Welcoming the Year of Horses in the Malls

恭禧發財!!

Happy Chinese New Year!  The Year of the Horse has finally arrived!  If don’t know that that 2014 is the Year of the Horse – and you live outside Asia, you are excused but for those of you who live in Asia, what’s your excuse?!  Don’t you go out at all?  Why – the malls are all decked out in horsie decorations!  Here’s some malls that I frequented.

Elements Mall @ Kowloon Station:  A horse head made up of tiny minions of horses.  The sponsor is… (no brainer)… Hong Kong Jockey Club!

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My all-time favourite for mall decorations is Landmark @ Central.  Every Chinese New Year, the atrium of the mall will be transformed into a floral extravaganza welcoming the in-coming zodiac of the new year.  This year, we have floral horses suspended in the air and horses let loose on a pictureque Chinese pasture complete with waterfalls, junk and Chinese houses.

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The One @ Tsim Sha Tsui:  Albeit tacky and simplistic, this is sponsored by a clothing company.  All the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac are presented riding a horse.

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Chocolate Fantasia @ Gallery By the Harbour

“With the artist’s fantasy of chocolate and his crazy imagination, Gallery by the Harbour will be transformed into an amazing illusionary space, leading the audience to enter the artist’s fantasy world.”  

And a fantasia it was!  A dizzying psychedelic world bursting of colours and butterflies to mesmerise the audiences!

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View of Gallery: Wall-to-floor covered in abject art. Crossing the boundary from 2-D to 3-D, leading the audience to enter the artist’s fantasy world.

This is a solo exhibition by renowned Korean contemporary artist Jang Seung Hyo who conjured up a surreal chocolate world in conjunction with the annual Chocolate Trail 2014 in Harbour City.  His  created a chocolate fantasia through collages by juxtaposing  images of chocolates and sweets.   Thus, transforming the 2-D photographic images into 3-D art pieces.

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3-D Butterfly on canvas on-top of the collaged wall, make it a bursting array of psychedelic colours

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Chupa Chups!

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Detail of collage: Random photos from the artist’s archives

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A 3-D sculpture

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A tiger out on a prowl in a Hong Kong

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I see Guylian chocolates Smarties and Jelly Beans, do you?

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Hard to see in the snapshot, but try if you can, this is a 3-D butterfly

Try as I did, it was hard to photograph with my iPhone because it was very colourful and I’m at loss at which angles, details and how to capture the artworks as they were all too beautiful!  If you are in Kowloon, grab your camera and do me a better job!

Where and When?
Chocolate Fantasia @ Gallery By the Harbour
Date: Now – Feb 16, 2014
Shop 202, Level 2, Ocean Centre (Near Jean-Paul Hevin)

Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur 2014

Date: Early January 2014

Whoa! Long time no blog! I’ve seemed to have dropped out of  the blogosphere the past couple of weeks, but rest assured, there’s certainly no horsing around for me when I was in KL last, having accomplished what I had set out to do  – and willingly falling ‘victim’ to the ample carbohydrates-fueled yummies there!  😭

So let me present you in pictures (via my trusty iPhone 5s), how KL dressed up to herald the upcoming Chinese New Year on January 31st! 

First up, right in front of my proverbial doorsteps, the Pavilion Mall – as usual the best decorated mall in the whole of KL.  Lanterns, lanterns and MORE big garishly red Chinese lanterns in front of the Pavilion Mall – totally OTT!  HOT!

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The theme, as one can easily guess is HORSES GALORE!

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Horses in fariy-lights along Jalan Bukit Bintang.

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Street illumination

Of course, more horses in the the hotel lobby.

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JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur

A stallion galloping throughout the woods of cherry-blossoms in Suria KLCC.  For those single dudes and dudettes, the first thing you should do, when you wake up on CNY morning is to run around the cherry blossom trees a few times.  A centuries-old tradition to boost your luck in finding your Mr or Ms Right!  (Personal opinion, it doesn’t work – been doing it for AGES!  But still, am going to run a few laps this year. 😵 😵 😵)

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My first Lion Dance show of the year, performed by a bunch of school kids at Suria KLCC.  Pretty good, despite me waiting a good 40minutes for the short-lived 15minutes show to start… 😳

 

Wooloomooloo Prime @ The One, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: January 7 2013

I have been training in earnest since I returned from my gastronomic trip in Tokyo nearly 2 weeks ago- and I might have gone slightly overboard in the short time seeing that I hit the sack at 7:30pm!  Crux came when I couldn’t push the leg press at 23olbs which I had easily done so last session!  Perhaps it is time to ease back on my daily 45mins cardio (which I do running in the park).  Or perhaps the culprit was the lunch that I had right before my gym session??  (Psst… I’m referring to you Chard-y!)  

