A Guide to Hosting on Airbnb

So last year, I decided to offset my travel costs by Airbnb’ing my Manhattan studio. After going on a trip with a bunch of friends, I quickly realized that I was one of the only people in the friend group NOT renting out my place, and this assuaged some of my fears about letting strangers in my house. It’s been nearly a year of me renting it out while I’m traveling either for pleasure or business, and the results have been great. I even just recently received Superhost status! All of my guests have been super conscientious and clean and I’ve made a lot of money in the process. But, in order to have that outcome, you must be methodical and super picky. Below, read my post on all my advice on setting up your apartment for Airbnb and making sure you get great guests. (Want to host? Follow our referral link here.

What You’ll Need Prior to Renting Out Your Apartment:

I’m a bit of a germaphobe, so I made sure to stock up on separate items for my guests. I opted for these towel sets, sheets and a duvet cover that would only be used by my Airbnb guests. I ordered all of this from Target.com and chose charcoal and gray colors because they seem to hold up well. Here are links to each one I use when I have guests in town.

Locks. I can’t stress the importance of this item enough. My dad (Thanks Dad!) installed locks on all of my closets that I can use to lock away all my clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry and valuables when people are staying in my apartment. It’s been a lifesaver and it means I don’t worry about any of my things when I have guests. We chose these locks, because in addition to being pragmatic, they are pretty. (I didn’t want the locks to be an eyesore or make my guests feel like they are in prison)

Everyday items: I made sure to get extra silverware, toiletries, plates, bowls, etc. so that guests would have access to all of the things they’d reach for in their own homes.

Finding the Right Guests:

This is absolutely the most important part of the Airbnb process and the area you should be the most selective. I would much rather my apartment go unrented for a weekend I’m away than rent to the wrong guest who could potentially trash it or steal from me.

I have a strict rule of only renting to guests who have a history of renting before so that I can read their reviews. So, no first timers. I also won’t rent to groups of men or men traveling alone because I hate the idea of them partying or having sex in my bed. (Note: my boyfriend did not follow my advice on this and we found a used condom after returning to his apartment after his single, male guest checked out, along with tons of empty booze bottles which made it seem like he had a party)

I typically rent to women traveling for business, mother-daughter travelers or two women traveling together who seem responsible and not the party type.

Before booking to anyone, I set up a phone call or facetime them so that I can get a feel for their personality and see if there are any red flags.

Take Great Photos:

You must stage your apartment and rid it of clutter before capturing it for your listing. Good light, staging and other details really make a big difference. The more photos the better, and make sure to use the captions to your advantage in order to sell different features of your apartment or neighborhood.

Airbnb also provides photographers free of charge. My advice is to set up your listing with your own photos and then set up an appointment with Airbnb’s photographers to upgrade your photos.

Prepare a Welcome Packet:

In addition to providing the wifi code and standard details guests will need for check-in, I prepared a more comprehensive guide to my immediate neighborhood as well as my favorite restaurants, coffee shops and activities in New York. A few weeks before a guest arrives, I email them this list so that they can make reservations and plan activities. I also leave it out on the coffee table. My guests have been super appreciative for the recommendations and I’ve seen it reflected in my review scores, which are important to getting bookings. I also send them all of my contact information so that they can reach me ASAP if they have any questions.

Find a Good Cleaner:

I charge a $100 cleaning fee for my apartment and typically I will clean it myself after a guest. But, there have been occasions on longer trips where I’ve had back-to-back guests and have needed someone to come in in between and change the sheets and clean the apartment. I have two cleaners on standby, and recommend you find someone you trust, too.

All in all, this experience has been really positive for me. I’ve made a lot of money in the process, which has really offset my rent and travels. And as with anything, it’s a learning process. You get better as you go. But, if you are someone who travels a lot or has a significant other you haven’t move din with yet but are spending a considerable amount of time at his place, Airbnb could be a great option.

Want to host? Click our referral link here.

Travel Guide: What to Eat in Beijing

By the time we hit our last leg of the Asia trip, I think we had borderline overdosed on Asian food. All I was craving was a plain salad and Greek yogurt. BUT, there were still two kinds of dishes we needed to cross of our list: hot pot and Peking duck. Here’s our food diary to Beijing:

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A feat at Haidilao hotpot in Beijing.

