By Susie Reese
As team leader of Worldwide Traveler, Erica Scannelli has ventured throughout the world, and on her latest journey to Asia, she stopped in the entertainment and business capital of China, Hong Kong, for a three-day, two-night pit stop before heading back to the U.S. And Scannelli could not have picked a better time. Her trip fell on the Chinese New Year, which allowed her to enjoy the elaborate festivities the city offers every February.
Chinese New Year Festivities
Scannelli’s new year celebration started with the Hong Kong Chinese New Year Parade. This fantastic event winds through the Tsim Sha Tsui section of Hong Kong with more than 30 floats and local and international guests.
Scannelli lined up on the side of the road to watch as lion dancers, dragons, a military band from Scotland with bagpipes, and even the Denver Broncos cheerleaders passed. While Scannelli enjoyed the parade, she had some concerns for the performers.
“Dancers from a Caribbean island wore stilts designed like ballet slippers and beautiful flow-y dresses, and they had their hair done up like Marie Antoinette. But it was 50 degrees out and windy. They looked so cold!”
Also while in town, Scannelli enjoyed the legendary Symphony of Lights, which is the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show,” according to Guinness World Records. The light show synchronizes music and narration with lights on more than 40 buildings along Victoria Harbour. Though the show is free, Scannelli recommends a harbor cruise to see the Symphony of Lights in all its glory, complete with a cocktail or two. On this occasion, Scannelli also was able to watch the breathtaking Chinese New Year Fireworks.
“It’s a great perspective because you wouldn’t get that view just standing on the shore,” Scannelli notes.
Related: Erica’s Asian Adventure—Vietnam
Victoria Peak and Lan Kwai Fong
While in Hong Kong, Scannelli stopped by Victoria Peak, a mountain on the western part of Hong Kong Island. The peak is 1,800 feet above sea level and offers spectacular views of Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the surrounding harbors, but to get to the top via the Peak Tram, a historical railway/trolley system, visitors sometimes must wait over two hours. There’s an easy way around that.
Says Scannelli, “I very highly recommend booking the tour because your guide will have your ticket, and you get on the train immediately.”
It’s easy to spend a morning at the top of the peak with all the restaurants (even a Hard Rock Café!) and shops and beautiful views, but Scannelli decided to visit the Avenue of the Stars, too. It’s like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame but with the handprints and names of the Chinese celebrities.
“I hadn’t heard of many of the actors and actresses, but it was still fun to walk the avenue and see all the handprints.” Scannelli added that many visitors take pictures next to a statue of Bruce Lee, which is also on the avenue.
Scannelli admits she always thought of Hong Kong Island as more the business district of the city and Kowloon as the more tourist-driven destination. However, Scannelli absolutely loved the Lan Kwai Fong district of Hong Kong Island, which offered trendy pubs, restaurants, and shops.
“This district was cool for younger customers who are looking to go out at the pub at night. With Hong Kong’s strong British history, it’s easy to find pubs and fish and chips, and other British favorites.”
Scannelli also enjoyed the Nathan Road section of Kowloon with modern shopping malls and traditional markets. She especially liked wandering the “Ladies’ Market” with its women’s clothing and general “hodgepodgery.”
Where to stay—Hong Kong
Scannelli chose the budget hotel Novotel Hong Kong Nathan Road Kowloon, which is a three-star hotel in a five-star location. It is located in the heart of Kowloon’s commercial district, close to the subway and near the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district. The rooms were spacious, and Scannelli had a club level room with special check-in, a continental breakfast, afternoon tea, and hors d’oeuvres included.
“It was very convenient and clean with a more western, international feel to it,” says Scannelli.
Looking for some luxury? Check out this exploration of the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong!
Flying to Asia, Cathay Pacific style
The New York-metro area has many routes to Hong Kong, but Scannelli used Cathay Pacific to fly to and from Hong Kong.
Notes Scannelli, “There’s no nonstop services to Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, certain cities in China, and Thailand. You can’t get to those places. So you’re choosing between the best carriers that offer connections, and Cathay Pacific often pops up because of its overall quality.”
Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong hub is a gateway into the rest of Asia from the U.S. with flights from Newark, New York, and Los Angeles.
On the flight to Asia, Scannelli received an upgrade to Business Class, which is a usual occurrence for trans-Pacific travelers.
“You have a better experience during such a long trip. And you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime trip: you’re already splurging. You might as well be comfortable.”
Scannelli also notes that many of the Business Class and even Premium-Economy classes offer an increase allowance on luggage, which is something most people going to Asia will need.
“You end up paying extra baggage fees, which business class or premium economy covers, almost like a value. Not that it outweighs the cost of the actual ticket but it goes some way toward the additional pricing.”
In Business Class, the flight experience was excellent. Scannelli says she was greeted by name, and when she gave her drink order, the stewardess remembered it for the entire flight. The seat configuration was 1-2-1 with the center in a V-shape.
“You have extra privacy,” emphasizes Scannelli. “You’re not on top of the people, and you’re in a single seat in business class. The two in the middle have a pretty wide armrest between them. It’s all about the space, the comfort.”
Business Class also boasts lay-flat beds (“I slept like a rock on that flight!”), and Scannelli classifies the food as “awesome.”
“When was the last time you said airplane food was good?” asks Scannelli.
She also notes there is no running out of certain dishes. Business-class passengers receive their preference of four main entrees, which includes both western and Asian dishes.
On the way home, Scannelli chose to fly in the Premium-Economy section, which had a special check-in line, a separate boarding area, and a separate section on the plane.
“You get upgraded meal service,” explains Scannelli. “You get bigger seats. On Cathay Pacific, the coach configuration is 3-4-3, but in Premium Economy, it’s 2-4-2. There’s a little more room to move around.”
Also, the flight attendants for Business Class double as the flight attendants for Premium Economy.
“So you’re getting a Business-Class service,” says Scannelli. “It’s pretty swanky.”
About the Contributor
With over 10 years in the Flight Centre Travel Group family, Erica Scannelli has an expert understanding of the American client, combined with years of selling experience, international destination expertise, and detailed knowledge on global product. Erica began her career as a consultant, earning newcomer of the year, before joining Worldwide Traveler six years ago upon its inception. She maintained her position as a top sales consultant while leading the MWMA team, Worldwide Traveler’s top performing team, for the last two years. She now oversees international product ranges for all GOGO Brands, including Worldwide Travelers and GOGroups Niche Brands.
About the Author
Susie Reese is a copywriter for FC USA Artworks. She loves to travel (you know it!) and has ventured extensively across North America. She enjoys short walks on the beach and comic cons. She writes On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers and on her free-time, comics and short stories.