Let’s ‘analyse’!

My scrumptious lunch today was in the company of my Mom and her besties at Wooloomooloo Prime (together with one of their daughters and my Bro).  If Wooloomooloo sounds familiar, it’s the name of a suburb in Sydney and it’s a Modern Australian  steak house.  There are 3 restaurants in the ‘chain’ – Wanchai, TST and TST East.  The one that I frequented often is the branch at TST East where they have a nightly liveband.  A gym buddy of mine used to sing there and the rest of the gang will check-in to replenish after gym!

Talk about a spec entrance – floor-to-ceiling-glass windows, timber floorings, high ceilings, little niches to sit, curl up and get comfy – in short, I like the layout!

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Versatile high-chair seating area for more casual ‘do’s – check out the floor-to-ceiling views

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Meats Store

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Bar area with an outdoor patio

Who can deny the spectacular views from Level 21?  Pity the sky is hazy (a normal occurrence in Hong Kong – pollution courtesy of Shenzhen, China) and the windows a tad dirty… Nevertheless, still admirable!  They also have an outdoor patio seating – especially fab for Happy Hours!

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Views towards Victoria Harbour

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Views towards TST East

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Main Restaurant Area

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Wine display and cutlery area

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Fire-woods displayed for ‘warmth’

Tour over, now over to the food!

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Lunch Menu

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Wine Specials for lunch -HK$50/glass is cheap!

Complimentary white roll, warm from the oven, cripsy on the outside and fluffy-soft in the inside.

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My lone roll

Pictures and some commentaries on our 3-Course Executive Set Lunch (the price of the set is dependent on the Main course selected)

My Mom had the soup whereas the rest of us had the salad.  The salad was thoroughly enjoyable, poached ginger pear with specially selected baby spinach leaves (ie. unbruised!).  Loved the spanish onions, but the burping afterwards was unwelcomed – not lady-like.  😜

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Watercress soup with Sour cream & Garlic Croutons

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Baby Spinach, Ginger Poached Pear & Cherry Tomato Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

The rest of the table had the steak.  If you have lived in Hong Kong long enough, you shall be able to distinguish between the Chinese-style (e.g. at Steik World Meats, my review here) and the more Australian grilling style e.g. in Wooloomooloo.  Needless to say, everyone enjoyed their ‘Australian-styled’ steak at Wooloomooloo.

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Grilled Australian rib Eye with Roasted Potatoes, Bell Pepper & Madeira Jus (HK$258)

I’m the only one having the Salmon.  I’m looking at the Omegas and lesser fattening protein sources for my body.  😃 Loved the perfect salmon with crispy skin and the vegetables that went with it!

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Seared Crispy Salmon Fillet with Celery Root Puree, Asparagus & Baby Carrot (HK$218)

My Mom had her favourite dessert – the Australian classic – a Pavlova complete with fresh cream and fruits on the meringue shell.

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Pavlova with Fresh Fruits, Chantilly Cream & Passionfruit Coulis

My Bro had the Creme Brûlée.

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Creme Brûlée with Fresh Mint, Strawberry & Blueberries

I had the ice-cream selection – a scoop of lychee and another of almond.  A sugar-shot!

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Italian Gelato & Sorbet with Marinated Berries & Almond Wafers

So what killed me in the gym?  My trainer said a full stomach with gelato and that glass of wine.  He’d never heard of anyone hitting the weights after a glass of wine – so  I am the first! Hah!

Kaiseki Dinner @Mitsukoshi Department Store, Ginza, Tokyo

Date of Visit: December 20 2013

Japanese drinks vending machines are awesome, they sell both hot and cold drinks (colour-coded in case you don’t read Japanese – red for hot drinks and blue for cold drinks). In Japan one must try Calpis! A sweet yoghurt-y soda drink. And when you travel in Japan, you should also get yourself a Suica or Pasmo from JR Stations or from the many convenience stores around, this is stored-money card akin to Octopus in Hong Kong. BTW, Octopus is an Australian invention that failed miserably in Australia. In fact the company went burst – one of my earlier lemons! 😭

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😍😍😍 Calpis

***

For the first night in Tokyo, I did not bother to make any dinner reservations since I did not want to tire us out by dashing off to find the restaurant as soon as we arrived. It turned out to be a mistake – all the restaurants (the ones that we are interested in) were FULL! After wandering around Ginza, we were still undecided which restaurants to eat in and whether there is an English menu available. A quick think on our feet, led us to the Ginza Mitsukoshi Department Store.

There are 2 levels of restaurants serving International cuisines -Japanese, Japanese-European,European and Chinese (on Levels 11 and 12) inside the department store . We finally decided on a Japanese restaurant on Level 12 serving called 石桶花.