Haidilao Hotpot: The first thing we did after checking into the Four Seasons was head to Haidilao hotpot. This traditional hotpot restaurant came recommended by so many of our friends and it was just delicious. As you can see from the photo above, we definitely over ordered.

This place was just so charming and felt really authentic. We were the only English speakers in the restaurant, so we essentially pointed at things in the menu for our waitress. We picked a mix of beef and pork, tofu and vegetables to boil in the broths and then headed over to the toppings bar for a ton of different sauces, toppings etc.

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Whole duck for two at Beijing’s Duck De Chine

Duck De Chine: One of the meals we were most excited for is the one we saved for last: Peking duck. Beijing is known for their peking duck, which is served whole for two, and there are two famous places to order this: Duck De Chine and Dadong. I’ve been told you can’t go wrong with either, so we chose Duck De Chine (Editor’s note: they just opened a second outpost of Dadong walking distance from my apartment in Manhattan, so will get to try both afterall!)

You should know that both places require reservations, and they can be had to get. My advice is to have the concierge at your hotel make a reservation for you. Also have the concierge specify at the time the reservation is made that you will like the whole duck. They reserve a certain number each night for people who ordered in advance and it isn’t something you can just order off of the menu.

Tea for two at the Four Seasons in Beijing

Tea for two at the Four Seasons in Beijing

The Four Seasons: Literally everything we ate at The Four Seasons was amazing. Even down to the fresh brewed teas we’d have after a long day in the cold. we had the buffet lunch here where we ate everything from ramen to lamb and cheese. We also had an early morning breakfast before our day at the Great Wall.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Shanghai
Travel Guide: Beijing Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Beijing
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: The Four Seasons Beijing

One our three-day trip to Beijing, we stayed at the Four Seasons and it was one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. From the moment we arrived at the hotel, the service was truly five star. The lobby is luxe and welcoming with hot tea and hot chocolate set out for guests. Even before we had arrived, I’d been emailing with their concierge and they made all of our dinner reservations and arranged for a private driver to and from The Great Wall of China for us.

Our room was large and well appointed with an amazing bathroom with a standalone bath (that I used several times with bubble bath), a beautiful shower and giant vanity big enough for two women to simultaneously do our makeup before going out. Each afternoon, the staff left us a tray of treats to return to after sightseeing comprised of cookies, macarons, cake and other sweets that we looked forward to daily.

Beijing was less high speed than the other cities we traveled to, so we had some down time and this was the perfect place to use it. We went to the gym twice and it was just beautiful with its shiny blonde wood floors, a yoga studio and new equipment. It had spa water for guests as well as fresh tea. Their spa facilities were equally impressive, with a beautiful sauna and steam room and jacuzzi, that we spent hours in decompressing after long days in the chill Beijing air. It also helped recalibrate us for what was to be a very long flight back to New York.

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The food at The Four Seasons was amazing. We had breakfast, lunch, tea and snacks at the hotel during our stay, and each meal was better than the next. We had lunch at the hotel following our full day at The Great Wall and it was this amazing buffet with everything from local dishes such as ramen to lamb and cheese and cured meats. At breakfast, we had omelettes and fresh fruit and really strong coffees. We also loved having tea at the lobby bar with the beautiful china they presented it on.

The hotel was in a wonderful area surrounded by international embassies. It is walking distance to shopping and restaurants, and just a small cab ride to destinations like the 798 art district and 25 minutes to the airport.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: Beijing

One of the biggest impetuses for my trip to China was to achieve a major bucket list item of mine: The Great Wall of China. So, that brought us to Beijing, which has some amazing sights to see. We suggest dedicating two whole days to the city. We did three and it was a little too long, but if you want to tackle all the sights at a more leisurely pace, three is just fine. Below, find our itinerary.

Haidilao Hot Pot: We will detail this in our food post dedicated to Beijing, but we started our trip to the city with a hot pot lunch at Haidilao, which was delicious and surprisingly low-carb.

A sculpture from the 798 Art Zone in Beijing.

A sculpture from the 798 Art Zone in Beijing.

