Tag Archives: Hong Kong

9 Asian Sailing Hotspots 2016

Sailing is not something new on the Asian sporting events calendar, and nor is recreational boating. The Republic of Singapore Yacht Club traces its history back to 1826, and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club was founded in 1849. Today, sailing and yacht racing are well-developed sports in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea and Taiwan can fairly be called ‘emerging’ when it comes to sailing.

In the 19th century, sailing was the exclusive preserve of the colonial expatriate communities of the big trading cities – principally Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Today’s sporting landscape is a great deal more cosmopolitan, with nationals as well as ‘foreigners’ filling the membership lists of the clubs, and government initiatives helping to drive the grass-roots development of sailing as a sport, starting with youth programs and going on right up to Olympic participation.

NEP13_0732At the bigger end of the scale – the ocean-capable racing boats – Asia boasts a plethora of regattas that together constitute an informal ‘circuit’ stretching from the west coast of Thailand all the way across to the Philippines, and attracting international competitors from all over the world – hardly surprising when ‘dressed for sailing’ in this part of the world usually means shorts and t-shirts rather than heavy duty foul weather clothing!

Most recently, Asia has played host to a number of the world’s most highly visible professional sailing events. The Volvo Ocean Race has visited Singapore and China, and will stop over in Hong Kong during its next iteration. Malaysia and South Korea have hosted World Match Racing Tour events, and the Clipper Around the World Race has been to Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Indonesia. And don’t forget the Olympic Regatta at Qingdao in 2008.

Among the Asian nations, China has made the biggest impact on the Olympic scene, with two gold medals in consecutive Games. Hong Kong boasts just one, and the rest of the roll call have none although Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are regular qualifiers. Predictably enough, different countries and places display different strengths when it comes to sailing.

HONG KONGCCR15_2206

Historically speaking, Hong Kong has long been the epicenter of sailing and yacht racing in Asia. The China Sea Race, Asia’s ‘blue water classic’ from Hong Kong to the Philippines, has been a fixture on the calendar for over 50 years, and the number of races organized by Hong Kong’s principal yacht clubs in the course of a year is counted in the thousands. ‘Class’ boats such as Flying Fifteens, Etchells and Dragons make up big numbers for racing in Victoria Harbour, along with many top-end racing yachts and a huge number of cruisers and cruiser-racers. Boats from all the yacht clubs are welcome at each other’s regattas, and the sailing season is practically year-round. Many racing boats head south and west each year to participate in major regattas and races in Thailand and Malaysia.

Hong Kong’s biggest operational problem is lack of moorings – all the existing marinas are fully occupied and have been for many years, and there are no viable plans for new marinas under consideration.

The principal sailing clubs are the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club, Aberdeen Boat Club, Tai Po Boat Club, Lantau Boat Club, Discovery Bay Boat Club and the HK Hobie Fleet. Sail training and learn-to-sail courses are offered by almost all the clubs, and also at Government-run sailing centers. The governing body for sailing is the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, the Member National Authority where the big ticket items such as the Olympics are concerned, and the national body for training sailing athletes is the Hong Kong Sports Institute which currently designates sailing as an ‘elite’ sport, meaning that national funding is available for the development of Olympic and World Championship campaigns.CCR14_1343

Club-organized regattas and racing series include the China Coast Regatta, Spring and Autumn Regattas and the Top Dog Trophy series of pursuit races, and the Hong Kong to Hainan Race, all run by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHYC). Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s principal event is the Typhoon Series run on alternate weekends throughout each summer, the Port Shelter Regatta and a number of Saturday-afternoon series’ all through the year. It also includes in its annual program a 24hr Charity Dinghy Race, and offers sail training courses throughout the year. The Aberdeen Boat Club (ABC) organizes racing on the south side of Hong Kong, including the Waglan Series, and both the ABC and RHKYC have substantial dinghy and sail training operations from their alternate clubhouses at Middle Island (Tong Po Chau). All the Clubs’ courses range from Beginner to Racing Clinics levels.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government operates five public watersports centres, offering a multitude of certification courses in dinghy sailing, windsurfing, dinghy racing and more.

Hong Kong is a fabulous place for sailing: it has an extensive and beautiful coastline, with sheltered waters as well as areas of feistier breeze. It’s hot in the summer, but never cold enough in the winter to stop the enthusiasts from getting out on the water. In fact, the only time that sailing gets shut down is when a T3 (or higher) typhoon signal keeps everyone ashore for reasons of safety and insurance.

In 2018 Hong Kong will welcome the Volvo Ocean Race to Victoria Harbour. With government backing, a visit from one of most important events in the sailing world will undoubtedly provide encouragement across the board for all sailors in Hong Kong, big and large alike.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Hong Kong Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.hk

• Government Watersports Centres www.lcsd.gov.hk/watersport

• Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club www.rhkyc.org.hk

• Hebe Haven Yacht Club www.hhyc.org.hk

• Aberdeen Boat Club www.abclubhk.com

• Aberdeen Marina Club www.aberdeenmarinaclub.com

• Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club Marina www.cwbgolf.org

• Gold Coast Yacht & Country Club www.gcycc.com.hk

• Club Marina Cove www.clubmarinacove.com

• Discovery Bay Marina www.dbmarinaclub.com

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The area around Phuket and Phang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand is one of the premier cruising areas of Asia, and is making concerted efforts to attract international superyacht traffic from Europe and beyond, with the intention of becoming both the hub of the charter industry in, and the gateway to, Asia.

Thais have long been enthusiastic sailors, mostly because the King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, was once a sailor. As a young man he built his own dinghies, sailed across the Gulf of Thailand, and won a sailing gold medal in the South East Asia Peninsula Games in 1967. His daughter came second.

On the west coast of Thailand, from Phuket to Langkawi (Malaysia), and a sprinkling of islands provides delightful cruising grounds, and Phang Nga Bay is world-famous for its spectacular karst islands and ‘hong’ formations. Think James Bond Island, in The Man with the Golden Gun. Further afield, Phuket constitutes a convenient jumping-off point for cruisers wishing to visit the Mergiu Archipelago (Burma), the Andaman Island and Nicobar Islands (India), the Similan Islands (Thailand) or the west coast of Sumatra (Indonesia) for some of the best and most secluded surfing on the planet.

On the other side of the Kra Peninsular, high spots in the Gulf of Thailand are Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and their surrounding marine sanctuary, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and Ocean Marina Yacht Club at Pattaya and Jomtien Beach, respectively, and the tropical idylls of Koh Chang and Koh Kut down towards the border with Cambodia.PKC14_1094

Thailand presents five major international regattas each year:

• Phuket King’s Cup, held in December in celebration of His Majesty’s birthday

• Phuket Raceweek, a ‘green season’ regatta in July each year and intended to take advantage of the summer southwest monsoon winds

• Bay Regatta – “a party on the move” – in Phang Nga Bay

• Top of the Gulf Regatta at Na Jomtien, which includes the Thailand Optimist National Championships and the Coronation Cup (another Royal occasion)

• Koh Samui Regatta – complete with coconut trophies, Brazilian dancing girls, plenty of breeze, and the splashiest closing dinner of them all.

The majority of the big boats in Thailand are owned and raced by expatriates, but at the smaller end of the scale there is a hotbed of talent in the Optimist and dinghy classes just waiting to shine. Noppakorn Poonpat (THA) won the Optimist World Championships at 20, and there are plenty of successors waiting to step into her shoes. The Thai Optimist Nationals is one of the hardest-fought of the regional championships, with (this year) 140 entries.TOG14_0068

The national authority, the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT), is largely the preserve of retired Admirals from the Royal Thai Navy (and the RTN turns out every year to take the salute at the Phuket King’s Cup Sail-Past). Phuket, Koh Samui, Ocean Marina and the naval base at Sattahip are the principal centers for teaching young sailors.

