Posts Tagged: Hong Kong


23
Jul 12

Flying Finnair

I like Finnair, they do stuff like this…

Finnair Flash Mob

and this…

Surprise dance on Finnair flight

So when they invited me to fly with them on my recent trip to Hong Kong, I jumped at the chance.

Despite the fact that I’ve clocked up millions of miles around the world, as an avid traveller and in my previous career as cabin crew, I had never actually flown on Finnair. I had heard lots of good things about them though; a modern fleet, friendly crew and a super chic lounge in Helsinki but the real clincher for me was the regional airport routes that they offer. I live in Manchester, an airport which doesn’t offer any direct flights to Hong Kong, which means the minimum twelve-hour trek is usually increased by at least three or four long, aircraft-bound hours – hours that could be better sleeping horizontally beforehand or saying hello to Hong Kong from a rooftop bar. Add on the time to check-in, plus the time hanging around during airport transfers and before you know it, you’re looking at a twenty-hour travail. Finnair’s service though operates from Manchester via Helsinki which means no annoying off-route stopovers and an air-punch inducing travelling time of only fourteen hours or so.

The Super-cool Finnair Lounge at Helsinki

From start to finish the service was smooth. Following an easy three-hour skip up to Helsinki, I was afforded an hour in the trendy Finnair Lounge before the onward sector to Hong Kong.

Finnair’s designer lounge with round-the-clock bar and buffet

Once onboard the crew were smiley and efficient, taking time to chat without being eager-beaver in your face friendly. I liked the fact that half of the flight attendants were from Hong Kong – before we had even taken off I heard of an amazing manicurist in Kowloon from one of the girls. Nice. The cabin interiors of the A330 were bright and modern, the seats were as comfy as they come in economy with a reasonable amount of legroom – I was happy, it was certainly a more comfortable choice than some other economy classes I have flown (I’m looking at you American Airlines). Food-wise, it could have been a little bit more exciting. The same goes for the in-flight entertainment movie selection but the zippy nine-hour flight time and lovely service more than made up for any of that.

On the way home, I found myself in the fortunate position of being bumped to Finnair’s award-winning business class – yay! for once the upgrade fairy answered my wish! It was star treatment all the way with sprawling lie(almost)flat beds giving 63 inches of luxurious legroom, silver service meal times brimming with delicious dishes and superb wines, and, once again, an attentive and intuitive crew.

So, would I recommend Finnair? Yes, most definitely. It’s a good solid option with many winning qualities, particularly when it comes to flying from airports outside of London. Helsinki airport is a dream to transfer through,  I slept for a record-breaking seven hours on both sectors (OK I took a sleeping tablet but still…) and my entire journey went without a single hitch (including a date change when I extended my trip). An excellent service all round and one that I look forward to experiencing again.

GO THERE: 

Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong. 

The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:

Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00

London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00 

For more information call  0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China.  Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. 

Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.


2
Jul 12

15 Reasons to Visit Hong Kong

Courtesy of the HKTB

I’m sticking with Hong Kong this week, not only because I LOVE it but also because the 1st of July 2012 sees the fifteenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule. To mark the occasion, I’m giving you 15 reasons to visit one of the world’s most exciting destinations.

ATTRACTIONS

FIREWORKS 

The Chinese invented fireworks and they still know how to do it best. Every year, tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars are spent on elaborate exhibitions, usually lasting over 20 minutes with laser lights and music thrown in for added effect. Time your trip right and you can join the half a million people oohing and “waaah-ing “on the waterfront. Four big events include  New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, the 1st of July anniversary of the handover and 1st of October National Day celebrations.

VICTORIA PEAK

This should always be at the top of everyone’s HK visit list. Affectionately know as The Peak, it is the island’s most famous tourist attraction and one that is loved as much by the locals as it is by the millions of visitors it receives each year. Yes, the Peak Tram will be crammed, the cafes will be packed and you’ll have to politely line-up to get that postcard-perfect picture but my goodness, it’s worth it.

@Lee_Cobaj

OCEAN PARK

Hong Kong’s much-loved old theme park has recently undergone a massive refurbishment and is now firmly back where it should be as one if the island’s top visitor attractions. Cascading across the Aberdeen hillside, Ocean Park is split into two levels; the “lowland” with animal attractions like aviaries, animal enclosures, an aquarium and, the stars of the show, two pairs of adorable Pandas and the “headland” which takes in a marine show and a series of high-octane thrill rides. Both sections are connected by a cable car that bobs up and around the rocky shore and affords amazing views of the south side of the island. Don’t miss it!

