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IMG_6885My whirlwind visit to Hong Kong while very short was packed with great food, culture and shopping. This was my first visit to Hong Kong and before I left I had heard so many times what a great shopping city it was.  What I learned is that it is so much more then that. I flew in on Cathay Pacific airlines on business class which was very comfortable and the service wonderful. We spent some time in the BA lounge at JFK and it was a great place to recharge and relax before the flight. Our flight departed at 1:00 AM so right after a light meal I went to sleep. Flat beds to Asia is the way go! I watched a couple movies after getting some rest and we were served a full breakfast. An insider at Cathay Pacific shared with me that their signature drink is the Pacific Sunrise but you have to ask for it.

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I arrived in Hong Kong at 5:00 AM and went to the Cathay arrival lounge to take a shower and get ready for a full day.  Our first stop for our day was a little fishing village called Lama on Lantau Island. We passed a little market with every king of dried fish.

Interesting fact: they dry fish stomach and use in soups to thicken it up.

I had to say it looks pretty unsavory to me but that is their tradition. The homes on the waterway are mostly very old but still have electricity and plumbing! We visited the Tai O Heritage Hotel and had tea. This colonial- style hotel, overlooking the South China Sea, is an old jail converted into hotel only a few years ago.

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We took a coach to the giant Buddha which was also built not too long ago. This extremely large Buddha was quite a site and the story our guide told us as we walked around the small museum brought it to life. Having a good guide makes all of the difference. Angela was very captivating and at times very funny. There was a gate at the bottom of the stairs where you are supposed to leave behind all of your troubles as you pass through. This must have worked because the time spent away from my two small kids was not as hard as I thought it would be. We took the tram back down and purchased the cars with the glass bottom. I thought it was great although there were a few members of my group very afraid of heights. The lush greenery was not natural, we were told these trees we’re planted by school kids.

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By the afternoon we were ready for our first food tour! We went to Sham Shui Po, an old Kowloon district,  a very poor area of Hong Kong lined with street vendors. You won’t find as many tourists there at all. We walked the market with our guide Angela and she had us sampling many different local snacks. My favorite was the coconut pudding wrapped in a leaf. I also loved the fried donuts with sesame and chocolate filling. We had fish balls in a spicy curry, noodle dish with spam and eggs and some others in-between.

Satisfied and exhausted we finally arrived at the Peninsula to check in. I was escorted to my Deluxe city view Room in the new tower. The hotel was fabulous. I loved the modern aesthetic  and the rich comfortable furnishing. The technology was very easy to navigate, they even had everything loaded on an ipad. The bed was one of the most comfortable I have slept in and the bathroom quite impressive.  I did not go to sleep and instead went for a walk to some nearby shopping areas.  That night I had scheduled a massage and stayed up for that and went right to bed.

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Virtuoso Amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

The highlight of our day was a visit to the Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill. Built in 1930 this nunnery was built according to the principles of the Tang Buddhist architecture.  It was really quite impressive down to the smallest of details. As I took pictures of the gardens I thought of my husband who would be very interested in the plants, sculptures and ponds. We had lunch at the Naan Yuen Garden which was a vegetarian delight.  Desert served was a longevity Peach Bun typically had after dinner or for birthdays.  The meaning of the dish is good luck and peace.

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Dinner at the China Club Hong Kong was a sure highlight of our trip! The Club is Hong Kong’s most exclusive private members club. Owned by two wealthy Hong Kong entrepreneurs, the China Club is a showcase for Chinese culture old and new. The artwork and people watching was quite impressive.  We were put in a private room and served what seemed to be endless courses of dim sum. The food surely did not disappoint.  After dinner we took in the views on the rooftop of the China Club.

Breakfast buffet at the Peninsula has everything you could possibly want and more! After fueling up for the day we started out our morning with a tour of the New Territories. Mr. Nevin Lim was our extremely knowledgeable guide who stayed with us for the whole day.  What we saw today was extreme contrast between two very different cultures. First stop was at the Sam Tung Uk Hakka Walled Village – an 18th century walled village built in 1786 by the Chan Clan, Sam Tung Uk means “three beam dwelling”, as originally three rows of houses were erected with supporting beams called “Tang”. The Hakka people were hardworking and we really got a good look into the way they lived. Our next stop was the Tai Fu Mansion built in 1865. Tai Fu Tai is a richly embellished residence complete contrast from how the Hakka people lived. The building is elegantly decorated with fine monochrome and polychrome plaster moldings, woodcarvings, and murals of auspicious Chinese motifs and pictures. We were surprised at the end when our guide showed up in full dress!

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Lunch today was a very traditional dim sum and one of my favorite meals.  We started our meal with a cooking demo where the chef came out and taught us how he made the fried rice. He included a spice called zeodary powder, Chinese wine, and corn starch. We all took careful notes hoping to replicate when we got home. Of the dishes one of my favorites was pinnacle BBQ buns filled with BBQ pork and topped with a sugar flour mix. We tried bean curd sheet and vegetables, rice noodles with beef and black bean sauce, salt baked chicken, steamed BBQ pork bun, and sui mai with scallop on top.  Desert was an interesting dish called Yung Gee Gan Kan Lo. It was made with coconut milk, mango, and pomelo.  The pomelo reminded me of my year in Israel when we ate those all the time!

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In the afternoon we were in for a real treat!  We went to Tai Pan Reflexology Beauty & Foot Spa where I had the best hour long food massage of my life! They gave me an eye mask and heated neck pillow, and 10 min in I was half asleep in a state of pure relaxation.  The spa was a short distance from the hotel so we walked back in time to get ready for dinner.  Our dinner was a nice surprise ending to our trip a Virtuoso Culinary Journey.  We had each course of our dinner in a different restaurant in the Peninsula.  It was quite an elaborate event and everything was outstanding.

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As I sat in the departure lounge Cathay Pacific I wished I had left earlier for the airport just to take advantage of the lounge!  They had a noodle dish that I was told I just had to try at the noodle bar and even though it was only 9:00 am I had some.  I flew home in premium economy which was not quite business class but still an upgrade from economy.  I would recommend splurging on premium economy if traveling on a budget.  The seats were slightly larger with more of a recline, and they had an upgraded menu for meal service.

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My only regret was not staying longer!