Little-known fact: the Platu 25, designed by Bruce Farr in the early 1990s, was created for the waters and weather conditions of the Gulf of Thailand. A syndicate of local sailors commissioned the ‘pla-tu’ which means ‘mackerel’ in Thai.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Yacht Racing Association of Thailand www.yrat.or.th

• Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.varuna.org

• Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.oceanmarina.asia

• Yacht Haven Phuket www.yacht-haven-phuket.com

• Boat Lagoon Phuket www.phuketboatlagoon.com

• Phuket Cruising Yacht Club www.phuketcruisingyachtclub.org

SINGAPOREX4013_0254

Singapore is home to the oldest yacht club in Asia – the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), formerly the Royal Singapore Yacht Club, and founded in 1826. Situated at the southern end of Malaysia, Singapore is said to preside over the busiest commercial waterway in the world, and this has become a matter of import in recent years.

RSYC has its own facilities and marina, and so does Raffles Marina and the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club (SAFYC). The last sailing center in Singapore is the Changi Sailing Club, seemingly always under some sort of threat of redevelopment, but still alive and kicking today.

In 1923 RSYC became the guardian of the Lipton Challenge Cup, awarded to the Club by Sir Thomas Lipton. In recent years this was awarded to the aggregate winner of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta and the Singapore Straits Regatta. The latter event has fallen by the wayside as the Marine & Ports Authority of Singapore has imposed ever-more draconian restrictions on the operations of pleasure vessels, and particularly sailing yachts. Sadly, the Lipton Cup is now housed in the Singapore Sports Museum.Photo-By-Donovan-Ho-22

The top event in Singapore is now a mixed fleet regatta, the Western Circuit, organized by the Singapore Management University – a very active collection of students and alumni – and hosted by Raffles Marina. The Neptune Regatta is a small fleet that sails and races from Nongsa Point Marina in Batam to Pulau Sikeling in the Riau Archipelago. Technically this all takes place within Indonesia, but in reality it is a ‘Singapore’ event.

If big boats and club racing has waned in recent years, the activities of the government-supported Singapore Sailing Association goes from strength to strength. Sailing is a sport now on the school curriculum, and every year thousands of young people are introduced to the sport, sailing Optimist and Topper dinghies and maybe moving on to the 420 and Olympic 470 and Laser classes. Singapore has been a multiple medal winner at many sailing youth championships, and hosted the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. Eight Singaporeans have qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Unfortunately, the young sailors don’t seem to graduate to bigger boats. Governmental initiatives are geared towards producing junior champions and hopefully Olympic medals, and the grown-up version of racing sailing is not on the agenda.

Singapore, which hosted an event in the Extreme Sailing Series for five years, also entertained the Clipper Around the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race. There are world-class facilities in the shape of ONE˚15 Marina at Sentosa Cove (home to Asia’s number one boat show, the Singapore Yacht Show) and Marina at Keppel Bay. Singapore has the facilities, but not the space in which to sail. A country that once fielded teams for the Admiral’s Cup, can do so no longer.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Singapore Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.sg

• Changi Sailing Club www.csc.org.sg

• Raffles Marina www.rafflesmarina.com.sg

• Republic of Singapore Yacht Club www.rsyc.org.sg

• ONE˚15 Marina Club www.one15marina.com

• Marina at Keppel Bay www.marinakeppelbay.com

MALAYSIARMR15_0941

Malaysia boasts long coastlines on the west and the east of the country, peppered with historic towns and beautiful beaches, and sprinkled with jewel-like islands that make it a playground for the cruising sailor.

The west coast of Malaysia is 400nm from north to south, and includes the fabulous archipelago of Langkawi, historic Penang (“The Pearl of the Orient”), picturesque Pangkor and the beautiful old city of Malacca – which, along with Penang, is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Throw in a plethora of beautiful beaches, the blessing of equable tropical weather, and just ‘go sailing’. Pulau Tioman is the star of Malaysia’s east coast, and then the Anambas Islands if you are prepared to sail 130nm or so offshore.

Across the South China Sea there is the north coast of Borneo – the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak are Malaysia, too. This is known as ‘The Land Below the Wind’ on account of the lack of typhoons this far south, and here the attraction for sailors is not so much sandy beaches but history (Kuching), mountaineering (Mt Kinabalu) and the culture of the littoral Dayak tribes.

The national authority for sailing is the Malaysian Sailing Association (MSA), based in Kuala Lumpur, and operating a major dinghy training centre in Langkawi, which is popular with international visitors for training camps. The MSA also organizes the Liga Layar, a national match racing series.

Langkawi is very much the de facto center of sailing in Malaysia. It has three major marinas (Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Rebak Marina Resort and Telaga Harbour) and is close to the border with Thailand, making the island’s Duty Free status very attractive to passers-by heading north, and also to boats voyaging south from Phuket in order to stock up on everything from gin to fuel. The Youth World Sailing Championships were held in Langkawi in early 2016, based out of the MSA facility.RMR15_3338

The principal private clubs in Malaysia are the Royal Selangor Yacht Club at Port Klang, which organizes the annual Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, and the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, home of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta (RLIR). Both events attract entries of around 30 big boats. The ‘Raja Muda’ is a peripatetic affair featuring both coastal passage and in-port racing, travelling from Port Klang to Langkawi. It is a difficult and exhausting event over the space of a week – the sailing can be tough, but you need additional stamina for the social side of the event! The RLIR is an in-port event conducted amongst the fairy tale islands of Langkawi, but it is a one-off yearly event – the only other time in a year that racing takes place is when the Raja Muda fleet arrives. There are yacht clubs at Kinabalu (Sabah) and Piasau (Sarawak), as well as Tawau and Sandakan on the east coast of Borneo, but these are places to visit rather than establishments that organise regattas and racing.

In common with other SE Asian countries, the governmental initiative in Malaysia is geared towards youth development, dinghy sailing, and the eternal search for an Olympic medal. The Optimist class is strong all round the country, and sends young competitors to international events, but in common with other Asian countries, that’s as far as it goes – most governments, with the possible exception of Thailand – have not yet woken up to the huge economic potential offered by the promotion of sailing, boating, marine tourism and the full development of a leisure marine industry. Sailing in Malaysia does however benefit from the active participation of the Royal Malaysian Navy which owns and runs two 47’ racing boats, and the cooperation of the Royal Malaysian Police who provides exceptional backup services and materiel for major international big boat events.

The big boats and the clubs and events that they visit are pretty much self-sufficient. Training programmes to IYT certification are offered by Sail Training Malaysia (Pulau Indah Marina, Port Klang), and Asian Yachting Ventures at Port Dickson signs off on Asian Coastal and Yachtmaster courses.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Malaysian Sailing Association sailmalaysia.org

• Royal Selangor Yacht Club www.rsyc.com.my

• Sebana Cove Resort & Marina, Johor Bahru www.sebanacoveresort.com

• Royal Langkawi Yacht Club www.langkawiyachtclub.com

• Telaga Harbour Park & Marina, Langkawi www.telagaharbour.com

• Rebak Marina Resort, Langkawi www.rebakmarina.com

• Sutera Harbour Marina, Sabah www.suteraharbour.com

CHINASAN12_0028

When China decides to get involved in something, they don’t do it by halves. In the case of sailing, that has meant an America’s Cup entry, a Volvo Ocean Race team, and any number of lavish-looking marinas constructed on the principle of “build it and they will come,” but more likely to be a marketing ‘hook’ for a surrounding property development. The encouragement of sailing often appears to be a ‘top down’ rather than a ‘bottom-up’ endeavour.

