Thanksgiving is over, but all the hassles aren't.
There is a certain thing about holidays that exhausts me (i.e. the socialising), and if you feel the same, you might want to consider taking a break to recover from holidays. #firstworldproblems
Macau makes a popular choice for a short trip from Hong Kong, its appeal usually lies with the proximity and flavourful Macanese cuisine, but its wellness offerings are known only to a few. Of the numerous hotels in Macau, I have always found St. Regis to be one-of-a-kind in terms of its tradition of commitment to impeccable service. Read about my last visit here (a previous stay at the Grand Deluxe Room, which is equipped with a separate dressing room). For this visit, we stayed at the Cotai Deluxe Room.
The hotel's signature butler service is greatly appreciated. Our thoughtful butler took care of our unpacking and folding of our garments before we depart. Other requests including beverage service and garment pressing will also be attended to promptly, especially when the butler service is accessible at any hour via guest room phones, email and text messages. After attending to our arrival arrangements, we were then escorted to the St. Regis Bar for an afternoon tea experience.
Classic Afternoon Tea Set @ The St Regis Bar
aged parma ham with melon / haute quiche, serra de estrela cheese and victoria island cured & smoked salmon
russian crab meat, avocado & mint creme cheese / black forest ham, smoked provolone cheese and poppy seed / cantabrian anchovies & P.D.O. feta cheese, red radish and watercress / salmon roe, pumpkin and truffled egg
Freshly baked cones with fruit preserves and Devonshire clotted cream
Raspberry chocolate tartlet, opus blanc creme / New York cheesecake / Rouge raspberry macaroons /
St. Regis Bar eclair / hazelnut financier / granny smith apple bavrios
MOP358 (two persons, inclusive of unlimited tea or coffee)
While I loathe how instant gratification erodes our patience, it is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to demanding a facial treatment that delivers instant results - while seeing a long-term difference is obviously the goal, it's motivating to notice that the skin looks better immediately.
Iridium Spa @ St. Regis Macao
The revolutionary non-surgical Intraceuticals Oxygen Treatment uses the latest technology to provide a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the skin. It has been very popular around the world with a large following of celebrity fans including Eva Longoria, Naomi Campbell and Katy Perry.
I was told that the Intraceuticals Oxygen Treatment is powered by its signature 3 Steps to address the most vexing skin concerns: dehydrated skin, premature ageing, sensitivity, sun damage, brown spots, fine lines and wrinkles and blemish-prone skin conditions. You will also be asked to fill in a questionnaire before the treatment for the staff to understand your concerns and to customise the treatment to suit your needs.
Developed in Australia and based on research from Australian universities, the Intraceuticals Oxygen Treatment is intended to bridge the gap between a traditional facial and the invasive chemical injectable or surgical procedure, and provides an instant and easily clearly improvement in skin firmness, brightening and hydration.
Iridium Spa at The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central is now offering the Celebrity Red Carpet Treatments and Intraceuticals Oxygen Treatment until December 31, 2018, guests who book the packages will also receive exclusive gifts that provide continued improvement to the skin.
We then sampled the latest menu offered at the Manor, the St. Regis Macao's oyster bar and grill. The Daniel Sorlut oysters and Australian Glacier 51 toothfish were in our opinion the highlights of the meal.
- Daniel Sorlut Oyster | Baikal Caviar | Champagne Butter | Lettuce Puree
- Pumpkin and White Truffle Soup | George Bruck Foie Gras
- Glacier 51 Toothfish | Herbs & Cress Salad | Malho Cru
- Filet Mignon | Thyme Garlic Smashed Potatoes | Grilled Beech Mushroom | Lisbon-style mustard
- Strawberries and Cream | Maeringue
Continuing on the tradition of champagne sabering to celebrate the transition from day to night rooted in the first St. Regis Hotel, St. Regis Macao also offers turndown service for guests at night.
After a good night's sleep, our butler offered to draw up curtains, deliver coffee or tea together with the day's news paper and weather forecast. Choose among continental, Japanese, or Chinese styled breakfast served with fresh juices and pastries to start off the day. Though we were not quite ready to leave the comfortable room, a short getaway is better than none!
