas Beach Club in Sai Kung which is sure to prove a popular spot for lunch with a water view.

The Parfitt brothers originally picked up their fleet of six boats from HSBC at HK$50,000 each during the global financial crisis. At the time, HSBC was cutting back on corporate entertainment and Wayne was keen to set up a commercial junk business having enjoyed days out on his own boat since the early ‘90s.

“We used to have these awesome parties and I thought maybe there would be some traction in renting junks commercially with drinks and a BBQ,” he said.

The resultant Jaspas Junks business achieved legendary status with expats throughout the territory, offering an unbeatable free-flow package with BBQ lunch, homemade pizzas and chocolate cake sailing home and oodles of Seabreezes that could be enjoyed afloat a noodle.

“I can’t believe Jaspas junks are no more!” lamented one expat. “Oh my god we’ve had so much fun on those boats over the years. Nobody could beat their food, drink and all-day boating package.” For an extra charge, kids could spend the day zooming around on a banana while the adults got down to the serious business of socialising. During the course of research for this article, only one party was discovered to have drunk a Jaspas junk dry – “and of course the staff immediately jumped into the speedboat to pick up top-ups back in Sai Kung,” admitted a member of the party (no names shall be named).

The junks operated out of Causeway Bay and Pak Sha Wan in Sai Kung and while there are many more Island-based junk operators, it is believed the Sai Kung crowd may struggle to find similar boat packages without a surcharge being added on for the New Territories pick-up.

“We’d like to give our skippers a special shout out, as well as our staff. They’ve helped us to build this great fun day out on Hong Kong waterways into such unique memories for so many,” continued the brothers. “For catering options, please contact Oolaa, Wagyu, Jaspas Sai Kung, Castelo Catering or High Street Grill.”


Photographic exhibition exposes last remaining ‘bound feet women’ of China

Hong Kong-based photographer Jo Farrell has spent a decade travelling to mainland China to document the last few surviving women who underwent the centuries old Chinese practice of foot binding. The resulting exhibition, Bound Feet Women of China, is now open at the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science.

Jo Farrell has spent years photographing the few surviving Chinese women with ‘lotus feet’.

“I have been living in and out of Asia for the last 25 years and am fascinated by the culture here. Back in 2006, I decided to focus my photography on female traditions. My first thought was of the Chinese women who bound their feet. Novels Wild Swans (Jung Chang, 1991) and Life & Death in Shanghai (Nien Cheng, 1987) first introduced me to foot binding and I guessed there must still be a few women alive who had undergone this process. Foot binding was outlawed in the early twentieth century, but the practice persisted in rural areas until the late 1940s.

“I started to ask around amongst my contacts in mainland China and eventually came across a driver who said his grandmother had bound feet. She became the first woman to feature in the project.

“Since then, mainly through word-of-mouth, I have discovered more women. Most are from Shandong Province and also Yunnan and Shaanxi.

“Like most people, I had preconceptions about foot binding. But when I held a bound foot in my hands for the first time, it was so soft and beautifully structured that I realised how much the women must have gone through to obtain what was considered at the time to be beautiful. The practice of foot binding resonated with me as even today, we place increasing value on the way someone looks rather than the actual substance of a person; whether they are fundamentally good, supportive, creative, interesting, passionate and so forth.

“Traditionally, foot binding would begin with the toenails being clipped and then the feet being soaked in hot water to soften the tissue and bones to facilitate the manipulation. All the toes on the foot, except the big one, were then folded under the sole and the toes bound in place with a long cotton cloth bandage. One way to physically encourage foot reduction was by swapping the girl’s shoes for a smaller, tighter pair every few months. Many of the women told me that the cotton bindings were sewn in place to stop the child removing the bandage. They were forced to regularly walk so that their own weight crushed their toes underneath them. In the early years, the washing and binding was carried out by the mother. As time passed, the girls themselves tightened the bandages on their own. Many of the women in this project chose to bind their own feet as their mothers refused to do it; when asked why they said they did it to ‘fit in’ with their friends and to ensure they had good marriage prospects. Some of the women only had their feet bound for a short length of time before it was outlawed but the damage had already been done. There were no formal guidelines for foot-binding and the feet were often bound in inelegant ways.

“Foot binding represents ‘old China’ and most of the women I spoke with condoned the practice. It impeded their ability to work and to provide food for their family during the cultural revolution and ensuing great famine. But having bound feet was imperative to finding a good matrimonial match and the smaller and more well-formed the bound foot, the more options were available to women. When the feet were unbound, the foot naturally spread and the women I spoke with were eager to convey, with what I believe was pride, that they once had feet two or three inches smaller than they are now. I think it is important that they feel their efforts were not in vain and I hope my photographs come across as both meaningful and beautiful.

