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April 5, 2017 / oneworld82

24 hours in Hong Kong at the InterContinental Hotel with dinner at Zhejiang Heen (1 Michelin Star) and Yan Toh Heen (2 Michelin Stars)

There are few places in the World like Hong Kong. Asia’s World City is a melting pot of cultures and lifestyle, a place where people flock to find fortune and riches; while the area of this semi-independent area is small, it houses seven million people who mostly live in tall buildings and tiny apartments. Hong Kong, the center of Cantonese culture, the place (together with Singapore) where East meets West, was certainly the perfect place to start our trip.

Typical Hong Kong housing complex

Typical Hong Kong housing complex

While both Thuy and I had been to Hong Kong before, we had visited this city separately and mostly on a budget. This time, though, we had enough money to afford to stay at a nice hotel – the beautiful InterContinental – and to eat at two Michelin-starred restaurants.

In a way, the fact we had already been here before made our visit easier and more enjoyable. No stress due to having to see a lot of things, just time to ourselves to enjoy what we really wanted to do. The shear number of luxury hotels in Hong Kong is stunning, yet it’s no surprising given that the city is such a global business hub. I have always been fascinated by the luxury hotels of Central and Wan Chai – from the Four Seasons and its infinity pool overlooking the straight to the Island Shangri-La; and the InterContinental has always been one of the hotels, together with the original Peninsula, that captured my imagination, mostly because of its stunning location in Kowloon with sweeping views of the island’s skyline.

Hotels really are the center of the social expat life in Hong Kong (as in much of Asia); from glitzy bars to World-class restaurants, it’s hard to beat the hotel scene here. This is a reminder of bygone days when, during the British Colonial times, hotels really were the places to be and be seen by aristocrats and adventurers alike. So why shouldn’t we embrace this trend, albeit only for 24 hours?

I mean, look at the view from our Deluxe room, both during the day and at night…

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It was absolutely the best hotel view I have ever enjoyed so far, and one to remember. The picture-perfect Hong Kong skyline was the perfect backdrop to a fantastic, large room that featured a very comfortable bed, a large bathroom with shower and deep-soaking tub (and lots of amenities), and complimentary tea prepared and delivered directly to your room. The service was excellent as well – we were offered the room that we exactly requested and we were given a complimentary bottle of red wine because they could not do turn down service (because we forgot to take off the “do not disturb” sign…!). These things are hard to beat.

The hotel also had a very nice gym overlooking Kowloon – it came handy given how jetlagged we were. Cardio equipment and resistance machines plus free weights ensured a good workout. Oh, and did I mention that the hotel had a very nice infinity jacuzzi overlooking Hong Kong Island? Believe me, nothing can beat the feeling of hot water while enjoying such a view.

But enough with hotels, we were in Hong Kong mostly to eat – to enjoy some Cantonese cuisine at its best. The number of highly-rates restaurants in Hong Kong varies from simple eateries where to enjoy roasted goose to World Class luxury establishments where to enjoy the best Western and Eastern cuisine. We settled on a bit of both. First, we went to Zhejiang Heen, a one-Michelin-star restaurant in Wan Chai that had the decor of your neighborhood Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area but the flavors of the best Shanghainese cuisine can offer. (Before that, we had tried a local pub in Wan Chai (Oolaa Petite) that had some good “fat fries” and some decently-priced prosecco at happy hour). At dinner, we had some Szchuan hot beef stew, diced chicken, stir fried noodles, and rice.

Chicken with cashews

Chicken with cashews

Spicy beef stew

Spicy beef stew

Stir fry noodles

Stir fry noodles

The flavors were so amazing, that having Chinese food outside of China will now be hard. No, really, it was that good – especially because the bill came out at U$40 including a good jasmine tea. Beat that.

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Yet, feeding the body is only part of the equation – you need to feed your soul as well. Before dinner we went to Mass, the first Sunday of Advent, at the Church of Mt Carmel in Wan Chai. The liturgy was very similar to the one in the West, but there were some notable differences mostly due to the fear of germs pervasive in this part of the World: no one would shake your hand and no one would drink from the same chalice (they would dip their host in it instead). That was very interesting, as it was the church, which was located in a generic, non-descript building.

Ok, food is great, but I feel the real highlight of Hong Kong are the various views you can get around the island. I mentioned earlier our stunning day view from our hotel room. Well, this was the night view.

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I mean, isn’t this stunning?? One of the advantages of staying at the InterContinental is that the famed Avenue of the Stars is only steps away, and nowhere in Hong Kong you can probably get a better view of the island’s skyline – but take my advice, go there early in the morning for the best lighting!

Or what about the view you get from the Peak, the 800-something meters high mountain that sits behind Central? While it’s windy and cold up there, the sight is spectacular and the tram ride to get there just as fun!

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Oh, wait, did I mention that my favorite thing ever in Hong Kong, though, is the Star Ferry? This century-old steamer is simply the best way to cross the Strait – period! And the view you get from the ferry – with the gentle sea breeze – is another unforgettable highlight.

You know, Hong Kong Island is such an intriguing place. I particularly enjoy Central and SoHo, with their bustling roads and narrow alleys.

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In one of those alley we found the perfect place for a true Hong Kong breakfast – don’t get too excited, that simply means macaroni in chicken broth with toppings – eggs and beef in this case. Have them with a mango bread roll – stuffed with a big chunk of butter – and some milk tea, and you’ll look (well, almost) like a local…!

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With all the hustle and bustle, the island manages to pack some green space, too!

On our way to the Peak tram

On our way to the Peak tram

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I mean, Hong Kong boasts an impressive array of peaks and forests and hiking trails, and I am pretty sure that living in Hong Kong offers actually outdoor opportunities aplenty. For instance, an easy trip for the center is Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island, which – while we did not visit it during this trip, is a sensational Buddhist temple with one of the biggest statues of Buddha in the World.

Ok, all this sightseeing made us hungry again, so how could you beat a tasting lunch with wine pairings at Yan Toh Heen, a two Michelin stars restaurant within the InterContinental Hotel? Probably you can’t.

This was the menu.

Let me tell you in advance that the service was nothing short of outstanding. The waiters were very polite, professional, and knowledgeable. Our glasses never went empty. As tradition in upscale Chinese restaurants, the tea menu was big, and a tea sommelier was ready to recommend us the perfect tea pairing for our meal (we set on some Oolong tea from Fujian which was exceptional).

Some nibbles were taken out, and then our fantastic tea followed.

We started with the dim sums:

As you can probably tell from the pictures, the presentation was outstanding – and the flavor was wonderful as well. The texture and the subtlety of these dim sums really made them stand apart.

Then, the soup came. This was a sort of sweet corn soup – something popular in Chinese cuisine. I enjoyed it.

To follow, the steamed sachet with Abalone sauce were brought out.

This was my favorite dish of the meal – I do not know how to explain it – the tofu sachet were soft and tender and the abalone sauce gave everything a great flavor.

The pork was next.

I wanted to add that we decided to go with the wine pairing – at HKD250 per person we said “why not”? We were glad we did, as we got champagne, sake, and Chianti. Not bad at all!

After the pork, it was the turn of the stir fry noodles – enjoyable as well.

To finish, we had two excellent desserts.

A perfect, semi-sweet ending to one of the most amazing meals to date.

Yan Toh Heen really delivered a great experience, and it was the perfect ending to this short but fun 24 hours in town. Hong Kong is a great place, no matter what. There is something for everyone – one of the reasons why I love this city so much. I am glad I got to spend some time here with Thuy, and we definitely look forward to come back sometimes in the near future.

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