798 Art Zone: Next, we went to this really interesting art district called 798 Art Zone. In what used to be a factory area for the military. The space is now redone factories and cute cafes full of local art. We’re talking large scale sculptures and paintings and everything in between. The area is super eclectic and interesting, and makes for some fun instagrams. It will take around 2.5-3 hours to go through.

Scenes from the Great wall of China outside of Beijing

Scenes from the Great wall of China outside of Beijing

The Great Wall of China: The next day, we set out to cross something off our bucket list: The Great Wall. It should be noted that The Great Wall should be reserved for your clearest day while you are in Beijing, which can be notoriously smoggy. So, once you land in Beijing, look at your weather forecast for the week and pick the day with the clearest skies and the lowest smog alert, otherwise you can make the trek only to see grey skies and a few feet in front of you.

There are a few different ways to experience the Great Wall: travel group, guide, private driver, etc. We researched them all and a firmly sure that we made the right call on this. We had our hotel, The Four Seasons, arrange for a private driver for us. For $200, we had this driver from 6m, when we were picked up, until 2pm, when we were dropped off. It was well worth it.

So, at 6am the driver picked us up and we headed about an hour and a half away to the Mutianyu entrance to The Great Wall. Many of my friend suggested this entrance, and it was absolutely perfect and picturesque. The Wall opens at 8am, so we were able to get there, get our tickets etc. before all of the crowds showed up. You have to take a bus and then a ski lift of sorts to get to the starting point, and we were pretty much the only people on both at that hour, resulting in having the Great Wall of China to ourselves for the first two hours of our visit there. I can’t stress how amazing this was. We had no one in the background of our photos and we pretty much had free reign. So, do yourselves a favor and be the first ones when the Wall opens because the early start time is incredibly worth it.

We were done claiming to the top by noon and then made our way back to Beijing for some relaxation and lunch. It’s the perfect half day and was one of the highlights of the trip overall.

Beijing's Forbidden City

Beijing’s Forbidden City

Exploring the Forbidden City: Beijing is home to SO much of China’s historic moments and has some really beautiful ancient structures. We booked a group tour to see them all, but if we did it over, we would have done a private tour. The tour covered a lot of ground. It started with Tiananmen Square, the sight of the 1989 protests that resulted in the Chinese military mowing down protestors. We also made it to the Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, Pearl and Silk Markets.

Peking Duck: Save a very rich peking duck dinner for your time in Beijing, as it’s known for the cuisine here. There are two very famous spots for duck: Duck De Chine, where we ate, and Dadong. Both require reservations in advance and you should also specify when you make the reservation that you’ll want the full duck so that they have that on reserve for you. From there, we went to a wonderful cocktail bar across the way that was full of locals and really nice, craft cocktails. Was a great close to the trip.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: What To Eat In Shanghai

Our eating tour through Asia continued in Shanghai, an area known for upscale cuisine and foreign influences in its food. Below, find a recap of our favorite meals.

Dim sum for days at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai.

Dim sum for days at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai.

Din Tai Fung: We were on a bit of a dim dum kick after our fabulous meal at Duddell’s in Hong Kong, so we knew we had to make it to the legendary Din Tai Fung restaurant. For those not in the know, Din Tai Fung is a dumpling chain throughout Asia that is known for its long lines, excellent dumplings and a Michelin star. Despite a Michelin star, it is incredibly affordable.

After we dropped off our bags, we headed straight for Din Tai Fung and miraculously we had missed the lunch rush and were seated straight away. We pretty much ordered one of everything on the dim sum menu, with highlights being the pork buns and all of the dumplings. We also had mocha dim sum for dessert, which was amazing. We left really, really full but it was definitely worth it.

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Sichuan Citizen: We knew we wanted to spend some time in the French Concession of Shanghai, so we centered our visit there around lunch in the area at Sichuan Citizen. This buzzy restaurant serves up spicy food. We loved the chicken, just read the menu carefully as some of the chickens come with tiny bones inside that are meant to be even that can be a little off-putting.

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Mr. & Mrs Bund: Our final night out we had a fancy dinner at Mr. & Mrs. Bund, in an area of Shanghai that overlooks the iconic skyline. The French had a big influence on the cuisine in Shanghai when they inhabited the French Concession, so we were excited to try some French food. The ambiance at this restaurant is just beautiful. Oversized chairs and chandeliers and it’s just really sexy.