We were served by 2 very courteous and efficient waitresses. We were given an English menu with 3 courses to choose from – Banquet Cuisine Meal ¥4,800; Sumire Kaiseki Cuisine at ¥5,500 or Shakunage Kaiseki ¥8400. We settled on top-end Shakunage Kaiseki. We were very appreciative that the waitresses made a conscious effort to communicate with us and also to explain in English what is being served at each course.

To drink: We ordered a bottle of Japanese white from Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu ¥4,300 (the only Japanese white available on the menu). Clean and crisp on the palate, it has a pleasant astringent taste, and with an aromatic grapefruit and green apple finish and another note that I could not put my finger on – it turned out to be banana when I read the tasting notes (here). The pleasant scent of the white-flowers reminded me of sake too. A very enjoyable white from Suntory Brewery! KAMPAI!!

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Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu

Time for me to polish up on my chopsticks skills as the first of our courses arrives…

Appetiser #1 was 5 Gingko Nuts on a bed of sweet miso. Gingko nuts has a gummy texture, their rich, nutty flavour has a quick bitterness to it. (An important note is that children should not eat more than five ginkgo nuts per day, and adults should not eat more than eight per day. Going over these limits can result in ginkgo poisoning!! 😱).

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Gingko Nuts

Appetiser #2 consisted of crab meat, a deep-fried yam coated with sticky rice, a deep-fried sweet potato coated with sticky rice and some jellied pickles. I enjoyed the sticky yet crunchy-puffy-fried-rice a lot which provided a different layer of texture to both the yam and potato.

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Crabmeat and deep-fried sticky rice balls of yam and sweet potato

The Sashimi was very fresh – although not the top quality, but still standing head-and-shoulders above the sashimi served in top-hatted Australian restaurants. Understandably, the Japanese keep all the premium stuffs for their own local consumptions whereas other countries (e.g. Australia and especially China tend to export their top produces to overseas markets.) Here, we were served with yieldingly firm Yellow-tail, Kingfish and a very fatty Tuna that literally melts away in our mouths. The dish was beautifully presented with edible flowers, shiso and shredded radishes.

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Sashimi

Since this is Winter, we were served White miso soup with Mochi. The soup leans towards to the sweet side. I thoroughly enjoyed the chewy and glutinous texture of the mochi that has been slightly chargrilled before it went into the soup.

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White Miso Soup

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White Miso Soup with Mochi

Delicacies of the Season are winter root vegetables – mushrooms, pumpkin, fresh tiny shrimps, burdock and yam. Each very delicious and has natural sweetness to them.

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Delicacies of the Season

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Delicacies of the Season

Next to follow is the Soup. The star of this course is definitely the Sea-urchin on Tofu. Ilove the sweet briny taste of the sea-urchin very much, the tofu has an unusual texture that I was not accustomed to due to its stickiness, perhaps sticky rice was added to its list of ingredients. The salty soup was very gelatine-y, and worked well to cleanse the palate of the briny sea-urchin.

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Sea urchin on tofu

The Grilled Japanese Beef course literally melts in my mouth! This is Kagoshima beef was simply seared and served with Japanese green peppers (not hot) and enoki mushroom.

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Grilled Japanese Beef

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Grilled Japanese Beef

For the Boiled Dish, we were served 2 minced pork balls as light and fluffy as soufflé, they were joined by Japanese leeks, onions, fungus and shreds of yuzu peels for a citrusy kick. We were also given a hot black tea (Ocha).

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Boiled Dish

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Boiled Dish

The boiled dish forms part of the last course of our kaiseki dinner, with pickles, rice and a side of salmon roe (ikura). We were asked to eat the rice with the ikura.

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Boiled Dish, Pickles, Rice, Ikura

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Ikura Rice and grated radishes

The food served at the restaurant all tend to be on the sweeter side, due to sugar content of miring sauces used.

Finally dessert and matcha (green tea) were served.  Our Dessert was ice-cream and poached apple drenched with flower honey – delicious, but too sweet for me. 😀

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Dessert

During dinner, a Japanese business man had a heart attack, but still we had seamless service, everybody remained calm and helped the man to wait for ambulance.

Check out the interior of the restaurant.

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Very clean and simple Interior

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Watching the chefs at work at the bar

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Outdoor seating in Summer – a fantastic place to watch Ginza night view too!

