Express by Hilary Geary

Express by Hilary Geary

QUEST, 2005 September

Express by Hilary Geary

I took the flight from New York to Tokyo, then changed planes to get to Beijing; all and all, more hours than I care to count spent in the air.

Bleary-eyed, I arrive at the Beijing airport and pass through discreet sensors that check your temperature. I can barely remember the SARS scare just a year ago, but this is a good wake-up call. Officials also ask you to fill out a form on the flight asking if you have been sick, etc., etc.

Beijing is overflowing with history, and first thing, I headed off to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Both are dazzling and worth a thou-sand-hour flight to see. It was delightful to come back to the remarkably comfy Grand Hyatt, which was luxurious, modern, and convenient. You get wonderful room service and excellent high-speed Internet connection—I could instant message my family and friends as if I were around the corner! Luckily, there also was crystal-clear phone reception, because my international cell did not work on the mainland.

For souvenirs and antiques, you have to hit the open-air markets, where you can pick up all kinds of goodies. Tiffany's own John Loring advised me to bargain and tell the dealers "there are thousands of tourists for you, and thousands of antiques for me, so let's get reasonable." He was right, it works!

Next stop was Shanghai, which is growing faster than any place I have ever seen. Stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, which was surrounded by buzzing BMWs and Mercedes, and there were at least six new tall buildings going up. The well-appointed hotel had a big gym with a view and TVs, plus excellent room service.

There is tons to see in Shanghai, including the Yuyuan Garden, an oasis plunked in the middle of town; and don't forget to sip tea the nearby Ming-dynasty Huxinting Tea House, stop at the Jade Buddha Temple, and when you get hungry and yearn for familiar New York-type Chinese food like lemon chicken, try the restaurant named “1221." And don't miss shopping at Dong Tai flea market for “antiques" (buyer beware), and take a peek at the ultra-glam stock exchange in the financial district.

Next stop is Hong Kong, and I am armed with a list from Jeannie Pearman of where to shop. Her best sources were the jeweler K.S. Sze & Sons, and the shoemaker at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Mayer Shoes-pack up your favorite pairs, as they will copy anything.

Of course, I find New Yorkers in Hong Kong and run into Kathy Reis with Winnie

Phyfe, and have drinks with Soffia Wathne at the heavenly Peninsula, where I am staying. The restaurants are superb there, and Vong, on top of the Mandarin, is at the top of my list. Do not miss Spoon, another Alain Ducasse triumph, with dazzling views…

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