The most visible regatta in China is the China Cup International Regatta. This four-day event has a number of one-design divisions that includes a fleet of 30 Beneteau 40.7 yachts that can be chartered, as well as IRC racing divisions, but the top level Grand Prix boats are still missing. There are a number of other regattas, some on lakes and some on rivers, as well as a growing interest in match racing that is engaging sailors at the grass roots level. The China Club Challenge Cup is probably the most ‘genuine’ of the China regattas.

China still lacks a coherent, federal-scale, policy concerning leisure and pleasure boats. Until the day comes that you can confidently write “Private Yacht” on the registration application, and until you can sail out of Xiamen and back into Fujian knowing that the regulations are the same in both places, any development of a marine leisure culture will remain stalled, despite the excellent sporting example of two gold medals in successive Olympics.

The most visible yacht clubs in China do not necessarily have much to do with sailing.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• China Yachting Association sailboarding.sport.org.cn

• Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club www.shanghaibyc.org

• Iron Rock Sailing Club, Xiamen www.ironrocksailing.com

INDONESIANEP13_0729

Indonesia is practically the definition of ‘archipelago’, and is making itself felt in the luxury charter market as an exotic destination. Komodo dragons and the Spice Islands beckon. For divers there is the Coral Triangle and the Raja Ampat, the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet, and the Wallace Line, separating the ecology of the old world from Australasia,cuts through the middle of the country.

Indonesia hosts the Sail Indonesia Rally each year, with boats coming up from Australia, passing through the archipelago east to west by a different route every time, and then moving on towards Malaysia.

The Neptune Regatta departs Nongsa Point (directly opposite Singapore) and does a sort of ‘racing adventure cruise’ to the Equator and back every year – on the chart it’s an Indonesian event, but it is all Singapore-organized. There’s very little local recreational sailing going on, with the exception of the famous Sandeq Race for the local fishing boats along the west coast of Sulawesi. The Indonesia Sailing Federation regularly manages to get a qualifier into the Olympics.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Indonesian Sailing Federation

• Jakarta Offshore Sailing Club

• Nongsa Point Marina, Batam www.nongsapointmarina.com

• Sail Indonesia www.sailindonesia.net

THE PHILIPPINESPCC12_0936

In the 1990s there was a flourishing sailing scene based around the Manila Yacht Club (MYC), Flying 15s, Dragons, and a fair collection of big boats. In 1994 the Philippine Easter Regatta attracted a 60-strong fleet that raced from Manila to Corregidor, and then on to Subic Bay. The MYC used to be the finish line for the China Sea Race, and many a salty tale was expanded over the bar on Roxas Boulevard. Glory days indeed.

Then the MYC stopped organizing races, the few remaining sailing members decamped to Subic Bay, and everything fizzled out by degrees. The biggest active club in the Philippines is now the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, which very deliberately does not take itself too seriously.

The Commodores’ Cup at Subic attracts 6-8 boats only, even when the China Sea fleet has just arrived – and departed. The Boracay Cup (preceded by the Subic-Boracay Race) should be the jewel in the glittering tropical crown, but rarely attracts more than a handful of entries

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Philippines Sailing Association www.philsailing.com

• Puerto Galera Yacht Club www.pgyc.org

• Subic Sailing subicsailing.org

TAIWAN

It is only recently that people in Taiwan have been allowed to set foot on a beach. Fishermen went fishing, but the coastline was off-limits to all non-military personnel. There has been an entirely successful sailing and motor yacht building industry in the Kaohsiung area for three decades, producing boats that were strictly for export. Only.

With the easing of coastal regulations, a couple of small regattas have sprung up, organized by the Taiwan Sailing Association. The Penghu Regatta takes place in the delightful Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait, a place with plenty of wind that has long been popular with windsurfers from all over the world. The inaugural Taiwan Boat Show was a sell-out, and the second one (in March) followed suit. Brokers report good business. Watch this space.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Taiwan Sailing Association www.taiwansail.org

• Chinese Taipei Sailing Association www.sail-clubs.com

SOUTH KOREAPEN14_0420

The west coast provides challenging conditions for sailing – coastal mudflats for hundreds of miles when the 10m tide goes out. The east coast consists mostly of small squid-fishing villages. The south coast, from Mokpo to Busan via Jeju Island, is beautiful but with the exception of the Olympic Marina (1988) at Busan, ‘undeveloped’ in sailing terms.

Provincial authorities kick started the Korea International Boat Show in 2008, and inaugurated the WMRT Korea Match Cup in the same year. The Wangsan Marina near Incheon, was built for the 2014 Asian Games regatta, and was intended to become a public marina with amenities and services catering to domestic as well as international boaters.

A small number of races venture offshore: there’s one to Ulleung-do and Dok-do to the east of Korea, and one from Mokpo to Jeju if the weather permits. There’s an Admiral’s Cup regatta in Busan, and the Women’s International Match Racing Association has also been there.

‘Boating culture’ has been slow to develop in Korea, in spite of government initiatives to stimulate interest. Leisure time is a relatively new commodity in this hard-working country and, rather like China, Korea might do well to start at the bottom and work upwards, rather than the other way round.

Sailing Association

• Korea Sailing Federation www.ksaf.org

HK Loses Luxury Watch Crown to USA

After years of being the official global luxury wristwatch sales leader, Hong Kong is relinquishing its crown to the US. In a statement last week, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) announced that exports to Hong Kong fell 33% to CHF174.8 million. Exports to the US also fell but only by 14.7%, which was enough for it to overtake Hong Kong, with CHF178.5 million. To put that in perspective, the global decline in Swiss watch exports is just 11.1% in the current year till end July. Incidentally, 2015 was the first year that Swiss luxury watch exports registered a contraction since the financial crisis of 2009.

It is the first time Hong Kong has fallen off the top spot in almost a decade (the last time was 2008). By way of contrast, bucking an overall slump affecting every country from Singapore to Japan, exports to the UK and Italy rose by 13% and 9.9%. Brexit has evidently been good for watch retailers, well, the retreating Sterling has anyway, while the Italians have always been reliable buyers of big ticket watches.

The top 10 countries that imported Swiss luxury watches (for the month of July 2016) are listed below, with data courtesy of the FH.

  • 1. USA (CHF178.5 million)
  • 2. Hong Kong (CHF174.8 million)
  • 3. Italy (CHF123.4 million)
  • 4. Japan (CHF112.8 million)
  • 5. France (CHF110.5 million)
  • 6. United Kingdom (CHF110.2 million)
  • 7. China (CHF107.1 million)
  • 8. Germany (CHF89.3 million)
  • 9. Singapore (CHF83.7 million)
  • 10. UAE (CHF70.6 million)

The Upper House, Hong Kong: Top of the World

Located at the heart of Hong Kong’s business district is Swire Hotel’s luxury hotelThe Upper House. Sitting atop Pacific Place, The Upper House is equipped with 117 hotel rooms (including 21 suites and 2 penthouses), and also premiere lounges and facilities. Designed by renowned Hong-Kong based architect Andre Fu, The Upper House is as calming as it is contemporary. The breath-taking views of the harbour, Kowloon and the surrounding hills that can be seen from the rooms add to this relaxing and luxurious experience.

The Upper House Hong Kong

Entrance Doors

Another notable feature about The Upper House is its size. These spacious rooms, ranging from 730sqf to 1,960sqf, are not commonly found in Hong Kong, where compact living is the norm, and is the perfect haven for whether you’re in town for work or play, to re-charge and breathe before you take on the city again.

The Upper House Hong Kong

Main Dining Hall

Then there’s Café Gray Deluxe, arguably the best thing about The Upper House. Located on the 49th floor, Café Gray Deluxe is a grand café and restaurant that serves signature European dishes by Chef Gray Kunz, and offers a glorious view of the Victoria Harbour. Its bar is stocked with some of the best wines in the world, and serves amazing cocktails to boot. So whether you’re looking to dine exquisitely, or wine down feeling like a king, Café Gray Deluxe is the place to be.