This content is brought to you in collaboration with St. Regis Macao.
For too long, Kaohsiung has only been known as a port and a bicycle-friendly city, but it is time to give this Taiwanese city the culture and culinary attention it deserves. A three to four-night stay is perfect if you are a chill traveller like me, but if you are one who loves an intense, packed schedule, a two-night stay is probably sufficient. Below is a list of places that you would not want to miss (also, insta-popular places that we do not recommend).
Where to stay
As a self-proclaimed hotel aficionado, I stayed at two hotels just to get a more comprehensive experience of the Kaohsiung hospitality scene. The first was a more local establishment, Han Hsien International Hotel, in the Lingya district.
To make the most out of your stay, I would really recommend getting the corner room (called "panoramic king"). Waking up to this view alone could make your day. The even better news? It comes with a huge mark-down from the average price tag. When I booked for a room over a public holiday, it was about USD120 per night (which would cost you at least twice the amount in Taipei).
Hotel breakfasts are always something I look forward to - this one serves up all the local, hearty dishes like five-grain congee with Taiwanese condiments, steamed buns, spare rib soup, and rice noodles with marinated minced meat.
Han Hsien hotel is just a 15-minute ride away from the airport, and the location is great for exploring the city. There is also a small night market nearby that we visited on our first night - the extremely fresh fruit juices quench the worst thirst! The downside though, is that it looks slightly dated, and its size of 300+ rooms makes it harder to cater to each guest's needs.
The second hotel, Silks Club, is also located in the Lingya District but is much more contemporary. Silks Club celebrates style and art, with carefully curated art pieces juxtaposed against the backdrop of a stunning city view over the administrative center.
When entering the guest room, we were greeted with a mini bar packed with complimentary drinks. We applaud the choice of furnishing and design elements incorporated in the hotel - North American oak wooden floor, seven choices of pillow, and Italian handmade Falomo mattress that features an ergonomic design set the scene for a relaxing stay. (I need those thick Parisian paper blinds installed at home, they block out any noise and distraction completely.) A bubble bath at the spacious bathroom became my everyday activity, looking out at a beautiful cityscape from the floor-to-ceiling windows while playing some music was as soothing as it gets. They also have the comfiest fluffy bath robes I have encountered thus far.
Their hallways are covered by the the Swedish Bolon rug collection. Hotel facilities include a fully-equipped fitness center, an outdoor infinity pool, and atmospheric saunas and steam rooms.
Service was impeccable and we were carefully attended to. Breakfast is served daily at the lounge, with a choice of mains (ranging from local delicacies, eggs-any-style, to Japanese style bentos), fruits, and a pastries section. It also hosts michelin-starred U-kai tei teppanyaki, as well as the first Dassai sake bar outside Japan.
Based on my research, Cozzi hotel also looked like another stylish and convenient option.
Things to do
Do pay a visit to the Heart of Love River for gorgeous harbour view, and the Dome of Light at the Formosa Boulevard Station to admire the largest glass work in the world.
I, however, enjoyed the Pier-2 Arts District the most. Founded and funded by the government's Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Pier-2 is unique in that it doesn't have to be commercialized to survive. Formerly a warehouse complex located near the harbor, it became home to local artsy shops, spaces housing different exhibitions (try taking the miniature train while you're at the railway museum!), trendy coffee shops, and theaters.
One of the great finds was WuGuan (literally, "Unrelated") Books, an experimental bookstore that allows you to explore the darkest corners of our being.
These bookstore rules got me very curious:
The bookstore is extremely dark (hence the rules on being stepped on, and shouting "Lumos!"), with each book and a standing desk dimly lit by small light bulbs. When you tread along the bookshelves carefully, you see books about death, drugs, and hidden desires, a selection of books that does not seem wholly "unrelated" - they are the kind of books you would want to read alone, in your own world, without anyone judging or knowing. The owner added that this allows customers to be focused, and explore with their other senses.
Pier-2 Art Center, 1 Dayong Road, Yancheng District, Kaohsiung;
open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Public artwork is seen everywhere at Pier 2 Art Center, and there are so many more specialty shops. Bandon Grocery Store is an adorable zakka store where travelers can make their own notebooks, and Tools to Live By is a heaven for every stationery lover.
You can also do day trips to Cijin Island (known for hiking, seafood and sights), Tainan (Taiwan’s oldest city, known as the city with the most delicious local food) or Kenting.
One thing I didn't know before I visited Taiwan is their artisan bread culture, there is no lack of award-winning bakeries across the city. We went to two of the three premier bakeries in Kaohsiung that serve the highest quality freshly baked breads and pastries daily. Shakespeare & Co. Boulangerie and LePain both won world championships and (instead of getting the classic pineapple cakes as souvenir) I got a few loafs back home to share with my family of bread-lovers.
Where to eat
Sushi 27 is the finest sushi place in the city, 14-seat, serving omakase only. Sushi 27 specializes in dishes from the Edo era, the chef is friendly and knowledgable. Of the 15+ sushi, sashimi, and cooked dishes, I absolutely adored the maki of Tokishirazu Salmon（時不知鮭, one of the rarest among the Japanese family of salmons, meaning "salmon that does not know the time") and Oma chutoro nigiri. Their tamagoyaki came with a surprising touch as well - they added Chinese yam in the mixture, with a crystalised sugar layer on top, making the egg fluffy and slightly sweet like a sponge cake.
No. 27, Yongming St., Lingya District, Kaohsiung
Be sure to make a reservation: +886 7 211 9262
Chen Q Black Sugar Shaved Ice is a must-go, their signature black syrup poured on coarse chunky ice, topped with fresh hand-made assorted toppings totally won our hearts over. You can choose 5 toppings for each order - the black sugar mochi, taro chunks and grass jelly are totally recommended. We visited three times on our three-day trip, that's how good it is!
No.147 Wufu 1st Road
Other places worth trying include seafood restaurant Tai Nan Wang, Ya Rou Zhen (local's go-to for sliced duck with rice), and Kebuke for hand shaken tea.
As to cafes and coffee in between:
YES: Lab 146 (super delicious pasta), bookstore 123 (a Japanese style bookstore serving matcha pancakes and delicate traditional sweets), TFFC (minimalist cafe serving dishes created using only organic local produce).
OK: Piefee (specialty coffee but average savoury pies), Tootday (nice spending an afternoon there reading and doing some work, young local crowd), La One by Thomas Chien.
NO: Le Love (a very popular cafe on instagram, but the menu simply deterred me from going in), Caffafina
Lastly, if you would like to visit a night market, Ruifeng Night Market and Lingya Night Market are at the top of my list. Great layout and good mix of food stalls as you can imagine.
With 38 administrative districts, Kaohsiung is the second city in Taiwan. Most of the points of interest are located in the areas shaded in orange, around the harbour and lower Love River area (in the Gushan, Zuoying, Lingya and Yancheng districts).
HKG to KHH: more than 10 flights per day operated by different airlines including Cathay Dragon, duration of 1.5 hours. Visa required but can be obtained online, processed within an hour for Hong Kong and Macau citizens.
Getting around. KHH is the only city in Taiwan other than Taipei to have its own metro rail system. Taxis are easy to catch. It has all the conveniences of a modern metropolis minus the pace. Click here for a google map marked with the points of interest for a day of sample itinerary.
One of the things I loved most about Kaohsiung is its vibe. It may be cosmopolitan but it’s more laid back than its counterparts in the north, like Taipei or Taichung. Hope you will enjoy Kaohsiung as much as I did, happy to get in touch for more recommendations!
Since my recent life stage transition (i.e. starting work, which also explains the lack of updates here), I constantly fantasize about my next vacation. People say university is the greatest time of your life, now I can finally speak to this statement myself - it is the only time where you had complete control of your time, and get to pace life as you wish.
We all know how the saying goes, "instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from". But hey – let’s face it. No matter how much you enjoy your job, routine gets tiring and you could always use a little escape to re-calibrate, gain inspiration, and to create.
