Before she was a jet-setting businesswoman and founder of luxury travel website, The Luxe Nomad, Stephanie Chai had already caught the wanderlust bug from an early age on. Having spent her childhood in Kuching, Sarawak and then moving to quiet New Zealand for high school, she tells us there wasn't a lot to do and hence, she was always looking forward to holidays and daydreaming about places to go.
Of course, fast forward to today and this #BossGirl is flying around at least once a month. "There's always something to be learned from going somewhere new and seeing a different culture. You can't quite get the same experience from reading a book," she tells us. And with her expertise, we got her to share the latest travel trends, her thoughts on travelling and the key to a perfect holiday, and what to do and where to go at her ultimate favourite holiday destination—Hong Kong.
Three holiday destinations that should be on everyone's travel bucket list?
The perfect holiday requires...
The perfect company and place! There was once when I was in Italy with a few friends and they invited a guy who they hadn't seen since childhood. He turned out to be extremely grumpy and stingy, refusing to help with the bags and leaving us girls to lug two pieces of luggage each on our own whilst he just had a backpack. Luckily, while it did put a damper on the holiday, Italy is such an amazing destination that we didn't dwell too much on it and left Mr. Grumpy aside. But since then, we've been more careful with who we invite on group holidays!
Tell us your best travel memory.
One of my favourite moments was when I was in New York hanging out with some Singaporean friends who were living there at the time. We had a completely random night in the East Village and ended up at some bar where there was a professional dancer doing the samba. I took off my heels and had a few twirls with him—I love those unplanned nights in cities where you don't know anyone and anything goes.
So what do you like and dislike about travelling?
I suppose you're either someone who likes things to always be different or the same. I fall in the former category where the idea of not knowing what is going to happen in the next month excites me! On the downside, though, traveling a lot can be somewhat lonely—where do you truly belong? This year, I made an effort to reduce the amount of travelling I do, which is working out quite well. It's nice to just have a good group of friends you can see from time to time and not be all over the place.
Five best tips when planning a trip.
• Post on Facebook. There are bound to be some friends who know a few things!
• Buy one of those travel books or go on Wikipedia (I'm personally a Wiki addict!).
• Book with someone like us (TheLuxeNomad.com) as we provide insider tips and guides.
• Go on Instagram and search the location or hashtag of the destination.
• Don't over-plan. Sometimes it's good to wing it!
Three travel must-haves that are unique to you.
• A pair of socks. The hotel room can sometimes be really cold and I can't sleep with cold feet!
• A little passport folder with multiple currencies (just in case you lose your main wallet).
• Antihistamine pills. Sometimes I find it hard to sleep in a new place for the first night so I knock one of the back and they make me drowsy (I assume they are better for you to take than a sleeping pill).
Ultimate favourite holiday destination?
There are so many! I love Hong Kong though; so much so that I am now based there as our company has expanded to China and Japan, and Hong Kong is located right in between. The place has a bit of grit to it and a lot of life. There's always someone passing through and something going on in this Asian city that doesn't sleep.
Where would you recommend to stay when in Hong Kong?
The Upper House and Four Seasons are two of the best options for accommodation here. The Upper House has fantastic service and large suites—I especially love the sunken bath that looks out to the harbour and the surround sound system. Four Seasons, on the other hand, has a great spa and the great room interiors.
What's a must-do while in Hong Kong?
Everyone in Hong Kong has one particular pastime: hiking. If you're up for it, head to Twin Peaks where you will literally walk up 1,000 steps! I love it because it's a great workout and the scenery is amazing—it doesn't feel like I'm in Hong Kong at all. It's all hills and the sea. The best is when it's misty and it feels like you're walking amongst the clouds.
Okay, the next most important question—places to eat in Hong Kong?
If it's a restaurant you're looking for, I would suggest Carbone for American Italian food and it has a great atmosphere. For the nightlife, head to Stockton for a classic drink with an old school feel or Salon 10, which is quite quirky and has a nice crowd. Paradiso, however, is my favourite new bar and they have great music. People start dancing around 2am there. A cafe I would recommend is Locofama; everything is locally sourced and super yummy!
Where do you shop in Hong Kong?
Finally, as Asians, we tend to have a lot of pantang to follow when staying in a hotel—are there any that you follow or have heard of?
I just never stay in the corner room of a hotel—apparently, that's where the ghosts get 'stuck' as they can't move around the corners.