This week’s That Girl is the fun and bubbly Charlie Lin – the W Insider at W Hong Kong. Her job is to know about everything new and exciting in Hong Kong and she’s a walking Little Black Book full of city secrets and surprises (check out the itinerary she organised for us here!) We chat with Charlie about her fave hidden hangouts, her ultimate 24-hour Hong Kong hit list and how to stay glam while globetrotting.
Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and where you’re originally from?
I’m from Taiwan and consider myself a very Taiwanese girl. My accent is Californian because when I was three, my family moved to Seoul in South Korea and I attended Seoul International School (SIS), which had a lot of Californian teachers. When you’re young, you pick up accents and languages very fast and I started speaking English before Mandarin. When I hit my teens, my parents started their own company in Taipei and the whole family moved back there and I started to speak and learn Mandarin for the first time. I went to San Francisco to do my Masters Degree in movies and stayed there for six years before moving back to Asia in 2009.
What do you do as the Insider for W Hotels?
My job is to know what’s new and happening in the city at all times. I’m a connector, a close friend and a navigator. I’m constantly on the go hunting down the coolest businesses, parties, events that are going on in Hong Kong. I build partnerships and connections for W Hong Kong and make sure we are always one step ahead of the curve. The guests who stay at the W are always hungry for new experiences and I have to make sure we can provide the ‘X’ factor whenever they stay with us. I also work with the social media teams to make sure we have all the latest and greatest updates on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Weibo.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live right above Olympic station near Olympian City because I love metro stations! I like watching people as they commute and I like living in busy places because there’s always a lot going on. My home is filled with movie posters! I couldn’t bring my huge film library in Taipei with me when I moved to Hong Kong but my favourite movies and posters come with me wherever I go. They’ve travelled with me to Shanghai, San Francisco, New York and now Hong Kong.
How would you describe your personal style?
I love wearing comfortable and classic basics as my base before adding patterns and prints. I’m inspired by New York and London street style and rely on modern and classic pieces that are black, white or grey. Good-quality fabric and unique cuts are important to me as I like my outfits to have a bit of an edge. For a colourful pop to make an outfit stand out I look to Paul Smith, Marimekko and HAY.
Where do you shop in Hong Kong?
I shop like a sprinter and I love to shop alone so there are no distractions; it only takes me 10 minutes because I know what I want when I see it and I buy it, sometimes without trying on it. My usual go-to brands are Mo&Co, Club Monaco, Topshop, Paul Smith and Agnes.b. They’re brands that I can wear to work or hang out at home in and they’re just easy.
Any fashion designers we should be keeping an eye on?
My dear talented fashion designer and friend Erbert Chong and his eponymous label Erbert Chong. His clothes are edgy and really celebrate the femme fatale in all of us. He’s going to go so far and I’m so proud of him, he’s also incredibly kind and modest.
What do you do and where do you go to relax and unwind?
I love hiking and being out on the ocean far away from the city. My favourite place was Wan Cheung Po at the Lantau Island with waterfalls and a big natural pool. It’s no longer open to the public but it was like heaven!
Do you have a morning routine?
To be honest I’m not really a morning person, but this year I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up at 6.30am to work while watching the sunrise. I’m really productive and can get all of my proposals and work done in a few hours without any phone calls or distractions. It’s my quiet time.
What do you do to stay sane amidst your hectic work schedule?
Watching a movie is my salvation. It’s a personal escape, a magical space that transports me to a different zone. I recommend not going to busy commercial district for commercial movies, my favourite spot for movie watching is at Broadway Cinematique in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. They select some of the best independent movies around the globe and after the movie; you’re able to chill at the Kubrick Café with an adjacent bookshop and a music record/indie movie DVD store. Zero stress!
Where do you go for you hair, nails and beauty treatments in Hong Kong?
My favourite spa BLISS SPA is only a few seconds away from me so I’m very lucky. We have a staff rate so I go there to relax and unwind after a long day of work. My favourite treatment is the SPARTY which is a SPA + PARTY combination – it’s perfect for a girls’ night out so my friends and I often celebrate birthdays at the SPA.
Where do you go when you want to let your hair down and party?
At the moment I love outdoor parties on rooftops or by the beach. There are several secret rooftop parties around town created for people who are bored of clubs and the same music over and over again. I think the best parties have a nice mix of fresh air, good people, buzzing conversation, cool crowds and chilled beer. Relaxed vibes are the best!
What are your top restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
It depends on what mood I’m in! I like ChiCha for Peruvian cuisine, ChaChaWan for hot and spicy food, Brickhouse for the energetic atmosphere, 22 Ships for delicious food, Yardbird for creativity and Mott 32 for ambiance.
For bars I adore Ping Pong 129 for its lofty space and Gin craftsmanship, Fofo by El Willy restaurant has a rooftop bar in the heart of Central yet away from the crazy crowds, which is absolutely charming. The Envoy has an intimate feel with creative cocktails. And of course the Woobar at W Hong Kong has a view that’s to die for and the quirky interior is a lot of fun!
What’s your best kept secret Hong Kong spot?