The Upper House Hong Kong

Studio with Harbour View

Now art lovers listen up: The Upper House is also a home to a collection of contemporary artworks and installation on display. Both local and international artists such as Mang Fung Yi (Hong Kong), Armen Agop (Egypt) and Hiroshiwata Sawada (Japan) to name a few, have their works showcased around the hotel lobby and in the suites. In addition, The Upper House is located a stone’s throw from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) where Art Basel Hong Kong is held every year. And just a little bit further is the Central District, where most of Hong Kong’s best art galleries are located.

The Upper House Hong Kong

Bathroom with night view

Recently, the Upper House announced an upcoming partnership with the luxury lifestyle store Harvey Nichols, which is also found in the Pacific Place Mall, to offer both a unique hotel-stay and shopping experience. “At The Upper House, luxury service defines an environment which is not only about a beautiful surrounding but also a service and anticipation of service. We always work hard to go beyond guest expectations and to make every guest feel at home” said Marcel Thoma, General Manager of The Upper House, Hong Kong. He added, “What sets us apart is that mastering the skill of becoming an expert observer, actively taking note of any routine or preferences your guest may have, from the bag they carry to the way they shake your hand. Each clue provides an insight on the bespoke type of service they would appreciate.”

The Upper House Hong Kong

Double Vanities

Now take all of the above and add to it a tight-knit family of some of the best service staff in the world, always there at your beck and call for your every need, no matter how small… it really doesn’t get any better than this.

The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong – +852 2918 1838

Rare Mahler Score Exhibited in Hong Kong

Rare Mahler Score Exhibited in Hong Kong

A rare musical score written by classical great Gustav Mahler went on show in Hong Kong Wednesday ahead of a landmark auction by Sotheby’s. It just might be the world’s most expensive musical manuscript.

The hand-written complete version of Mahler’s lauded “Resurrection Symphony” will go on sale in London later in the year with a £3.5 million ($4.5 million) price tag — the highest ever estimate for a musical manuscript, according to the auction house.

The 19th century Austrian composer and conductor wrote 10 symphonies, but Sotheby’s said none had ever gone under the hammer in its entirety.

“No complete symphony by Mahler, written in the composer’s own hand, has ever been offered at auction, and probably none will be offered again,” said Simon Maguire, senior specialist in books and manuscripts at the auction house.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a manuscript of truly outstanding historical importance.”

Fans viewed the 232-page exhibit Wednesday at Sotheby’s central gallery in Hong Kong.

Among the first visitors Wednesday was Anthony Cheng, co-founder of the Mahler Society of Hong Kong, who said the complete set was made particularly rare because it has Mahler’s conducting notes written across the margins.

“It’s not easy to see a complete symphony written by him or the complete set (like) we can see here,” he told AFP, adding that he believed the manuscript would hit its asking price at auction.

“Mahler is the bridge between late romantic music and 20th Century music… and his influence is still felt in the 21st Century today,” he said. “He is an icon in both conducting and composing.”

Sotheby’s said the manuscript was being offered by the estate of the American economist and businessman Gilbert Kaplan, who became “infatuated” by the work, also known as Mahler’s Symphony No. 2.

Kaplan went on to conduct the symphony himself with some of the world’s greatest orchestras before his death in January this year.

"You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970": The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics "Revolution" (1968)

7 International Art Exhibitions

It is a whirlwind trip to see some of the finest pieces of art on display at exhibitions around the world, transporting one in a matter of moments to different epochs by capturing the stunning images through print and paint. Today we look at seven exhibitions that explore the works of Russian avant-garde artists and sixties revolutionaries.

“You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”, at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, from September 10, 2016 to February 26, 2017

This major upcoming exhibition will walk us through the ideals of the 1960s: optimism and aspirations were brought to life in political activism, movies, music, fashion and design. At the heart of the exhibition will be a musical odyssey featuring big names in 20th-century music.

“George Lilanga”, organized by the Zinsou Fondation at Lab de Fidjrossè in Cotonou, Benin, from September 12, 

The work of the Tanzanian George Lilanga, who died in 2005, will be exhibited in Benin in the fall, at Lab de Fidjrossè, in the country’s economic capital Cotonou. Organized by the Zinsou Foundation, the exhibition will include both paintings and sculptures characteristic of Lilani’s conteporary style, including his famous half-human half-imaginary “shetanis” (small Satans).

“Yves Klein” at Tate Liverpool from October 21, 2016 to March 5, 2017

A major artist of the post-war period, Yves Klein is known around the world for his blue monochrome paintings. Tate Liverpool is holding the first British retrospective of his work in 20 years.

“Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection”  at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, from October 22, 2016 to February 20, 2017

"Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin collection" from October 22, 2016 to February 20, 2017 at the Fondation Louis Vuitton: "Portrait of a Man with a Newspaper (Chevalier X)" by André Derain, 1911-1914.

“Portrait of a Man with a Newspaper (Chevalier X)” by André Derain, 1911-1914.

The man behind this exhibition is Sergei Shchukin, a Russian who collected French modern art of the early 20th century. The show includes works by major artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Degas. Visitors to the Fondation Vuitton will be introduced to the collection through 130 pieces from the Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin State Museum.

“Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” at the Hong Kong Design Institute, from November 25, 2016 to February 26, 2017 

Konstantin Grcic, who designed such iconic pieces as the Chair One and the Mayday lamp, is considered one of the leading designers of our time. This new exhibition at the Hong Kong Design Institute examines the German designer’s career through drawings and installations specifically created by Grcic for the event.

“Robert Rauschenberg” at the Tate Modern, London, from December 1, 2016 to April 2, 2017

Tate Modern is holding the first retrospective of the artist Robert Rauschenberg since his death in 2008. Rauschenberg was one of the creators of pop art. Just like Andy Warhol, he worked with mass imagery and materials — painting, silk-screen printing, found objects, newspapers, and images of politicians, sports personalities and pop stars.

“A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde” at the MoMA, New York, from March 4, 2016 to March 12, 2017

"A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde": El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941). Date: 1926. Gelatin silver print, 10 1/2 x 8 13/16″ (26.7 x 22.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walt

“A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde”: El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941). Date: 1926. Gelatin silver print, 10 1/2 x 8 13/16″ (26.7 x 22.4 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walt

This MoMA exhibition explores a period of artistic innovation in Russia from the First World War until the end of the first Five-Year Plan (during the inter-war period). Coinciding with the centenary of the Russian Revolution, the exhibition features the movement’s experimental projects in painting, drawing, sculpture, print, books, film, etc.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils: Vintage Wine Auction

Care for a vintage bottle for the cellars of Bouchard Père & Fils? Well, the good news is that come September 3, Christie’s Hong Kong will be offering 220 lots of rare vintage wines from Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils. However, should the wines and vintages from the largest vineyard in Burgundy not be of interest, then you may still look forward to several lots from an esteemed connoisseur’s private collection. Joining these lots is a selection of Burgundy wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

According to Christie’s Hong Kong, several of the vintages date back to 1846 and remained “undisturbed in their cellars in the Château de Beaune until they were shipped to Hong Kong specifically for this sale.” The bottles had been left unlabelled in the naturally cool and humid environment found in the cellars of Château de Beaune — an ideal climate to mature a vintage wine. The selected wines and vintages that will go under the hammer next month, have been reconditioned and re-corked before being re-labelled and housed in new wooden presentation cases.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Cellar

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Cellar

Some lots to look out for, include the 1865 Montrachet, 1865 Chambertin and 1846 & 1858 Meursault-Charmes. From the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, comes a Vertical Collection of La Tâche from 1951 to 2008. While wine enthusiasts would be happy to learn about the sale, it comes as no surprise that some would be less confident in sampling the wines that have been stored for close to two centuries. To help determine if the wines are more collectibles for the trophy case or consumable spirits, we picked up an AFP interview with Christian Albouy, CEO of Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils.

