When I walked out of the Hong Kong airport, the heat of the city slapped me so hard across the face, it was like a woman catching her cheating husband with a long-suspected mistress. I was literally gob smacked at how oppressive it was and that’s saying a lot, coming from a Miami girl. While I’m no stranger to tropical temperatures, this was something totally different; a whole other level. The overwhelming warmth simultaneously penetrated and radiated through every single pore of my body. The surprising thing was: I liked it. A lot.

Once I got my bearings, which meant shaking off one of the longest plane rides I’ve ever endured (17-plus hours, in coach, with swollen joints, head-bobbing sleep, recycled air and not enough wine in the world to dull me of my misery,) I cabbed my way into “The Pearl of the Orient.” That’s Hong Kong’s nickname and I was about to find out why.

Just as the sun was setting in the Far East, my driver (who, by the way, could have given any professional IRL race car driver a run for his money,) zipped me toward the city skyline as if my very life depended on it. My immediate impression of the ‘People’s Republic of China’ was like that of the heat at the airport…

I was completely and utterly astonished by it. The city was massive and nothing short of mesmerizing. I knew that it was considered one of the most densely populated areas in the world (with over 7 million people strong,) but I had no idea the kind of effect seeing it, with my own two eyes, would have on me. It was a moment I’ll never forget. It’s literally burned into my brain.

I’ve had the good fortune (in my personal and professional life) to travel the world, see mind-blowing places and meet and interview intriguing people, but I knew my Deco Drive assignment to cover the world premiere of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” hosted by Paramount Pictures in Hong Kong, had the potential to be something extraordinary and in just a few short hours, it already was.

By the time the cab made its way to “The W Hotel” at Kowloon Station, where I was staying, the sky had already turned pitch black, but the day didn’t go quietly into the night. Instead, the massive muscle of the city itself shone brighter than a Quasar. I’m no astrophysicist, but the energy source coming off the harbour had a incredible magnetic pull to it and I was being completely and utterly sucked in, willingly.

For me, the next few days, despite being incredibly labor intensive, were some of the best I’ve ever spent abroad. Flanked by some of my favorite colleagues (other Entertainment Reporters from around the United States) we worked, explored and took advantage of every waking moment possible. In the six days that I was there, I slept a total of 8 hours. I was beyond delirious when I left, but it was worth it.

I did a lot of stand-ups (that’s when you see me introducing myself and telling you what’s coming up on Deco,) at the Temple Night Street Market, Victoria Peak and The Victoria Harbour. I also did one-on-one interviews with the cast of the movie at the beyond-fabulous Ritz Carlton. It’s proudly located on the top of the ‘International Commerce Centre,’ making it one of the tallest hotels in the world; one hundred eighteen floors to be exact. My ears would pop every time I took a ride to the top.

During my interviews, I asked each movie star (Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci) to describe Hong Kong. They’d all spent quality time in the city because a big chunk of the movie was filmed there. They each used provocative adjectives like: alive, inspirational, beautiful, stunning, pulsating and prosperous. In fact, they’d all experienced the same ‘shock and awe’ that I did, when first encountering the “East meets West” treasure.

The movie’s red carpet was quite the experience, too. It was on a rainy, uber-humid day at Victoria Harbour, with a jaw-dropping view of the city in the background. I’ve never sweated or been rained on so much when working (omitting hurricane coverage.) As the stars made their way through the press line, intermittent heavy downpours, kind of like squalls, threatened to ruin the entire event. Everyone hung tough, though. Reporters, photographers, sound guys, even the stars huddled together to brave the messy weather. Each time the rain passed, it was business as usual.

The premiere night ended with a high-spirited, outdoor live concert performance by Imagine Dragons. The group wrote and recorded “Battle Cry,” the theme song to the movie. The crowd, mainly made up of locals, knew every word to every song. As I looked around, there were hundreds of flowing arms with cell phones stretched high in the air. Just beyond the stage, where the band was performing, Hong Kong sparkled in all its night time glory. It was just a “WOW” kind of moment.