“When I give lectures about foot binding I talk about what we consider to be beauty and how it differs in every culture. My work is about the the limits women will go to to be accepted in their own society.

“Over the past 13 years I have visited some of these women every year. I follow through and find out how their lives are progressing. I really enjoy my visits, it feels like I have an army of grandmothers out there. I share meals with them and drink lots of tea. We enjoy our time together.”

Bound Feet Women of China, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science, 2 Caine Lane, Sheung Wan (behind Man Mo Temple), until April 1, jofarrell.com.


Art Walk debut in Sai Kung

Talking walking art with artist Helen Boyd

Local artist Helen Boyd and friend Natashi Kefford are launching HeArtWalk 2018, a two-day exhibition of art and postcards created by dozens of Hong Kong-based students, artists and art teachers from several schools.

The family-friendly event is the culmination of a year-long HeArt art project during which Boyd pledged to post pictures of handmade HeArts daily on her Instagram and Facebook pages. Followers were then able to request the heart be sent to themselves or to somebody with whom they wanted to ‘share the love’. Boyd’s hearts have travelled from Hong Kong to over 40 different countries. One follower requested a heart be sent to her daughter who was working as a frontline combat medic in Afghanistan.

“The project has made more of an impact than I had expected,” said Boyd. “It’s amazing to see the impression paper and pen can have on people.”

The walk takes participants through Sai Kung to participating businesses who are displaying HeArtWalk art. The final destination will be Boyd’s H Gallery where professional artists have donated work which will be available for purchase through a silent auction.

Tickets will go on sale a week before the event when those taking part in the walk can collect stamps from the participating businesses, these stamps will then entitle them to enter a raffle. Dozens of businesses in Sai Kung have donated prizes, from hair products to helicopter rides. Money raised from both the raffle and the silent auction will go to charities including ‘House with Heart’, a home for abandoned children in Kathmandu, Nepal.

HeArtWalk 2018 will take place on April 21 and 22, the art auction will take place 6-8.30pm, April 21, tickets are $200 with a map for the artwalk displayed on the back of the ticket. Tickets are available from H Studio Gallery, 1/1 Wan King Path, Sai Kung, @helenbrontebodyartist, facebook.com/HStudioGallery.


Curated homewares come to town

Eclectic boutique Apartment 49 will be ‘popping up’ in Central next week. Here’s why you need to check it out

George Lyons and George Woods know a good brand when they see one

Team-of-two George Lyons and George Woods launched their curated homewares business when they couldn’t find the products that they loved in Hong Kong. Urged on by enthusiastic friends, they now stock a range of diverse goodies from around the world. Their African ‘juju’ wall art pieces went down a storm last season.

Both long-term Hong Kong residents, they juggle Apartment 49 with busy family lives – between them they have six children under the age of 12.

“Having a pop-up in Central is the best,” enthuses Lyons. “It means we get to bring in loads of new stock for customers to see. At the moment, we have a huge range of homewares, statement jewellery” (their fabulous earrings will take you from beach to bar with great style) “handbags, swimwear and pool accessories.”

Of note, Apartment 49 is one of only a handful of Hong Kong-based stores that stock adult rash-vests (they source them from Australian-based Acqua Brand), a must-have when you’re living under an Asian sun – nobody wants to come off a junk imitating the lunch buffet prawns.

And with that number of offspring, the Georges are expert at sourcing gorgeous gifts and kids toys. So if you’ve got birthday parties looming on the horizon, this is your go-to pop-up.

New for this season include all-new homewares, Katie Luxton pouches and jewellery, Kollab shopping and beach bags, Cocolux Onyx candles and a new body and bath range called Bondi Wash. “We’ll also have the latest range of Keep Cup reusable coffee cups in lots of new styles and colours,” says Lyons. “We’re passionate about eliminating single-use plastic.”

“We source our products from all over the place. Let’s face it, it’s never a chore,” admits Woods. “Both Aussies by birth, we do have a soft spot for Australian collections, but we’re basically drawn to small businesses like ourselves. It’s great to be able to support them. My favourite line this season is our new Tribal Artwork from Melbourne-based artist Anna Mulcahey,” she adds.

Lyons, meanwhile, has her eyes firmly on the handcrafted French Laguiole knives.

The Apartment 49 Pop-Up runs from Tuesday March 20 to Saturday March 24, 10am-8pm, and Sunday March 25, 11am-5pm, 33 Wellington Street, Central, apartment49.com.