The view from the Ocean Park cable cars

HARBOUR LIFE

Most visitors to Hong Kong take a trip on the Star Ferry, and that’s great, you should definitely do that, but there are some other options for a fun float about Victoria Harbour. One of my favourites is the 45 minute glide on the glamorous Chinese junk Aqua Luna. With its three traditional red sails lit up in the evening and a chic bar installed for dispensing cocktails, there can’t be many better ways to soak up that exquisite skyline.

Aqua Luna

GO GREEN

People are always surprised when I tell them that more than 70% of Hong Kong is undeveloped  and not only that, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are large areas of rolling mountains, wildlife-packed wetlands and miles of unspoiled coastline. Not to mention the gentle little outlying islands like Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau, which offer a more traditional slant on this shiny big city.

ACCOMMODATION

DESIGN HOTELS

Hong Kong has a long and strong reputation for being at the forefront of new developments in design, architecture and technology so it’s no surprise that this applies to its hotels too. In the last couple of years, new arrivals like The Upper House and it’s hip business-orientated baby sister, East, with their apparently effortlessly cool ethos, sublime service and achingly chic decor, have thoroughly shaken-up Hong Kong’s hotel scene. While Hong Kong’s latest design darling, the Hotel Icon, has shot to the top spot on TripAdvisor’s highly-competitive Hong Kong hotel listings.

There’s a dinosaur in my room! Not the kind of thing you say every day. At the East Hotel

THE WORLD’S HIGHEST HOTEL

The Ritz-Carlton, at the top of the International Commerce Centre, claimed the title of world’s highest hotel when it opened last year. As you might expect from a hotel slotted between floors 102nd – 118th floors, the views are spectacular but it’s a dazzler in every sense; the design is opulent and up-to-the-minute, the bars and restaurants are stellar and the service outstanding. If you can’t stretch to a stay, you should at least stop by for a visit to the ESPA spa or rooftop bar, Ozone.

CITY SPAS

There’s no doubt about it, some of the world’s best spas can be found in Hong Kong. The city’s denizens are quite simply obsessed with health and beauty which means the standards are incredibly high and the choice mind-boggling. The most luxurious spas, however, are generally to be found at Hong Kong’s most luxurious hotels. My most memorable experiences have included the Oriental Essence massage at the Mandarin Oriental, a Bamboo massage at the Angasana, an age-defying Carita facial at the Plateau Spa, the Chakra Balancing experience at The Peninsula and a 90-minute Thai massage in the Crystal suite at the Four Seasons which reduced me to a Nirvana-like state of bliss (My, I’m spoiled!).

The couples suite at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hong Kong is well-worth a splurge

COOL HOTEL SWIMMING POOLS

So, I’ve already mentioned the pretty amazing rooftop pool at the Ritz-Carlton but Hong Kong has plenty more cool hotel pools to choose from. Making the biggest splash in the city is the lagoon-like offering with waterfalls and split-level sun decks at the Grand Hyatt. While on the other side of the harbour, many a memory card (mine included) has been empty with shots of the Intercontinental’s trinity of infinity pools. The Hotel Icon scores major points with its space-age-y outdoor swimming space. The Peninsula boasts a supremely decadent Roman-inspired pool, the Four Seasons a chic, ultra-exclusive harbour-side swimming deck and for a Vegas-style pool party check out “WET”, the 76th floor pool at the W.

The spa infinity pools at the Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong

SUNDAY BRUNCH BUFFETS

In a city that likes to eat, and eat well,  hotel buffets are big business. As far as Hong Kongers are concerned there are few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than ploughing through course after course of exquisitely prepared food. Most hotels offer buffets in one form or another, take a waterside seat at the Harbourside at the Intercontinental, pull up at the poolside for a barbecue buffet at The Grill at the Grand Hyatt or pop on your best frock for lunch amid the palm trees at the Verandah at The Peninsula.

PERSONAL FAVOURITES

ROOFTOP BARS

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve probably cottoned on to the fact that I like the occasional rainbow-coloured cocktail (or two) and where better to kick-back and enjoy than on a rooftop terrace with some killer city views. Hong Kong stand-outs include Sevva, Armani Prive, La Terrazza at Lupa, Sugar at the East Hotel, The Lawn at the Upper House, Wooloomooloo and Ozone – one for every night of the week.

