Why is blue and white porcelain so irresistable? Walking down Standon Street in Central during a heavy summer rainstorm, umbrella pulled down close to my head, I spotted a glimpse of blue and white plates out of the corner of my eye, and immediately backtracked. Lifting the umbrella, I could see a cubby-hole sized shop stacked from ceiling to floor with shelf after shelf of blue and white – teapots, cups, big pots, small pots, vases and ginger jars.
I had to go in, of course, partly to shelter from the downpour, and partly to see if there was anything I couldn’t resist buying. I am well known for purchasing large, heavy impractical items on holiday, often very breakable, and carting them halfway across a country or even halfway round the globe to get them home. A mint green teaset bought for a fiver in a charity shop in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, carried as hand luggage all the way back to Australia. A set of three red and white enamel washbowls, carted by train from Yunnan to Shanghai. A leg of heavily-smoked ham, carried on my lap on the flight from Guiyang, with a fragile silver Miao head-dress perched on top. I like to think I have never let inconvenience get in the way of a truly great purchase, anywhere in the world.
So as I walked around the tiny shop, seeing all the wonderful heavy and breakable things at absolutely bargain prices (and after living in China, hardly anything in Hong Kong is a bargain anymore), and I started to justify one or two purchases to myself. While I was flying from Hong Kong to Australia two days later, my husband was travelling back to work in Shanghai with a practically empty suitcase, wasn’t he? Surely he could be convinced to take just one or two small things carefully wrapped, and leave them in the kitchen until I got back?
Luckily I didn’t call him to ask first, because an hour later the final purchase included four blue and white condiment bottles (perfect for soy sauce, oil, and vinegar, plus a spare in case of breakage), a porcelain tea jar, a sugar pot, a salt pot with a tiny blue and white porcelain spoon, and two Chinese tea sets for gifts. Then, at the last minute, I added an oval wicker basket with a beautiful silver clasp, designed as a teapot warmer – lined with red cotton printed with peonies and dragons, and padded snugly. Pure folly, because I had been seduced by an identical one brought into our hotel room on arrival, filled with fragrant jasmine tea. I don’t even know if my own Chinese teapot will fit into it.
Back at the hotel, my very patient and long suffering husband just asked – “suitcase or hand luggage?” as I presented him later two bulky bags filled with mysterious newspaper-wrapped packages. What a fellow. I guess after all these years he’s just come to expect it, but I’m ever so grateful to him all the same. What has been your most impractical holiday purchase?
Hing Chewng Fu Kee
17 Standon Street, Central
Open 7 days from 10am