Cash Warren’s China Travel Diary: From Shenzhen to Hong Kong

Cash Warren picks his favorite restaurants, hotels, and bars to go to when visiting Hong Kong.

When Cash Warren let us know that he and his Pair of Thieves partners were headed to Hong Kong, we knew we had to get him to find the best places to go in the city. After a stunning drive from Shenzen to Hong Kong, the guys landed at their hotel and went on to discover some of Hong Kong’s best places to eat, drink, and stay. Check out the 10 things Cash won’t travel without here.

We drove to Hong Kong from Shenzhen, in southeastern China. Hong Kong first came into view while on the Western Harbor Crossing and I was immediately in awe of the beauty.  The mountains, water and densely constructed high rise buildings seem to fit together like a perfect symphony.

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We stayed at Hotel LKF in the Lan Kwai Fong district.  I’d recommend staying at this hotel if you’re looking for a modern interpretation of the traditional experience.  Hotel LKF is also centrally located so it’s easy to get around and is very practical.

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You really feel immersed in culture when staying at a traditional hotel. The juxtaposition of the sitting area in our hotel room and the urban jungle backdrop was quite special.
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Hong Kong is home to the most skyscrapers in the world and has more than 60,000 elevators. Make sure your sock game is on point when you want to stand out in the crowd.   cashwarren_hongkong4

Happy-Hour in Mid-Level district of LKF.  Don’t we look happy?!
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Here we are feeling nice and plump after a delicious meal at Fatty Crab HK.  Fatty Crab is originally from NYC and serves Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Singaporean cuisines but utilizes western cooking techniques.  I highly advise giving it a try if you find yourself in HK or NYC.
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Red Taxis aka Urban Taxis are beyond comfortable and serve all areas of New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. In total, there are 3 different types of taxis that service the various districts but we only experienced the Red. The Toyota Crown Comfort is my new favorite car.
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Hanging out on top of our hotel in Lan Kwai Fong.  This city is full of 80 story buildings that seem to be built on 60 degree slopes…incredible.   cashwarren_hongkong8

Lan Kwai Fong is located between Wyndham Street and D’Aguilar Street.  There are over 80 restaurants and bars are spread in this narrow L-shaped lane making it one of the most famous bar streets in Hong Kong.  Fun times.
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Hong Kong is easily one of the most diverse cities I’ve had the fortune of visiting.  Here we are on the famous Wing Wah Lane celebrating David’s fake birthday with some of our new friends.

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Hong Kong has one of the most unique skylines in the world. With over 112 buildings that stand taller than 180 metres (591 ft), Hong Kong ranks first in the world in both skyscraper and high-rise count.  The surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbor compliment these skyscrapers perfectly to create a truly pristine skyline.
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At Hong Kong International Airport getting ready to fly back to the states.  Did we model our socks after the carpet or did they model the carpet after our socks?  You decide. cashwarren_hongkong12

Michael Bay Attacked By Dudes Trying To Save Us From ‘Transformers 4’

Really, Michael Bay? We’re doing Transformers 4? Is no one satisfied with a trilogy of 150-minute toy-franchise-based summer blockbusters anymore? I find it only fitting that while the director was trying to shoot his latest monstrosity in Hong Kong, two brothers came up to the set and tried to extort $13,000 from him, in return for not attacking production crew with bricks and an air-conditioning unit. That’s about as much money as Bay vacuums out of American pockets every second. Just pay up!

The assailants, which Bay compared to the zombies from World War Z, because he lacks any frame of reference not supplied by bad films, even had a legitimate beef: they worked in the area. All the local vendors, Bay says, were paid a “fair price” for the inconvenience of having Hollywood disrupt their business, but these dudes were demanding four times as much, threatening violence otherwise. After a scuffle, security and some dozen Hong Kong police subdued and arrested them. Sheesh—it’s like Bay has never even heard of “negotiation”!

