We ♥ Hong Kong
This mega-metropolis is not for the faint of heart. It's got an electrifying vibe, an impressive shopping scene and forward-thinking restaurants turning out some of the most creative dishes in Asia. Oh, and the dim sum is out of this world.
Ride the MTR (subway) out to Tung Chung, on Lantau Island, and board the cable car — you can skip the line by booking a private cabin — for the 25-minute panoramic ascent to Ngong Ping. This lofty plateau is home to Po Lin Monastery, the 112-foot-tall Tian Tan Buddha statue and a charming village. From here it’s a gentle and mostly deserted stroll down the lightly wooded hillside to Shek Pik Reservoir; grab a taxi and make your way to The Stoep for lunch. The low-key beachside restaurant has a South African/Mediterranean menu, with sensational barbecued chicken. The route back is via slow ferry from nearby Mui Wo. Make sure to get a seat on the deck for the 50-minute maritime odyssey, which is also a mini–sightseeing trip, as the vessel threads its way past outlying islands to Skyscraper Central. Your home base, the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, is a 10-minute walk from the pier. Tucked into the upmarket Landmark Mall, it’s a chic metropolitan retreat with just 113 guestrooms and an ultra-contemporary vibe designed by Adam Tihany. For dinner, stay in and dine at Landmark’s French-inspired restaurant, Amber. The 12-seater private Wine Room (Frette linens, Bernardaud china, Christofle stemware) is ideal for large groups. Not ready for bed yet? Head to the MO Bar for a nightcap; the buzzy spot recently put out its own CD, featuring Alicia Keys, John Legend and other artists who have stayed at the hotel.
Hong Kong is known for its high-end shopping, and the retail romp starts right by the hotel’s back door. The Landmark mall sells Hong Kong superstars such as Vivienne Tam as well as designer labels from overseas including Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani. This mall has more than 200 stores, and many more can be found in the IFC mall, a five-minute walk away. For upscale Chinese fashions, don’t miss nearby Shanghai Tang .There’s nothing like shopping for sharpening the appetite, as more than a few of Celebrity Cuisine’s patrons will tell you. Housed in the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant turns out elevated Cantonese fare (make sure to book in advance).
Head back to the Landmark in the afternoon for a deliciously indulgent spa session; the facilities include an indoor pool, a Turkish hammam, a Moroccan rasul and a Roman laconium. Come evening, hit nearby SoHo, a thriving dining and entertainment zone. There’s no shortage of authentic restaurants and bars lining the maze of narrow streets. A favorite: the Monogamous Chinese, which specializes in Pekingese and Sichuan dishes. More adventurous types should try one of Hong Kong’s private kitchens, such as Fa Zu Jie, where an East-treats-West menu comes to life in dishes like organic Australian quail cooked in Chinese wine with Japanese sanuki noodles.
The quintessential breakfast in this part of the world is dim sum — piping hot dumplings and pastries — and few joints are classier than Luk Yu, a retro-style spot with decor and furnishings that could have been lifted from a 1950s movie. Most of the staff sports a chunky Rolex or similar bling, the result of hefty tips from wealthy regulars. Sunday is traditionally the day Hong Kongers hit the water, whether aboard a yacht, a converted fishing junk or a glitzy powerboat. LazyDays is a cool 60-foot motor cruiser equipped with everything from a Bose sound system to amphibious loungers. The chef will lay out a full meal (say, chili and lime king prawns or vegetarian lasagna) along with wine and beer. Also onboard: a manicurist, a massage therapist and a wakesurfing coach. You’ll dock by early evening, then wander over to Isola, a hip Italian restaurant overlooking the harbor. The stone-baked pizzas are the draw here, and it’s also one of the best spots to catch the nightly Symphony of Lights at 8 p.m.