The oldest vintage in your auction is 1846. Even with the best possible storage conditions, what impact do all those years have on wine quality?

All the bottles are of remarkable quality, and that includes the 1846 Meursault Charmes. We store our entire collection in cellars (built in the 15th century) protected from light, at a natural temperature range of 10-14°C. The humidity level is a natural 50-75%, which prevents the corks from drying out and becoming porous which would lead to oxidation. We also check our bottles regularly and replace the corks every 25-30 years, which gives us an opportunity to monitor the quality of the wine.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils: Bouchard Volnay Caillerets 1889

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils: Bouchard Volnay Caillerets 1889

Can the quality of an 1846 or 1865 wine still increase if a buyer decided to continue the aging process, or has it reached its peak at that age?

That’s a very difficult question to answer, but it does seem possible in optimal storage conditions. It’s the oxygen dissolved in the wine which will slowly and steadily change and possibly improve the wine. The main threats to wine conservation are oxidation and the effect of ultraviolet rays from daylight. Red wines are easier to preserve because of their anthocyanin and tannin content. A wine’s vintage is also a very important factor. The content of sugar can play a part, as can the level of alcohol which protects the wine against micro-organisms.

Which appellations hold up best against the passing of time?

In terms of the appellations that can be found in the upcoming sale, it could be argued that the red wines from the southern part of the Côte de Beaune area (Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, Volnay, Pommard, and Corton) are in a slightly stronger position than the wines from the Côte de Nuits area. But Chambertin, Romanée and Vosne-Romanée wines also have exceptionally good aging potential. The vinification and bottling processes have a very significant impact on aging potential.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils: Bouchard Musigny 1945

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils: Bouchard Musigny 1945

The auction, which has been organized in partnership with Christie’s, will comprise 220 lots, including 2,000 bottles of vintage wine ranging from 1846 to 2009. Bouchard Père & Fils is a highly renowned domaine in Burgundy, eastern France, and one of the oldest wine businesses in Beaune, the capital of Burgundy wine. It produces a variety of appellations, including the top Burgundy wines Corton-Charlemagne and Meursault Perrières. The vineyard covers a total of 130 hectares, including 12 hectares of Grands Crus and 74 hectares of Premiers Crus.

This information from this article, was provided by Christie’s Hong Kong Wine Department and AFPRelaxnews. To learn more about the upcoming auction, visit Christie’s.

5 Must-Visit Design Exhibitions L'esprit du Bauhaus

5 Must-Visit Design Exhibitions Fall 2016

The world of decoration and design kicks off a new season with the Maison & Objet exhibition in Paris, which will be held from September 2 to 6, 2016. It is the first in a raft of interesting upcoming design exhibitions around the globe.

1. Playing on an amalgamation of “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones”, the “House of Games” is the theme of the upcoming Maison & Objet interior design trade fair. Gearing up for exhibition in the Maison & Objet Inspirations Space from September 2 to 6, this year’s concept was conceived by trendspotter Vincent Gregoire from the NellyRodi agency.

True to its name, “House of Games” paints an offbeat kind of fantasy, while mirroring the need for games in modern society. It is a revival of baroque style combined with Alice in Wonderland eclecticism: masked balls and private clubs bask in a fin-de-siecle ambiance, while acknowledging the increasing popularity of board games. On that note, feather artisan Julien Vermuelen’s creations (pictured below) might best represent this year’s theme.

Feathered samurai by Julien Vermeulen © Julien Vermeulen All rights reserved / Maison & Objet 2016

Feathered samurai by Julien Vermeulen © Julien Vermeulen
All rights reserved / Maison & Objet 2016

2. “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior” from October 1, 2016 to April 23, 2017 at the MoMA, New York

With this exhibition, New York’s Museum of Modern Art will explore the complex partnerships, materials and processes that have shaped interiors from the 1920s to the 1950s. The exhibition will bring together over 200 objects, including some from the MoMA collections. Big names in design will be featured, including Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Alvar Alto, and Charles and Ray Eames.

5 Must-Visit Design Exhibitions L'esprit du Bauhaus

Triptychs (2014) in walnut and colored mirrors by Jean Nouvel (Gagosian Gallery and Galerie Patrick Segui). © Aline Coquelle

3. “The Spirit of Bauhaus” from October 19, 2016 to February 26, 2017 at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris

From 1919 to 1933, the Bauhaus art school in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin produced many influential artists and designers including Vassily Kandinsky, Marcel Breur, who invented bent tubular steel furniture, and the photographer Florence Henri, who took classes with Paul Klee. By bringing together painters, architects, craftsmen, engineers, actors, musicians, photographers and designers, the school created a new approach to daily living. The Musée des Arts décoratifs will pay tribute to this artistic movement via the historical periods and art forms which fueled its spirit, and will also display original Bauhaus pieces.

5 Must-Visit Design Exhibitions L'esprit du Bauhaus

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. Architect: Louis Kahn. © Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Photo by Lionel Freedman.

4. “Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture” from November 5, 2016 to January 31, 2017 at the San Diego Museum of Art

The renowned American architect Louis Kahn is the subject of an exhibition in California’s San Diego Museum of Art. His most notable works include the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Capital Complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The exhibition will include architectural models, original designs, photographs and films.

5. “Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” from November 25, 2016 to February 26, 2017 at the Hong Kong Design Institute

Konstantin Grcic, who designed such iconic pieces as the Chair One and the Mayday lamp, is considered one of the leading designers of our time. This new exhibition at the Hong Kong Design Institute examines the German designer’s career through drawings and installations specifically created by Grcic for the event.

Fila x Jason Wu

FILA x Jason Wu: Athletic-Wear Reinterpreted

We know high fashion collaborations are a dime a dozen today but this is one we’re seriously coveting. The perfect amalgamation of sports luxe with high fashion, the FILA x Jason Wu collection is a modern reinterpretation of some of FILA’s most iconic pieces.

Ladies can expect iconic tennis dresses and classic sporty separates, while the guys will appreciate the wide selection of polos, pants and shorts, all boldly emblazoned with a recurring color-blocking motif (courtesy of Jason Wu, of course).

The collection will only be available both in select retail locations in Hong Kong and online this fall.

Find out more about the collection at L’Officiel.com now.

K-Pop Star T.O.P. Curates Sotheby’s Art Auction

Choi Seung-hyun, better known as T.O.P., is no stranger to the Asian music scene. Hailing from the very popular South Korean band Big Bang (V.I.P.s raise your hands!), T.O.P. has an enormous fan following – and it is this reach that Sotheby’s is trying to tap into. For the first time ever, Sotheby’s Hong Kong has invited a young art collector – that means T.O.P. – to curate a contemporary art sale, in a bid to encourage a younger audience to get interested and involved in the art market.

In case you didn’t know, T.O.P. wasn’t chosen merely for his fame – he’s also a fan and collector of modern art. One need only look to his Instagram for an illustration of our point: apart from the occasional selfie, it is full of art. In an exclusive interview with Men’s Folio Singapore, T.O.P also reveals that he comes from a family of artists, so he’s even had some art “training” to his name. Throw in his role as co-curator for Singapore’s ArtScience Museum’s 2015 exhibition “The Eye Zone”, as well as his Visual Culture prize at the Prudential Eye Awards, and the logic behind Sotheby’s choice in T.O.P. becomes clearer.

While the exact lots in the auction have not been announced yet, Sotheby’s contemporary art sale has already been scheduled for October 3, 2016. A portion of the proceeds raised during the auction will go towards the Asian Cultural Council, which offers grants, programs and support to artists in order to encourage cultural exchange.