As the week zoomed by, I realized that it was nearly impossible to put the magical city in a blog box. I mean, to say or describe Hong Kong in a certain way would actually be doing it a disservice. What I mean is, the place is so multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, it’s ultimately a reflection of the entire world. It’s international, progressive and forward-thinking. Hong Kong is definitely blazing its own path, economically and culturally-speaking. In other words, its 100% doing its own thing. Here’s what I found to be “Hot in Hong Kong”…

Fact: The English translation of Hong Kong (HK) is “Fragrant Harbour.” The city got the name for two reasons: it used to export aromatic incense and the harbour is where the Pearl River and the South China Sea meet, allegedly creating “sweet” water.

Film: They like the same kind of movies we do. Matter-of-fact, right now at the Hong Kong box office, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is ruling the roost. No surprise, as the most popular movies shot there fall into the action cinema genre. They’re known for their kick-ass marital arts, mystic spirituality and prolific story telling skills on the big screen.

Food: Although the city is known for its international palette and has earned the nickname, “World’s Fair of Food,” it’s the Dim Sum that I found most appealing. I treated myself (on more than one occasion) to the “Steamed Golden Shrimp Dumplings” from the famous “Tin Lung Heen” restaurant at the Ritz Carlton. It’s on the 102nd floor of the aforementioned International Commerce Center. Not only is the view astonishing, the atmosphere is elegant and the food was some of the best I’d experienced in Hong Kong.

Fame: I had the pleasure of interviewing Chinese actress Li Bingbing while I was in Hong Kong. She has a small, but fabulous part as a fashion-forward, femme-fatale factory owner in the new Transformers. Most of her scenes are opposite actor Stanley Tucci and let me tell you, she is magnetic. The two have great on-screen chemistry together and she’s more than easy on the eyes. While Li is just gaining fame in the states, she’s a bonafide, award-winning actress in the Asian movie world. Although she wasn’t born in Hong Kong, she’s said to be applying for naturalization.

Fashion: Pinpointing Hong Kong fashion is like trying to make sense of what’s going on trend-wise in New York City. Different parts of the city and different lifestyles call for a range of fashions. What I noticed most (just by observing people on the street) is they dressed the part. My lasting impression came after the movie’s world premiere. That’s when I was able to wander around the city and see a bit of Hong Kong’s nightlife. The women were dressed extremely chic and ladylike, with a bit of an edge. The style was a cross between DVF, Ted Baker and Top Shop. I followed popular fashion bloggers @TinaLeung and @SabrinaSikora on Instagram to get an up-close experience of what HK’s fashionistas were really wearing.

Fan: My blog look is inspired fashion-wise by everything HK has been thru and that’s a lot. They were ruled by China, invaded by the Japanese and colonized by the British. In the end, though, they emerged with sovereignty. I wanted my “Hot in Hong Kong” look to be worldly and independent with a strong Far East influence.

I snagged my Asian-inspired wrap in London’s West End at Primark. My haute couture vintage belt is a gem I found and bargained for at “Screaming Mimi’s” in NYC’s East Village. My butterfly ring is the vision of jewelry designer extraordinaire Jill Zaleski (HK as an impressive 240 species of butterflies) and last but not least, my hair bling is from Florida’s own TopStix Chopsticks company. Yes, you can really eat with them. They’re decorated with a plethora of Swarovski crystals. Nothing says fashionista like a pair of custom made chopsticks (all items mentioned are pictured in the blog.)

Finally: If you’re looking for an adventure of a lifetime, where the sights and sounds of the the past, present and future meld perfectly together, the “Fragrant Harbour” is definitely worth the trek half way around the world and that’s why being “Hot in Hong Kong” is one of my favorite things.

For more information about Hong Kong: www.discoverhongkong.com/usa

Twitter: @HongKongTourism

A special thank you to The Hong Kong Tourism board/U-S for supporting my blog, Paramount Pictures for the amazing experience and The W Hotel in South Beach and Hong Kong (Jessie Rosario) for making my stay comfortable.

Blog Wardrobe:

Wrap: www.primark.com
Belt: www.screamingmimis.com
Ring: www.jillzaleski.com
Chopsticks: www.topstix.net
Styling: Shireen Sandoval (me)


Have a fashionable idea?

Twitter @ShireenSandoval
IG @ShireenSandoval

photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Twitter @todp_t4twophoto
IG @Tod_p

Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Twitter @Odettehernandz
IG Odett_Herndz

Editor: Matthew Auerbach

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