So when you are at a lost, unsure of where to eat in the Japan, do check out the dining floors in the department stores where English menus are provided. The basement level is usually food outlets where you can buy bread for tomorrow’s breakfast and traditional sweets and delicacies or something for mid-night snacks! 😋😋😋

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Our late night snack – mochi with red bean (azuki) paste inside

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood @The ONE, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: December 29 2013

I figured that my legs should be very sore from my training yesterday – my trainer was the first person I texted to confirm appointment when I arrived Hong Kong the night before, since zero exercise and too much good food in Tokyo had made me a tad guilty… (I’m up to 115lbs for the leg press at the moment -pretty decent for a female – but my arms are very weak, I can only curl 5 reps of 15lbs before failure, losing form and get ‘stuck’). In order to ‘catch up’ on my ‘lost exercise time’ while in Tokyo, I thought it prudent that I also ran around the park for a good 45 minutes after the weights session before my DOMS sets in. Well, let’s see what my trainer says when I meet him next and whether this was a wise move because I am yet to feel any DOMS, perhaps tomorrow?

So with today being a rest day, I persuaded my Mom and Bro to watch ‘Firestorm‘, a Cantonese action movie starring Hong Kong heart-throb Andy Lau at The ONE and we also had our lunch at the mall too.

***

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood is a Hong Kong Japanese-styled tonkatsu restaurant serving deep-fried crumbed pork and seafood. The restaurant has a fantastic view looking into Kowloon Park. This is a former British army barracks converted into a park with a total area of 13.3 hectares, offering a full range of active and passive recreational facilities to the public. It is an oasis in the city away from the busy Nathan Road (the longest and straightest road in Hong Kong) where one can go for a relaxing stroll, have a picnic on the grass (a privilege in HK!), feed the pigeons and more interestingly to see the pink flamingos in the Bird Park. On any given Sundays, there will be performances (e.g. kung fu, traditional dances) by amateur groups in the park as well.

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Views beyond Kowloon Park to ICC (tallest building in Kowloon) and premier residential towers of ‘Sorrento’ and ‘The Arch’

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Kowloon Mosque

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Nathan Road, Parklane Shopping Strip and Kowloon Park (above)

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A lush Kowloon Park

On the table are 3 types of sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks.

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Unctuous sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks

I was the only one given a bowl of sesame seeds. Me thinks this is a bit misery since in Kuala Lumpur, the tonkatsu place that we frequented (here) has pestle bowls and a pot of sesame seeds on the tables, free-for-all! Hmm…I smell some accountants running the show here?

Anyway, the soy vinegar sauce was unctuously thick, sweet and sour – so the sesame paste that I got was thick and gummy – not my cuppa tea, chums.

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Sesame Seeds

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Sesame Paste

My tonkatsu set was HUGE – a big piece of deep-fried breaded pork with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, miso soup, pickles and dessert. The breadcrumbs were crunchy, but too thick for my liking. I had to scrap the breadcrumbs off. The mustard was only a tiny scrap on the plate – so I went without any sauces which is even better for me to shave some calories.

I also found the pork too firm and a tad dry, even though my order was the Premium Royal Pork Tonkatsu which the menu had pointed out as “one of the top quality pork meats in the world because of (sic) you can enjoy its juicy, tender and natural flavour“. I shall not ponder the texture of the ‘normal/ ordinary’ tonkatsu at HK$20 cheaper.

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Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

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Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

Both my Mom and Bro ordered the Katsu-Don Sets. My mom had the Katsu-Don Loin whereas my Bro had the Katsu-Don Fillet, both priced at HK$182 a bowl. Presentation-wise, they both looked the same so the picture below was my Bro’s Katsu-Don Fillet – steamed rice topped with pork loin/ pork fillet in scrambled egg and onion sauce and dressed with dried seaweed strips. The set also comes with pickles, shredded cabbages, miso soup and a dessert.

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Katsu-Don Fillet

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Side salad of shredded cabbage

Diners are allowed to have free refills of shredded cabbages, but the over-eager waitress swooped in on us to clear our table even though my mom was still eating…

We had a change of hot tea and some watermelons for dessert. At this point, my Bro asked why people throw watermelons into the sea to retrieve corpses and why do this ‘trick’ works? A mythical ‘answer’ here.

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Watermelon for Dessert

A family restaurant like this gets rather noisy when it fills up – especially with screaming children on the weekends crying over the piped-in Japanese Pop. Will I be back? Hmm… I am sitting on the fence, but maybe, since this is a branch of one of the best tonkatsu places in Hong Kong!

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Interior of restaurant

It was off to the movie after lunch – but Mom had to get the sweet caramelised pop-corns first!

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Broadway Circuit Cinema at The ONE

There are a lot of toy stores in The ONE and the one stall that caught my attention was B.Duck. I am not sure whether it is affiliated with Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Rubber Duck installations which I’ve seen earlier this year in both Sydney and Hong Kong (and which I had blogged about here and here), but nevertheless B.Duck has an interesting animated biography, so do check out their official webpage here!

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B.Duck figurines

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B.Duck figurines dressed in Xmas best

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B.Duck Amplifiers