Watch the video below for more information. (Or, if you were here more for T.O.P. than the art auction, watch the video below to stare at his handsome visage.)

Auction: David Bowie Private Art Collection

Behind the flamboyance and music that was the late David Bowie, was an avid art connoisseur whose private art collection will soon be up for auction. While his life was spent in the public eye for nearly 50 years, his passion for art work was something like a hidden secret — much like his battle with cancer.

Damien Hirst; Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting, 1995 Household gloss on canvas £250,000-350,000

Damien Hirst; Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting, 1995
Household gloss on canvas £250,000-350,000

In November, a three-part auction will see over 400 of his prized pieces go under the hammer. The highlight, happens to be 200 pieces of Modern and Contemporary British Art featuring artists such as Henry Moors, Graham Sutherland, Frank Auerbach and Damien Hirst. “Art was seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it. It can change the way I feel in the mornings.” said Bowie to The New York Times back in 1998. “The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through” he added.

Ettore Sottsass; ‘Casablanca’ Sideboard, 1981; £4,000-6,000

Ettore Sottsass; ‘Casablanca’ Sideboard, 1981; £4,000-6,000

Prior to the auction, selected pieces from the collection will travel on a Preview World Tour through London, Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong from July 20 to October 15. Those in the vicinity of Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London, can also get a glimpse of the collection from November 1 to 10. We expect significant interest in this auction, especially the Jean-Michel Basquiat piece “Air Power” (1984). You might recall that Bowie played the role of Andy Warhol in Basquiat, the 1996 Julian Schnabel biopic. Such extraordinary provenance means “Air Power”, acquired by Bowie in 1997, might be hotly contested by collectors. In any case, Basquiat is currently in vogue, as our previous reports attest.

Romuald Hazoumé Alexandra, 1995; Found objects; £5,000-£7,000

Romuald Hazoumé Alexandra, 1995; Found objects; £5,000-£7,000

A spokesperson for the Estate of David Bowie said, “David’s art collection was fuelled by personal interest and compiled out of passion. He always sought and encouraged loans from the collection and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody. Though his family are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired.”

Updated Icon: Shanghai Tang Round Sunglasses

If you’ve ever watched a Wong Kar Wai movie and never felt inspired by the decadence of the cast’s 1960s Asian-inspired wardrobe, we know you’re lying. This season, Shanghai Tang brings back the forgotten vision of Chinese chic with three new colour combinations of its iconic retro Chinese round frames sunglasses.

The Hong Kong-based company also celebrated the launch of its latest eyewear collection with a Pre-Summer cocktail party, an extravaganza which saw the attendance of celebrities such as Korean actor Jin Goo of Descendants of the Sun fame.

Read more about the collection and the launch party at L’OfficielSingapore.com now.

Hong Kong is World’s Priciest City for Expats

Hong Kong has beat the capital of Angola for the dubious honor of being the most expensive city for expats this year. Yes, for those who don’t recall, Luanda has topped a rather unflattering list that often left people wondering what the hell Luanda is…

Well after three years at the top of the list, Luanda was pipped to the post following the weakening of its currency, and a considerably stronger Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar. The annual list, compiled by consultancy firm Mercer, is designed for companies to gauge allowances for expat workers. More than 200 items are considered in each of the 209 cities across the world, including the cost of housing, food, transport and entertainment.

It is status quo for expats in Singapore and Zurich. Zurich and Singapore remain unchanged in third and fourth position on the list respectively. You may recall that Singapore topped another list like this one so do remember that who the list is meant for. With a stronger yen, Tokyo was jumped six places up the list to become the world’s fifth most expensive expat destination. Kinshasa of Congo made its debut on the top 10 list by ranking sixth this year, beating Shanghai, Geneva, N’Djamena (that’s in Chad in case you wondered) and Beijing.

Mercer said that rankings were affected by “volatile markets and stunted economic growth in many parts of the world”. True enough, the cost of living in several US cities rose proportionately with the backing of a strong currency. Conversely, cities in countries with a weakening dollar have become more economical. The weakening of the Russian Ruble has resulted in Moscow tumbling 50 spots down the list – from 17th costliest city to the 67th.

Expats living in the UK also have reasons to rejoice (sort of). London dropped five places to 17th, while Glasgow dropped 10 places to 119th and Birmingham fell 16 places to 96th position. Now that Brexit is here and the sterling is taking a beating, all these cities will become less painful on the bottom line…

Hong Kong Debut: Galeon 500 Fly Powerboat

It has a brand new hull and a great deal of interior space on all three decks so it is no wonder the Galeon 500 Fly powerboat is a highly anticipated yacht. Set to arrive in Hong Kong later this year, the 16.2-meter yacht boasts a 725hp engine and a maximum load of 4,270kg. The award winning “European Powerboat of the Year 2016” is one that brings a series of innovations to the Galeon Range.Galeon-500-Fly-galley

With three distinct aft configurations to choose from, the 500 Fly is set to be a third generation yacht. The choices are endless: full-sized garage, sundeck, classic L-shaped sofa, crew cabin set-up or even a roto-seat option. The unique beach mode feature extends the width of the cockpit to almost 5.8 meters by dropping down both port and starboard sides.Galeon-500-Fly-galley-2

Up on the flybridge, one can choose between a wet bar, sundecks and a second helm station. The option of two different garage possibilities and powerful hydraulic bath platform allows for a range of engaging water sports possibilities. Thanks to glass doors that can be moved easily, the maindeck hides the saloon. A flush floor hides the cockpit area that is linked to the maindeck.Galeon-500-Fly-master-suite

Entertaining guests is a breeze with the help of an outdoor bar while the saloon is a well-lit area that provides a comfortable space to relax in. Below deck, guests have access to three cabins and two bathrooms that cater to up to six people. The master cabin is fitted with a double bed and a walk-in wardrobe along with an ensuite bathroom for added privacy. A VIP cabin on the bow provides two more guests with a series of skylights above the bed while a guest cabin is spacious enough for two. The guest cabin can also be converted into a study, wardrobe or additional leisure area should the need arise.

Diamond-set Hermes Birkin Breaks Auction Record

A diamond-encrusted crocodile-skin Hermes handbag with white gold details has broken the record for the world’s most expensive ever sold at auction, fetching nearly $300,000 at a Hong Kong sale.

The rare Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 went to an unknown phone bidder late Monday for HK$2.32 million ($298,655), beating a pre-sale estimate of HK$2 million, the auction house Christie’s said.

“It was the world record price for any handbag sold at auction,” Bingle Lee, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Christie’s, told AFP.

Designer handbags are increasingly seen as investment opportunities and are the latest craze for collectors, taking global auction houses by storm and scoring record prices.

The new record beat one set last year, also in Hong Kong, when a fuchsia-colored Hermes bag sold for $222,912.

The handmade bag — described by the London-based auctioneers as the “rarest, most sought-after” — is encrusted with diamonds, while the buckle and trademark mini Hermes padlock are made of 18k white gold.

“It is believed that only one or two of the Diamond Himalayas are produced each year, globally, making it one of the lowest production runs for handbags,” Christie’s said in a statement issued before the sale.

The bag was made in 2008 and is from Hermes’ iconic “Birkin” series named after actress and singer Jane Birkin, who was born in Britain and lives in France.

A smaller Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 25 handbag will go under the hammer June 1 with an estimate price of HK$1.3 million to HK$1.5 million.

The auction was part of the firm’s 30th anniversary sales to mark its presence in Asia, with a range of luxury goods on offer, including Chinese paintings, watches and wine.

