With the cooler weather and the crisp leaves underfoot, the feeling of fall is definitely in the air—and that means Halloween is almost here. In this edition, we’ve rounded up some of the most mysterious places in the world to get you in a spooky mood. If that’s not your scene, why not learn more about what Turkey has to offer? Two of our advisors give us the lowdown. And speaking of advisors, meet the newest to join the First in Service family.
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Each month F1S heads to our featured destination to share the best of the region with you. Our Asia expert Kathy Chou took a dizzying trip to Beijing, Chengdu, and Hong Kong where she stayed at our WONDERWALL properties and had the time of her life.
You’ve been to China many times. Why would you recommend visiting it?
It’s a vast country with epic history tracing back 8,000 years. Traveling from city to city feels like you are visiting different countries with distinct local culture, dialects and personalities. And it is constantly changing. In addition to ancient world heritage sites, you’ll find the latest technology, hottest trends, and very grand or weird architecture. There are always new and fascinating discoveries – like what I experienced on this trip.
Tell us about your WONDERWALL stays.
In Hong Kong I stayed in The Upper House, a true urban sanctuary next to Pacific Place shopping complex, overlooking the green hills and harbor. I also stayed at the Rosewood Beijing, which is hands down, the best hotel in the capital, with fantastic dining options and an amazing team to look after you. In Chengdu I stayed at The Temple House, a beautiful blend of ancient and hip. It is conveniently located by the upscale Taiguli shopping and dining complex.
The capital Beijing can appear to be overwhelming. How would you recommend planning a visit?
With three very different airport terminals, international arrival alone requires careful planning! I have done it three times and encountered challenges each time. But this time, Rosewood Beijing did a terrific job in arranging meet and greet at the airport, so it was stress-free. You really need experienced experts to help you navigate all the essentials.
China is steeped in tradition. Tell us about your rare experience with Beijing’s “Cricket Master.”
Cricket “fighting” is a bizarre, ancient sport in China. I was able to meet with Master Liu, a famous cricket trainer, who showed me the art of meticulously training the little creatures to “fight” in an arena. I met him in his courtyard home in the hutong. Hutongs are ancient alleyways, where you find the authentic life of Beijingers. They are fascinating to walk through, and he was a master storyteller!
You also spent time with pandas in Chengdu?
I completely fell in love with the adorable Giant Pandas. I did the Panda Keeper Program which was much more interesting and meaningful than just taking a photo with them. You need to plan one extra day in Chengdu for that, but it will be a memory of a lifetime.
What were the trip highlights?
Tell us about your memorable meals.
A few really stood out. In the Rosewood Beijing, I experienced the perfect Peking duck at Country Kitchen, and the rich and flavorful Hot Pot at Red Bowl. I loved having tasty dim sum with the locals in Hong Kong. The vegetarian cuisine in The Temple House Tea House in Chengdu, and the Sichuan stir-fry pork knuckles in a local Chengdu diner were also memorable.
Tell us about the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer river cruise experience.
It’s the only true luxury small boat cruise on the Yangtze River, half the size of regular cruise ship. And it’s the best way to see and experience the mighty gorges, with interesting excursions throughout the trip, and gourmet dining onboard. Sailing season goes from March through November.
Any tips for first time travelers to China?
Work with an experienced specialist to plan a memorable journey. As the famous sites are usually packed with domestic tourists, go off the beaten path and choose non-peak times to visit sites.