Splurging and reconnecting with memories in Asia's most glamorous city
A mega-metropolis steeped in sparkle, Hong Kong is Asia’s glitzy gateway, boasting some of highest-grossing luxury stores in the world, thousands of cloud-cresting towers, and a no-dish-too-extravagant food scene.
I first visited Hong Kong to study international business on a school trip. Serendipity struck when I ended up dating the man who is now my husband. (I guess you could say I came home completing both Romance 401 and Cross-Cultural Communication 402.)
At the time, I stayed on a university campus, and made the grave mistake of eating only international food—a travesty seeing as Hong Kong is one of the world’s great culinary cities. I did one thing right, though, and toured the city’s sights—Victoria Peak, Star Ferry, Repulse Bay—with marathon-training precision.
Thirteen years later, the itinerary for my trip to the same city in March 2014 looked A LOT different. Bent on a bedazzling weekend from start to finish, I boarded my non-stop Cathay Pacific flight and settled—with a flute of bubbly, of course—into a lie-flat pod 20C. The 13-hour flight from Vancouver, British Columbia to Hong Kong left late at night and landed in the morning, so once I’d taken in an Oscar-winning movie, I was determined to use my seat-come-bed to the best of my sleep-a-bility.
Long enough for a leggy supermodel and then some, my 5-foot-8-inch frame did not even come close to cresting the seat’s far reaches, leaving me in a down-covered cocoon for the next eight hours. When I awoke at 38,000 feet, I slathered my skin with Cathay’s wake-up-worthy, citrus Jurlique products, threw some eye drops into my red-rimmed peepers, and painted my lips crimson (to match the iconic junk boats’ red sails in Victoria Harbor).
At 7 a.m. local time, the Four Seasons Hong Kong’s Mercedes-Benz airport pick-up (an add-on service offered to guests) met me and whisked me into town. Thankfully, an early check-in was available, which removed any hint of travel stress, especially when I took a gander at my sleek and cream-colored room with floor-to-ceiling views over the South China Sea and Kowloon.
Knowing I was meeting friends for lunch at noon, I immediately indoctrinated myself into the time zone with two dozen laps in the hotel’s sixth-floor infinity pool. Even shrouded in early-morning mist, the urban vista was mesmerizing (and a moment all my own, as the only guest afloat beneath the city’s high-rises).
Keen on maneuvering my chopsticks around local cuisine—unlike my first go-round—my friend (and local restaurateur) told me I had to dine on dim sum at Lung King Heen, the first Chinese restaurant in the world to receive three Michelin stars. His suggestion was spot-on; the feast, which mingled vegetarian hot and sour tofu soup with wontons, roast Chilean sea bass, and peking duck, was as chic as the orchid-adorned environs.
Starting to feel the effects of jet lag after lunch, I needed to regenerate my body in an effort to ward off a full-on slumber, so I stopped by the Four Seasons Spa’s hydrotherapy circuit (which is complimentary for guests). You’d think a soothing spa surround would woo me to la-la-land; rather, the thalassotherapy pool, cascading body massage, steam, infrared sauna, and ice fountain provided just the right jolt of gentle energy to get through the rest of the day.
That night, I went off the tourist track and toured a collection of local galleries—a colorful lens into the city’s cultural scene—and stopped in at a few cocktail bars for drinks before ending up at one of the objects of my Hong Kong restaurant research: Yardbird. Open in 2011, this “it” eatery has done the almost-impossible in the city’s fickle food market: Remained hot since the day it started making yakitori (skewered, grilled chicken) in its loft-like space buzzing with culture vultures.
Viewfinder Tip: One of the top DIY resources for scoping Hong Kong’s hottest cuisine is OpenRice.com.
Honing in on the local obsession with shopping and street food, my second day was spent Dior-dreaming along Canton Road, browsing local jade at the Jade Market, and checking out the multistory malls such as Harbor City and ifc (both of which are so large, you get lost in the first five minutes).
Between my spending sprees, the sizzling street fare reminded me that it’s not necessary to eat like a tycoon to get good food in this East Asian hub. (For the record, I could consume street-side steamed rice rolls in a soy-peanut-sesame sauce for every meal.)
I’ve always held Hong Kong in high esteem for emotional reasons, and constantly wonder if it was the city or the guy that influenced my instincts. My second visit sealed the deal; my connection with Asia’s glitzy gateway goes far beyond a feeling. Or my man.
What urban cities do you hold in high esteem?
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