We ate baguettes and I had French Onion soup. My friend had escargot and everything was just done to perfection. We then went upstairs int he same building to bar hop overlooking the Bund.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: Shanghai

After a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong, we spent two days in Shanghai which was such an interesting city to visit, and one that I’m really happy that we snuck into our itinerary since we had considered skipping it altogether. Below, find our itinerary to all of the must-do spots in Shanghai. We will follow up with a post specifically related to everything we ate in Shanghai, which has some pretty amazing cuisine.

By the time we got to the hotel after the airport, we didn’t have that much time to explore Shanghai on our first of two days. But we managed to see quite a bit.

Day 1:

The most delicious dim sum at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai. This Michelin-starred restaurant is relaxed and inexpensive, but delicious.

The most delicious dim sum at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai. This Michelin-starred restaurant is relaxed and inexpensive, but delicious.

Din Tai Fung: This dim sum restaurant is an institution in Asia. There are several throughout China and it is approachable in terms of having a casual vibe but also has a Michelin star. The outpost we went to was a new one in a mall in Shanghai (Sidenote: shopping in China is insane. They have every major luxury store imaginable to satiate the rising middle class and new wealth. So, while malls are dead in America, they are thriving in China and are super luxurious and going up at a fast clip. Just walking through a mall is like being in a geopolitical economics class, so make sure to make some time walking through the malls and taking it all in, even if you don’t intend to shop). We ordered a really great assortment of dumplings which we will outline in our next post.

Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street: Once it got dark, we walked along the glittering Nanjing Road Pedestrian district past the Tesla and Maserati dealerships and onto a cute pedestrian road lined with boutiques, coffee shops and other charming retailers. We had a little time to kill between lunch and our tour later in the evening, and it was fun to get the pulse of Shanghai from walking around. The street is lined with Tiffany and other high-end shops as well as local boutiques.

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Untour Night Eats Tour: One of our highlights of our entire trip was a food tour that we booked with Untour. This tour came very highly recommended by a good friend of mine and it exceeded every expectation. Untour has a number of Shanghai food tours, but we decided to do the night eats one, which meets at 7pm and stops by a number of local hidden gems that tourists would never find or know to go to. We got to sample so many different types cuisines throughout the night and learn so much about Shanghai, its culture, cuisine etc. in the process, so in many ways it was more than just a food tour.

This three-hour walking tour starts with some soup dumplings in a hole-in-the-wall shop in Old Shanghai and over the course of it you’ll also eat noodles, eggplant, crawfish, clams, rice, Middle Eastern food, lots of Chinese sweets and even.. snake. Yes, toward the end of the tour, those brave enough will watch a snake be beheaded and fried up before you. We also visited a local Chinese craft brewer and alcohol was served throughout the night. The tour was so interesting, and our guide Chelsea was amazing. The cost is $75 per head and is definitely worth it.

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Explore Old City Shanghai: During our Untour Food Tour, we walked through Old City, so it was killing two birds with one stone. If you don’t do the tour, make sure to seek out this part of town. This area is a hub for locals walking to an fro to all of the fish stores, bakeries and restaurants serving locals so it’s a wonderful place to get a feel for everyday life for Shanghai locals.  We happened upon apartment tenements here where large extended families pack lots of relatives into small quarters and got to see how they made do with small spaces. Keep in mind — these tenements were often the apartments of shop owners, so are considered middle class. The area has become coveted by developers encroaching onto the territory to build luxe retail centers and the like, so the complexion of the area is changing over time and being built up. It was great to see Old City at this point in time and experience the barters and old women on scooters going to run their errands.

Day 2:

Yuyuan Garden, a 16th century Chinese garden in Shanghai.

Yuyuan Garden, a 16th century Chinese garden in Shanghai.

YuYuan Garden: The next morning we set out to find some beautiful ancient architecture at the YuYuan Garden. This classical Chinese garden dates back to the 16th century and if this doesn’t help you find you zen, I don’t know what will. This garden has a little bit of everything. Before you pay your entry, you will walk through a Chinese market in an alleyway lined with red huts. There is also an ancient tea house on the premises, if that’s on your list of things to do while in China. Meandering through the garden provides endless opportunities for amazing photos and feels like a truly authentic Chinese experience.