Sure, you can claim this was an aggressive shakedown, that the guys were drugged to the gills, that they were putting the safety of a lot of people in danger. But if Bay is going to shake us down for $24 to see an IMAX 3D version of his latest schlock, the kind that you have to be drugged to the gills to watch and that will irreparably damage your cognitive abilities, shouldn’t he be languishing in a Hong Kong jail himself? Such a double standard here. Roland Emmerich I’d be willing to give a pass, mind you, but that’s on the strength of Stargate alone.

Hong Kong Opening: Madera Hotel

A gleaming glass tower whose name is curiously the Spanish word for "wood", Sterling Design Hotels’ sleek new Madera Hong Kong need offer nothing more than its gasp-inducing views of Victoria Harbour to rank with Hong Kong’s best sleeps.

And while it may be difficult to extract yourself from the spectacular 29th floor Panorama lounge, there’s also sophisticated dining at Cafe 1997 (a titular wink to the British handover to China), a rotating art gallery and the high-tech Game Room, with X-Box, Playstation and 3-D projector screen, for endless hours of entertainment and avoiding work responsibilities. Cooly elegant rooms come in color categories, including Yellow, Green, Blue, Red and Purple. Reserve one of the Lush Suites for maximum indulgence.

The Gold List Goes Platinum: Conde Nast’s Annual Awards

We promised you the readers’ choice CNT Gold List was coming soon, and it’s finally been released—8 million people voted to come up with just over 500 properties worthy of inclusion. And of those, 214 were pulled out for the “Platinum Circle,” a list of properties that have been chosen all of the last five years, to mark the magazine’s 25th year. Grade inflation? As long as your tastes run to the traditionally elegant luxury in the Northern Hemisphere (including the Dorchester in London, the St. Regis in New York, and One & Only Palmilla in Cabo), high romance in the Caribbean (like the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis), and giant modern palaces in Asia (think the InterContinental Hong Kong) then these are absolutely the crème de la crème.

Other notable picks include quirkier properties, like the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso on the Riviera Maya, as well as a healthy selection of properties in farther-flung destinations, including African safari lodges and an ever-growing list of properties in Australia and New Zealand, who are stepping up their luxury hotel game. 

Color Your World: Our Top Five Art Hotels

There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with great works of art. Take advantage of the fact that more and more hotels understand this, and are eschewing the generic sunset watercolor that’s long been a hotel staple, for more refined pieces. Here are the top five hotels who take art seriously. 

If you dream about Renaissance elegance: The Rome Cavalieri, owned by Waldof Astoria, sits perched over the hills of Rome, and while it plays up the palatial atmostphere, it’s the $700 million dollar art collection that will truly have you feeling royal. Works from the old masters abound, from the lobby to the spa. But things get more modern with Andy Warhol originals adorning some of  the rooms.

If you wish you could dive into a David Hockney: Popular with both Los Angeles natives and those looking for a quick SoCal weekend escape, Shutters on the Beach has a lot to recommend: the prime Santa Monica real estate has easy access to the beach and the pier, as well as an award-winning restaurant serving fresh California cuisine. But it’s the all-American art collection, including luminaries like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Gehry, that really gives the property a sense of style, as well as a sense of place.

If you’re sad you missed out on the Chelsea Hotel’s glory days: The New York art scene has always been transient in nature, with talent coming to feed off the city’s creativity. So it makes sense to capture that spirit in hotel form. Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel was designed by artist Julian Schnabel (himself a fixture on the downtown art scene) and is adorned with pieces from provocateurs like Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Richard Prince, as well as serving as a clubhouse for the new class of creative types and those who love them.

If you wish you could do contemporary art like a Chinese mogul: Design in Hong Kong is an integral part of the city’s fabric, from the attention paid to feng shui in the business district, to the museums and public art that have grown along with the city’s presence on the international art circuit. Hotels have followed suit, creating art and design-focused hotels from the small (like the boutique Upper House, centered around Hiroshiwata Sawada’s atrium piece, “Rise”) to the Langham Palace Mongkok, a massive 42-floor tower housing more than 1,500 pieces of contemporary art—there’s a free iPod tour to help you work your way through the collection as you move about the hotel.

