Your ultimate guide to Hong Kong’s Christmas markets in December

 

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DEC 1

Italian Day at Sandy Bay

The Italian Women’s Association is back with its annual fun-filled market. Bargains a-plenty plus lots of authentic food and drink. All profit goes to charity. $20 per person. 10am-5pm, The Gardens of the Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital at Sandy Bay, 12 Sandy Bay Road, Pok Fu Lam. iwa.org.hk

DEC 1

St Stephen’s Chapel Christmas Fete

The annual event sees Santa arrive by helicopter plus all the fun of a traditional English summer fair with a Christmas twist. $20 per adult, free for kids. 11am-4.30pm, Sports Ground, St Stephen’s College, entrance on Wong Ma Kok Road, Stanley. ststephen.org.hk

DEC 1 – 2

LUMP Christmas Ceramic Market

Browse over 40 ceramic artists and makers selling everything from decorative pieces to handmade ceramics. Cash only. 12 midday – 7pm. Free admission. LUMP Studio, 11A, Gee Luen Hing Industrial Building, 2 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang.

DEC 1

German Swiss International School Christmas Bazaar

Grab loads of holiday goodies and enjoy some family friendly fun at this annual event. And don’t miss your chance to get your photo taken with Santa in his grotto! 10am – 4pm. Free admission. 11 Guildford Road, The Peak. mygsis.gsis.edu.hk

DEC 8

Treasure Island Charity Beach Ball

Give back this Christmas and book a table at the Charity Beach Ball with proceeds supporting charities for animals and wildlife on Lantau Island. From 6pm. $5800 per table, includes dinner and two hours free flow drinks. Treasure Island Restaurant and Bar, Pui O Beach, Lantau Island. treasureislandhk.com

DEC 8 – 9 & 15 – 16

Stanley Plaza Finnish Christmas Market

Held over two consecutive weekends, browse over 100 stalls, including Hong Kong’s first seaside Pets Christmas Market located at Murray House. 12 midday – 8pm. Free admission. Stanley Plaza Amphitheatre, Stanley. thelink.com.hk

DEC 8 – 9

Treasure Island Christmas Market

Browse treasures for one and all at this two-day Christmas Market. 11am – 5pm. Free admission. Pui O Beach, Lantau Island. Treasureislandhk.com

DEC 8

Island Christian Academy Christmas Fair

A festive and fun-filled afternoon of shopping, food, games, prizes and activities. Free. 12-4pm, 70 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan. facebook.com/islandchristianacademy

DEC 9

Handmade Hong Kong Holiday Markets

Browse over 120 of Hong Kong’s finest indie-craft talents. Pick up stocking stuffers and one-of-a-kind gifts, with the bonus of purchasing directly from local artists. 11am – 6pm. Discovery Bay South Plaza, Discovery Bay. handmadehongkong.com

DEC 11

The Christmas Gift Festival

Browse delightful treasures from around the world, like jewelry, children’s products and more. Free admission. 10am – 8pm. Grand Ballroom, Conrad Hotel, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty. prestigefairs.hk

DEC 14

The Hive Studios Christmas Bazaar

Enjoy various vendors, entertainment plus food and drinks. Free. 12 midday – 8pm. The Hive Studios, 8th floor, Cheung Hing Industrial Building, 12P Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town. thehivestudios.com.hk

DEC 15

Green Queen Zero Waste Christmas Market 2018

Embrace your inner greenie and shop beauty, fashion, kids, lifestyle and home with an environmental, ethical and low-waste twist. 11am-5pm, Garage Academy, 4F, Beverly House, 93-107 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. greenqueen.com.hk

DEC 15

The Hive Sai Kung Christmas Market

Browse various vendors selling a selection of gifts, plus participate in workshops throughout the day! 11am – 5pm. Free admission. 5 Tai Mong Tsai Road, Sai Kung. skhosts@thehive.com.hk

Tales of the tandor at Wan Chai’s Daarukhana

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Mixing it up at Daarukhana

New opening Daarukhana promises a ‘haute cuisine contemporary Indian’ experience for diners at its Thompson Road venue.

Hoping to spice things up, the restaurant mixes ‘overseas’ ingredients such as chilli honey-glazed French langoustines and American duck shami with regional Indian cuisines such as dum ke chaap – lamb chops cooked the Northern Indian way in a rich gravy and spicy saffron sauce. Tandor dishes include Norwegian gongura salmon tikkaand prime short ribs.