Protect Your Wine In Hong Kong Bunker

While Hong Kong is growing into one of the major capitals for fine wine out there thanks to the incredible concentration of wealth (and the potential of China), there is of course the minor issue of space because the SAR is one of the most densely populated places on earth. Wine storage can thus be a bit of a hassle, creating an opportunity for people willing to provide protection for the wines of various collectors out there. In order to cater to the highest end of the spectrum, Crown Wine Cellars has converted an old British war bunker complex into a high-security wine cellar, perfect for protecting some of the finest wines out there.

The six Central Ordnance Munitions Depot bunkers, each spanning some 1,000 square feet, have been updated and transformed into state-of-the-art wine cellars. Security is so tight that clients are not allowed to enter the storage houses and can only view the collections in small rooms, where they’ll be watched closely by video cameras. Furthermore, staff must wear wetsuits when entering the cellars (to deter theft, not because they have an underwater level), and some vaults require three codes simultaneously inputted to open.

Safe as Houses

Why so much precaution involved? One can point to the fact that the cellar holds two of the world’s most expensive bottles of wine ever sold at auction: the Château Lafite 1869 that went under the hammer in 2010 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, fetching $232,692 apiece. And the client list will probably grow as time passes, given that imports are going up exponentially – to $1.5 billion in 2015, up from $206 million in 2007 according to Hong Kong Trade Development Council figures. The city also recently hosted the Vinexpo, Asia’s largest wine and spirits fair, showing their growing worth as a major hub for connoisseurs everywhere.

wine storage HK 2016

Even the government’s starting to take note – they’ve sought to encourage the storage industry by creating the world’s first Wine Storage Management Systems Certification Scheme in 2009. Crown happens to be one of the 37 companies certified, and has around 2,000 customers including major auction houses such as Sotheby’s. Gregory De ‘Eb, the company principal of Crown Wine Cellars, notes that there are “more than three billion Hong Kong dollars” worth of wine being managed by them.

Another such storage company is Wine Vault. Founded in 2008, they converted disused industrial space into individual climate-controlled wine storage rooms. The cellars span from between 40 and 80 square feet in size, and users can access their collection whenever they want, thanks to facial recognition software. All this adds up to a growing ecosystem to suit the various requirements and tastes of connoisseurs in the Asian city.

This story was written in-house, with an AFP report as the source and images from the AFP.

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Genting Dream Dream Cruises

Genting Hong Kong Launches Dream Cruises

“International in spirit, but Asian at heart” – that’s what Genting Hong Kong’s latest initiative, Dream Cruises, promises its passengers. And the first ever Asian-luxury cruise line keeps true to its word, starting with its exterior. The hull of the massive 335 meter Genting Dream is adorned by an art piece by Chinese pop-artist Jacky Tsai. Titled “Voyage of a Lover’s Dream”, the ethereal image is that of a journey of love between a mermaid and an astronaut – a metaphor for the boundless elements of water and space.

Dream Suite 2

Inside, the heart and soul of the ship is centered on Asian heritage and lifestyle. The 2,000-strong crew on deck accommodate up to 3,400 guests, leading the crew-to-guest ratio in Asia-based cruising with stellar Asian hospitality. The room options are more than impressive – more than 70 percent of cabins feature balconies, and the 100 connecting rooms make the journey more enjoyable for large groups and families. For a little decadence, the ‘Dream Mansion’ is a two-floor suite that comes with special guest privileges, European-style butler service and your very own grand piano.

UMI UMA

Within Genting Dream lie 35 restaurants and bar concepts, each capturing the flavors of Asia and the world. A 610-meter wraparound promenade allows for sea-side dining and an unadulterated view of the ocean during sunset.

Onboard, the sheer number of entertainment options will ensure no one has time to get bored. The pool features six exhilarating water slides, alongside a rock-climbing wall, while there are dedicated play rooms for toddlers. The health-conscious will enjoy the full complement of health and well-being facilities, including yoga classes and spas. Millennials (especially Singapore ones) will be thrilled to find a familiar name onboard – the iconic Zouk will recreate the world-class clubbing experience that it is known for on high seas. A unique ‘retail-tainment’ concept will also be introduced, providing highly personalized shopping experiences such as trunk shows, personal shoppers and in-cabin services throughout the journey.

5 Water Slides

The Dream Cruise is slated to have her maiden cruise from her homeport in Guangzhou (Nansha Port), China on November 13, 2016, and will offer 2, 5 and 7-night Vietnam destination experiences.

From November 13, 2016 to January 1, 2017, the five-night cruise will provide guests an opportunity to take in the panoramic views of Vietnam’s Da Nang and Ha Long Bay; from January 1 to March 31, 2017, revel in the vibrancy of Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City during the five-night cruise. Both itineraries will have an option of a two-night weekend cruise to Hong Kong.

Zouk Beach

“We are delighted to introduce and launch Genting Dream in Singapore, featuring exciting and highly-acclaimed Asian destinations as repositioning cruise ports-of-call including India, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong,” said Thatcher Brown, President, Dream Cruises. “Dream Cruises aims to be a pacesetter in the cruise industry in the region. With the finest Asian and international experiences, Dream Cruises aims to redefine vacation travel with a transformational journey at sea.”

Visit DreamCruiseLine.com for more information or call 6808 2288.

4 Asia-Pacific Wine Trends Revealed at Vinexpo

We’ve previously covered wine trends in Singapore and Japan, now Vinexpo brings us the findings from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. Here, we bring you the four major trends of wine consumption in these Asia-Pacific countries.

1) Reds over whites

The consensus is clear: reds continue to be the wine of choice in Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, accounting for 89 percent, 74 percent and 83 percent of market share respectively.

In Taiwan, this figure is forecasted to grow by another 13 percent by 2019. Taiwanese consumers tipped back 1.45 million 9-liter cases of red wine, compared with 180,000 cases of white and 2,500 cases of rose. Even so, the reception of white wine is expected to grow 14 percent by 2019.

While Koreans generally enjoy reds for its purported health benefits, white wines are also fast gaining favor for pairing well with Korean cuisine. It is also interesting to note that the per capita consumption of wine in South Korea has doubled over the last decade, to average 0.8 liters of wine a year. Between 2010 and 2014, the per capita consumption grew nearly 40 percent, and is expected to rise another 20 percent over the next five years. This marks the consumption in South Korea as one of the sharpest increases in the Asia Pacific region.

img_0193_.8415f142002.h0

2) French wines are still preferred, except…

French wines are reported to be the most popular import in Taiwan with 37 percent of market share and Hong Kong with 27 percent. After French wines, Australian, US and Chilean wines are most popular. Between 2010 and 2014, US wines saw major growth, increasing by 41 percent.

Taiwan’s share of French wines is expected to dip due to the increasing popularity of Chilean wines (currently second in popularity at 18 percent), which are perceived as better value for money. US and Australian wines follow closely behind.

South Koreans bucked the French wines trend, favoring Chilean wines, with 10.2 million bottles imported a year.

3) Getting tipsy over bubbly

Like the Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong people have developed a taste for sparkling wines. Vinexpo reported that its popularity has increased by a remarkable 51 percent over the last five years in Hong Kong, driven largely by the growing popularity of Prosecco and Cava which grew a whopping 89 percent and 110 percent respectively. Meanwhile in Taiwan, a 15-percent increase by 2019 is projected.

shutterstock_42.9fc36144936.h0

4) Spirits still high in demand

As the world’s third largest market for single malt Scotch after the US and France, Taiwan boasted a consumption of 1.813 million cases of whisky in 2014, a figure expected to swell up to 1.921 million cases by 2019. Cognac and Armagnac are the country’s second most popular spirits.

The focus in Hong Kong, however, is on tequila and rum as its consumption is expected to grow 36 percent and 21 percent between 2015 and 2019 respectively. The popularity of whisky remains stable with 186,000 9-liter cases consumed, topping cognac at 77,000 cases. People in Hong Kong are also increasingly exploring Japanese whisky and American bourbon.