Leafy streets through Shanghai's charming French Concession.

Leafy streets through Shanghai’s charming French Concession.

Explore the French Concession: This part of town is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. These tree-lined streets are a mix of old, preserved mansions, unique boutiques, high-end restaurants and cute coffee shops. We spent a good two hours just strolling through the French Concession, which has Soho or West Village-like vibes to it. We had lunch in the French Concession at Sichuan Citizen (more on that in a separate post) and then we strolled around and popped into an organic coffee shop that I wish I wrote the name of because it was just perfect.

One of the many preserved posters from the Propaganda Art Centre.

One of the many preserved posters from the Propaganda Poster Art Centre.

Propaganda Poster Art Centre: This hidden gem of a museum is located in the basement of an apartment complex in a leafy part of Shanghai. It takes some maneuvering to find it, but it is worth the treasure hunt. We walked here from the French Concession and we suggest that you do the same. The museum houses more than 5,000 posters from newspaper clippings to communist posters that were largely destroyed since. Many of the posters date back to 1949, the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It was interesting to see now especially with all of the propaganda being spewed from our White House.

Views of the Bund in Shanghai from Bar Rouge.

Views of the Bund in Shanghai from Bar Rouge.

Bund Hopping: Our last night in Shanghai we wanted to spend on the Bund, the city’s famous glittering waterfront. There are a ton of restaurants and bars on the Bund with the most amazing views and we had a pretty ambitious itinerary to tackle as many of them as we could. This started with a pre-dinner drink at Bar Rouge, which while kind of tacky in decor (think 1990s club, NYC), it provided the perfect view to snap photos on. Added bonus: China, but Shanghai in particular, utilizes its vertical space, so it isn’t uncommon for a building to have a club, a few restaurants, some bars and other spots all in the same building meaning that you can ride an elevator to different spots all night. We did just that for dinner, which we had at dinner at Mr. & Mrs. Bund, in the same building, which is a French restaurant. The French cuisine in Shanghai is great because of the French influence from when they colonized part of it. From there, we took the elevator to a cocktail at Hakkasan and then finished the night at Vue, which is widely considered one of Shanghai’s best rooftop bars for views of the Bund. It was ambitious but definitely a night to remember.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Shanghai
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Hong Kong

With only two nights in Hong Kong, we really wanted to make the best use of our time in terms of getting must-have reservations. So, we set out months in advance to interrogate our friends about their favorite meals in the city. In order to get some of the harder-to-get reservations, we relied heavily on our concierge at the Shangri-La Kowloon. Here are all of our favorite meals while in Hong Kong.

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The most amazing meal at Mott32 in Hong Kong.

Mott32:  One of the spots that came really highly recommended was Mott32, a Chinese restaurant in the Central Business District that is sleek and sexy and probably at least 75% full of people expensing expensive meals on their corporate accounts. The vibe here is really indulgent and like something you would find in Manhattan. It’s definitely the type of place you want to wear heels and a cute outfit.

It was our first night in China, and we wanted something quintessentially Chinese but also with a kick of spice. So, in typical fashion, we overordered (by a lot) so we could have lots of different bites. We started with a seasoned jellyfish, which is WAY out of m comfort zone in terms of food and texture, but my best friend really enjoyed it.

Our main dishes (pictured above) were some of the best foods we ate in all of Asia. I had the free range chicken with dried chili and Szechuan red peppercorns which was so incredibly tasty and set my mouth on fire. My friend had the poached Mandarin fish fillet in Szechuan pepper broth which was crazy spicy, but delicious. We shared both dishes. To be noted: these dishes were humungous and way too much for one person. We really should have asked for half portions of each because we let a lot go to waste. This was one of our most expensive meals in China, but absolutely worth it and a great way to kick off the trip.

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A beautiful sunset from the patio of the Peak Lookout at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

The Peak Lookout: The photo above is unedited and exactly why you need to time your trip to Victoria Peak for before sunset and then grab a cocktail on the patio of The Peak lookout to watch the most amazing sunset. My suggestion is to check the exact time that sunset is when you are in Hong Kong and aim to get to the top of the Peak about an hour and a half before it. Go to the top of the Sky Terrace and take your photos, and then make your way to the clifftop restaurant called the Peak Lookout about 40 minutes before sunset. Ask for a table out back on the patio, grab yourself a glass of wine and position yourself for the sunset. A note: don’t order food here. It is mostly fried food and bites that are overpriced for tourists. Stick to the wine and the sunset and you’ll leave happy.