All dishes are large enough – and designed – to share; the plant-based menu includes vegetarian dishes such as roasted baingan (aubergine) cooked two ways and there are plenty of creative sides including stuffed baby breads, daal of the day, kulchas (mildly leavened flatbreads) and Persian-inspired barberry pulao.  141 Thompson Road, Tai Yip Building, Wan Chai. daarukhana.com

 

 

 

 

Macau lights up for Christmas

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Christmas celebrations at The Venetian Macao – Santa will be in his grotto until Dec 30

Christmas has arrived in Macau this week with the lighting of Christmas trees throughout the Venetian complex and the opening of an outdoor ice rink at The Parisian Macao.

But the show stealer is perhaps the 50-foot inverted Christmas tree which hangs dramatically from the lobby ceiling of The Parisian Hotel. Organisers admitted the tree had been inspired by Paris’ famous Galeries Lafayette department store which suspended an ‘upside down’ Swarovski-covered tree from its Art Nouveau cupola in 2014. Recent followers of the trend have included London’s Tate Britain, Claridge’s Hotel and Victoria Beckham’s Dover Street boutique.

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The stunning ‘upside down’ Christmas tree at The Parisian Macao

 

The Parisian’s Eiffel Tower installation at the front of the hotel will be lit up with a Grand Illumination Show Christmas Edition light performance until Dec 30 and the hotel’s ‘Winter in Paris’ activities include a fun ice rink on the level 7 observation deck of the tower. Skaters will be kept well fed with an adjacent pop-up cafe serving an assortment of hot and cold refreshments and some pretty tasty hot chocolate.

Meanwhile, down the road at The Venetian Macao, a ‘Winter in Venice’ theme includes a Venetian Express train installation and Santa will be taking up daily residence in his pop-up grotto.

The Christmas installations run until Jan 6 2019; The Parisian Macao ice rink is open 4-10pm daily. sandsresortsmacao.com

 

Don’t forget your Box of Hope this November

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Box of Hope volunteers checking and packing boxes

One minute you’re lazing happily on a junk with a sea-breeze in hand, the next there’s tinsel and mulled wine everywhere you turn.

Each year, Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier, and particularly so for Sian Trodd, director of local charity Box of Hope. The charity now in its eleventh year and Trodd and her team have been beavering away since Easter to ensure its infamous gift boxes reach those most in need this festive season. This year the charity aims to deliver 33,000 Christmas boxes of donated gifts to under-priveleged communities throughout Asia.

The charity distributes shoeboxes full of Christmas cheer to disadvantaged children throughout Hong Kong, Macau, China, Cambodia and the Philippines. What started as a mini-project at former director Nicole Woolhouse’s children’s school has now mushroomed into almost 30,000 boxes of hope being handed out to children via over 40 charities throughout Asia. Trodd and her team are effectively bringing Christmas to almost 28,000 poverty-stricken children every year.

“The boxes used to be packed in Nicole’s apartment,” explains Trodd, who took over as director last year after Woolhouse relocated back to the UK. “It grew and they were offered space in the offices of lawyers Allen & Overy in Exchange Square. But when they started moving in on desk space it became evident that the project was really taking off and Allen & Overy kindly persuaded their landlord to offer a vacant space for a couple of weeks from which we could pack the boxes.”

The raison d’etre behind the project was for kids to help kids. Woolhouse’s own children, plus classmates from Kellett School, simply got some old shoeboxes together and filled them with small but useful gifts. The idea stemmed from similar projects Woolhouse had seen in action in the UK. In the first year they distributed 800 boxes to underprivileged children throughout Hong Kong.

Eleven years on and the gift drive is one of the best-known events on Hong Kong’s charity calendar. Each year around 140 preschools and schools take part, along with corporate organisations, church groups and individuals. “There are a team of 12 of us,” explains Trodd. “We get together in April to talk dates and start planning, and then when everyone returns from the summer holidays it’s all systems go.”

Schools are sent stickers and instruction packs and children are invited to bring in their packed and wrapped shoeboxes full of gifts from the end of October. If schools have over 50 boxes to contribute, Trodd and the team will organise for a truck to pick up the donations – this year collections will take place between November 5 and 9.

This year the charity hopes to collect a mammoth 33,000 boxes and has received support from a number of Hong Kong-based corporates, including Meridian Capital, Wooloomooloo Group, Clifford Chance, Halfords, The Lion Rock Press, Bloom&Grow, Dachser, Redbox Storage, Wah Yuen stationery and Allen & Overy.

The charity will also again be running its popular box design competition. Winners will be invited to help hand deliver Boxes of Hope to children living in Hong Kong. To enter, email a photo of your decorated box to siantaylor1@boxofhope.org before November 15. Then, over the following three weeks, around 200 volunteers will open and check every single box in order for it to pass through customs.