It’s a stunning large warehouse of a 7,000 square foot showroom that includes a private dining, a buyers lounge, a rooftop garden. Our dear friend and owner Jino Khidhr told me he is going to open up another floor of his own (soon to come up in March), with a total 3 floor space of fashion showroom called EdiTus at the Southside of Wong Chuk Hang Road. I love the men’s fashion as the quality is luxurious and unapologetically tasteful. This space is a hidden gem with multiple function fashion, home, accessories and lifestyle brands. Definitely one to check out!
What are your favourite date night spots?
You want to know my favourite date night spots? Wow, I would be giving away my secret hideaways (ha!). Let’s just say anywhere that has a great view will set the mood already. Tapa Gria at The One has a large patio overlooking the city and not a lot of people know about it, so there’s no hustle in looking for the perfect seats through a sea of people packed in the bar. Another favorite is on top of the 76th floor outdoor WET swimming pool at W Hong Kong, you can watch the amazing sunset with your special someone, or even better, jump in the pool and Jacuzzi in the evening.
If you only had 24 hours in Hong Kong what would you do for the day?
I wouldn’t sleep a wink! I’d watch the sunrise from Tsing Yi Bridge and sunset at Ha Pak Nai, a wetland area in Yuen Long New Territories. I’d try my best to visit as many islands as possible to see old villages, serene temples, mountain paths and beautiful coastlines and beaches. Hong Kong government estimates there are 262 outlying islands in Hong Kong. I would try to do it in 24 hours and break a record!
Your work takes you all around the world. Do you have any packing tips and tricks?
Yes! I pack really light. My mum is my life coach and she travels a lot for work. She has two rules for packing that I follow. First, bring your passport, second, remember your wallet… after that nothing else matters.
How do you stay glamorous while globetrotting?
I always bring a lipstick palette with six different colours so I’m ready for every occasion. A bright lip can make a huge difference in seconds to your overall appearance!
Where do you fly off to for a weekend break?
I fly home to Taipei to see my family a lot and we always go out to the latest restaurants and new pop-up design shops together. I love spending time with them eating local Taiwanese food, hiking with my dad and relaxing in hot springs. My usual hideaway is Villa 32. I also love Tokyo because it’s such an energetic city. I have huge respect for the city of Tokyo and the people who live there.
How did you start off in hospitality?
I never planned to end up in hospitality but it was a natural fit after going to film school. You see, studying characters for theatre is a little bit like figuring out how people in a mini society interact with one another, which is kind of like hotel life if you think about it! My big break came in 2010 when I was working in Shanghai as the Ambassador of Taiwan at The Shanghai World Expo. I gave a VIP tour to a top head hunting company and was later introduced to people from W Hotels Worldwide and landed my first hospitality job as the W Insider at W Taipei in December 2010. In August 2012, I was transferred to W Hong Kong.
Your job is all about being ‘in the know’ at all times. How do you keep on top of everything happening in Hong Kong?
I hate staying static so I’m always on the move exploring people, places, food, music and everything else that sparks my interest. I like discovering new things that I haven’t seen before. I’m at my best when I’m talking to people face to face and I’m always in touch with friends, colleagues, contacts and mentors inside and outside of the hotel. In reality there’s a lot of insiders and they share their insights, cool tips and hidden finds with me so that guests can have the ultimate experience when they’re in Hong Kong!
Any tips for Sassy Girls who want to get into your line of work?
When you work in hospitality, you can’t separate work from the rest of your life and I’m glad that the two merge in my line of work. I greet guests and business partners like new friends and keep in touch with them. I’m naturally interested in meeting new people and finding out about what they do which helps me in my line of work. Hospitality is about celebrating other people and making sure they’re happy and comfortable.
To enjoy the type of work I do, you need to wake up every morning eager to discover new places, people and things. You need to be a hustler when it comes to business and a sweetheart when you’re chatting to guests and most of all you need to be creative. You need to be okay being the only sober person at a party while still having fun and be able to think on your feet. It’s not about being handed a job description, it’s about what you can bring to the table.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that I’ve been referred to as the Little Black Book in Hong Kong and that I wake up excited to go to work every morning. I’m lucky because working for W Hotels Worldwide has given me so many opportunities and my job is to make sure our guests have amazing experiences. I also get to work on fun projects with all of the insiders like the global W Insider film project that we did last year. In one day I rode on a Luxury Yacht (Riviera Orientale), strolled around a gold fish market, jammed with JamCity street dancers, performed Cantonese opera, checked out the back alley at Brickhouse, went to the Konzepp design store at Sheung Wan. I later hosted the W Insider Happening for the launch of a film premiere and turned the whole Woobar into a modern traditional bamboo theatre!
I also get to work on tons of fun projects. We’re kicking off a special project in March called #MeetWithWInsider, you’re the first to know about it (ha!). It’s an intimate gathering for guests in the W Hong Kong that’s hosted once every four months. It’s a chance to ask me about the ultimate city experience. There will be a special guest speaker from the fashion, music or design industry. And for our first #MeetWithWInsider project, we will be inviting a designer from CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) flying all the way from New York to meet with our guests, it will be a once in a lifetime experience as all the guest speakers are highly influential and they will be having workshops and interactions with our guests.