Concepts

It’s my fifth day back at the Tung Chung office, and already I feel like my life has been turned around. I’ve gone from ‘barely-enough-sleep’ back to ‘not-quite-enough-sleep’. Without the temptation of good food around me, I’ve also lost a few pounds. (That’s actually one of the weird things about me – my weight fluctuates very easily). I’d say the most significant difference is that I’m back to walking into work with a cup of branded coffee every morning. When I was at Quarry Bay, all the set breakfast meals came with a cup of milk tea or coffee, so there was never the need go for coffee. These past few days, I’ve been alternating Starbucks espresso and McCafe tea lattes.

Speaking of Starbucks… I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the brand, but I really like the design of their concept stores. A few months ago, I visited one in Kobe, Japan, which was crafted as an European-style building. When I came to Hong Kong last year, I also went to their ‘bing sutt’ store in Central, which is probably their most famous concept store in Hong Kong. I gave this place a revisit about a month ago, and I still love it. Even though I can’t say I ever grew up in that era of Hong Kong, I’ve seen enough of it on TV to know what it’s like. I think the best part about it is that the decorations are so full and complete that it gives you a real sense of being in a ‘bing sutt’, as opposed to a museum with ‘bing sutt’ decorations. I remember that time when I went, it was just a spontaneous decision (that, and I had some time to kill). I didn’t have my notebook or anything to write with; I just sat there and listened to music. But it was nice. You really just enjoy the atmosphere of an early Sunday morning, when it’s not too crowded or noisy. These specialty stores usually get quite a lot of traffic, so if you’re planning a visit, Sunday morning is a good time.

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Then, just two weeks ago, I was told that a new concept store opened in Mong Kok on Sai Yee Street quite recently – sometime within the past year. You know me – how could I not go check it out?! I specifically left a block of time for a visit before church last week. Again, it was a Sunday morning, but there were definitely more people at this Starbucks compared to the one in Central! Of course, this one is a lot bigger as well. There are two stories, and the top floor is specifically a quiet area for studying. (That’s right – they expect you to buy a drink and sit there for four hours. Don’t feel bad.) The concept behind this store is basically an exchange centre for visual arts. There are movie posters and reviews on the walls, and I believe they also organize events for discussion and exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, I don’t have the heart to appreciate their efforts, because I’m not really into visual arts. Besides, the decorations in this store are a lot more like a museum – posters on walls and random exhibits, as opposed to the entire place being an opera house or theatre or something. I’d say this store is definitely the better place for studying, but if you’re looking for an attraction, it’s definitely the Duddell Street store.

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There are so many nice Starbucks concept stores all over the world, and I wish I could say I’ve been to more, but there are only two others that I distinctly remember. One is in Seattle, which I visited a few years ago, on 1st and Pike Street. I can’t say what it is exactly – they call it a heritage building – but for me, it’s a place that gives me a warm and cozy feeling inside. Everything is wooden and it’s kind of like one of those bars you’d walk into after a long day somewhere, whether it’s a small village pub full of lumberjacks coming back from the woods, or the spot where snowboarders hang out after hitting the slopes. You know, just ‘the place to go’. The other one was in Shanghai, near Yu Garden. It wasn’t just the Starbucks – all the buildings were beautiful there. Surprisingly, I haven’t been to any concept stores in Canada. I know they exist, but I’ve never taken the time to actually go for a visit.

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I had a very fulfilling trip to Japan this past summer, but if there is one regret I have to make, it would be not visiting the beautiful concept store in Kyoto. The design fits Kyoto perfectly. Modern within the ancient. And Kyoto was my favourite city, too! Well, I guess now I have to go back to Japan for another visit…

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P.S. I think it’s a bit sad that I’ve been MIA for a week and the only interesting I have to report about is Starbucks.

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