Story by ANN RUPPENSTEIN
Make the most of your long-haul getaway to Asia by combining Hong Kong and Thailand into one trip of a lifetime, as each destination offers a complement of unique and memorable experiences.
CITY AND COUNTRY COLLIDE IN HONG KONG
The minute you take off on the Ngong Ping 360 cable-car for Lantau Island, you realize there’s some truth to the saying “sometimes the journey is the destination.” From the window – or below your feet if you get on the crystal cabin with a glass bottom – breathtaking views of mountains, forests and the coast pass you by.
For many, a visit to the largest of Hong Kong’s islands is all about getting up close and personal with The Big Buddha, a giant bronze Buddha that draws pilgrims from all over Asia, but is equally impressive to travellers alike. Lantau Island is full of lush and beautiful places to discover, like Po Lin Monastery, with colourful manifestations of Buddhist iconography, and The Wisdom Path. Here, 38 wooden pillars arranged in an infinity pattern display verses of the centuries-old Heart Sutra prayer, surrounded by
nothing but greenery and the occasional glimpse of the South China Sea.
The serene scene feels a world apart from the dramatic views atop Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, where dense skyscrapers jet out as far as the eyes can see. Taking in the awe-inspiring skyline is a must for first-time visitors – it’s the iconic image typically associated with Hong Kong and where the grandeur of the city can best be understood.
Perhaps surprisingly, the world-class metropolis is also a natural getaway as a subtropical archipelago made up of over 260 islands with 70 percent rural areas. From beaches to nature trails, parks and outlying islands, you can discover the contrast of the great outdoors along with the exciting hustle and bustle in the hub of Hong Kong. Top options to get in touch with nature include Dragon’s Back, a ridge-top path at Shek O Country Park, considered one of the best urban hiking trails in Hong Kong; and Tai Long Wan, a beautiful bay on the eastern side of the Sai Kung Peninsula.
THE TASTE OF PLACE
With 14,000 restaurants to choose from, including Michelin dining and nightlife, Hong Kong is a city full of endless foodie experiences. Indulge in everything from the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, quite possibly the most affordable Michelin-star restaurant in the world, to the abalone at Forum in Causeway Bay that can cost up to $10,000.
If you’re looking to try a variety of local dishes, a tasty choice is to take part in Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours’ Temple Street Night Foodie Tour, where participants can eat like a local and dive into dishes like a sweet “soup” at a 90-year-old iconic Temple Street dessert specialty shop, the region’s infamous curry fish balls; and fresh made-to-order egg puffs, a quintessential Hong Kong snack.
HONG KONG 101
WHAT TO DO: If you only have time to do one thing in Hong Kong, visit The Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Be sure to take in the stunning 360-degree panoramic views from the Sky Terrace, at 428 metres above sea level, the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong. Keep tradition alive and ride the charming Star Ferry boats, which have been transporting passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back since 1888. Discover hidden treasures and get immersed in local culture by embarking on a walking tour through neighbourhoods like Old Town Central and Sham Shui Po.
DRINK IN THE VIEWS: There are no shortage of stunning rooftop bars to choose from, but why not imbibe at the world’s highest bar on the 118th floor, 1,608 feet above sea level, at Ritz-Carlton’s Ozone bar?
STAY IN STYLE: The Peninsula Hong Kong, The Upper House, The Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and the boutique The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong are some of the luxury properties on offer in Hong Kong.
GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN THAILAND: A THREE-HOUR FLIGHT FROM HONG KONG
Rich in island-hopping adventures, stunning sandy beaches, inlets surrounded by limestone cliffs, and remarkable cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand has long been renowned for its alluring beauty and spectacular scenery. Beyond its bustling capital, there is a world of hidden gems to discover across the country. For a unique experience, head to Chiang Rai, part of The Golden Triangle, where three countries, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge. Throughout the 1960s to early 1990s, this area notoriously supplied most of the world’s heroin. The fascinating history of the area infamous worldwide for its poppy fields, opium
warlords and drug smugglers can be explored at The Hall of Opium, an exhibition at Golden Triangle Park. This lesser-known gem also features picturesque and Instagram-worthy attractions like Wat Rong Khun, known as the White Temple and Wat Rong Seur Ten, known as the Blue Temple.
Since the fastest way to connect to a destination is through food, be sure to taste the staple dish made famous in the city, Khao Soi Noodles, before unwinding at one of the many fabulous luxury hotels, like the Four Seasons Tented Camp or the Anantara Golden Triangle.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE IN BANGKOK
Although Thailand’s capital city has many showstoppers like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho that command attention, Bangkok is constantly evolving and reinventing itself with new shops, restaurants, rooftop bars, and attractions to discover. One of the newest notable attractions is the Mahanakhon Skywalk, Bangkok’s highest observation deck at 314 metres, which offers 360-degree panoramic views from an indoor and outdoor area. The must- see add-on to any Bangkok bucket list features a glass floor with a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful skyline below.
For those who are looking for other off-the-beaten path ideas, there’s lots more to discover like the beautiful Wat Suthat temple, located close to the Giant Swing, another interesting attraction originally built in 1784. And, if you’re in the mood for shopping, there’s something for every budget from the Asiatique Riverfront, a night bazaar and mall by the banks of the Chao Phraya River, to the ICON SIAM, a new shopping centre featuring high-end shops like Chanel and Dior.
STAY IN STYLE: The Rosewood Bangkok, Waldorf Astoria and Capella Bangkok are just a few of the new five-star luxury properties to choose from in Bangkok.
DRINK IN THE VIEWS: Relive a scene from The Hangover Part II and grab a cocktail at the Sky Bar at the top of Lebua at State Tower. Another scenic option to watch the sunset is the Moon Bar, located on the 61st floor of Banyan Tree Bangkok, often included in the world’s top 10 rooftop bars rankings, or the open-air rooftop bar at Sala Rattanakosin, which features stunning views of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.
WHERE TO EAT: The capital city is home to a wide array of culinary options ranging from world- famous street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. To get a taste for the local cuisine, try some popular dishes like a plate of Phad Thai or a pot of spicy Tom Yum Goong. For a terrific meal, head to Jay Fai, one of only three Michelin-starred street-food venues in the world, but be prepared to wait in line. Curated by the chefs behind Bo.lan, Err! Is another tasty Michelin-starred restaurant offering urban rustic Thai dishes.