Highlights from Hong Kong (VIDEO)

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Have you been to Hong Kong?

I recently returned from my first trip to Hong Kong where I had the honor of touring, and exploring Asia’s world city. On November 4, 2012 I took the red eye non-stop from San Francisco to Hong Kong. I’m not going to lie, as I was a bit nervous to make the nearly 7,000 mile trek in coach class. I had been warned by some of my colleagues “If you don’t fly business class then you shouldn’t fly at all.” However, once I told my frequent flier friends and husband I was traveling on Cathay Pacific Airways, they all had the same response. “Cathay Pacific Airways is the best airline I have ever flown on, you will be fine!” After my experience, I’m not surprised that Cathay Pacific Airways won the world’s Best Business Class Airline award at the 2012 World Airline Awards. The long flight seemed short. I got on the plane, had a nice dinner with a glass of wine (I had my credit card ready but they didn’t charge for food or wine what a treat), fell asleep, woke up, watched two free movies and then voilà, just like that, I was in Hong Kong!

When I arrived at the heart of Hong Kong, I checked into the Regal HongKong Hotel, Causeway Bay. The five-star hotel sits right in the heart of Hong Kong’s shopping district, and is a heart beat away from Times Square. I started my morning with a trip to the gym, a yummy gourmet “American breakfast” and I even made my way to their roof top pool!  After that I ventured out to explore the city. I decided the best and easiest way to get around would be to take the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).

The MTR seemed pretty similar to New York City’s subway system, except that it was cheaper and cleaner. I hopped on and hopped off at Central, where I headed to check out The Central–Mid-levels escalators. It’s the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The escalators were built in 1993, are over 800 meters long, and elevate over 135 meters from bottom to top.  While I was there I did some shopping in Soho and Hollywood Road, and even found time to stop for several glasses of wine.

Next, I was off to check out The Star Ferry. A ride on a ferry and renting a Junk Boat were the two things my fabulous Facebook community said I must do while in Hong Kong. Time didn’t permit the junk boat ride but the Star Ferry was easy to access and one of my favorite experiences. The Star Ferry takes commuters between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The ride is also well known as one of the world’s best value-for-money sightseeing trips. I think it cost me roughly fifty cents US. The National Geographic Traveler named the ferry crossing as one of the “50 places of a lifetime”.  When I got to Kowloon, I listened to Lonely Planet and headed straight to Aqua Spirit to sip champagne and watch the city light up. If you do make it to Kowloon you must check out Ozone, at the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, located on the 118th floor it’s the second highest bar in the world. The highest bar in the world is At.mosphere in Dubai (and that my friends is for another wine filled adventure).

The next day was jammed packed with sightseeing. Myself and several journalists from around the world (Germany, Italy, Japan, France, and the USA), hopped on a bus and toured the town. When you watch the video, you will see all the pictures from my visit to each of these amazing places in Hong Kong. Our first stop was Cyberport. What is Cyberport you ask? In technical terms, it’s a creative digital community with a cluster of technology and digital content tenants. In simpler terms, it’s like the Google Campus on steroids!

Cyberport is operated by the Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, which is owned by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Cyberport reminds me a lot of the Silicon Valley all in one place. It’s home to tech savvy entrepreneurs and start-ups working together in a state-of-the-art work space, complete with four office buildings, a five star hotel, restaurants and places to shop. When you watch this video, you will see pictures from our yummy lunch at Le Méridien Cyberport.They clearly knew who they were dealing with because they paired wine with our lunch! The 2011 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, wine paired perfectly with the Cantonese inspired cuisine!

Cypberport even has an Incubation program called The Cyberport Digital Entertainment Incubation-cum-Training, which is the only incubation facility focusing on digital contents in Hong Kong. I’m a bit of a TV tech tart myself, so I was particularly impressed with their production studio, complete with a chroma key, control center, television and audio studios, motion capture, studio cameras and multiple edit bays. All of these resources are available to members of the Cyberport community. I considered picking up Wine Oh TV and setting up shop in Hong Kong, but now that I’m a married woman I figured I probably should run this by the new hubby. If I did chose to open a business in Hong Kong, I learned it’s super simple and even encouraged by the community and government.

