Shanghai is a city with two personalities: the older Puxi district and its young Pudong counterpart. Essentially, China’s past and future battle for space in a 24-million-person metropolis. The city is built around a waterfront, where the Bund and the Huangpu River bring together these two distinct halves. Shanghai translates to “on the sea” and is best described as a coastal metropolitan dynamo with an anything-goes attitude.
Located above Shanghai’s financial epicenter, the 58-story Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong is a gleaming glass tower that nods to the city’s past but offers a distinctly modern spin. It’s directly above the IFC mall, which is filled with luxury brands. The hotel’s 285 opulent guest rooms and suites take inspiration from the art deco period, bringing travelers back to the excitement of Shanghai’s golden era.
The lobby is an intimate hexagonal room that sets an indulgent tone with its eel-skin-upholstered walls, cushioned seating areas and art deco chandeliers. Best described as otherworldly, the interior design pairs well with the space-age structures and astounding architecture in the surrounding panoramic skyline. Guests can upgrade to gain Club Level access, which includes personalized service, several daily food presentations and free-flowing drinks. And despite being popular with business travelers, the hotel is family-friendly, offering kids’ programming and complimentary childcare services.
There are several dining venues, from Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Jin Xuan to Flair Rooftop Restaurant & Bar, one of the hottest spots in town and the highest alfresco dining venue in mainland China. Located on the 52nd floor, Aura is a sophisticated spot for high tea and tiers of bite-size treats by day that transforms into a jazz bar boasting 30 varieties of Rosé Champagne come night.
Shanghai is a shopper’s paradise, featuring custom clothing and accessories as well as quality souvenirs like chopsticks, jewelry, scarves and tea. The city is also notorious for its high-quality fakes. Knockoff Cartier jewelry, Hermès handbags and Moncler jackets can be purchased for a pittance.
Not-to-be-missed attractions include Yuyuan Garden, a well-preserved ancient garden with a 400-year history, as well as nearby Chenghuang Temple, which was built during the Ming Dynasty. Travelers can witness the amazing skyline along the Bund, featuring the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower, as well as several Colonial buildings along the Huangpu River. Architecture buffs will enjoy taking in the diverse structures that remain as relics of the city’s history of foreign occupation.
If You Go
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Shanghai is April to June or the early autumn months of September and October. During these times, temperatures hover around 70 degrees.
WHAT TO PACK
Shanghai tends to be fairly casual. Don’t worry about packing too much; if you forget something, you can buy it here.
WHAT TO KNOW
Be prepared to go off the grid. Many popular Western websites are banned in mainland China, including Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. One way around this is to install a virtual private network. The WeChat smartphone app also comes in handy for calling and messaging.
The easiest mode of transportation is Didi (China’s version of Uber), which launched an English-language interface last year. Note that most taxi drivers do not speak English.
As Asia’s longtime financial capital, Hong Kong remains one of the region’s most urbane cities. After a 99-year lease to the United Kingdom, the port was handed back to China in 1997. The British Empire’s influence is still apparent at every turn, from post boxes to road names. Hong Kong is a place where the streets are always full and the lights always bright.
The world’s tallest hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is situated on the 102nd through 118th floors of the iconic International Commerce Centre located on the West Kowloon waterfront. All 312 guest rooms have unrivaled views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. The Club Level on the 116th floor boasts exclusive benefits, panoramic vistas through its floor-to-ceiling windows, and six daily food and beverage presentations, including all-day pours of Louis Roederer Champagne.
The six onsite restaurants afford diners the opportunity to try a different cuisine every night. The two-Michelin-starred Tin Lung Heen serves refined Cantonese cuisine against a backdrop of contemporary decor and dramatic vistas. Sky bar Ozone combines inventive drinks and incredible views up on the 118th floor, making it the world’s highest bar. Patrons can indulge in signature cocktails and Asian tapas while enjoying DJ beats and the captivating panorama.
Following suit, the plush spa by ESPA is also the highest in the world. With a feeling of being in the clouds, it serves as a respite for weary travelers and offers treatments addressing every specific need. Also on the 116th floor are the state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor infinity pool, outdoor terrace and whirlpool.
Hong Kong’s frenetic pace feels like an amped-up New York City. But one of the biggest surprises here is the unspoiled nature that exists just minutes away from the most crowded parts of the city. Travelers can take a day trip to the mountains or the beach for an urban time-out.
The city’s diverse street markets offer unique ambiances, catering to various consumers with different merchandise. For instance, the Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street specializes in women’s clothing and accessories. Temple Street Night Market is a bustling nocturnal bazaar complete with fortune tellers and opera singers. And Stanley Market, which occupies an old fishing village on the southern coast of Hong Kong Island, boasts jewelry, souvenirs and home decor.
The Peak on Hong Kong Island affords the most incredible views of the city and the countryside beyond. The Star Ferry is also an absolute must. This vessel transports guests along a scenic route between the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island. Amazing photo ops abound, especially at night.
If You Go
WHEN TO GO
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate, with sweltering temperatures and frequent monsoons and typhoons during the summer months. The prime time to visit is October through February.
WHAT TO PACK
Most importantly, pack an umbrella as the rain here comes on suddenly and unexpectedly. Hong Kong is casual by day and dressier come night. If you’re here on business, it’s best to keep it formal.
Getting to and from the Hong Kong International Airport is quite simple and takes less than half an hour. Contrary to popular belief, taxis are relatively inexpensive here. Uber is also available, but it is more costly than taxi service.
The Air Up There
Business Class on Cathay Pacific boasts an ultra-luxe experience for travelers wanting privacy, space to work and a place to sleep. It feels like occupying an exclusive suite up in the air.
Nonstop service to Hong Kong is offered from several American cities, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and more. Business Class offers priority check-in and boarding, premium lounge access, and luxurious amenity kits. The elite cabin features fine dining, state-of-the-art entertainment and seats that lay flat into beds.
The Business Class menu incorporates local, seasonal ingredients. To complement a meal, travelers can choose from a top-shelf selection of wines and spirits as well as fine chocolates.
Cathay Pacific has long been known for having the finest airport lounges in the world. The lounges in Shanghai and Hong Kong offer complimentary beer, wine and spirits along with self-service buffet options, including the iconic Noodle Bar. Before a long-haul flight, it’s like a stop at your favorite restaurant.
Read this article as it appears in the magazine.