“We say no to liquids, but yes to toothpaste,” says Trodd. “We recommend that every box contains a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, some sort of stationery – something to write with and something to write on is a good starting point – and then a treat, such as a small toy, or some Lego, or a pack of playing cards.”

Memorable boxes include one filled entirely with the proceeds of a lemonade stall – four children organized the stand in their building so they had the funds to donate scores of filled boxes, each one lovingly packed and decorated.

Woolhouse recalls another little girl who saved up her pocket money for a year and packed it up along with a handwritten note. “She so wanted to share some happiness,” says Woolhouse. “Every year our volunteers were simply overwhelmed by the generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness of Hong Kong’s schoolchildren.”

“A huge amount of thought goes into some of these boxes,” admits Trodd. “We safeguard the integrity of the boxes as much as possible when we’re checking them, but sometimes we do have to step in. We get the odd box where someone has basically emptied the dregs of their stationery draw, stubs of pencils and so forth. We ask for everything to be new and unused, a proper Christmas present.”

While all the charities Box of Hope delivers to are in need, some are more in need of certain items than others. “The Hong Kong kids all need stationery, anything goes from notebooks and pens to rubbers and packets of coloured pencils. In places like Cambodia and the Philippines, they’re happy to receive anything. These children have absolutely nothing. It’s heartbreaking to see them treasuring even the cardboard box.”

The delivery trucks are provided free-of-charge by Red Box Storage and Crown Relocations for a certain number of days, after which a courier company jumps in at a discounted rate.

“The boxes destined for the Philippines and Cambodia are shipped and we are currently looking for a shipping company to offer discounted transportation,” says Trodd.

Once at the destination, local charities step in and take over.

“It’s humbling to see how excited the children are to receive these gifts,” admits Trodd. “They are living in such impoverished conditions yet all are smiling, all are so happy to see us each year.”

If you, your school or preschool would like to take part in this year’s Box of Hope campaign, contact boxofhope.org. Follow the charity on Facebook @Box of Hope and on Instagram @boxofhopehk

Is this the world’s most luxurious villa?

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The ‘oversea’ sundeck of Conrad Rangali Island’s undersea villa

In an area of the world strewn with luxe residences and picture perfect beaches, the Maldives is a tough location in which to create wow factor.

But Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is this month opening the doors on what it believes is the world’s first undersea residence.

The James Bond-worthy two-storey villa – named Muraka, meaning ‘coral’ in the local patois – hit the seabed earlier this year following a complex building project. Lead engineer Mike Murphy of New Zealand-based MJ Murphy Ltd was approached in 2017 to manage the construction, having previously supervised on Ithaa, the hotel’s undersea restaurant. He admits Muraka was a once-in-a-lifetime brief.

The seriously luxurious residence is a two-level structure for up to nine guests, with space above sea-level and an undersea suite five metres below sea level. The undersea area includes a king size bedroom, living area and bathroom, with a spiral staircase leading to a further living room. Like Ithaa, the space is encased in an acrylic dome with 180-degree ocean views.

Upstairs, above sea-level, there’s a twin-size bedroom, bathroom, powder room, gym, butler’s quarters, private security quarters, integrated living room, kitchen, bar and a dining area that leads onto a sunset-facing deck. A relaxation deck and infinity pool on the opposite side enjoy sun-rise.

No stranger to submerged structures, Murphy has worked on watery projects around the world, including Guangzhou Ocean World in China, Sentosa Underworld Aquarium in Singapore, the Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur, plus a host of other aquariums, underwater worlds, penguin pools and sea-lion enclosures. But he admits Muraka was a particularly exciting project to be involved with.

“Being a world-first is very motivating,” he tells me from Rangali Island, where he was in the final stages of the project at the time of our interview. “The 600 tonnes of submerged residential space included components such as plumbing, as well as a lift connecting the undersea and oversea sections. There is nothing like this in the world currently.”

It is the latest ‘first’ in a series of inaugural launches for the resort – Conrad Maldives Rangali Island was the original international hotel brand to enter the Maldivian market 20 years ago, and it opened the world’s first undersea restaurant, Ithaa, 13 years ago.

The resort is located in one of the Maldives’ best diving spots and Muraka is designed to blend in with its marine environment, giving guests unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean.