One of my all-time favourite rooftop bars: SEVVA, Hong Kong

DIM SUM

There are few things in life that make me happier than tucking into some really good dim sum. I love to try new places when I’m in town and this trip’s finds include some seriously good Har Gau (prawn dumplings) at the off-the-tourist-radar Chung’s at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing, the tastiest, juiciest, most delicious Char Sui (barbecue pork) at Tin Lung Heen on the 102nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton, delicate turnip pastries at Man Wah and succulent Shui Mai (pork and prawn dumplings) at Yan Toh Heen. And a long-time favourite that’s always worth a visit is the aptly-named Dim Sum in Happy Valley – home of the best crispy pork belly in town.

LINGUINE FINI

I tried lots of great new restaurants while I was out in Hong Kong but one that really stood out was the bodacious little Linguini Fini.

Linguini Fini

There are so many things to like about this place it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, this New York-Italian-style eatery has got a cracking location at the top of Central – an ideal jumping off point for a night on the town. The decor is utilitarian-chic with street art covering the walls, the staff are friendly and stay on the right side of cool and, surprisingly for Hong Kong, there’s no annoying service charge added. Billed as an “authentic” Italian restaurant, it really does live up to this title (where so many else fail) with specialities that include “nose-to-tail” cuisine (using the whole of the animal) and just-like-mama-makes home-made pastas. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET

I never miss a trip to Temple Street when I’m in Hong Kong. Cutting its way through central Kowloon, it has the colourful, crazy, ghetto-tastic Chinatown feel so often portrayed in the movies. Under the strings of bear lightbulbs, hawkers sell everything from Mao Clocks to counterfeit handbags to oil paintings and underpants. Dai Pai Dongs (outdoor food stalls) rustle up tasty street food, off-duty Opera troupes occasionally wander by, while fortune tellers tout to tell you your future. The best bargains are to be had early in the evening when the market opens (it’s considered good luck to make that first sale) and when it raining (for obvious reasons).

SHANGHAI TANG

Every time I’m in Hong Kong I take it trip to Pedder Street for some aspirational window shopping at Shanghai Tang. However, this year I was dismayed to find that the flagship store had been ousted from its most-glamorous of locations by a (yawn) Abercrombie and Fitch. Thankfully though Shanghai Tang has found a gorgeous new three-storey home just a stone’s throw away on Duddel Street. As before, you can smell the heady scent of its signature ginger lily fragrance long before you arrive, while inside it’s a design-lovers dream brimming with beautiful ready-to-wear pieces and sino-chic homewares.

 

 

 

 

 

GO THERE: 

Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong. 

The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:

Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00

London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00 

For more information call 0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China.  Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.


19
Jun 12

Best Hong Kong Hotels for Celeb-spotting

If you’ve ever read my bio you’ll know that if there is one place in the world that I love above and beyond all others, that place is Hong Kong. I grew up on this spectacular little island and spent much of my childhood skipping between school and the pool,  spending my pocket money in street markets and occasionally celeb-spotting – my most memorable being a city-wide search for Madonna while she was in town filming of Shanghai Surprise.

Hong Kong Harbour @Lee_Cobaj

Well, it seems twenty-odd years on I’m still doing the same, only this time I’m flitting between spas and rooftop pools, splashing my hard-earned cash (still mainly at the street markets) while searching the city’s haute spots for the latest celebrity sightings. And try as they might to hide behind oversized sunnies and burly bodyguards, celebrities are often spotted leaving their lavish hotels. Along with the legendary Mandarin Oriental (which I’ve featured previously) and the iconic Peninsula (which I will no doubt feature at some point) here’s a handful of other great Hong Kong hotel’s for star-spotting:

THE UPPER HOUSE

It’s been A-list all since the Upper House hit the Hong Kong hotel scene in late 2009. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow stayed here while filming her scenes for Contagion and loved the Upper House so much she recommended it on her everything’s-lovely lifestyle blog Goop. I have to agree with her choice, this chic city-centre hotel is swoon-worthy at it every turn. The design is both subtle and sensational with chic minimalist interiors made up of great swathes of Italian limestone, bamboo panelling and stunning sculptures. The rooms are HUGE by Hong Kong standards and all come with show-stopping spa-bathrooms overlooking the city or harbour, ultra-luxe modernist furnishings and a truly incredible range of amenities – think an entire range of REN goodies including eye-cream and night cream, as well as yoga mats, iPod Touches….the list goes on. Along with a spectacular Michelin award winning restaurant (be warned, you’ll need to book well in advance) it’s clear to see that the Upper House will be providing all-star service to the rich and famous for a long time to come.

Cool woods, cashmere soft carpets, one-off sculptures and a corner view to die for. I want to live here. Forever.

Just look at this bathroom. Amazing. And did you spot the REN Rose Otto bath oil on the side? There’s also a monsoon shower and celeb-style dressing room out of shot.