South Korea – the third largest spirits consuming nation in Asia-Pacific after China and India – has reported a decline in consumption of local spirits such as soju and baijiu. However, tequila, vodka and gin have marked improvements of 17 percent, 12 percent and 14 percent respectively.

The Vinexpo 2016 runs 24 – 26 May 2016 in Hong Kong. 

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Yen for Champagne: Japan Set to Lead Asia-Pac

Forget Sake and Shochu. According to the latest Vinexpo study, it seems the Japanese are developing quite the taste for bubbly. In fact, the study forecasts that Japan is on track to become the leading market for champagne and other sparkling wines by 2019.

Thanks in part to the growing popularity of lower-priced Cavas and Proseccos from Spain and Italy, the consumption of sparkling wine has been forecasted to grow 23 percent between 2015 and 2019. To put things into perspective, this equates to roughly equates to 4.84 million cases, overshadowing Australia as the largest market for bubbly in Asia-Pacific. To put this into even greater, though perhaps more confusing, perspective, Japan has a population of 127 million while Australia has roughly 24 million. We have to wonder what in the world is happening down under but we digress…

world-oldest-champagne

 

The surprising result (the Japan news, not our belated Australia observation) was revealed at Vinexpo Hong Kong, a three-day trade-only show for international wine and spirits professionals. Japan is one of the six countries, besides Singapore, to be profiled.

Here are some of the other trends emerging from the event.

France losing market share to Chile

Chile has the signing of a cost-advantage free trade agreement with Japan to thank for its whopping 144 percent rise in wine exports. French wines might still have the largest market share but Italian and Spanish wines have also seen an increase of 46 percent and 79 percent respectively over the same period.

Wine consumption set to continue growing

The Japanese wine consumption is set to reach a whopping 46.7 million cases between 2015 and 2019. That’s 14 percent of the market share, which will rank the country behind China and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region. Yes, Australia is punching way above its weight class again.

Overall spirit consumption set to decline

Spirits such as gin and vodka are expected to decline in popularity, in stark contrast with the rising fortunes of wine. The projected decline between 2015 and 2019 is a significant but manageable 7 percent. Whisky, however, continues to keep its market share, with consumption reaching 12.38 million cases and projected growth of 12 percent over the next five years.

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines & spirits and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Vinexpo HK Reveals Singapore’s Favorite Wine

In the never-ending battle between red and white wine, Singaporeans have chosen a winner. In the run-up to Vinexpo Hong Kong, consumption trends in Singapore, as well as five other Asia-Pacific countries were analyzed, revealing a clear preference for red wine. It was revealed that red wine represented 70 percent of the market in Singapore, with 645,000 9-liter cases consumed in 2014. In contrast, only 251,000 cases of white wine were consumed in the same year, though that figure is set to grow slightly by 1.2 percent by 2019.

Australian wines have been shown to dominate the import market in Singapore (there is no other market in Singapore as the island has exactly zero wineries), holding a 38.5 percent of market share as compared with Chilean wines at 16.5 percent and French wines at 16 percent.

On another front, whisky remains Singapore’s favorite spirit (judging by our associate publisher and designers’ office bar, we agree), with its popularity projected to rise 14 percent by 2019. Cognac and armagnac – the second most popular spirits – are slated to decline nearly six percent over the next five years, mainly due to the declining numbers of Chinese tourists.

Gin and tequila are the fourth and fifth most popular spirits, with consumption predicted to spike through to 2019: gin is predicted to grow by 29 percent and tequila, 23 percent. Where is rum in all this, we have to wonder…

The Vinexpo 2016 in Hong Kong will be a three-day trade-only show for international wine and spirits professionals to converge to exchange ideas and knowledge. Held from 24 – 26 May 2016, the event is expecting 16,700 buyers from 24 countries and 1,300 exhibitors from all over the world.

Guide: Hong Kong Property Outlook 2016

Home to one of the world’s largest property markets, Hong Kong (HK) has seen a decade-long rise in residential prices, fueled by mainland Chinese demand and the low cost of borrowing within the country. Official figures by the HK Rating and Valuation Department suggest that residential prices reached a high in July, 2015, with a price tag of HK$151,462 ($19,543) per square meter (psm) for properties under the size of 40 m2.

However, this boom is set to end with the advent of 2016 (best available data), as global financial events trigger predictions of a drop in both rental and housing prices. Our friends at Palace magazine published this report in the first quarter of 2016, looking ahead to the rest of 2016.

Source: Squarefoot Hong Kong

Prices psf vs months. Source: Squarefoot Hong Kong

According to the South China Morning Post, property market analysts expect an 8 per cent to 10 per cent decline in rental and residential home prices in 2016. A number of circumstances have been cited as key reasons for the drop in prices, chief among them are the US interest rate hike and the dampening effect of China’s economic slowdown.

Signs of a cooling property market emerged earlier, in August 2015, as HK residential sales numbers hit their lowest in 17 months at 5,197 transactions, due to investor caution amidst a speculative economic climate. The HK sales volume figures published in Nikkei Asian Review suggest that this trend will continue on, as the number of completed sales dropped further to 2,800 units in November 2015.

A Slowing Dragon: The Chinese Factor

The plunge in the number of HK property transactions can be partly attributed to the loss of momentum in Chinese growth — a phenomena which can be traced back to a slowdown in the country’s massive trading and manufacturing sectors.

In the face of an economic downturn, mainland consumers have cut back on all forms of purchases, including property investments in HK’s secondary market.

A report released by Bloomberg Business in December, stated that the proportion of Chinese property transactions in the HK market had fallen sharply from its peak of 12 per cent in 2011 to 6 per cent during the first six months of this year.

This trend is also indicative of the results accomplished by cooling measures that have been put in place since 2009. In a bid to quench the heavy demand generated by foreign investors and scalpers, solutions such as a 15% Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) and Special Stamp Duty (SSD) were implemented to dissuade non-locals from snapping up property for profit.

The Rising Cost of Borrowing in HK

Likewise, the lifting of US Federal Reserve interest rates by 0.25 per cent to 0.5 per cent, has been predicted to have a dampening effect on activity in the HK property market. As the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the greenback, home mortgage rates are expected to rise and impact property affordability accordingly.

Moreover, news of the interest rate hike coincides with an ongoing trend of rising property foreclosure numbers— an article published by Bloomberg Business reported that case figures had increased to “80 from about 50 to 60 in the first half of 2015”.

Although these changes signify added threats to HK’s residential market, their influence might be less significant than expected.  For instance, in Knight Frank’s December market analysis, it was pointed out that a jump in interest rates by 100-basis-points would only necessitate an additional payment of HK$500 per month for a HK$1 million loan, assuming a 20-year repayment schedule.

Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority

Stock of flats in public and private permanent housing, Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority

More Affordable Homes for Locals?

Growing interest rates aside, other market trends point to the possibility that HK homes might actually become more affordable in the coming year. Knight Frank estimates that there will be close to 110,000 new homes added to the market supply from 2016 onwards to 2020. On a yearly basis, this translates into an increase of 22,000 housing units in heavily populated areas like Yuen Long, Tsueng Kwan O and Kowloon.

Consequently, this increase in property availability can be taken as a sign of cheaper homes to come; prominent HK developers have already begun to cut prices while offering attractive mortgage plans as their answer to the steadily rising supply of new properties.

Bloomberg Business reports that major players, like Cheung Kong and Henderson Land, are currently offering a series of discounts that will enable interested buyers to save up to 14 per cent of their purchase costs. That said, if there is ever a good time to buy a home in HK, it is in 2016.

 

Story Credits
Text by Tina Chopra

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine