I’ve been to Hong Kong many times over the years and this last trip was full of cultural surprises and new culinary adventures. In keeping with my theme of getting outside my comfort zone this year, I shook things up and stayed in a new hotel in a different part of town and tried everything new.
I’d gladly hop the 15 hour flight to return to The Upper House. The place is perfection. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they upgraded me upon arrival to a 1000+ square foot suite. (American Express platinum card, y’all. Get on it!) From my arrival in a Lexus RH450 Hybrid with full moon roof to view the Hong Kong skyline, to Wi-Fi so I could FaceTime with my daughter, I was hooked.
Check-in was in the room where a large tote bag full of wrapped presents waited for me (swear), and the minibar (or more rightly dubbed, maxi bar) had free treats, sodas, beer and juices for my enjoyment. A huge glass jar of m&m’s, anyone? And yes I said FREE.
The room was such a zen paradise that I’m not a skilled enough wordsmith to do it justice. I’ve never slept better and that’s a statement considering the jet lag issue.
The Upper House is redefining the guest experience. Rather than a reception and concierge desk, their staff is knowledgeable on many matters and is encouraged to walk the extra mile. One staff number did just that. When I asked about a dinner spot he literally walked out the front door (without telling anyone!) and escorted me down the bend, across the road, to a neighborhood restaurant. I can promise you will feel at home here and likely won’t want to leave. Flawless.
I’ve been to Hong Kong numerous times before and always stay at the Intercontinental on the Kowloon side. The views of Victoria Harbor are worth the stay alone and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss those 6am Tai Chi classes by the pool.
The China Club has a dress code (love that) and some devilishly good cuisine. Cubed filet with fried garlic chips is a house favorite and mine too. Stay for the tea show in the main dining room where a man ‘dances’ with his teapot while pouring tea, and watch the chef toss dough sky-high and make noodles out of it . . . with his fingers.
I love Hutong as much for its food as its traditional Beijing decor. I’m a repeat offender, you will be too. For a more casual lunch try Zen for dim sum in a mall atmosphere. Or go local and eat the best dumplings and noodles in the fabric market on the Kowloon side. Sorry the name is only printed in Chinese characters (=real deal!), but find it at 192 Tai Nan Street in the Sham Shui Po district. Formerly housed under a tarp on the street, this delicious noodle bar “got rich” and now has a restaurant environment indoors . . . good for them, but I miss a stool on the street!
I would go to Sevva for a rooftop drink before dinner and try Zuma for sushi prepared in an open kitchen setting. After too many dumplings you may be craving something from home, so try Gaia for a green salad and a thin crust pizza.
After watching the light show from Kowloon and walking the Canton Road, I took the Star Ferry back to Central and popped into Inagiku for dinner at The Four Seasons Hotel. An instant favorite with Harbor views, and a tempura and tappanyaki bar. I learned how to eat tempura the Chinese way (with two varieties of salt) and the Hong Kong way (with tempura dipping sauce).
The trip highlight for me was the awesome sight of the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and the gorgeous cable car ride to get there. I only wish I’d known that you can hike to the Buddha . . . the hiking trail winds up green hills on wooden boardwalks, stairs and earth. Make it a day trip and hike the peak taking in the nature and views . . . a nice respite from the city lights.
Take the junk out for a sail on Victoria Harbor and be sure to see the light show from the Kowloon side at 8pm nightly. Back in Central I walked endlessly through the Soho and Lan Kwai Fun neighborhoods enjoying the local market stands, down the Hollywood road and up Pottinger Lane where I bought my daughter tiny bows for her hair.
I didn’t get to it this trip, but seeing Hong Kong from the Peak via tram is a must. Go at dusk when you can see all the lights.
After a long day be sure to check out FOOT (yes that is really the name) on the Queen’s Road Central for an authentic reflexology treatment. A fun Hong Kong experience to have your feet rubbed while lounging in a recliner in a dark room among a dozen other people. I went twice.
I love the local markets, and Stanley Market is great for tourists wanting to stock up on silk pj’s, jade objects and other Chinese trinkets. If you are a serious fashionista then by all means hit Lane Crawford, Joyce and Harvey Nichols. All their holiday windows were gorgeous and rivaled Fifth Avenue back home. (Loved an entire gown complete with train made of red clothes pins!)