Women’s work

Nicole Denholder, founder of crowdfunding initiative Next Chapter, explains why women are being served a smaller slice of the financial pie when it comes to funding startups. She was speaking at Hong Kong’s International Women’s Day Networking Event

Nicole Denholder, founder of crowdfunding portal Next Chapter, explains why women aren’t quite cutting it in the boardroom

It seems as if every week in Hong Kong there’s a new diary date involving entrepreneurs, and usually female entrepreneurs at that. Whether it’s a networking event, a new launch, a panel discussion or a pop-up shop, small, female-driven enterprises appear to be big business in this dynamic city. This week it was the turn of the International Women’s Day Networking Event, organised by three local small business owners.

According to studies in the US, female-led startups deliver high returns. Seed-stage venture firm First Round Capital found that companies with a woman at the helm performed 63% better than those with all-male teams. But despite this, companies led by females receive just 5% of venture dollars. Globally, it is estimated just 5-10% of women owned businesses have access to commercial bank loans. Until 1988, women in the US had to have a man guarantee a loan if it amounted to more than US$50,000.

In Hong Kong it’s a similar story. According to The Women’s Foundation (TWF), Hong Kong has a heavy gender skew. A massive 81% of high growth entrepreneurs are male and the ratio of male to female employers is 3.5 to 1. TWF believes targeted assistance is crucial to close the gap and to empower women-owned businesses to reach their full potential.

Nicole Denholder, founder of Next Chapter, a crowdfunding portal for women, has over twenty years in project and merger management – much of it for multinationals – under her belt. When it comes to launching a business, she’s been there, advised on that. Realising that women weren’t getting a fair slice of the investment cake, she was keen to get Next Chapter off the ground.

“Because women aren’t so dominant in business, they don’t tend to have the know-how that men have to access loans, and that is a major drawback,” she says. “Over the last 30 years things have improved, but women are still losing out on dollars when it comes to funding. When you mention an enterprise is female-driven, it’s always assumed that it is low cost. When I tell men I crowd fund for women, the automatic assumption is that it’s for low investment enterprises. Ok, we can’t all be unicorns (startups with a value of over US$1 billion) but we’re often worth more than what is assumed.

With Next Chapter, Denholder wanted to provide some sort of service that involved working with women, pushing female businesses to the next level. The crowdfunding idea is simple, but effective. A project or venture is launched online and investors are invited to contribute a small amount of money towards it in return for the product or service.

This year she’s launching an advisory service to help women sit at the table more effectively. “This won’t guarantee a better loan, but it does guarantee a better fighting chance,” she says. “We want to help women understand business jargon and what is required of them when the talk turns to areas such as ‘equity’ and ‘business value’. If you haven’t been in business before, why on earth would you understand these terms?”

Along with an understanding of how business works, Denholder lists passion and drive as key to success. “One of my clients was in the corporate world but desperately wanted to embrace her creative side as an illustrator. She had the drive, but had never been professionally trained. She crowdfunded a very conservative US$2,000 to launch some Christmas cards, but because this was something she really wanted to do and was passionate about it she really worked hard and this small step has now led to corporate commissions for logos, children’s book illustrations and mural work. It’s a great story.”

Denholder is eventually aiming to launch Next Chapter internationally. “I just want to keep women moving on to the next level,” she says. She recommends women take a look at internationalwomensday.com to find out how they can ‘press for progress’ in 2018.

According to research carried out by HSBC for International Women’s Day, just over half of expat women surveyed viewed Hong Kong as the best area in Asia Pacific to improve their earning prospects. This compared with over 70% who considered Singapore to be the most lucrative country. Hong Kong also trailed Singapore when it came to work culture and personal full-fillment at work. However, the SAR was considered the top place to acquire new skills and 64% agreed it was a good place to progress their careers. For job security, Japan and Taiwan were rated top of the table.


Government building transformed into luxe hotel

The distinctive sweeping arches of The Murray, Hong Kong’s newest five-star hotel, on Cotton Tree Drive, Central

An old 1960s government high-rise on Cotton Tree Drive has metamorphosed into a five-star hotel, a welcome addition to Hong Kong’s luxury hotel scene. Sitting snug between the Peak Tram terminal, Hong Kong Park and the Cheung Kong Centre, The Murray is wonderfully located in the heart of the city. The views over the park, St John’s Cathedral and across Victoria Harbour to ICC from its 336 guest rooms are some of the best in town.

The distinctive white building with its huge ground-floor archways was originally designed by Architectural Services Department worker Ron Philips in 1969 for the then-colonial government. The brief was to come up with an office block to accommodate the Public Works Department. But Philips designed a 27-storey building so innovative that modern-day buildings struggle to compete with its environmental features.