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Dim sum lunch at Duddell’s in Hong Kong.

Duddell’s: One of my favorite meals ever was at Duddell’s, the most delightful restaurant I think I’ve ever stepped foot into. Duddell’s is known for its dim sum, or dumplings, and is a bit of an institution in Hong Kong. We weren’t in Hong Kong on the weekend unfortunately, but they do an epic dim sum champagne brunch that I will definitely time my next visit for.

The vibe of Duddell’s is super refined with reclaimed wood staircases and really eclectic art. The second floor has the most charming bar and opens up onto an outdoor patio with strung lights. It’s just super cute all around. The dim dum is even more amazing. We went to Duddell’s hangry and left super satisfied. Some of our favorites from the meal were the pork buns (which we re-ordered again after having because they were that good), the soup dumplings, all of the pork and chicken dumplings and the friend rice. This meal was epic in just every way possible and it wasn’t lost on us why they have two Michelin stars. And, they give you these incredible dipping sauces for the dumplings that we legit were putting on everything and the chef even sent us out with a carton of it to take home. if you make one reservation in Hong Kong, make sure it’s for dim sum at Duddell’s.

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Chicken meatball yakitori and pickled vegetables at Yardbird in Hong Kong.

Yardbird: Located in the Sheung Wan part of Hong Kong, Yardbird is a hip yakitori restaurant with a n elevated approach to the grilled meat skewers. After two days of really indulging in pretty rich foods, Yardbird was the perfect dinner for our last night in Hong Kong. The dishes are protein-centric and light. We started off with their pickles dish, which came with small plates of pickled kimchi, cucumber, daikon, ginger and other great bites. We then moved onto the skewers, which are all different parts of the chicken. We had breast, thigh, wings, chicken meatball (amazing). It was a great meal before a night out because we didn’t feel crazy full afterward.

Want to see more of our Asia Travel Guides?
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

 

Hong Kong Travel Guide: The Shangri-La Kowloon

Last month, I stayed at the Shangri-La’s Kowloon location in Hong Kong and I couldn’t sing its praises enough. From he decor and service to their amazing concierge, this hotel was truly five stars.

Hong Kong is broken up not two major areas: Central, which is the business district and Kowloon, which has more of a neighborhood feel but is just a few subway stops from Central. We decided to stay in Kowloon after discussing it with friends who live over in Hong Kong and having stayed there it was the right move.

The Shangri-La was pure luxury from before we even arrived. I had been in touch with their concierges about dinner reservations, logistics and other questions, which they gladly answered and were amazing enough to get us hard-to-get reservations. I also loved that the hotel was across the street from a major subway stop, making it easy to navigate Hong Kong efficiently. The lobby is grand, with beautiful crystal chandeliers and a beautiful bar and other areas to congregate.

Our room was spacious and luxe with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbor. They had American outlet adaptors for us and a plush marble bathroom with great features. The bed had super soft sheet sand pillows and was great to come home to after a long day of sightseeing.  They also provide guests with smart phones that have free international calling and wifi and make navigating the city a breeze.

This was a great five-star experience that is centrally located to make it a perfect spot to see the rest of the city from.

Check out our other Asia Travel Guides:
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: Hong Kong

I recently spent a week traveling around China, starting in Hong Kong which I became absolutely enthralled with. This tropical and cosmopolitan city is a business hub with such an eclectic feel to it. It has great shopping, food, sightseeing and weather and is such a great place to explore. We only had about 36 hours in Hong Kong, so we came up with a pretty aggressive itinerary to maximize our time. Read below for a perfect 36 hours in Hong Kong.

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Views of the pastel sky scrapers from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

Day 1:

We landed in Hong Kong around 1:30 pm and headed straight to our hotel, the Shangri-La in Kowloon to drop off our bags and change. From there, we hopped in a cab and headed to the tippy top of Victoria Peak to get the most amazing views of all of Hong Kong and take in the sunset. Some practical things to know: you will need cash for all taxis, including the one from the airport. Taxis in Hong Kong are super cheap, so it makes sense to take it to the Peak and also to and from the airport.

