8 fun indoor things to do without worrying about wild weather
With intense heat and the frequent threat of sudden heavy rain, August is one of the most tempestuous months in Hong Kong. So don't let the weather spoil your weekends — hunker down indoors and entertain yourselves
It's that time of year when, if you haven't managed to snag some time away from Hong Kong, you might think twice about venturing into the stew of heat and humidity outside. For those in that frame of mind, we've come up with eight things to do indoors, from pure couch-potato activities to games that get your competitive juices flowing, to yoga with your dog.
This is an obvious but still a solid choice. Known in Cantonese as "dry land swimming" - because the circular arm movement employed to shuffle tiles resembles swimming strokes - mahjong remains this city's favourite game. In fact, it has been so popular that Hongkongers have developed their own rules. These rules are relatively straightforward (especially when compared with Japanese rules) and players need only 14 tiles to win, not 17 as in the Taiwanese version.
But these rules - like the game itself - continue to evolve and there are now so many variations that all four participants have to agree on terms (including the amount of payout) before the dice are cast for the first round. Most Hongkongers still favour the 13-tile local rules, but another mutated strand of the game, courtesy of Canadian returnees, has been creeping into the local mahjong scene in recent years.
Supposedly an offshoot of the Vietnamese style, it is popular among the Chinese community in Canada and features eight extra "bonus tiles", including one wild card. It gives players more opportunities to win big. The website Vintage Mahjong (vintagemahjong.com) has some good information on the different rule sets and there are many online mahjong games that you can join for free if you cannot find enough "legs" (Cantonese slang for mahjong players). Unless you are a seasoned exponent, you should stay away from the mahjong parlours. KK
A day indoors is a great opportunity to dust off the XBox or PlayStation and fire your imagination with some new games. Check out Golden Computer Arcade in Sham Shui Po, where you can bag the latest titles such as Batman: Arkham Knight or, if you can wait until September 1, the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Don't forget to trawl the bargain bins for retro classics.
For those of you who wonder what a dystopian version of our city would look like, August 20 sees the release of Shadowrun: Hong Kong, a crowdfunded RPG for PCs and Macs set in the imagined Hong Kong of 2056.
You can also get your gaming kicks at one of the city's video arcades. Head underground into Game Centre, where it's always 1995 - and always busy during the day. Peruse your options as eardrums rattle to the noise of shoddy techno music from the racing games, gunfire from Time Crisis, and shrieks of "GOOOOAL!" from the football consoles.
Fighting games such as Street Fighter and Tekken are perennial favourites, as are the more modern - and positively baffling - reaction games that seem to put players into a trance.
Games start from HK$1 per play, and go up to HK$6. Which sounds like great value, until you get hooked and realised you've spent HK$200 in an hour like we did. Totally worth it. JL
Pre-order Shadowrun: Hong Kong from store.steampowered.com. Golden Computer Arcade 146-152 Fuk Wa Street, Sham Shui Po, tel: 2729 2101Game Centre B/F, 1-4 Jubilee Street, Central
With food programmes increasingly popular on television, it's no surprise that people are staging their own kitchen battles.
You can create your own version of the Chopped kitchen. Give the competitors four mystery ingredients that must be included in their dishes and watch them battle for three rounds (appetiser, main and dessert), eliminating one person each round. If you want to make things even more interesting, set a time limit for the rounds, for example 20 minutes to make an appetiser. The best thing about this challenge is that you can raid your pantry, put together the weirdest combinations you can think of and see who comes out with the best creation. If a slew of mystery ingredients is too difficult, modify the challenge to make it more Iron Chef-like by only using one ingredient and have contestants incorporate it in many different dishes. For inspiration, and to see how the pros do it, go to foodnetwork.com or search YouTube for clips of your favourite cooking competitions. AC
Lip-syncing is all the rage, and with free apps such as Dubsmash (available for Apple and Android devices) anyone can get in on the fun. Sing along to clips of your favourite songs from the latest Beyoncé hit to classic Beatles ballads. The great thing about this app is the wide range of sounds to choose from.
If songs are too boring, you can dub iconic movie lines, popular advertisements and more. The sound you want isn't available? Not a problem. The app has a feature that allows you to record any sound and add it to the app's collection.
The simple share feature makes it easy to instantly send your video to your friends through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or regular text messages. The app can only record 10 seconds of sound, so if you want to perform an entire song just do it the traditional way by playing your song in the background while recording a video. Start up some friendly competition by seeing who can do it best. AC
Few people admit to actually loving karaoke, shaking their head in faux panic as the microphone approaches their trembling hand. But once they grip that handle, all eyes watching, many will start howling like a Tina Turner wannabe. So ignore your friends' protests and organise a session. You'll be everyone's hero by the end.