The Upper House Atrium with the most dizzyingly beautiful art installation by Japanese artist Hirotoshi Sawada

The stunning sky-walkway to Cafe Gray Deluxe – Gwyneth’s order of a club sarnie doesn’t do the Michelin award winning menu justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG

The Ritz-Carlton is another new kid on the celebrity-hotel block and has become something of a superstar itself, having achieved the lofty title of the World’s Highest Hotel. So it comes as no surprise then that a hotel of this stature would have equally amazing guests to match. Lady Gaga chose the Ritz as her hangout of choice when she was recently in Hong Kong – in fact I seem to be inadvertently  stalking her at the moment, having followed in her footsteps via the The Dorchester, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver and The Setai. Anyway, the lady has clearly got great taste in hotels and the Ritz-Carlton is no exception. There is so much more to it than its record-breaking status suggests: cutting-edge contemporary décor meets unadulterated luxury, sublimely good service and some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. I had read a previous review of the hotel which suggested the hotel’s stratospheric  positioning made Hong Kong feel distant and dislocated. But for me it had entirely the opposite effect; Hong Kong had never looked more beautiful, more jewel-like and lovely. The cityscape meandered across the South China Sea, as the Kowloon West harbour bustled below while the mountains lazed in the haze. I just wanted to put my arms around it and tell it how much I loved it. Sigh.

The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. The world’s highest hotel soaring between the 102nd and 118th floors. One for everyone’s Bucket List!

There’s no doubt Lady Gaga would have checked herself into the best room in the house, the Ritz-Carlton Presidential Suite. Taking up the nearly the entire 117th floor, this heart-stopping haven features swathes of crystal chandeliers, walls inlaid with mother-of-pearl and this incredible bathroom.

The World’s Highest Swimming Pool on the 118th Floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Quite possible the coolest pool in the world.

 

THE FOUR SEASONS

This is where Victoria Beckham chose to stay on her recent trip to Hong Kong. And how do I know this? Because when I popped along for a visit, I noticed an uncanny resemblance between the view I was seeing and the one that VB recently tweeted! See for yourself in the pics below.

The Four Seasons is of course renowned as one of the best hotels in the city. Located front and centre of Hong Kong harbour it too offers spectacular views of the harbour and city. The design is much more contemporary than you might expect from the suave Four Seasons brand with a MOMA-like lobby, high-ceilinged super-chic restaurants and large, luminous, ultra-luxurious spa. I didn’t get the chance to stay over (this time) but I did stop by for a splendid Thai massage in a suite overlooking the Star Ferry terminal – heaven – and very special dinner at the extraordinary Caprice – think posh frocks, a ballet-like service and food that tastes even more divine than it looks. Highly regarded by Hong Kong hotshots there’s no doubt that the Four Seasons will be staying on the celebrity circuit for the foreseeable future.

The Fabulous Four Seasons Hong Kong

 

“LOVE Hong Kong!!! Check this view out!!! X VB”

And check out this view! Pretty much the same as Victoria’s. Definitely the fabulous Four Seasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caprice is another great place for celeb-spotting, also mentioned by Gwyneth Paltrow in her Goop blog and said to be a favourite of Nicole Kidman’s too. A Hong Kong must do.

 

THE LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL

Even though VB chose the Four Seasons on this occasion, the sleek and tres chic Landmark Mandarin Oriental is the usual crash-pad for the fashion pack. Stella McCartney and Georgia Armani are both known bedded down between its 400-thread-count sheets – although not together of course – while models, muses, buyers and bigwigs fill the tables at O Bar and Amber. Sitting pretty, slap-bang in the middle of the city the Landmark’s main draw is its high-design concept and easy access to all the essential A-list shopping Hong Kong has to offer – Harvey Nichol’s is next door and every big name luxury brand from Bulgari to Vuitton are just a (precious) stones throw away. Inside, the hotel is intimate and self-assured. Rooms are spacious and stylish with the likes of shamelessly-decadent soaking tubs and three (!) plasma TVs. With no time to spare, all I could manage was  a quick tour and an exquisite lunch at Amber – the only HK hotel to make it onto the S.Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the world list – but that little taste was enough to have me longing for more.

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s L900 Suite with its catwalk-like corridor is the preferred choice for the fashion set

L900 Suite Bathroom – another swoon-worthy Hong Kong Hotel tub

 

Have you spotted any celebrities in Hong Kong? Stayed at any of these A-list hotels? I’d love to hear your comments!

 

GO THERE: 

Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong. 

The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:

Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00

London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00 

For more information call 0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China.  Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. 

Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.

 

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