You can take a tram to the top of Victoria Peak, but in the interest of time, we took the cab and then went to the top of an observation deck called sky Terrace which cost around $10 each but is totally worth it to take in the sights and the pastel buildings, rolling hills and water. It was truly a highlight of the trip and gave us some great photo ops.

After seeing the sights, we went to a restaurant on the peak called The Peak Lookout for a few glasses of wine on their balcony which has the most amazing views of the sunset. We would highly recommend doing this, also.

Mott 32: With only two nights to dine in Hong Kong, we set about some major foodie research and got reservations at all of our must-dos. There will be a separate post on everything we ate next week, so be sure to circle back for that.

Day 2:

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Kowloon Park, Hong Kong.

Kowloon Park: Our second day was our only full day to explore all of Hong Kong, so we set out early and got unlimited metro cards because it makes the most sense to see Hong Kong using public transportation. We started by walking from our hotel to Kowloon Park, which is this amazing, tropical park in Kowloon that is so well groomed and has flamingos in its ponds. The land was once a former army fortress but became a public park in 1970. It was a great break from the skyscrapers around the city and takes around 30 minutes to walk through.

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Fruit and Vegetable Market: From here, we set about seeing a local fruit and vegetable market frequented by locals in Hong Kong. Stall after stall boast dragonfruit, giant cucumbers and fresh eggs for the taking. We were the only white people at the market and it was a really great vantage point to get a view of daily life for locals in Hong Kong. It was hard to find logistically but well worth it.

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Views from the Star Island Ferry in Hong Kong.

Star Ferry: There are a few options to get from Kowloon to Hong Kong center district. You can drive, take the subway or take the Star Ferry, which is a super cheap way to get an awesome vantage point of both Kowloon and Hong Kong city. We suggest taking the Star Ferry at least once during your stay. For less than $4, you can get from point A to point B quickly and also get some great shots. The ferry leaves about every ten minutes and is a pretty quick ride.

Dim Sum: We will elaborate more on this in our food post about Hong Kong, but you really can’t go there without getting dim sum. And, if you want great dim sum in an awesome environment, then make sure to get a reservation at Duddell’s. They have an amazing champagne brunch with the most delectable pieces of dim sum. It was one of my favorite meals from the entire trip.

 

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong.

Man Mo Temple: From lunch, we tok a subway to the Man Mo Temple int he Sheung Wan and Wan Chai part of Hong Kong, which quickly became our favorite neighborhood. This sacred sight has hundreds of red lanterns and shrines adorned with fruit offerings. It’s incredibly peaceful and spiritual and can be done inside of twenty minutes.

PMQ Design District: from Man Mo, walk to PMQ Design District which is an indoor-outdoor venue for local artists to display their wares. It has jewelry shops, paintings, eclectic homewares and also really hip restaurants, bars and coffee shops. It’s an awesome spot to get really unique souvenirs and see artists at work. It has a Williamsburg hipster feel to it, which I hesitate to even say since I think PMQ is so much cooler and is located in this hilly area surrounded by pastel buildings in all states of disarray contrasting with nearby mansions.

Walk Around Sun, Moon & Star Streets: This cluster of streets is near PMQ and Man Mo Temple, so doing all three of them makes for a really nice walk. These streets are bustling with the cutest boutiques, restaurants and cafes. It’s particularly great if you want homewares. There was a yuppy feel to the area and loads of great places to wander upon. We popped into a new hotspot called Ted’s Lookout for a drink during happy hour which was just perfect. We’ll tell you more about that in our food and drink post.

Thai Massage: Thai and deep tissue massages are insanely cheap in Hong Kong and well worth it. After our early happy hour drink, we set about finding a spot for an hour-ling massage after all of our cramped airplane travel. One spot we went into was super shady so we left, but we found a great and clean spa called Happy Foot Luxe in Wan Chai and it was around $30 for an hour-long Thai Massage.

