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stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

I rang in the New Year in Hong Kong, one of my favorite cities.  So culturally different from New York, I know I’m not at home anymore when I arrive at CDG and see the familiar surgical masks that many wear on their face, and I pass through the ‘temperature check’ on route to immigration.  This time I asked my greeter if people wear the masks to prevent disease as I once heard they do not act as a barrier to such.  She confirmed but then surprised me by saying many of the young girls also wear them if they have a pimple outbreak they would rather no one see!  Couple that with all the girls at the mall taking photos of themselves in front of every store window, store ad, logoed wall and random orchid, and I know ‘we are not in Kansas anymore.’

STAY

In order to keep things fresh I decided to stay at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.  Right out of the gate (literally), they impressed me by having a greeter wait for my arrival on the jetway and efficiently usher me through immigration and baggage claim.  Something else I won’t see back home unless of course I’m Reese Witherspoon.  (Wink, wink as I recently ran into new mom Reese at JFK.)  The service upon arrival was no less exceptional.  The rooms – however well-appointed – felt modest compared to my lofty Upper House experience and left me longing for a view.  After two lovely days I missed my Hong Kong skyline view and dutifully checked into Upper House on the 47th floor.  View?  Check.

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

SPA

One thing Upper House lacks is a spa.  This is where The Landmark Mandarin Oriental excels.  I fully spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve lounging by the indoor pool and reading the new Tom Wolfe.  New Year’s Day was spent having a reflexology treatment and reading in the most sublime relaxation room I’ve ever seen.  Heated stone recliners and ‘massage’ chairs in the whirlpool round out the experience.  Worth the trip and worth the stay if you don’t miss the view.

EAT

Unfortunately I was plagued with stomach issues for the duration of the stay, making a 3 a.m. visit to the hospital for mild dehydration, so I didn’t get to indulge in one of Hong Kong’s best assets:   its food.  I did venture out for a New Year’s Eve dinner to a local Cantonese restaurant, Island Tang, as it was one of the only spots where I didn’t have to order the price fixe menu.  Despite the very ordinary meal of white rice, I loved the art deco ambience and classic feel with servers in white tie.

Stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

I’ve been dreaming about the breakfast at Cafe Gray at Upper House for the past year.  You can’t beat a homemade ten grain hot cereal with stewed raspberries and a peppermint tea while watching the container tankers and the star ferry cross the harbor from the 49th floor.  Good morning Hong Kong!

Don’t miss Yardbird, a Japanese style Yakitori bar just off the Hollywood Road.  They offer Yakitori from all parts of the chicken so be sure to try the oyster (the juiciest part) and meatball.  The more adventurous among you might like the neck, knee, heart or gizzard.  The cucumber salad is a refreshing delight with miso, pine nuts and sesame.  Homemade salted peanut butter ice cream with orange zest is the only dessert on the menu (um, yes!).  Meet a friend at the bar and enjoy.

DO

I thought I may spend New Year’s Day at Hong Kong Disneyland but alas, my stomach begged me not to.  Next trip.

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

 

I’ve sort of been off Vegas and I think I just got back on.  While I was away, they’ve built a city within the city that includes the new Aria/Mandarin Oriental/Vdara hotel complex and the Crystals shopping center, aptly referred to as CityCenter.

STAY

I was hosted at Aria by my friends at Hearts on Fire (read more  about my partnership with them!).  My room was brand spanking new and big with all the amenities you could ask for. . . flat screen, sitting area, dressing area, generous bathroom with separate tub and shower etc.  Tones tend toward the dark and natural, and bed was super comfy.

I walked across the way to the Mandarin Oriental, always a favorite anywhere in the world.  Rooms were nearly the exact finishes as Aria so no big difference unless you want to get away from the casino feel (it’s nice not to have to trek a mile through slots en route to your room).  The spa is pretty special too.

EAT

Julian Serrano tapas  at the Aria was a surprise.  Located off the lobby, it’s arguably not the best location, but that is quickly forgotten with one taste.  The ahi tuna tempura with wasabi foam was a standout.

The Cosmopolitan has a hidden pizza joint down an unmarked hallway with loud music and a tunnel of album cover photos beckoning you. . . on the third floor next to Blue Ribbon Sushi, it’s sort of like the burger joint in NYC at the Parker Meridian but brighter (and with pizza of course!).

The Cosmopolitan also boasts some favorites like LA transplant Comme Ça,  Scarpetta (there isn’t better classic spaghetti anywhere), Blue Ribbon and STK. The lobby of the Mandarin on the 23rd floor offers a view of the (replica) Eiffel Tower over classic English afternoon tea.  Recommended for the more civilized Vegas experience.

 

SHOP

Vegas is one-stop shopping.  They have everything here!  Crystals shopping center is as good as a mall experience gets and is visually stunning.  Look for escalators and giant suitcases in the three story Prada store, neons at Balenciaga, and crystal horses at Stella McCartney.  Can’t miss the lattice wooden tree house in the middle of it all.

My absolute favorite find was the Assouline store.  Worth a trip people!  In addition to their gorgeous titles, they will custom design your library for you and even deck it out with their custom furniture.  Go just to take it all in.  Gorgeous!

I was excited to see our bags in the Utique machine at the Cosmopolitan.  I love this chic new way to shop!  Worth checking out if you haven’t seen the future of vending.

Fun Fact:   cabbies in Vegas are always full of information about the latest news on the Strip.  Mine told me about the ‘death ring’ at the pool at Vdara.  Not exactly the kind of info I was looking for, but apparently at a certain point during the day, the sun hits all these reflective surfaces and really heats up their pool scene.  Guessing SPF 100+ is a must.

PACK

Looking for style inspiration for your Vegas vacation?  Check out my Destination:  Vegas collection on ThisNext.com for some fab fashion finds!

 

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