Next, we were back on the bus and off to the Zero Carbon Building. This building takes going green to the extreme, and would be a good fit for my tree hugging, environment loving Bay Area cohorts. Buildings account for 90% of total electricity consumption in Hong Kong. The purpose of this office space and eco-home is to show the construction industry that practicing sustainability can improve construction quality, as well as quality of life by reducing emissions. The Zero Cardon Building is the first of it’s kind in Hong Kong and hopefully won’t be the last. Take a look at the video and see how making these small changes can have a big impact on environmental protection. I personally fell in love with the eco-friendly bamboo floors. Some benefits of Bamboo: bamboo flooring is technically a grass. Therefore, it regenerates in three to five years, far faster than typical timber. Horticulturists also believe that the harvesting bamboo can actually help improve growing conditions – much as carefully engineered, selective timber harvesting helps a forest grow. When you install a hardwood floor, you don’t need to clean your floors as vigorously or as regularly as you might if you install carpeting. You could clean a bamboo floor with just a dry mop or broom. Bamboo can also last a long time – 30 years or longer.

Next, we were off to the Hong Kong Design Centre.  The center is a non-profit established ten years ago to support the design industry, and to show people that design is everywhere and within reach. While there we learned about HKDC’s upcoming events, including 2012 Hong Kong Design Year, the theme is “A City Driven by Design.” The goal is to raise public awareness to the important role of design. The event takes place in December and will feature exhibitions dedicated to “Fashion Visionaries”, Creativity and Toy Culture, and Hong Kong’s first ever Design Fest Asia. I was so inspired by the Hong Kong Design Centre that I bought my niece and nephew their souvenirs from their huge gift shop inside the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre.

One of the highlights of my trip to Hong Kong was our visit to Crown Wine Cellars. Crown Wine Cellars is located in Shouson Hill, an exclusive suburb on Hong Kong Island. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Robin Leach and his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous crew making themselves at home in this A-list establishment. We are told if sold today, the property would be worth roughly $3 billion.  Crown Wine Cellars is a former World War II bunker, and was made a UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Site in 2007. The original structures were constructed almost 70 years ago by the British Military to serve as an ammunition and weapons storage depot in preparation for World War II. Crown Royal Cellars is thought to be one of the finest wine storage facilities in the world. When we took a trip through the cellar, I got to sneak a peak at some of the finest wines from Napa Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux. It’s not a surprise that one of the world’s finest wine storage facilities would be found in Hong Kong since Hong Kong has become the world largest wine auction center.

John Tsang, Hong Kong Financial Secretary

“Hong Kong has become the world’s largest wine auction center, with total sales amounted to 230 million U.S. dollars last year. Since eliminating duties on wine in 2008, Hong Kong’s total value of wine imports has soared from about 200 million U.S. dollars in 2007 to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.”

Of course, my main reason for going to Hong Kong was to cover the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair. If you watch the video above you will see some candid pictures from the three day fair, including wine-tasting sessions, the Gala Wine Dinner and pictures of event participants.  We also had a chance to visit Hong Kong’s very own Portrait Winemakers and Distillers, and I interviewed the man behind the bottle at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair. You can find out more about Portrait Winemakers and Distillers and the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair by watching my coverage from the event here: wineoh.tv/hong-kongs-wine-rush.

Our final night in Hong Kong ended with a farewell dinner at the Hullett House. The Hullett House was once home to the colonial-era Marine Police, and is now a luxury hotel and a restaurant and hotel managed by Aqua Restaurant Group. The Hullett House is a stone’s throw from the Star Ferry in Kowloon, complete with five eateries and ten unique suites. Each room has a different theme. The first room we saw had a huge terrace with breathtaking views of the Hong Kong skyline. This was followed by the Shek O Suite, a bright red room inspired by the antique shops along Hollywood Road. Some of the Hullet House restaurants include: Mariners’ Rest, a bar, that has given the station’s former jail holding cells a facelift, turning them into private rooms where you can sneak a drink. If you walk through the 125 year old stable doors, you will find Stables Grill, which dishes up some the best food from the west. However, if fancy is more your flavor, you can take a seat at the St. George for a little wining and dining. After checking out the rooms we sat down for dinner. The evening ended with endless courses paired with copious amounts of wine, which made for a fabulous end to an amazing adventure.

If you ever get a chance to go to Hong Kong and want to know what to do while you are there, then I would suggest checking out this website: www.discoverhongkong.com.  I visited the site several times when planning my trip and found it extremely helpful. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in a lot in the websites and books I read, was to make sure you the Happy Valley Racecourse on a Wednesday night. We went after 9pm, because it’s free to get in and is super tourist friendly.  I am officially a fan for life! I walked in, placed 20 HK on horse Number 5 and my horse came in first place!  I walked away with 330HK, and didn’t even know what I was doing. Some might call it beginners luck, but I call it Hong Kong Luck, because Asia’s world city is just plain lucky in my book.

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