Boarding was swift and easy – settling in the seat was made easy with some very, very comfy blankets and slippers (a detail often overlooked by airlines). The business class menu is crafted to represent Hong Kong’s culture – comprising Western dishes with Asian twists, developed in collaboration with chef Gabriel Choy (who has worked at a number of notable restaurants, including Petrus, The Fat Duck, and Gaddi’s). My first choice, grilled beef, unfortunately ran out by the time I placed my order for dinner. Lucky enough, the flight attendant offered me an off-menu item (that was supposed to be for the pilot) in exchange.
Drinks and snacks were also offered throughout the flight, with great service from a friendly team. The only down side is that the seat does not go completely horizontal when in “bed” mode, but I still managed to sleep my way through. For those of you who love to watch a movie or two, the in-flight entertainment offering is up to par, and each seat comes with a high quality headset.
Known as the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland is a beautiful harbour city located in the subtropical north of New Zealand and it has always remained a mystical city in my mind. Cordis, Auckland offers remarkable limousine service – once I got out of immigration, the hotel is only 45 minutes (18.5km) away from Auckland airport and the comfortable seating made the trip go by really quickly.
During the ride, I could see that the hotel is surrounded by a vibrant neighbourhood - located near Upper Queen Street and colourful Karangahape Road, it is handy to key tourist attractions including Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery and the fashionable shops and bars of Ponsonby.
By way of background, the Langham, Auckland (which has been the local community’s favourite social hub, hosting major events, conferences, international delegations and the city’s most heartfelt weddings) is rebranded to Cordis, Auckland last year, making it the first in the Pacific region for this new upper upscale brand of the Langham Hospitality Group. Each Cordis hotel is individual in style, architecture and design, all reflective of its location and culture, delivering heartfelt service that is devoted to the well-being of guests.
The Lobby Lounge made a great first impression - with plush high-back chairs and a stylish, contemporary setting, it serves Auckland’s favourite High Tea. It is clear that the redesigned tea has been a hit with the locals and tourists alike - there was no lack of them coming to celebrate special occasions and to host gatherings. High Tea by Cordis features an exquisite plated array of handcrafted sweets, pastries and scones complemented with a personalised tea sommelier service offering fine teas, coffees or a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne. As a chocoholic, I loved the dessert which had passionfruit and citrus compote to balance out the complex chocolate. Scones always tell a good tea set from a bad one – these are buttery, light, and baked to perfection.
The Lobby Lounge is also open for all day dining, coffee and creative cocktails, and serve a menu of three special Cordis-curated craft beers by Auckland’s Ubernaut Brewery.
A post-flight massage is just priceless, it allows you to unwind and eases any jet bloat that one may experience. Equipped with a herbal steam room, four individual treatment space and two dual treatment areas, Chuan Spa offers a full range of holistic services, all designed to balance your mind, soul and body.
Chuan spa is located on level 2 of the hotel, next to the heated rooftop saltwater pool and Jacuzzi. It builds on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine that seek spiritual and physical harmony by balancing the five elements: metal, wood, fire, earth and water.
The treatment started off with a personal consultation, where you get to state your preference and pick a oil suited to your needs. The 45-minute-massage was truly relaxing - with great pressure points and zen music, you'll fall asleep instantly.
Auckland's nightlife is clustered in a few neighbourhoods, the harbourside being one. Soul Bar & Bistro serves contemporary dishes in front of a great view of the Viaduct Harbour. The outdoor seating is warm and romantic, whereas a lively bar scene, live music and stylish décor is found inside the establishment, living up to its rare feat of "being all things to all people". The mouth-watering te matuku oysters are a must if you're there, other fish dishes including west coast whitebait fritters cooked with lemon butter, roasted hapuku and whole flounder are also fresh and flavourful. We also shared some crayfish toasts (topped with black garlic aioli and saffron) and the most perfect agria truffle mash among the group. When it came to dessert, it was all but tough decision-making, the icecream sandwich and vanilla bean crème brûlée were great to complete the meal. (The cheese with no name from New Zealand's central Hawkes bay was intense, unctuous and had a rich gamy taste - though I didn't enjoy it as much personally, I could imagine a sheep's milk cheese lover drooling all over.)
