Our That Girl this month is a jet-setting, high-flying, globe-trotting guru and entrepreneur who turns everything digital she touches into gold. Once a super successful model in Asia, Stephanie Chai now runs The Luxe Nomad, Asia-Pacific’s leading luxury villa and hotel booking portal, where you can book a trip to paradise on a budget. She’s a hard lady to pin down so we jumped at the chance to interview her during her stay at the Upper House in Hong Kong, her home away from home. We even had our That Girl Ryuko Lau from MAC do Stephanie’s beautiful make-up for the shoot too! Talk about a magic collaboration.Read on to find out about her top travel tips, how she stays constantly connected and her favourite spots in the 852!
What are your flight essentials?
My Macbook Air! Flights are always a good way to catch up on work, watch a film and generally tidy up my rather messy looking desktop. I’m a bit of a daydreamer as well, so sometimes I’ll just end up listening to the music, gazing at the clouds and imagining all sorts of things.
Where would you recommend travelling – around Asia – on a budget?
If you’re coming from Hong Kong where going out for dinner and drinks can be quite pricey – then the rest of Asia is your oyster! Thailand is just a few hours away and always good for a quick getaway. I’d opt for Bangkok as hotel rates there are pretty cheap – you can easily stay in a nice 4.5 star hotel such as Muse for just over USD 100 a night.
How do you stay so fit and healthy, when you are travelling so frequently?
Haha, I don’t think I consistently stay fit unfortunately! But regardless of where I am, I do try to get a good night’s rest… you can use the best skincare in the world but nothing compares to some quality sleep. A good mattress, pillows and blackout curtains usually do the trick!
Other than that, when it comes to eating I try to ensure I don’t eat food with MSG and have meat only once a day. If it says ‘organic’… I’m there!
How would you describe your personal style when you’re travelling?
90% of the time I’m in a dress and flats! Especially with Central in HK being so hilly – it’s just a pain in heels! In HK, I usually shop at Claudie Pierlot and Reiss at ifc. But for a bit more fun I’ll pop on Shopbop to pick up a dress! Once you start on that site you can’t stop…
What was your inspiration for Luxe Nomad?
A friend sent me the link of a similar site in the States and said, “Hey you love to travel – why don’t you do this?”. And I replied 5 minutes later and said “Ok I will!”.
I had no idea about e-commerce, the villa/hotel industry, raising funds etc… now I can safely say I’ve learned more in the last few years than I did the previous 10!
What are your favourite travel apps?
You know what, ironically I don’t really have a travel app I like to use. When it comes to travel guides I haven’t quite found what I think the aspiring/luxury consumer needs.
Do you have a morning routine, if so what is it?
Wake up. Check messages/emails on phone. Sleep a little bit more. Check emails. Shower, get dressed… bowl of muesli and then it’s my morning read of BBC and Daily Mail…!
Working online means you’re always connected, do you do a daily digital detox or go to unplugged resorts?
Nope, but I’m currently on a plane and was just thinking about doing exactly that!
The Luxe Nomad Instagram account has over 83,000 followers, any tips and tricks you can share with us?
Instagram is all about pretty pictures so if a photo isn’t beautiful, don’t post it. Don’t be afraid to re-gram images as long as you credit them, copying is the sincerest form of flattery after all! If in doubt post a blue picture – it’s the most popular colour on Instagram and always gets lots of likes.
What do you do to keep in touch with your friends amidst your hectic work schedule?
WhatsApp. Those group chats keep going on and on…
What was your most spectacular vacation experience?
Perhaps it would still be New York. It’s still the most cosmopolitan place I’ve been to… and as someone who grew up in an international school with kids from around the world that says a lot. I love the idea of being part of a cultural melting pot where everyone hangs around with everyone and you’re not boxed into one group. You learn so much from travelling to new places, but you learn even more from different cultures.
Best beach in Asia?
Similan islands, just off Phuket.
Favourite skiing holiday in Asia?
Never been skiing in Asia unfortunately! Would love to try out Niseko for skiing which my colleagues have been to and is currently the ‘it’ place to be – it’s always booked out!
Do you have a favourite local coffee shop in Hong Kong?
I don’t drink coffee but I do like getting a cold pressed juice from Genie Juicery in ifc. (We love those juices too! Read our That Girl interview with Genie co-founder Cara McIlroy here!)
What’s your favourite date-night spot in Hong Kong?
The Peak Lookout is pretty romantic as it has the best views. But more important is the date rather than the location! Sometimes I’ve had more fun having a glass of wine at a dive bar than at a fancy restaurant…
Where do you go when you want to let your hair down and party with your girlfriends in Hong Kong and what’s your go-to drink?
I usually opt for a gin and tonic but I did have a really good apple martini at Bibo the other day. Or rather, my friend did, and I ended up drinking his drink!
Where do you go for hair, nail and beauty treatments in Hong Kong?
You can’t beat a blow-dry with Benjamin Amey, he is so fast! For nails I always go to the Nail Library – the Upper House now offer an in-room manicure service from them and it is so efficient! I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to beauty but I always stay hydrated when I travel as I think it’s important to stay healthy from the inside out. If I need a facial I head to the experts at Kate Somerville. (Enter our Kate Somerville Giveaway to try a facial too!)
What’s the best spot for a Hong Kong staycation?
The Upper House of course, the suites are huge – it’s like your own 5-star apartment! (Check out our full Upper House review!)
What do you love most about Hong Kong?
The energy and the fact that there are always new people to meet! I have always had a soft spot for HK.