If you’d rather step inside the artist’s studio: The James Chicago has fostered local artistic talent since it opened about a year ago, with works like the wall installation by Demarcus Purham in the lobby, and the installation “Room 28” by Joel Ross in the permanent collection. They’ve also been collaborating with the Monique Meloche Gallery to find work to rotate through the hotel’s other public spaces. Most recently, that was done through an artist-in-residence program, where five young artists competed against each other to come up with a work for the hotel’s collection. Winner Kristina Estell took the mandate to find inspiration in the hotel literally, sealing leaves from the hotel’s shrubbery in tape, and incorporating them into a work between two panes of glass.

Monday Wake-Up: Best Caribbean Deals, New HK to London Route

● The New York Times takes a look at the best deals in the Caribbean, where many five-star hotels are just a short flight away. [NYT]
● As budget airlines grow ever more profitable, it’s natural that they’d seek to expand their coverage—but is their product a good fit for every market? A survey of European travelers suggests that their budget airlines have a long way to go to convince business travelers that an airline they can put up with for an hour is one they’ll want to take for the long haul. [Travel Daily News]

● Can you name the 7 wonders of the world? You can probably name seven, but you probably didn’t know that there are actually separate lists for natural, ancient, and man-made wonders, and that they’re up for debate. A two-year voting process has established a current “natural wonders” list. [MSNBC]
● If you’re a government employee, prepare to see more of your desk—President Obama has called for a 20% reduction in federal spending, including all non-essential work travel, for a projected savings of $4 billion dollars. [Travel Weekly]
● As usual, the latest growth news is out of Asia, this time from Hong Kong Airlines, who will begin daily nonstop service in March between Hong Kong and London on an all-business class plane. [BTN]

Steal This Bathrobe: The Best Hotel Products to Swipe (& Buy)

You’re wrapped in a plush terry robe, reposing on thousand-thread-count sheets, listening to a custom-programmed iPod on the dock next to your bed, and feeling as though this is nothing more than the lifestyle you deserve. So who could blame you for wanting to take some of the accoutrements of your newfound bliss home from your luxury hotel? These are top three souvenirs we recommend you swipe.

Toiletries: These are always a safe bet, since they’re there for you to use anyway. We love the Remede toiletry kits given out by the St. Regis, the Malin + Goetz soaps used by the Morgans Hotel Group properties (including the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles) and the exclusive Hermès bath products at all Sofitel locations.

Slippers: Hotels actually get a certain amount of free advertising from branded products escaping the confines of their hotel, and even the non-branded versions still provide travelers with fond memories of their trip. Our favorites come from the amenity-packed Asian hotels, including fuzzy slippers at the Mandarin Oriental’s multiple locations, and the Havianas at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Personalized Stationery: Once a standard part of luxury hotel service, personalized stationery is a pleasant enough surprise that these days, you might be inspired enough to actually write a letter. While hotel stationery and pens are always fair game, no one can complain about something personalized going home with you, and you can find it at a surprising number of places, including the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, the Trump SoHo in New York , the Stafford London, Chicago’s Talbott, and the New World Shanghai.

That said, not all of us want to steal from our favorite hotels (who wants that on their guest profile?) and hotels have of course developed procedures to address this—many sticky-fingered guests will now find their more outrageous grift charged to their room bill. So why not shop their style the legal way? Many hip hotels have added online shops full of items that either appear on property or embody their style, like these three:

The W Store: W Hotels is happy to sell you everything from the bed you slept in to the music in the air, as well as apparel from brands like John Varvatos and Mara Hoffman. We particularly love their collection of statement jewelry and their eclectic blend of home accessories.

