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That Girl: Vivien Cheng of Sassy Hong Kong

This week’s That Girl is our very own Vivien Cheng of Sassy Hong Kong! Vivien is the latest addition to Team Sassy after we joined forces with Yummy Mummy Asia, so we thought what better time for us all to get to know a bit more about the new girl on the block!

We chat to Vivien about growing up in Ap Lei Chau, get her tips for the must-visit places in Hong Kong and discover a typical day in the life of a Sassy girl.

Can you fill us in on your background and how your family ended up in Hong Kong?
I grew up in Hong Kong but we shuttled and back forth between HK and Australia until I was about 3 years old, then settled in HK. We literally built and sold two houses in that time. My earliest memory was of walking straight into a glass wall while holding my stuffed duck!

My maternal grandma (we call her “Paw B” after a popular TVB drama) came down from China when she was little. She was actually encouraged to continue to school, which was a very big deal back in those days, but she was too shy. She’s really smart though; my mum will always tell childhood stories about how she’d run a 15 person household and help with the family business despite the fact that she can’t read or write. Now compare that to the fact that I somehow managed to kill a cactus…

Where do you live? How have you made your place your own, especially as you live with family?
I pretty much grew up in South Horizons in Ap Lei Chau, which is actually as suburban as Hong Kong Island gets. Since I’ve lived there so long, my place is my own simply by the virtue of the fact that I’ve been there since… forever! In fact, I still have sticker pictures from my teenage days up on my walls, and seeing as how the glue melted in the HK heat… there’s no way anyone can take them off now.

What are the best and worst things about living with family?
Best thing? It’s utterly and completely rent-free!

Funnily enough, one of the worst things is actually never being able to see my mum. I guess since we’re living in such close quarters, we’re under the illusion that we don’t need to set aside time for each other; once, we actually went for ten days without physically seeing one other (we communicated via post-its on mirrors, doors and the tv)! It took a little while, but we finally realised that we need to actually seek each other out!

How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
I’d say my style is definitely more on the classic side than trendy. I don’t really follow trends (though I must say I am a huge fan of the high-low hem); I’m still wearing clothes I bought when I was 14! Since I’m such a pack rat, I tend to buy things that I know will never really go out of style. I have tons of LBDs and tailored dresses that I know I’ll still wear 5 years down the road. I also don’t own any jeans – they’re just not practical in the HK heat!

Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
For shoes I’m definitely a super loyal Staccato fan. It’s really hard for me to buy shoes (I’m a size 33) so I tend to latch on to any shoe that’s in my size! I always come out with more than I intended.

I’m definitely more promiscuous when it comes to clothes and shop anywhere from H&M to Zara to tiny tucked away boutiques. Because I’m so “Asian-sized”, I look for Korean brands since the cutting tends to be more suited for me. There are generally more Korean boutiques in Causeway Bay since it’s more “local” than Central/Soho area. Check out Island Beverley (right opposite to Sogo); it’s practically a mall just for Korean/Japan brands!

Any must visit places in Ap Lei Chau?
Hmmm… Ap Lei Chau is pretty much a residential area so you won’t really find any shops there. But if you’re a seafood lover, definitely check out Main Street in Ap Lei Chau. It’s a wet-market street that sells the freshest seafood in town! They only sell seasonal things though so if you’re super picky about what seafood you eat, you’ll have to try your luck. Every time my family hosts a hot pot dinner, we’ll always go there to stock up.

What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
Lotion! I have really dry skin (even in the humid HK summer) so I’m obsessed with Body Shop’s Body Butter. I finish one tub in about five weeks so I’m slowly but surely working my way through all the different scents.

I actually cut my own hair – I only ever remember/want to cut my hair at very odd hours… like 2am! The only time I go to a salon is when I want to dye or perm it, but I’m so fidgety I can’t bring myself to sit still for seven hours straight.

What would you recommend as HK’s must-visit places and experiences?
There’s a great hotpot place called Little Fat Sheep in Causeway Bay Plaza. It specialises in lamb and their spicy soup base is awesome! I always just drink a bowl of it straight up cause it’s so yummy. The best part? It’s made from Chinese medicinal herbs so there’s absolutely no artificial flavouring and you feel like you’re being oh-so-healthy. Hint: don’t wear knit or any smell retentive fabrics!

Also, walk around HK: you can go on hikes or (my personal fave) walk from Causeway Bay to Central (it will only take around 25 minutes). You can either follow the tramline if you want to go through the heart of HK or walk along the harbour (where Legco and City Hall is). There are some great public places where you can sit and read by the Victoria Harbour. Don’t forget the stop by the courtyard of City Hall; it’s a great quiet public space where you can just sit and relax.

What is your favourite place in Hong Kong?
South Horizons. I know a lot of people who take staycations to get away from the city, but I feel like it is a staycation every time I enter it.

Are there any places you miss in HK from when you were little that aren’t around any more?
I miss my best friend’s house the most. She used to live in South Horizons with me before college and since her dad’s an interior designer, she had the coolest furniture ever. I used to forget my house keys all the time so I would stay at her place until my mum got home to let me in. I remember we had a three-day Monopoly marathon once; in the end, we got so bored we started throwing the money around and some got lodged in the ceiling lights. It took a lot of huffing and puffing to get that down!

Can you fill us in on a typical day at Sassy?
I absolutely love saying I’m a Sassy girl! I honestly can’t say it without having a smile on my face (just try frowning and saying it!).

I usually spend most of my time in meetings with seriously cool vendors. I spend as much time buying as I am selling… I’m starting to debate the wisdom of leaving my credit card in the office! I’m also a fidgety person so it’s great not having to spend my entire day in the office. Of course, once in a while I get lazy and schedule an “office day” (i.e. when it rains).

Any tips on achieving the work-life balance?
I think it really depends on your mind-set; you’ll burn out really fast if you try to do everything you need to do in a day. Some things can actually stay on your to-do list for a few days quite happily.

I live by two basic rules: set up a consistent night with your friends (come rain or shine, you’ll be there!) and spend the last ten minutes of each work day writing out what needs to be done for tomorrow. It helps you get the ball rolling first thing the next day and relaxes your mind for the rest of the night. So simple!

What do you think is the key to being happy in HK?
Deep breaths. HK is so busy and fast that sometimes you just need to slow down and realise that there is actually enough time for everything without burning out (shocker!).

All photos in the That Girl article above were taken by the hugely talented Sabrina Sikora of Sabrina Sikora Photography – get in touch with her at sabrinasikora@gmail.com.

Check out the rest of our That Girls here!

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