Train ride to a feast

| Siu Sai-wo 13 Jun 2019

Hongkongers have become more interested in traveling in the mainland since the express rail service opened.

During the recent long holiday, I also took the express rail to visit Changsha IFS, Wharf's flagship project in Hunan. Other members of the group included Garmen Chan Ka-yiu from Wharf's senior management and travel writer James Akio Hong.

We departed from West Kowloon in the morning on a Fuxing, a new China-made train that has a business class up front, much like the first-class cabin on airplanes.

With the co-location and e-channel arrangements, boarding was convenient and smooth. In just three hours, we were already sauntering out of the Changsha train station, heading for the city center.

The Niccolo hotel where we stayed is on the top floors of the 93-story IFS, the 11th tallest building in the world, a project in which then Wharf chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching had much input.

Hunan is famous for its fireworks, and when there are displays on the Xiang River below the hotel guests can watch the fireworks practically explode under their feet.

Wharf's malls are known for chic. The giant panda sculpture that scales its International Finance Square in Chengdu, for example, is a hot check-in spot.

Its counterparts at the Changsha IFS are two huge bronze sculptures of famous artist Kaws' Companion and BFF.

A few years ago, the works of the American artist were on display at Harbour City here. Just recently, a gigantic inflatable Companion was seen floating in our harbor.

A prime reason Wharf decided to invest heavily in Changsha is its keen consumption culture.

Changsha IFS has quickly become an icon of trendy lifestyle in Hunan, drawing weekend crowds of 80,000 to 100,000, and had even registered a single-day high of 295,000 visitors.

Hunanese love spicy food, and one of their favorite delicacies is crayfish, or small lobsters, as locals call them. We all marched down to the Wen He You lobster shop in the evening.

Established by a young entrepreneur, it is always full.

The steamed lobsters have delicious meat, but the best part is the sauce. For authentic local flavor, you must choose the chili oil kind. Unlike the Sichuan mala, which has a slow-burning numbing effect, the Hunan brand of spiciness unleashes its full power once it enters your mouth.

I felt lucky to be a Hongkonger, as there are such interesting culinary experiences waiting to explore just hours away by train.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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