Drinking. Eating. Watching a movie. Getting a foot massage. Hong Kong evenings may be fun but they are most definitely not famed for their variety. With my sister in town and desperate to show her how diverse life here can be, I booked in the usual suspects – junk trip, dinner in a cooked food market, day trip to Shenzhen. However, I surpassed myself most when booking what, to me anyway, was a completely new discovery.
Hidden away in the depths of Kennedy Town, lurking in an unassuming basement, is a place called Les Boules. It’s a bar, but with a twist… the main focus is on three boules lanes where you can while away an evening, sipping on French wine, throwing metal balls down a sandy pitch trying to get them as close as possible to a little wooden ball. This may sound dull but it’s actually incredibly fun! Boules in its many forms (pétanque being one of them, which is what is played here), is played across the whole of France by the old and young alike. It’s fiercely competitive but its slow pace is perfect for a laidback conversational evening.
I organised for a group of 16 to go on a Wednesday night, when boules hire is the normal $40 but lane rental is half price – so it ended up only $40 per person per hour. We had the place to ourselves so split into four teams of four and spent the night swaying to the background French music, quaffing French wine and pastis and bringing out our inner competitive demons. It was without doubt one of the most fun evenings I have had in a long time, a sentiment echoed by all attendees. The beauty of it is that it’s an inclusive sport – easy to learn and hard to be truly good at, so no one feels like the team dud! It’s also a great way to introduce different friends to each other as by nature you’re mingling all night.
Food is also available and they often lay on events such as live music nights (although I would recommend eating first and then heading along for a post-dinner game). One key tip to make sure the night is a success: swot up on the rules first, otherwise there may be a few arguments over the tape measure when deciding who has won!
If you have never been before – go immediately! And if you’ve been before but a long time ago, be assured that the simple joy in it still exists. We should all follow the French and play boules; in fact, I may be something of a Wednesday night regular from now on….
Les Boules, Café Pétanque, 18 Woo Hop Street, Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong, 2872 0102