At Grana we really love our customers, so much so that we decided to take an afternoon off to kick it back and hang out with one. Dean showed us around his favourite neighbourhood in Hong Kong and told us all about what he likes to get up to. Turns out, he’s a pretty cool guy. But we knew he would be.
What do you like to get up to when you’re not at work?
I’m a fairly avid traveller, so most of my time away from the office is spent either exploring somewhere new, planning a trip to do exactly that, or simply reading up on the history and culture of new places I might like to add to my list. Unfortunately, it’s an ever growing list.
Hong Kong, so many people, so many places, so many things. What do like about the city?
I’m not sure if there is any one thing I could put my finger on. The variety of food; proximity to China for travel; the ease with which you can not only meet people but make actually make friends; the balance of outdoor and urban lifestyles you can enjoy with ease; chilled dinner parties with good friends playing childhood boardgames – it’s all of these things and a little ‘x factor’ as well.
The most important thing though is that I’ve met some of my favourite people in the world here, so as long as we’re all still around, still saying yes to each others silly ideas, still having fun, then Hong Kong will be home.
Tell us about Tai Ping Shan, what do you love about it and what makes it special?
It’s one of the few places on Hong Kong Island that actually feels like a neighborhood, and for that reason alone it’s special. It has a proper community vibe to it that you miss out on in other areas of the city. And it’s so quiet!
What makes it such a good area to wander about though is the seamless mixture of old and new. You can get a milk tea at a local cha chaan teng or walk up the steps to have a trendier rendition at Teakha. You can shop in one of the independent boutiques, or sift through one of the thrift shops or wander through the nearby Chinese antique stalls. Everyone loves a combination of traditional and trendy.
What’s your ideal weekend?
I’d have a ‘sleep in’ till about 8am on Saturday, and then meet some friends for a quick coffee and bite to eat then head out for a hike (being a Queenslander, there should always be swimming involved). For the night, I’d be having a group dinner with drinks somewhere new. Sunday is for sleeping in, and relaxing with maybe a bit of take out and some board games.
What’s your favourite time of day and why?
Morning. I’m naturally a morning person, so getting up and going to the gym (if I’m at home) or taking a walk (if I’m travelling) feels like a pretty good way to start the day. Everything seems nicer in the mornings. On weekdays, it’s all downhill for me after lunch (just kidding, but seriously…).
If your home caught fire (and you had time) what pieces from your wardrobe would you save?
I’d skip my clothes and go straight for my travelling backpack. It’s cliched, and I should’ve moved on to a proper suitcase with wheels long ago, but I have a flag stuck on it for every country I’ve taken it too, so it’s the only item I’m sentimental about. It sits on top of my wardrobe so I’m going to claim that as a legitimate answer.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m a fairly casual person by nature, and my clothing style undoubtedly matches that. In an ideal world I’d get to be somewhat active each day, even if it’s just sneaking out of the office for an afternoon walk, so feeling comfortable is most important for me. Working in an ad agency certainly helps, so I can get away with shorts in the office when I don’t have client meetings.
How does your style reflect your personality?
I’d like to think I’m pretty adaptable and I want my clothes to be too. I don’t think in terms of ‘outfits’. I don’t want to have to think about whether one thing goes with another. My wardrobe is pretty much made up of basics of different fits and block colours, that can all mix and match with each other.
You travel often, what’s a specific memory or moment that stands out to you from a trip?
It was in India last New Years. That makes it sound like I’m going to launch into some story about a crazy New Years Eve party, but I was actually in the holy city of Varanasi, which is a dry city. Nevertheless I managed to stay up most of the night with some other travellers who had brought a couple of beers with them.
One of the things to do in Varanasi is to take a boat up the River Ganges at dawn. So at about 4am I walked along the river in the most insane heavy fog that reduced visibility to about 3 metres.
I found a boat to take me out on the river, and the combination of fog, still water, and early morning fisherman combined to create a really unique moment that has stuck with me since. I also managed to take some of my favourite photos of the trip.
Ball park number, how many countries have you been to?
I’ve recently hit 42! That makes me sound super spoilt but it’s never really been about luck – I work hard and consciously choose to spend my money on seeing the world.
What’s a big trip you’ve been thinking of doing?
I’m not a rock climber (and I hate heights so I have no intention of becoming one) but I’ve always wanted to visit Mt. Everest, and this year is the year! In October I’ll be heading to Nepal with my Dad to trek up to Everest Base Camp. In November, I’m heading to Tibet with a friend and we’ll make our way to base camp on the Chinese side of the mountain. It’s going to be an awesome end to what’s been a pretty hectic year.
Food, you like it? Of course you do. What are some of your favourites?
The food I miss the most since moving from Australia is Lebanese. Why is there no good baklava in Hong Kong?! If I limit myself to Asia, it’s a draw between Thai and Vietnamese. I love Chinese food, but South East Asian cuisine manages to punch you in the face, in a good way, that a lot of Chinese food (excluding Sichuan) fails to do. I like that you don’t have to be a connoisseur to know when you’re eating good Vietnamese or Thai.
But if I had to live off one food for the rest of my life, it would be fresh, traditional, home-style Italian food. If only I had a Nonna!
What’s something you’ve been into lately?
After two years living here, I think I’m finally starting to appreciate Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng’s, or ‘Hong Kong-style cafes’. To an outsider the food is super odd and uninteresting – who wants to go out to eat macaroni in broth with spam and egg? But I think there’s a huge nostalgia factor to these cafe’s and the food and drinks can actually be pretty delicious if you give them a shot. Yuan yeung, which is a drink combining milk tea and coffee, is actually the best thing ever. This new found appreciation actually inspired me to write an article about it.
What’s something you’ll be into always?
Trying new things. I tend to get bored of routine and the ‘same old thing’ very quickly, so I naturally tend to seek out stuff I’ve never tried before, whether it’s an activity, a food or a place. My favourite people are the one’s who are up for doing the same, and I’ve found more than a few of them in Hong Kong.
life / by Grana / 09.03.16