Sunday, 18 April 2010

'Petit Bourgeois' cafes on Gulangyu islet

Some observations about 'petit bourgeois' cafes on Gulangyu.

The odd thing about Gulangyu is, apart from the typical tour groups you see everywhere, you have loads of petite bourgeoisie there as well, or petite bourgeoisie wannabes. They may be Xiamen locals rushing to the island for its 'tasteful' coffee shops and small shops (typically called 'zahuo' shops now; more about this later), or other mainlanders from all over China. Basically they look for the same thing: petit bourgeois sentiments and consumer goods. There's always a list of coffee shops they want to visit (most of these people have done extensive research), small items they want to buy at various zahuo shops. It's interesting how a boring second (or third) class city like Xiamen could attract so many of these people just because of Gulangyu. You'd be surprised by the number of cafes, shops and guesthouses catering for these petit bourgeoisie (wannabes, most of the time).

The cafe I find most interesting is called 'Cantone'. It's also called 廣聲港調, and I guess it's more known by this name. It caught my attention because it associates itself with Cantonese stuff, from the food (typical Hong Kong cha-chaan-teng food) to the use of traditional characters in their menu. To be honest, I found it pretentious but at the same time endearing, as Cantonese or traditional characters are indeed considered 'posh' to the petit bourgeois crowds in China, and personally I do think traditional characters are more aesthetically pleasing. S commented that Cantonese and traditional characters are 'hip' and 'in' in Guangzhou, and many Guangzhou kids are proud of being able to speak the dialect and use (or at least read) the characters. Anyway, we didn't really go into the cafe as we weren't craving coffee or some pseudo-Cantonese stuff (Yes, I'm sceptical), but I did pick up their card which is quite tastefully designed.

See how they insist on using the hard-to-write traditional characters for numbers? I don't think they're used much now, except when people issue cheques.

I found some photos of the interior of this cafe, which strikes me as funny.

Out of all Hong Kong MTR stations, they've chosen Choi Hung. It's ironic as it's prolly my least favourite MTR station! And I don't think if you do a poll in Hong Kong about people's favourite MTR stations this would actually have any votes... Then I found that the founders of this cafe are not Hong Kongers but some Guangzhou kids... okay, no wonder. Call me stubborn but I think you really have to know some place well to call yourself an expert on it, or you're bound to make yourself a joke.

Hmmm there are actually lots of other cafes I want to write about, maybe next time...

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