Tuesday, 12 February 2013

IKEA Hong Kong

Throughout the 1990s, dear friend Barb and I had a pinky swear arrangement about IKEA and it went something like this:  if either of us were planning to go, we had to phone the other in case the other wanted to tag along.

It was a pleasant arrangement and even if neither of us really needed anything, it was fun to yack in the car en route and have some girl time.

Last week during our annual jaunt to Hong Kong, Hubby and I happened to be in a semi-industrial neighbourhood called Kowloon Bay.  I was there to take a pottery class and while Hubby was navigating our way to the class, high up on the side of a big bright red building l spotted a giant IKEA sign, shimmering in the distance.  I could barely concentrate on the class, thinking about going over there after the class and imagining what sorts of interesting goodies I'd find there.

I've been to IKEA in Genoa, Italy, (disorganized and dirty) Toulon, France, (poorly lit with indifferent staff) and Ottawa, Canada, (tidy with polite staff) so I just had to know how the Hong Kong IKEA was different from others. 

Out front, three jacketed staff were directing traffic and serving as crossing guards, keeping the huge Saturday crowds and endless parade of taxis under control. Every few minutes, full sized buses with IKEA logos and painted in IKEA colours picked up passengers who were queued neatly in long lines just outside the entrance.

Like other IKEAs I'd been to, it was enormous but this IKEA was even bigger, housed on two floors of a massive shopping and entertainment complex called Mega Box.  In the Mega Box were super-sized stores selling everything for the home and some typical mall shops thrown in for good measure. For entertainment, there was a massive skating rink, an IMAX theatre, a 747 jet flight simulation centre and numerous restaurants. They even had a baby weighing service!

Once inside, I headed straight for the cafeteria or at least I tried to. Like other IKEAs, this one was like a rat maze and I couldn't just go directly where I wanted to.  This is something I've never liked about IKEA.  It's one of my retail pet peeves along with escalators that don't line up.

I went with the flow, literally, and wound through all the departments that were well staffed and neatly stacked with merchandise that was the same as all other IKEAs. 

Other than tea cups, place mats, some product descriptions in both Chinese and English and all the Chinese customers, you'd never have known you were in an IKEA in Hong Kong.  

When I finally got to the cafeteria, it was huge, packed, and the food was incredibly cheap. It was also crazy busy. The most popular item? Ten Swedish Meatballs with either noodles or potatoes that cost about €2 or $2.60 CDN.  Every second or third person's tray had a plate of that. I was expecting to see everyone using chopsticks but I was surprised to see everyone using a knife and fork.

I joined the cafeteria line that moved very quickly and being veg, I bought some "low sugar" soy milk that was both delicious and cheap.  Afterwards, I fought my way back to the entrance.

I'm glad I popped in and even though it wasn't as different as I was hoping, it was still part of the grand adventure that is Hong Kong.

I wonder what the IKEA Tokyo is like?  Hmm...

Apologies to Barb.  I forgot to call you! 

The Menu.  Prices are in Hong Kong Dollars.  Ten dollars is about €1 or $1.30 CDN

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