December 14, 2015

IKEA on Sundays

Think back to Black Friday 2006, the peak of the madness just before the economy tanked and Amazon roared to life. Remember the camp outs in front of Best Buy and Walmart? And the nervous excitement of the crowd which quickly turned to rage and exhaustion just 30 short minutes after the store doors opened at 5 a.m.?

Well my friend, that very scene is repeated every Saturday and Sunday at IKEA in Hong Kong.
I was ready for it, I had my list and was bracing for the onslaught of the crowd. Space is hard to come by in Hong Kong, so to fit a behemoth of a store like IKEA into an ultra-crowded city center requires it to go underground.

The store design was brilliant (save for one spot) and I cruised through the first two areas that didn’t have anything on my list. It was crowded, but manageable. By the time I reached the living room section, it was a different story.

There’s a saying that “IKEA is where relationships go to die,” but on Sundays in Hong Kong, the living room area of IKEA becomes he place where friendships are forged and young love could very well blossom, if you happen to speak the same Indonesian dialect as the hottie sitting on the Norsborg sofa. Again, space is a premium in Hong Kong, so why not hang out in a relatively open warehouse on a comfy sofa and gossip while braiding your best friend’s hair?

The store slowly strangled me, and after two hours it was time to escape. There was only one fatal flaw of the store design: the escalator going up out of the store rose up to ground level literally right below the lunch counter at IKEA. Gazing up as I rose on the escalator, all I saw were people gnawing on entire turkey legs, and the slimy suction cup sound of juicy meat being ripped from the bone was deafening.

It was at that moment my senses admitted defeat and I was officially fried. But I had to get home.
Loaded down with two big blue bags, I needed a taxi. I learned the hard way that 3 p.m. is shift change time for taxis in Hong Kong. Alas, it was just another notch in the belt of my long, ugly history with taxis in Asia. Somehow I managed not to cry.

IKEA in Hong Kong on a Sunday was enough to make me never ever want to return. The busyness of the store led me to buy weird things, like a single wooden spoon, an impractically small cutting board and the always-needed colander…not exactly a winning combination of necessities to put together an apartment. So the prospects of a return trip to IKEA seemed inevitable.

Yet somehow, one week on, I’ve managed to not return. Local shops like the “King Tak Han Porcelain Co., Ltd.,”  which among porcelain, also sells every kind of container, utensil, shelf and basket imaginable; and the lovable Japan Home Center store, where low-cost home goods are sold and a poppy 10-second chorus of “Jingle Bells” plays on repeat, have been a godsend.

The local online forums to buy and sell furniture have been the true goldmine.  I was fortunate to meet a couple who was leaving Hong Kong who sold me pretty much their entire kitchen along with several household items, like an iron, for less than $100USD. I found a new “used” TV for a similar price and, to avoid another arduous  taxi experience, called an Uber and waited 20 minutes for the Tesla (yes, Tesla) to arrive. With a 32” TV in my lap, I enjoyed my first Tesla ride that netted out to just under $8USD.

Sometimes you win, you learn, or you just throw your hands up and hope that a luxury sedan comes to pick you up. I’ve done all of the above in an effort to set up my home.

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