The Hong Kong leg of the global adventures of John and Ali Spinks is drawing to a close, but they will take away some fantastic memories from their home in Clearwater Bay – along with a wonderful array of collected art and accessories. Expat Living Hong Kong recently got the chance to step inside their gorgeous property, getting a glimpse of beautiful interior design that the family will say farewell to after 15 years of living in Hong Kong.
It’s easy to guess John and Ali Spinks are a well-travelled pair from the dozens of guidebooks crammed into the bookshelves of their Clearwater Bay house, but it’s the captivating artwork in this eclectic home that truly maps their journey across Greater Asia. From bustling street markets in India and Mongolia to musty antique shops in China and Jordan, and tiny galleries in Myanmar and Vietnam, John and Ali have spent thirty years amassing a treasure trove of artwork that makes their space truly special.
Ornate images of Buddha, intricately carved mirrors, and brightly embroidered Indian fabrics rub shoulders with a host of oriental treasures in every room. Taking pride of place in the living room is an exquisite Egyptian carpet, which the Spinks fell in love with in a shop in Cairo. “The shopkeeper gave us a fabulous price, so we didn’t bother to haggle,” remembers John. “He seemed ecstatic with the sale, and insisted on inviting us all back to his home, where we sat on the floor eating a sumptuous Middle Eastern dinner with his family. We were astounded and humbled by their hospitality. On the flight back we realised we had got the exchange rate the wrong way round, and had in fact signed a credit card chit for six times what we thought we were paying! But we treasure that carpet like no other.”
Their decision to buy in Clearwater Bay fifteen years ago was a rather more prudent purchase – and one that has afforded the family many happy memories. John and Ali’s four children have grown up with the open green spaces of the local country park and sandy beaches, the scent of frangipani trees surrounding the swimming pool, and the twinkling lights of squid boats far out to sea at night.
“When we first arrived it was a predominantly Chinese village and was a wonderful cultural experience, with village festivals, barbecues and New Year celebrations,” says John. With the influx of expat families during the early 2000s, he says the village now has a unique international flavor. “We’ve added a few alternative events to village festivities, including a Queen’s Jubilee street party! We’ve also become very ‘21st century’ – we now have our own village ‘Whatsapp’, as well as a neighbourhood Facebook page.”
Light pours into every room in this relaxed village house, which sits in the middle of lush vegetation and tropical plants. There are many tempting places to relax with a book, from the cool paved courtyard to the rooftop terrace – boasting beautiful views of green outlying islands. And it’s an easy hop to nearby Hang Hau to eat at one of the Spinks’ favourite restaurants, Lardos. “It’s a fabulous incongruity: an exceptional steak restaurant in a local Chinese village, without the prices of Central or TST,” says John; he lists Felix at The Peninsula and the Pokfulam Vocational Training Centre as two of his other preferred lunch spots. But this active family has spent the majority of its time in the territory riding, hiking, golfing and playing football.
Ali is preparing to take up a job in a Canadian University – she and her husband are both academics who met at the University of Hong Kong – and it will be a wrench for them to leave the place they have felt passionate about for so many years. John says, “We love the space, we love the views and we love the energy of Hong Kong – the city skyline and the views from The Peak never fail to amaze.” He maintains that sitting on the roof and looking at the starry Clearwater Bay sky is one of the special experiences he will always treasure. Hopefully the vast Canadian skies will not be a disappointing second to Hong Kong!