For the fourth year of five, Joyce and I took the opportunity to leverage the Thanksgiving time off at work into a vacation. Last year we were fortunate to take our honeymoon to South Africa. In past years, we had visited Hawaii and Palm Springs. This year, we hadn’t taken any sort of real vacation due to work, just weekends. So this was needed. We took another long flight and visited Hong Kong and Singapore.
I’d been to Hong Kong before, but only for a couple of days. And neither of us had been to Singapore.
Hong Kong in November is beautiful, moderate temperatures allowed for us to explore the entire area. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which is always a great experience of service and amenities. We enjoyed some great food and drink at the hotel and at some other restaurants, and got some great sightseeing done.
The highlight of sightseeing was likely the “big Buddha” at the monastery in Lantau Island. A bit of a trek to get there, but it’s magnificent, and indeed very large! Second to that was the visit to Victoria Peak (though we wish we had time to do the hike), where you can see all of the city laid out before you. We also did the Star Ferry harbor cruise, where you can see all the variety of lights the skyscrapers use, some specially decorated for the holidays. We discovered that Asians really like Christmas! Both in Hong Kong and Singapore, Christmas music was playing everywhere, even at the Bar at Mortons in Singapore during happy hour.
Shopping is of course good in Hong Kong. Joyce didn’t want to do many of the fancy stores as she doesn’t like them “following her around” while she looks. But she did hit Zara. Twice.
From a food perspective, we had a delightful Italian meal at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo, sitting at the bar, maybe the best ravioli we had ever tasted. That was the same day we had lunch at Man Wah at the Mandarin, where we enjoyed dim sum, and a great rendition of Peking Duck, where they first served the skin in pancakes, then minced the meat and served it with lettuce wraps. We made a special trip to Tim Ho Wan for dim sum on another day, well worth the short wait for inexpensive and delicious dim sum. All told, we hit seven Michelin stars on this leg of the trip. It would be our last, as in Singapore it’s frankly better just to walk around and eat. Reminded us of Barcelona a bit that way. Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the obligatory McDonald’ and Starbucks visits – menus had some unique items, of course, but still amazing how consistent the taste of the common items (like a cheeseburger) is to the taste back home.
Singapore is absolutely amazing. Easily the cleanest and safest city I’ve ever visited from a tourist perspective. Easy to get around, most if it walkable. Food everywhere. Incredible architecture. Wonderful ethnic neighborhoods. I don’t know all the ins and outs of how they live, and feel like some research is necessary; but a bit of “big government” rule on things like cleanliness, guns and housing sure seems to make for a happy place to visit, and seemingly to live (again, would like to do some more research). One thing the government can’t control is the weather, pretty hot and humid all the time.
Hard to pick a highlight of this visit, we loved pretty much everything about Singapore. The view from the top of Marina Bay Sands sure was up there, we even got to see a thunderstorm roll in over the city. Plus they have the largest mall I’ve ever been in there. And another Zara. Food everywhere was wonderful, at every price point and quality level.
One thing to note about going to these cities is we are again reminded of how poor our domestic airports are. The airports in Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked as two of the best in the world, and you can tell why. And of course flying on Cathay Pacific the entire time was appropriately comfortable, with good food, great entertainment selections and perfect service.
All in all, a great trip. We didn’t explore as much as we could have, and would definitely love to go back to Singapore to do just that, maybe as part of a more extensive Southeast Asia trip.