To reduce air conditioning costs, Philips designed the building with its windows sheltered by concrete ‘fins’ positioned at 90 degrees to the panes to avoid direct sunlight hitting the glass. This passive design was considered innovative enough to win the Certificate of Merit of the Energy Efficient Building Award in 1994. In 1969, it was well ahead of its time and as Foster + Partners, the lead architect on today’s redesign, has pointed out, the modern day glass high-rises that sit shimmering in the Asian sun today don’t seem to have been quite as design-savvy.

Philips in now in his 90s and living in Britain, but he was invited by Foster + Partners to consult on the Murray’s conversion and last December he flew out to Hong Kong for the official opening of the hotel. The building and site had been bought from the government in 2011 by developer Wharf Holdings for $4.4 billion, with a further $3.4 billion spent on the redevelopment. Although the sale of government land to a private party was controversial at the time, The Murray is part of the Conserving Central project which aims to preserve what’s left of Central’s historic heart. This has ensured a sympathetic re-design and subsequent new lease of life. Heritage constraints meant the height of the building could not be altered and original features such as the sweeping archways and clever vehicle ramps that feed off from busy Cotton Tree Drive had to be left in place.

The re-design beautifully ‘opens up’ the building with floor-to-ceiling glass at the lower levels and multiple entry points. The concrete car park has been replaced with gardens and outdoor spaces – the dining room spills out onto a terraced area shaded by a 139-year-old listed Rainbow Shower Tree, which is the centrepiece of the gardens.

The distinctive arches were installed by Philips to solve the problem of steep inclines limiting access to the car park. But as it transpired, the archways not only made the base of the building more accessible for vehicles back in the ’60s, today they provide fantastic shade and rain protection, enabling a superb outdoor venue that is protected from the elements. The hotel is next month welcoming a car exhibition to the space which will be known as The Arches.

The Murray boasts a modern, sleek cocktail bar which will no doubt become a welcome watering hole with workers from the neighbouring central business district – the cocktail menu is named The Tape and features tipples including ‘Opening Bell’ and ‘Nifty Fifty’ as a nod to its locale.

The afternoon tea was delicious – the perfectly warmed and fresh scones were a highlight – and located close to top tourist sites St John’s Cathedral and the Peak tram station. As a stop-off for foot-sore site-seers it couldn’t be better placed.  In June a rooftop bar and restaurant is due to be opened.

Popinjays rooftop bar and restaurant which opens in June

The guest rooms are, as you would expect of such a high spec re-design, top notch, with free-standing bathtubs, spacious living areas and superb views over the historic heart of Central. Indeed I’m looking forward to many happy moments in this fabulous new addition to Central’s hotel scene.

*The hotel has only received a soft opening so far – most of the hotel restaurants are open but only when reserved in advance. They will be fully available next month, niccolohotels.com




Open air gallery wows Hong Kongers

A little boy stands transfixed by Gimhongsok’s Bearlike Construction at the Harbour Arts Sculpture Park, which opened today

The Harbour Arts Sculpture Park opened to the public today on Hong Kong’s Harbourfront. Featuring work from nineteen heavy hitting international and local artists, including Great Britain’s Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley, Japan’s Yayoi Kusama and Hong Kong’s Kacey Wong, the ‘museum without walls’ runs for six weeks until April 11.

“There is a real ‘can do’ spirits in Hong Kong,” commented co-curator Tim Marlow at the official media launch. “I hope this (event) plays some role in the continuous momentum that cements Hong Kong’s international status as a growing art centre.”

This is the first event of its kind in Hong Kong, with pieces from 19 local and international artists displayed along the Harbourfront in Admiralty. Asked about his favourite pieces, Marlow said he was moved by Tracey Emin’s piece which is also a memorial to her personal friend Sir David Tang, who died last year.

“But what I’m most excited about is the location. What a privilege to be able to invite international artists to site their sculptures in one of the most exciting urban locations in the world,” he said. “The natural beauty of the harbour and the immense architecture of the buildings make it a really fertile location.”

The sculpture park is accompanied by the Jockey Club Arts Education Programme, a series of free workshops, educational activities, guided tours and a public art symposium. The aim is to encourage discussion of art in the city and create a culturally vibrant Hong Kong, as well as enhancing the accessibility of art in the SAR. By lunchtime on the day following the launch, it would seem this noble aim had already been achieved, with lots of excited children running around on the grass, touching the installations and having their pictures taken with the artwork by eager parents.

Visitors can also take part in a Harbour Arts Sculpture Park Photo Competition sponsored by ICBC (Asia) to capture ‘the most beautiful scene of the park’. Entry is via an app and website to be launched next week.

Harbour Arts Sculpture Park is located at Harbourfront, Admiralty, it’s free-of-charge and runs until April 11.