It feels like "Spring Break" as the six of us land in Hong Kong—the first time in years that the entire gang finally managed to get schedules in sync for a girls' escapade. Arrival at Hong Kong's ultra-efficient Chek Lap Kok airport was a breeze and we Roller over to the legendary Peninsula, our fab home for the next few days.
1.30PM BASE CAMP
The Peninsula's impeccable service and warm hospitality never fail. Walking into the iconic lobby of this Grande Dame hotel, we are immediately transported into a world of rarified elegance. And our room, a perfect blend of understated luxury and touch-button technology (with delightful views of Victoria Harbour to boot), is sheer bliss.
After a quick fresh-up, the girls are ready to head across the harbour to Central, where most of the action is concentrated during Art Week. We hop on to the ever-reliable MTR (Hong Kong's superbly maintained underground train system) and get there with time to spare for a coffee before the doors officially open for Art Central's VIP Preview.
3.00PM ART FAIR
Now on its third year, Art Central is staged in an impressive 10,000-square- metre custom-designed structure on the Central Harbour point. It is a visual feast to walk through row upon row of international galleries (over 100, in fact) exhibiting a fascinating range of works by emerging and established contemporary artists. Adding to the multi-sensory experience are boundary-pushing performances and large-scale installations scattered throughout the massive tent.
4.30PM REFUELLING STATION
Shortly into the second hour on our feet and the girls clamour for a quick bite. We head outdoors for the conveniently set-up Street Food Central, serving up a unique variety of fun eats. The steamed giant buns with pulled pork and portabello mushrooms perfectly hit the spot!
6.00PM OPENING NIGHT
Next on the agenda is the "Urs Fischer" Opening at the blue-chip Gagosian Gallery over at Pedder Building. The New York-based Swiss artist's first solo show in Asia features 11 large-scale tableaux. At the cocktail, we meet up with another Manila friend, the art enthusiast Myla Villanueva, who leads us on a fun gallery hop through the Pedder Building, home to blockbuster galleries including Ben Brown, Lehmann Maupin and Pearl Lam. Champagne corks pop open and the building's narrow halls area frenzy as collectors and art aficionados cross paths on their way to simultaneous Opening Night receptions.
8.00PM TIME TO CHILL
Last stop on our Gallery Night crawl with Myla is the Asian out post of London's White Cubeon Connaught Road, just a short walk away. On show are the American artist Theaster Gates 'bronze works as well as hidden gems in the gallery's back room. From there we mozy on to White Cube's private dinner at the hip Sai Ying Pun hotspot, Potato Head. Great Indonesian fare, more bubbly, cool cocktails, the chill vibe and jazz and reggae beats on vinyl are perfect to unwind after the day's dizzying events.
9.30AM MORNING GLORY
Brunch is a long drawn affair of girl talk and endless cappuccinos at The Verandah, The Peninsula's crisp colonial-inspired cafe. After all, who can resist an exquisite breakfast spread offering Asian specialties, continental classics and a sinful selection of ne breads and patisserie from the hotel's acclaimed pastry kitchen? Between the congee, eggs Benedict and petit pain au chocolat, I could stay forever!
2.30PM SHOW TIME
All roads lead to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai for the fifth edition of Art Basel Hong Kong. We arrive bright and early for the 3PM Private View. This year's fair, drawing 242 international exhibitors from 34 countries, is
divided into specific sectors, from the main Galleries showcasing leading Modern and contemporary dealers; Discoveries featuring emerging artists; Film; Insights focusing on Asia and the Asia Pacific regions and Kabinett highlighting 19 curated displays.
4.00PM ART OF TIME
A floating tree scuplture takes centrestage at the Audemars Piguet lounge, designed by the Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz, where we pop in for tea. It pays homage to Le Brassus, home of Audemar Piguet's Manufacture and symbolises the brand's deeply-rooted history and philosophy of endless growth. Within the collector's lounge, a video installation by the Chinese artist Cheng Ran entitled Circadian Rhythm takes the viewer on a sensorial journey, melding the images and sounds of nature with the mechanical rhythms of a watch in motion.
8.00PM CHINA CHIC
With interiors chaneling 30s Shanghai glam, and walls covered from head to toe in Chinese contemporary art, an invitation to The China Club is always something to look forward to. Tonight's intimate dinner, hosted by Katie de Tilly of the pioneering 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, is a chance to mingle with gallerists, collectors and artists including one of China's most famous photographers, Shi Guori.
11.30PM SWEET DREAMS
After a long but exhilarating day, it was a joy to go back to our heavenly room. My roommate So a and I could not resist the temptation of Peninsula chocolates specially designed for Art Week before tucking into bed.
10.00AM RETAIL THERAPY
No girls trip is complete without shopping and this was the morning designated just for that! After another spectacular Verandah breakfast, we all head over to Shanghai Tang, located in a charming Art Deco heritage building just around the corner from The Pen. Apart from picking up elegant silk clutches and a scarf or two, the girls stock up on lovely gifts from their line of mod Chinese- inspired home accessories. After
Shanghai Tang, the group splits up with the hardcore shoppers motoring out to Horizon Plaza at Ap Lei Chau. If you have the time, it is certainly worth the trek to the Joyce Warehouse and Lane Crawford Outlet where the world's best designer labels can be had for a song.
1.45PM DIM SUM DELUXE
We converge for a late lunch at Spring Moon, The Peninsula's one Michelin- starred Cantonese restaurant.
Latecomer to our HK escapade, Techie Hagedorn has own into town in time for the divine dim sum lunch: baked barbecued pork puffs, vegetarian dumplings with imperial fungus, steamed Sicilian shrimp dumplings and more. What a feast it was! From there it is each to her own and the more conscientious of the pack return to the Convention and Exhibition Centre for a last round at the Art Basel Private View before the Fair throws open its doors to the public.
6.30PM HAPPY HOUR
Our last night gets off to a flying start with gin tonics and spectacular views at the hotel's Felix Bar overlooking the sparkling city skyline.
8.00PM NIGHT ON THE TOWN
From there it's on to Mott 32, where a rather dramatic entrance descends into the cavernous uber chic bar and restaurant situated in the basement of the Standard Chartered Bank Building. After more drinks, we segue into dinner. Thank God for Marilu who did remember to put in a pre-order for their signature Applewood smoked Peking Duck the prerequisite 48 hours before! Served straight from Mott 32's custom oven, the duck carved tableside arrives fabulously moist and succulent with perfectly crisp skin and all the trimmings—absolutely to die for!
10.30PM AFTER PARTY
From there we walk over to the Landmark where the Audemars Piguet After-Dinner Party is on full gear at the fashionable Zuma. The two-storey space was transformed into an immersive experience of the Vallée de Joux, (hometown to the Swiss Haute Horlogerie brand), bathed in an ethereal green light and surrounded by panoramic images of trees and landscapes of the Jura mountains. Endless bottles of Ruinart and the Shanghai-based DJ Victor Aime kept us on our feet 'til way past our bedtime.
The entire evening was a wonderful nale to an unforgettable few days—a whirlwind of beautiful art, epic breakfasts, drinks, dinners, parties, shopping, laughter, bonding and everything else that makes girlfriends one of life's best gifts!
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