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I’ve written about HK before (here and here), but each time I go I manage to discover something new. Sorry, but I won’t stay anywhere other than the Upper House, so you will have to be satisfied knowing that it still is simply the best hotel experience ever. This time I arrived after a 16 hour flight feeling a bit queasy and maybe a bit blue (feeling far away from my daughter). When I arrived at the hotel they told me they heard I was not feeling well (my driver had called ahead) and even though my upgraded room wasn’t ready yet, they wanted to get me into a room immediately so I could rest. Rather than the extra large room I usually take overlooking the Harbour, they temporarily housed me in a large room overlooking the velvet green mountains of the peak. I felt so cozy and happy that I recovered rapidly and decided not to change rooms. Arriving at the Upper House is like arriving home to a family that has missed you. Hand written notes and gifts wrapped in ribbon from the staff are a special touch. Bliss!

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It’s hard not to return to favorite restaurants but Hong Kong always has something new and delicious to try so I make sure to include the best recommendations. On my first night I didn’t want to travel far from the hotel as I was easing my way back into life at ground level, so I tried The Continental in Admiralty. Loved the atmosphere and my perfect sirloin. My favorite meal was a toss up between Chom Chom and Chachawan. I loved the relaxed local street vibe of both and had seriously delicious and inventive food at both. The owner at Chom Chom recommended several dishes that were all perfect, including Vietnamese fried chicken and  grilled corn. At Chachawan, I watched the 26 year old chef prepare their specialty Som Dtum Goong right in front of me. It is a papaya salad dish with tomatoes, chili, prawns or pork and it was five alarm spicy and crazy good.

Hard to believe I have never walked the ‘women’s market’ or the ‘goldfish market’ before. Expect copies of handbags from Chanel, Mulberry and Issey Miyake, as well as hundreds of iPhone cases (including a copy of the Moschino Golden Arches red and gold case), miniature wind up toys, silk dresses, backpacks, hair barrettes, and games like Mahjong. I loved walking the goldfish market and was maybe a little freaked out to see a giant box of very loud crickets as food for some of the fish. I would tell you which fish but my Chinese is limited (AKA nonexistent) and I would show you photos of some of the most unusual fish and sea creatures I’ve ever seen but alas no pics allowed. You will have to go and see for yourself.

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No trip to Hong Kong is complete for me without a trip on the Star Ferry. I love the wood benches and old school vibe as much as the breeze on my face. It’s a relaxed way to visit the other side or see the Harbour lights at night. The Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a giant ferris wheel with individual enclosed gondolas, seems to have just opened offering sweeping views of Central and Kowloon, but I missed it. And I’m afraid of heights, so someone will have to report back on their experience in the comments.

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This week SJ’s Style Compass is launching the first of a new series called Travel Chic.  For our inaugural post I thought I’d share some of my personal travel tips, loves, and must-have items that help me travel well.  With Travel Chic, I’ll be profiling tastemakers, arbiters of style and famous globetrotters alike and asking them to offer insight into their unique travel style (as well as a peek inside their designer suitcases!).  I hope you enjoy, and as always, travel chic!

Chic traveler:  Stephanie Johnson

Occupation:  Designer and Founder of Stephanie Johnson Cosmetic Bags

Hometown:  Recent New York City transplant (by way of Venice Beach)

How do you pack for a trip?  I’m a list maker but usually for the ‘accessories’ of travel like passport, camera, hat, bathing suit, my favorite Theodora & Callum scarf, etc.  I lay outfits on my bed and place them in the suitcase by order of importance.  If the case is full, anything left lying on the bed stays behind.

Checked bag or carry-on?  I’m going to carry-on 90% of the time unless I’m packing for a ski trip or two weeks abroad.  I like having the flexibility and I’m not a fan of waiting 30 minutes for my bag at baggage claim.

What’s always inside your carry-on?  These days I’m never without my iPad and SJ iPad Case.  It’s sort of genius to tuck my iPhone, power cord, pen, and a credit card into the case and slip it into the seat back pocket.  That way everything is handy if I need to fill out an immigration form, or pay for a snack.

Aisle or window?  After decades of aisle flying I am now all about the window.  I like being tucked inside away from the commotion of the aisle, and it’s not bad having control of the window shade either.

What’s on your plane playlist?  Absolutely nothing!  I’m more likely to tuck into a book or a stack of magazines.

What’s the Stephanie Johnson bag (or bags) that always make the trip?  If it’s a longer trip (requiring check-in), I wouldn’t be caught without my Jenny Train Case.  Lunchbox style, it fits all my toiletries and make up and has a clear pocket where I put cotton balls, q-tips, band aids and the like.  I’m currently using a Jenny from the Riviera Maya collection.

Any tips for making your hotel feel more like home?  As soon as I get to my destination I hang dresses and stack clothes on another bed or desk.  I like to see my stuff and I rarely use drawers when I travel.  I set up my SJ bags in the bathroom and place my iPad and any books next to my bedside.

Favorite travel ritual or souvenir?  If I happen upon a Christmas ornament that is locally made I will buy it.  I also like locally crafted musical instruments that are indigenous to a culture.

What’s your dream destination?  African Safari, hands down.  What could be more beautiful or inspiring?

What’s your favorite SJ piece to give as gift?  I’ve been giving a trio of SJ pouches wrapped in a bow.  These are perfect for stowing your make-up, power cords, receipts, international currency, and the large pouch doubles as a clutch.

On your reading list?  I’m between books and desperate for something new!  I finished the Steve Jobs bio and am considering The Hunger Games trilogy.  Please comment with your suggestions for a summer reading list!

Next destination?  I’m keeping my summer pretty local and don’t have anything too exotic on the books.  I’m heading to Fisher’s Island for a quiet weekend with friends, which sounds pretty perfect to me.  July will bring a Palm Beach wedding celebration and two weeks of biking and hiking in the Rockies.

 

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