A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Hong Kong for the first time with my sister Karen. We haven’t traveled alone together in years and with her first baby soon to be on the way, I couldn’t think of a better way for us to spend some quality one on one time before life takes her by storm. So with Hong Kong Airlines and Kerry Hotel as our gracious hosts, we pounded the pavement terribly jetlagged yet eagerly ready to explore nearly every nook and cranny that 5 days would allow. I must say, I instantly fell in love with Hong Kong – it’s a true study of contrasts and contradictions, with its wonderfully blatant juxtaposition of traditional and modern, East and West, and city life and nature. This is just a taste of what we loved . . .

GETTING THERE with Hong Kong Airlines: As of March 2018, Hong Kong Airlines started offering weekly non stop flights from Hong Kong to San Francisco on their brand-new Airbus A350-900. And guess who was on the plane’s maiden voyage from SFO to HKG? Me! I was lucky enough to be the first to experience their newly updated and luxurious business class. And to make things indulgent, the airline has collaborated with San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino (who was also on the flight!) to customize a extensive menu that takes in-flight dining to another level. On long haul flights like these, the smallest details make the world of difference and Hong Kong Airlines nailed it.

STAY at the Kerry Hotel: After a 14 hour flight, we were whisked away to our home away from home for the week: Shangri La‘s Kerry Hotel. The 16 story urban resort is set on Kwoloon’s Hung Hom Bay and takes full advantage of its waterfront location, with impeccably designed guest rooms, stunning infinity pool, five restaurants and one gorgeous outdoor terrace bar – all with exceptional and sprawling views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island’s skyline.

My best part of the hotel for me was The Club on the 8th floor, hands down. It’s a private lounge that certain guests are granted access too – it’s where you can check in and out, have breakfast, work on your laptop, read a book or simply retreat from the hum of the hotel for a snack and beverage. It was my favorite place to have breakfast each morning, either after a sunrise dip in the pool or a workout at the 24 hour gym, and peacefully watch the boats go by in the harbour.

TOUR Victoria harbor by boat: Victoria Harbour is Hong Kong’s lifeline with its constant parade of junk boats, shipping vessels and sailboats. A tour by boat is a must! Daytime boat rides allow for plenty of sun, views into one of the oldest fishing villages on the coast of Lantau Island, where houses are still standing on stilts. Nighttime boat rides. Night cruises are all about witnessing the magnificent Hong Kong skyline lit up in a spectrum of bright colors.

SHOP until you drop: The best way to shop in Hong Kong is to just to explore on foot. The MTR is the best way to get from place to place – there’s stop right outside the Kerry Hotel and a train that takes you everywhere you need to go within minutes. The public transit system is clean and efficient – I’m a huge fan! SoHo was one of my favorite neighborhoods to walk around. I recommend taking the Mid-Level Escalator from Central, which is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world that conveniently takes you up the steep hillside districts of downtown Hong Kong. Ride the escalator to the top of SoHo and work your way down. Stumble upon amazing antique stores along Hollywood Road, cute cafes on Gough Street and street art on Graham Street.

VISIT all the temples and markets: Two of the oldest, most beautiful temples in Hong Kong are Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road and Kwun Yum Temple in Kwoloon’s Hung Hom. Both were built in 1847 and 1873 respectively. Hung from the carved gable roofs are enormous coils of burning incense with little red pieces of paper with worshippers’ wishes. They’re both truly spiritually breathtaking and a must visit.

Hong Kong’s street market culture is like nothing I’ve seen before. Turn any corner and you’ll come across a bustling market – whether it be fruits and vegetables, meat, birds, flowers, Chinese herbs or souvenirs. It’s the best way to get a feel of the culture. My favorite was the Bird Garden, a popular gathering place for songbird enthusiasts and shops selling exotic birds and beautiful handmade cages. Old gentlemen congregate with their pet birds and let them sing from trees. It’s quite a sight!

RELAX poolside at the Kerry Hotel: Besides The Club at the Kerry Hotel, I would say the second best place to unwind midday – or rather, pass out from jetlag, is at the pool. Just look at that view. Enough said.

EAT everything and everywhere: And now – drumroll please – the food. Hong Kong is justifiably famous for its restaurants and cuisine. Noodles, dim sum, coffee, seafood, Peking duck . . . it’s all done to perfection here. And then some. For out of this world dim sum, I recommend Mott 32 and Hung Tong. Mott 32 was named after New York’s first Chinese grocery store at 32 Mott Street, which opened in 1851 and marked the start of New York’s vibrant Chinatown as we know it today. The interior details are spectacular and the dim sum is fantastic. The Peking duck here is phenomenal – just be sure to order it at least a few days ahead of your reservation as there are limited quantities!

Kerry Hotel’s Hung Tong was another favorite. Traditional decor, like old metal gates 19th century shipyard inspired wooden shutters are contrasted with modern fixtures and furniture. And the dim sum is simply spectacular. You can’t miss the fried tofu bites, the Wagyu beef buns and the goose and mushroom puffs, which are so adorably shaped into little bite sized geese. So good.

Red Sugar is the spot to grab cocktails before sunset. The 270 degree wrap around terrace is like an urban oasis, with beautiful trees and plants enveloping the space. Enjoy a drink outdoors while watching the sun set over the Hong Kong skyline and the lights slowly turn on.

If you’re looking for an wild dining experience, go to Tung Po. This typical “dai dai pong,” a type of open-air food stall, is actually unique of its kind, thanks in part to its gregarious owner Robby Cheung. While dining on the freshest seafood from the “wet market” downstairs and sipping beer from porcelain bowls, you’ll find Robby popping beer bottles open with a chopstick, doing the moonwalk to Michael Jackson and talking selfies with you at your table. Every night this place is packed, it’s loud and it’s just a fun, fun time.

Pinkies up. It’s tea time! We didn’t have too much time set aside from afternoon tea but on our last day, Karen and I managed to squeeze in an hour to rest our feet and indulge in Kerry Hotel’s afternoon tea. It was a beautiful spread of Chinese tea, savory bites and sweet treats.

PLAY: Wednesday nights is race night at Happy Valley Racecourse. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has donated an average of over HK$2.8billion a year to the community by way of its own major initiatives and donations. So you can see why and how this has become a quintessential Hong Kong attraction. I admittedly have never been to a horse race, let alone one in the evening, but this was loads of fun. I even put a few bucks down on some horses! Alas, I lost but it was all good because there was plenty of beer, good vibes and laughs.

I love you, Hong Kong and can’t wait to visit again soon. Thank you to Hong Kong Airlines, Shangri-La and Kerry Hotel for hosting us. And be sure to head over to HonestlyYUM to see and read about Hong Kong from Karen’s perspective!

(images by HonestlyWTF)