All aspects were carefully planned, with two marine biologists hired to minimise any environmental impact during construction. At-risk coral colonies were relocated from the construction site and stored 150m away from where the building work was taking place. They were relocated back to the residence reef once construction was complete. Since the submersion of the villa, the underwater marine life has begun to call the new arrival home, with anemones and urchins attaching themselves to the structure.

The residence was first assembled on a barge in Singapore and with the assistance of two tugs, it was pushed-pulled on a four-hour journey to the wharf. It was then loaded onto a jumbo crane ship and shipped to Rangali Island. Submersion had to coincide with dry season, which runs from November to April, and was scheduled for February this year.

“For a complex project like this, sinking is the most critical point,” says Murphy. “The ship’s captain was essentially ‘blind’, so clear communication with the divers was paramount. I’m the first to say I’m completely confident that we are the leading experts in this field, but even I admit to losing a bit of sleep at this point. When Muraka was finally sunk, everyone was happy, the owners were happy, the engineers were happy, so we were all relieved.”

Just how the first guests will sleep remains to be seen. Perhaps all that marine activity will keep them glued to the glass all night, perhaps it will lull them into a deep slumber.

“Muraka encourages guests to to explore the Maldives from an entirely new perspective,” says chief architect and designer Ahmed Saleem. “Alongside Ithaa, we’re very pleased to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge design, technology and architecture.” conradmaldives.com

 

Prime SoHo location for new Italian American

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Frank’s ‘red sauce’ restaurant opens in SoHo this month

Frank’s Italian American is set to open later this month, a two-storey tribute to American ‘red sauce’ restaurants.

The eatery and cocktail bar is located at the junction of Wyndham St and Arbuthnot and Hollywood Roads. Red sauce restaurants are renowned for their old fashioned hospitality and honest American Italian food. Frank’s will be a sister venue to Elgin Street’s Posto Pubblico and Linguini Fini on Queen’s Road Central.  The venue has been inspired by owner Todd Darling’s early career in New Jersey and pays tribute to his personal mentor, local New York restaurateur Frank Amen.

On the ground floor will be an ‘unfussy’ cocktail menu, plus a selection of antipasti inspired by southern Italian street food, including suppli (rice balls), deep-fried croquettes and six-inch Italian-American ‘bar pizzas’ – all served up to the beat of a vinyl soul soundtrack.

Upstairs is the main dining room,  a ‘humble’ space backed by a playlist of jazz, soul and blues from first-press vinyl records. Hearty dishes will include red sauce favourites taken to the next level, such as zuppa di mare with red lobster, cherrystone clams and scallops, and hand-crafted chicken parm topped with Frank’s homemade mozzarella and tomato sauce.

 

 

Eco-reserve to launch in Siem Reap

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The 35-hectare lake at the heart of the reserve

The founders of Cambodia’s Song Saa Private Island eco-resort have announced the launch of a new environmental tourism-based project on the mainland, in the Cambodian province of Siem Reap.

Hong Kong’s Rory and Melita Hunter are creating the Reserve based on their knowledge and success of running Song Saa, an eco-resort in the Koh Rong archipelago, to create a “commercially viable, ethically led, integrated resort”.

The site includes a 35-hectare lake as its central feature and the project will include hotel and villa residences as well as a hospitality training centre, a ‘green school’, rainforest nursery, permaculture gardens and a solar farm.

Song Saa Foundation is now seeking investors with whom it will work in partnership to ensure Song Saa Reserve fulfills its sustainability aims. Over 120 hectares of land is available, with landscape and urban design company Coopers Hill responsible for the master planning of the site and the design and environmental codes. CBRE Cambodia are working as sole agents for the project.

“Since arriving in Cambodia in 2005, I’ve felt a deep sense of commitment to developing the country in a way that’s inclusive and aligns all stakeholder interests while showing the world just how special this country is,” said Rory Hunter, CEO and co-founder of the Song Saa Collective. “I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved with Song Saa Private island and the work of the Song Saa Foundation. This new project scales up our ethos and approach and allows Cambodia to show the world how tourism, done right, is a powerful means for lifting people out of poverty and protecting the environment, while delivering… attractive returns for our shareholders.”

The land was acquired from tens of local small-holders growing fruit and vegetables. The land was originally virgin rainforest but much of this was cut away to make way for farming. The Hunters hope to return some of the land to forest around the resort accommodation.

Interest in the project has been strong and Hunter hopes to be signing contracts with the first major investors by the end of the year. It is hoped that the first stage of the resort will begin to open in 24 months time.

Tourist numbers to Siem Reap are expected to increase beyond the three million mark by 2020 and a new airport with a capacity for ten million travellers per year is planned. Songsaareserve.com