Try a private room at Music Box, which carries more than 140,000 songs. Its Tsim Sha Tsui branch has rooms for up to 20 people for HK$800 an hour. The Causeway Bay branch can fit up to 16 for HK$550.
There is an afternoon promotion with free drinks for HK$200 per person, if you think you can drunkenly sing karaoke on a weekday afternoon.
If you're after something more upmarket, head to String Champagne Club in Wan Chai. Along with three VIP karaoke rooms, it has an extensive bar with champagne, wines and whiskies from around the world.
Once you're ready to show off in front of strangers as well as friends, head to your local Bar Pacific (there are scores of them around Hong Kong), where the beer is cheap and there's always a microphone or two doing the rounds. JL
Music Box 10/F, 10 Prat Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2368 1927 String Champagne Club, 20/F Lucky Centre, 165-171 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 8320 Bar Pacific G/F, 663 Gillies Avenue North, Hung Hom, tel: 2330 8839
We've all pulled off marathons, such as watching the Back to the Future trilogy in one sitting, or an entire season of Friends. Could you get through Christopher Nolan's intense and brooding Dark Knight trilogy in a day? Maybe you can get in the mood for J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Wars reboot by watching the first six back-to-back. August could be the month you finally give in and binge watch Game of Thrones.
You can find all of the above on Google Play and iTunes, but if you prefer the old-fashioned method of browsing the racks, head to ABCD inside the shopping centre known to locals as "188" in Wan Chai, or the nearby Rock Gallery. These are especially good places to pick up Cantonese films (Infernal Affairs trilogy, anyone?)
For the full effect, you'll want to get your hands on a projector. You can rent these for HK$800/day from TKP Conference Centre in Wan Chai. Or head to Comdex in Sham Shui Po's Golden Centre, where you can buy a new one from about HK$2,500.
Top it off with the quintessential cinema snack: popcorn. Garrett Popcorn inside the IFC mall does excellent takeaways; we recommend the Chicago Mix. Its combination of tangy cheese and rich caramel might raise a few eyebrows at first, but it's excellent. Just try not to be that guy who noisily rustles and crunches his way through the entire film. JL
ABCD shop 138, Oriental 188, 188 Wan Chai Road.; Wan Chai Rock Gallery shop 202, Tai Yau Plaza, 181 Johnston Road; Wan Chai TKP Conference Centre 17/F, 41 Lockhart Road; Wan Chai Comdex Digital Technology shop 41-45, Golden Computer Arcade, Sham Shui Po; Garrett Popcorn shop 1050, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central
You could dust off the ever-reliable Monopoly or Scrabble, but there's a lot more to board games these days, with whole new avenues to explore.
In Eldritch Horror, up to eight players work together travelling the world, unlocking spells and clues to solve mysteries, before the ominous "doom clock" ticks down and an ancient evil is unleashed on humanity. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but is pretty compelling when things hot up. You'll need to set aside a few hours for each game. A similar but less daunting option is Pandemic, which - as the name suggests - involves players saving the world from terrifying diseases.
You can buy these games and many more at Jolly Thinkers board game cafe in Wan Chai. It has a boisterous atmosphere during weekends, and you may want to book a table. The friendly staff will always help find a fun game to suit your needs from the myriad options on their shelves. We played Geistesblitz, a card game of super-quick thinking and fast reflexes.
For a more grown-up audience, Cards Against Humanity (cardsagainsthumanity.com) is always a winner. Describing itself as "the party game for horrible people", the game involves fill-in-the-blank cards. Players use phrase cards to provide the funniest and most controversial results, which are often hilarious (and mostly unprintable.) The game can be downloaded for free to print at home. JL
Jolly Thinkers, 11/F Bayfield Building, 99 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2527 2882
Check out "pets interrupting yoga" on YouTube and you will see how a serene home practice can quickly descend into a fracas between human and animal. Speaking from personal experience - I practise yoga and have two dogs at home - I'm convinced dogs have an intuitive alarm that detects (and goes off) whenever a human face is lowered to their eye level.
No matter where I am in the flat, when I get into the "downward facing dog" pose, it's only a matter of seconds before I get pounced on by my dogs, tongues/tails wagging. If you can't beat them, why not let them join you? "Doga" has been practised in this city for at least five years, with some local yoga studios occasionally offering sessions for pet-owning practitioners. It involves lifting the dog (works better with, say, a papillon than a medium-size bichon frise); massaging their back and tummy, as well as stretching your limbs and theirs. It promises to foster bonding between a pet and its owner.
The beauty of doga is that it has no set sequences and can be done at home. There are plenty of DVDs/ YouTube videos out there for ideas on how to create your own sequences; I recommend "The Art of Doga" on the Animal Planet website (animalplanet.com), which gives an informative introduction to the practice. KK
Illustrations: Brian Wang