Men at Work, Hong Kong Style – January 2015

Hong Kong thrives as an international financial center, a major Asian commerce hub, and a popular tourist destination.

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Kowloon has one of the biggest container terminals in the world. This is the way our home furnishings came and went in 1997 and 2001. More importantly, this is how all those cheap goods from Asia start their way across the world. (Note the air pollution, a particularly bad day.)

There is plenty of high-end shopping in Hong Kong. This again is the new Elements shopping center in Kowloon.

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One interesting bit of trivia. The diamond-shaped wallcovering in Swarovski shops is actually made by OMNOVA in Monroe, North Carolina (where Nancy did a bit of consulting). Small world.

But the very foundation of Hong Kong’s business success is its entrepreneurial spirit. People here “do” things and they do them quickly, creatively, and effectively, finding ways of achieving success despite barriers. If you walk around the city you can find entrepreneurs on every corner.

Our favorite tailor is Fletcher Jones Custom Tailor on Nathan Road in Kowloon. We met some of the sewing team in the upper levels of Mirador Mansion years ago. Tommy Wong, the entrepreneurial proprietor, made many shirts, sport coats, and a tux for Michael and he made Liz and Meghan matching leopard skirts in one day when Marcia, Kathy, and the California kids visited. We still get Christmas cards from him. He will take measurements over email and send you bespoke clothing if you’re interested.

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Tommy Wong, a great tailor. Look to the left of his shoulder and you’ll see that Michael’s and Nancy’s Kodak business cards (with photos) are still tacked up.

Just up the street (literally up, a 20% incline!) from our Mid-levels apartment on this trip, is some kind of recycling center.

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People dropped off neatly tied cardboard and just plain junk. This guy sorted through it all.

We’re not sure exactly how this works since the pile seemed to get larger every day, but we also saw cardboard and paper being taken away.

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Later in the day, our hardworking neighbor pulled a pile of cardboard down the street.

Next to the recycle pile is a small cobbler shop. More accurately it is a cobbler who has built a lean-to against a tree and awaits passersby needing repairs. We needed a repair to a hole in our backpack. Just $20HK (about $2.50 US) and a few minutes later, it was whole.

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Not exactly an OSHA-approved workspace, but he got the job done.


A better view of the shop. He’s a cobbler in a tree.

After all the walking up and down the hills, averaging 10 miles a day, we were happy to take advantage of the massage services offered literally everywhere throughout the city.

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Not sure what medicinal scrping is, but the foot massage sounded pretty good. During six years of living in HK, we never took advantage of this service.


Michael is most definitely NOT at work here. A couple men arrived and cleaned and massaged our feet for 25 minutes in a dim room with light scent and relaxing music. Such a treat.

We were able to deal with the ongoing situation of the swollen battery in Nancy’s Samsung laptop. When we took it to Best Buy in Reno, the Geek Squad (geeks in name only) said they had never heard of this kind of problem (although a Google search shows it’s very common…AND replacement is covered by the Geek Squad Protection Plan we purchased!)

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My poor computer, soon to be all better, thanks to Jason from Hong Kong (not from Best Buy!)

Best Buy offered to send the computer out and might be able to repair it for $350 in three or four weeks, but they weren’t sure it could be done. Here in Hong Kong we visited one of our favorite spots, the Hennessey Road Computer Centre. Jason Cheung, a self-taught computer repairperson, was able to put in a replacement battery for just over $100 US and had it back in two days.


The computer center on Hennessey Road is a rabbit warren of little shops selling anything and everything digital. I bought a phone case and Michael bought a camera case too while we had the computer repaired. (That’s Jason in the orange.)

Outside the computer center an analog repairperson was even faster. We had a watch battery replaced for $20 HK (seems to be the going rate for streetside work) in less than a minute, too quick to get a photo! Just purchasing the battery would have been more than this in the US.

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Some folks are working with old equipment, but making it hum, like this ancient printing press…right on the sidewalk in case you need fifty flyers.

Each sector of the city has a major wet market with meats, fish, plenty of vegetables. But many an entrepreneur recognizes that people may not want to walk more than a few blocks away to get fruit. These hawkers are on almost every corner. This was our go-to lady for mangoes.


The Philippine mangoes are the best. Here they were sold for $8HK with some black spots, $10HK with just a few spots, and $12HK ($1.50 US) with no spots. Delicious.

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Other folks are selling must-have goods like these little figurines. (We bought a whole series of monster characters and ballerinas when our kids were young.)

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Thriving market by day, packed away like this by night.

Hong Kong is always under construction, whether it’s major rebuilding…

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Talk about unbuildable lots! But they get it done.


Bamboo scaffolding is still used on most construction, even the high-rises.

building repairs…

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Much of the difficulty of doing the work is figuring out the puzzle of working within huge structures with people walking all over the “construction” area.

minor streetwork…

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No safety glasses here.

or repairing or preventing landslips.

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Nearly every hillside has some amount of slope control, sometimes brick or wire, most often sprayed-on concrete so it looks almost like rock. An upgrade from when we lived here in the late 90s: All the slopes have numbered identification. After a hurricane workers can be sent to exactly the right spot to make repairs.

Even if everything else dried up, there will always be job security in window-washing.

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This guy is doing low-rise cleaning.

The skyline of Hong Kong has plenty of windows and they all need to be cleaned on a regular basis.


Windows, windows everywhere. And they do get cleaned. (from Victoria Peak, looking toward Kowloon)


Last but not least, our old pal Jeeves in the lobby of Parkview Suites (where we lived 20 years ago) is still hard at work. It looks like he’s serving the same glass of cognac that he had in 1995.







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4 Responses to Men at Work, Hong Kong Style – January 2015

  1. Cindy Hamilton says:

    This brings back so many memories! (Five neckties for $100HK, Wan Chai Wet Market, Jeeves in the lobby of Yong Ming San Jong). It’s great to see that little has changed in 20 years…new construction aside… I’d loooove some Dim Sum at City Hall!!! Mmmmmm


  2. noconbach says:

    Dim sum was our first stop! But make sure you’re sitting down…the Wanchai wet market is gone!!


  3. Cindy Hamilton says:



    • noconbach says:

      Yes! I remember going to the upstairs slaughtering area in the old Wanchai market. There was a cow’s head sitting on a table. On another wet table a bare-chested butcher was lying down to cool off. It must have been a lot of work to butcher the cow. Park-n-Shop at Parkview is now Fusion, slightly upscale.


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