Tag Archives: hong kong

Ignorance is …

The next word in the title phrase is known to all. This weekend it was triggered by coffee. Kaldi coffee, specifically, for which a great love has developed within me. You see, my supply of mildly roasted ‘Precious Beans of 100 Years Old Coffee Tree’ was exhausted, so I was relegated to the under-the-counter jar of Nescafé Excella (it’s soluble!). All in all, the Excella is a passable cuppa insofar as freeze-dried instant varieties go. The problem, the jarring shock, is that Kaldi had thoroughly ruined me. It had informed me of heights sublime.

Perhaps the temporal proximity of the two quaffing experiences accentuated the disappointing effect of cup number two, but the damage was done and led to a questioning regret for ever having tried Kaldi in the first place. In all likelihood, I would be at least generally appeased by the Excella, had not the apple of knowledge been within my purview. I knew, and more damningly had tasted, the superior.

How could I have allowed my bliss to be so devastated? Does even the banality of the whole ‘ignorance is bliss’ phrase cry out for suspension of belief regarding its nature? A tired axiom, demonstrating by example the level of its fatigue? Its truth is certainly not in question. Living in Japan, I fear that the concept of sushi elsewhere has been ruined for all time. A special holiday sunday brunch (and the view) at Top of the Mark on the rooftop of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco causes others to fall, crashing down to pedestrian level. The electric excitement of Hong Kong at night leaves lesser realms in an eco-friendly brown-out. Spain. Tapas. Ad nauseam, this could be.

Would it not be better for all parties concerned if happiness, once obtained, could be constricted to simply encompass that which is within immediate view, without pondering what may lie beyond distant horizons? While I don’t regret the mind-expanding experiences that have passed me by, a part of me feels a tinge of melancholy to be always in a state of qualitative comparison.

As I write this, sipping of the replenished supply of roasted foreign fruit (‘Café Andes’ this time around), I implore you not to let me know of anything better.

Simon's Watch Story

In May last year I celebrated a milestone birthday. I told Mrs M to celebrate I would like a good watch. This is not as easy as it sounds given the huge variety of watches that abounds. Nevertheless after months of pounding the sidewalks I have narrowed down the shortlist. So far so boring.

One particular watch is only stocked at a few places in Hong Kong. I found one of these places in central and entered. I asked to see the particular watch. They didn’t have it in stock. At first they didn’t even believe it existed. I had the model number direct from the company website, but was told point-blank that it wasn’t in the catalogue so I made a mistake and perhaps I was thinking of a completely different model instead. Having encountered this before I did what any Hong Konger would – I reached over and took the catalogue and found it myself. Of course it was there. Another call to the agent and I was told by a now expectant salesman that ordering it in was not a problem.

Now I had a problem. As I pointed out to the man, I wasn’t going to commit to an expensive watch without seeing it first. He pulled out a “similar” model to try. It looked OK but I told him again I would not commit to buying the watch without seeing it first. Thus we were in a classic Mexican stand-off. He would not order it in because if I didn’t buy it he would have to keep in stock with the 2000 other watches he has. Naively I thought that’s what watch shops did. But no. The man could see he was losing a sale. He had to come up with something fast. So he did.

He wrote down on a piece of paper the name and address of the agent of these watches. He told me to go there now and look, then come back and buy it from him. Despite the facts that (a) it was my rapidly diminishing lunch hour (b) the agent was a good 45 minutes travel time from where I was (c) I wasn’t schlepping to an agent only to come back to buy it from him.

This is what passes for service in an “up-market” watch shop in Hong Kong. It is not an isolated incident. For some reason the idea that going the extra mile for a customer seems beyond the imagination of the shopkeepers, waitresses, salespeople, telephone operators or anyone else in such a position. Hong Kong follows the simple rule of follow the rules and nothing but the rules.

And I still don’t have my watch.

[Simon World]