Shutters Beach Style: This Santa Monica hotel is one of a handful that are right on the beach, but the interiors are as striking as the views. Known for its impressive contemporary art collection which belongs to the hotel’s owners, their online store has drawings by Frank Gehry and Ellsworth Kelly, as well as stunning homewares like their signature rug and pewter table accessories.

Shop The Standard: They’re on the cutting edge of urban hotel style, so it’s no wonder that they’d have a quality online presence. The covetable goods include everything from RK Ripper fixed-gear bicycles to limited-edition art prints to the kissing puppy salt-and-pepper shakers on the table at the Standard Grill—so stealable that they’re listed for purchase right on the menu.

Restaurants with the Best Nighttime City Views

Yes, we know: Le Jules Verne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But assuming you’re not proposing this time around, here are eight other international top spots to enjoy breathtaking views while you fill your belly.

Restaurant Georges at Centre George Pompidou, Paris: By the time you hit the third set of escalators going up to this museum’s roof, it should be clear you’re on your way straight to the top. Enjoy a drink on the terrace and watch the Eiffel Tower scintillate, then settle into the modern, aluminum-lined space for delicious takes on French classics, like the champagne-poached cod.

Rhodes 24, London: Located in the City of London’s tallest building, Tower 42, the restaurant has held onto its Michelin star since 2005, for Gary Rhodes’ traditional British cuisine, privileging quality products over fancy preparations, and letting the view add the sparkle.

WP24, Los Angeles: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has become so ubiquitous, it’s refreshing to see him get back to what he does best: modern, Asian-inflected cuisine that made him famous. Opened in 2010, WP24 was named one of the best new restaurants in America by multiple critics, not least for the spectacular view of the LA skyline from the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

A Voce Columbus, New York: The panoramic view of Central Park, accented by the glittering whirl of Columbus Circle, is only slightly more all-encompassing than the delights of chef Missy Robbins’ pasta dishes, which are delicious enough to eat every day and deceptively simple enough to make you think you actually could.

The View Bar, Sao Paulo: The 30th-floor lounge of The View Bar is as exciting inside as the city view is outside, with visitors mingling happily with Brazilian locals over a coupe of champagne, and couples sharing a meal of small plates with local influences.

Michel’s, Hawaii: About to celebrate its 50th year this January, Michel’s at the Colony Surf on Waikiki claims to have the island’s best view, both of the ocean waves and the lights of Honolulu. Live music, fresh fish, and some of the world’s best sunsets make this destination justifiably famous.

Aqua, Hong Kong: Victoria Harbor at night is the focal point of every major building that has access to it for a reason — the multicolored lights and visually thrilling skyline add glamour to rooms that are already luxe. Aqua’s combination of Italian and Japanese food is appropriately international for the setting in the luxury shopping development One Peking Road.

Top of the World, Las Vegas: Located in the Stratosphere (literally; that’s the name of the tall building towering over the Strip) this restaurant prides itself on creating a menu of American classics with unique accents—as unique as the restaurant’s own signature feature, which is the entire space’s 360 degree revolution every 80 minutes.

Hong Kong Haute Cuisine

Today marks the kickoff of a month-long celebration of all things food and wine, which any visitor to Hong Kong quickly realizes are a citywide mania. The event begins with the Wine & Dine Festival, held on the promenade on West Kowloon. More than 200 exhibitors are bringing their best dishes, with a special emphasis on new entrants doing Spanish and Japanese cuisine.

Later, the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair will be open to the public on November 5th, an exciting event for wine trendspotters, as China continues to be an ever-more-important market. Then, the following week welcomes the Festival of Restaurants, Hong Kong’s Restaurant Week, with prix-fixe menus at participating restaurants, as well as special events and classes around town. Out-of-town visitors will particularly appreciate the wine-pairing courses from the Signature Dishes and Wine Tasting promotion in which many hotels are participating, as well as free corkage in the first half of the month to let you enjoy your new finds right away.