Satisfied and ready for next day's adventures, we returned to the hotel's Dream Bed, designed for a good night's rest. The Maori proverbs and local chocolates placed at your bedside every night is one of the thoughtful touches that I really appreciated. The proverb pictured below means "Goodwill towards others is a precious treasure". Within the stylish interiors, the hotel also offers high connectivity for guests on the go. I would make sure the Handy smart phones available to every guest (Cordis is the only hotel in NZ that offers them, by the way!) are fully charged - they are great in helping us stay connected, guests can even call the Concierge to order room service before they get back to their rooms!
This content is brought to you in collaboration with Cordis, Auckland.
Stay tuned to read more about the sites and things to do around town in part 2 of this guide!
Only 3 hours away from Hong Kong, Singapore is one of our favorite short-term destinations. It's no doubt that Singapore is great for tourists visiting for the first time, boasting good food, great views, and convenient transportation. And of course you are not going to miss out its iconic skyline and the Singapore Flyer, but once you've done that, here's how we out-of-towners can get more out of the city like savvy locals.
Without further ado, here’s my itinerary for the weekend:
Day 1 – Café Hopping and Friday night out
During my 30-minute taxi ride from Changi Airport to the Westin Singapore, I was informed by the friendly driver that the hotel is SG's first integrated hotel, located within the vicinity of Marina Bay, the heart of the country’s bustling financial district.
I love red-eye flights because it maximizes time for exploring the city, albeit in a laid back way. Having arrived at 6 a.m., I was escorted to level 32, the highest lobby in Singapore. First impressions are important, and the lobby did well by offering tall floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive views of Marina Bay. Morning rays, natural light, and wooden-toned walls gives off a harmonious feeling. What I love most about the décor is how an elegant palette of muted colors and velvets in grey, mustard, and turquoise complements the distinctive pendant lights.
Just as I was expecting to be told to leave my luggage at the concierge while my room is being prepared, the thoughtful team allowed me to check in early (so I got to take a nap before walking around town). Handy smartphones are available in the room so it wasn’t a problem for me who did not purchase a data card – I use it for google map and ordering taxis while I’m out.
I instantly spotted a sign saying “Food Garden” outside the hotel, which is one of the largest dining halls in SG designed in a relaxing green space, conveniently hosting a variety of international restaurants. Soup Stock Tokyo from Japan and Guzman y Gomez from Australia have opened their first-ever overseas outlets there. I however resisted the temptation and went on to my first stop.
Brunch at Common Man Coffee Roasters. The place looks like a super popular place for expats to me, and was packed even on a Friday afternoon. Everything on the Menu looks super delicious and it certainly gave me a hard time in choosing between the Broche French Toast and all the egg dishes. According to owner Harry Grover, the name of the cafe is to pay tribute to the fact that coffee is grown and drank by the common men. If you want a café in Singapore that serves both good coffee and good food, this is the one.
Jalan Besar neibourhood. There’s plenty to do there, and it has a thriving culinary scene. Butter Studio (red velvet cupcakes) and Chye Seng Huat Hardware (coffee joint with its own roaster and private tasting room) are musts while you’re there!
I also visited Brawn & Brains which was further away. As instagrammable as it is, it’s probably not worth the travelling time if you’re just here for the weekend since it’s more detached from other points of interest. But if you have the time, it’s a really good place to bring a book and chill for the afternoon. The downside is that the washroom is a public one across a car park. Other places I recommend include: RONIN (best scrambled eggs) and Artistry Café.
3:00 p.m. Arrival and Check-In @ The St. Regis Macao
Having escaped from a rainy day in Hong Kong, I arrived at the pier being greeted by my personal butler – who took me to the limousine and informed me of a personalized itinerary for the coming 24 hours.
I got to the hotel in 10 minutes and was led to my suite right away. Efficiency lovers, this is for you. With express pre-check-in, I did not spend one minute waiting for anything or anyone. The suite was lavishly and elegantly designed in my favourite hues of cream, beige, wood, and dark marbles.
St. Regis hotels are renowned for delivering exceptional bespoke service, so I came with an expectation. Not exaggerating here, their thoughtful Butler Service still managed to go beyond the benchmark. Think 24-7, customized to suit each guest’s tastes and preferences (read on to find out).