Lan Kwai Fung: Hong Kong is notorious for a work-had, play-hard culture and the playing typically takes place in a district called Lan Kwai Fung. Before a late dinner at Yardbird (more on that later), we went to LKF as it is referred for drinks and wound up at an amazing bar called Cassio which was just perfect. It has a members only feel to it but has the atmosphere of another decade. The outdoor patio has string lights and stiff cocktails. Definitely worth visiting. After dinner, we hit up another hotspot called Sevva which has a roof with great views.

After that, our whirlwind 36 hour-stay in Hong Kong was over. I could have easily spent another few days in the city, but happy we packed as much in as we did.

Some practical bits of advice when planning a trip to China. Hong Kong is pretty lax on censorship, but other citifies block Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc. So, get a VPN from work so that you can bypass and blockages. Also, if you plug venues such as restaurants, museums and other sights into your Google Maps before going to China, you can access it while there. I also made sure that my itinerary had the Chinese name and address in Chinese on it so that I could communicate with cab drivers and others when asking for directions. This is an absolute must before a trip to China.

Check out our other Asia Travel Guides:
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Kyoto

While only a few hours from Tokyo, Kyoto has its own forms of cuisine that we wanted to sample while visiting and there were a still some holdouts from our Tokyo list that we wanted to try, such as yakitori. Here’s what we ate in Kyoto:

Gion Namba:

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Traditional kaiseki dinner at Gion Namba in Kyoto

Top of our Kyoto list was a traditional Kyoto style of eating called kaiseki, or a multi-course Japanese dinner that does not involve sushi. These dinners can be pretty expensive and also come with no fewer than 12 courses. They can also be a bit….ambitious. After surveying some friends, we made a reservation at Gion Namba in the Gion part of Kyoto known for where the geishas can be spotted. After walking down a narrow, unmarked alleyway we came across this Michelin-starred restaurant.

The atmosphere at Gion Namba is great. We sat at the bar with three other people and watched the chefs get to work. While the quality of everything we were served was top notch I’m sure, it was a bit too adventurous for us to fully appreciate. Many of the dishes we indiscernible or had odd textures. I picked on a few of the courses but wound up passing my dishes to my boyfriend when the chef wasn’t looking, resulting in him being uncomfortably full. My verdict: if you are a true foodie and an adventurous eater, this is worth the price tag and you should make a reservation. if not, skip this and go for something more low-key.

Omen:

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The next day we were out and about seeing all of the temples and shrines and wanted to have a quick lunch so that we could get right back out there and explore. While walking toward the Silver Palace, we stumbled upon an udon spot called Omen.

Omen was great on all fronts. We quickly were seated to a table where we sat cross-legged on a mat and perused the menu of soba, udon and other noodles. I ordered an udon dish and my boyfriend ordered soba and we sampled each others.

Torito:

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Yakitori at Torito in Kyoto

After a fancy and rich dinner the night before for kaiseki, we wanted something more laid back for our second night in Kyoto. That’s why we were really excited to stumble upon Torito after having drinks at Yamitoya, a bar that had come recommended by friends. After speaking with the bartender about local cuisine in the neighborhood, we learned about a yakitori spot calles Torito that is a local favorite. We ran (literally, it was so cold out) from Yamitoya to Torito and sat at the bar to watch the chefs at work. Yakitori is a Japanese cuisine that involves meat skewers of all different varieties. The meats are cooked on grills and open flames and you can go as basic or adventurous (I’m looking at you, chicken hearts) as you want. We wound up getting chicken breast, thigh, skin, meatballs and other skewers that were delicious. They are seasoned and grilled and as close as you’re going to get to a paleo meal in Japan. It was a really nice contrast to our adventurous day of eating the prior day. This served as our Thanksgiving dinner, and it definitely beat dry turkey and cranberry sauce.

Dean & Deluca:

A strange thing happened in Asia that I’ve found amusing ever since. Any time we found something American, including U.S. chains, I got irrationally happy and found myself gravitating toward my creature comforts after days of eating Asian food, which was delicious, but also a bit much after a while. So, when we came across a Starbucks or other chains (typically at breakfast), I insisted we go in and find Greek yogurt or muffins and such. So, when we were walking around Kyoto and stumbled upon a Dean & Deluca near city center, I was ecstatic. We ran in and I surveyed the glass cases of prepared foods before deciding on a quiche and iced coffee which set us up perfectly for the rest of the day.

 

Check out our other Asia Travel Guides:
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Hong Kong