There are great hotels and then there are Grand Hotels! The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong is truly a Grand Hotel! It is consistently rated as one of the top hotels in world. And what makes it so special? We have stayed there many times and it always feels like an elegant home away from home to us. The ultimate luxury experience begins at the airport where a representative meets you at the gate when you get off the plane. They politely introduce themselves, relieve you of your carry on luggage, usually put you on a cart, and whisk you through the terminal. They guide you to the diplomatic line where there is not a line at immigration, meet you on the other side, and hand you off to another representative who guides you to the Limousine Lounge where your beautiful British Racing Green Rolls Royce is waiting for you! The whole process only takes minutes! Settled in the back of the Rolls, you have instant access to Wi-Fi and a smooth and scenic ride to the Kowloon side where the Peninsula reigns over Victoria Harbor. Turning into the driveway you know you have truly Arrived! Waiting outside the front door to welcome you, a member of the front desk team escorts you directly to your suite for check in. Hot tea and refreshments were waiting for us.
On our most recent trip, a part of my birthday celebration, we stayed in Suite 2107. It is really grand! It is a corner suite at the end of the building, giving it panoramic views of Hong Kong on three sides. It is outfitted with every luxury you could want. Multiple flat screens, incredible sound system in every room, two baths, two mini bars, printer and controls of every room function from light dimming to room service via sophisticated iPad controls. You can watch any movie, hear any song, make dinner reservations, call the maid. I didn’t realize they have a special education service that can set up any kind of adventure you want from a tour of the latest art galleries, to cooking lessons with the chefs or a helicopter tour. Next time, I will definitely plan one or more of those adventures. But our goal on this trip was just to get over our jet lag in the most luxurious way possible. The forecast predicted rain every day. That was ok with us because when you stay in a room with such a beautiful view of the city, access to 8 great restaurants and the best shopping arcade in town, you know you will be happy even if you don’t leave the hotel!
The most spectacular part of the suite is probably the master bath! It sits on a corner with completely open views of the surrounding buildings! Don’t worry! I think it has reflective glass so the lawyers and bankers working across the street can’t see you bathing! And at night-time, the housekeepers will gladly light the candles surrounding the tub for the most romantic bathing experience in town or maybe in the world!
But, it only rained at night, just like in Camelot! So, my first order of business was to find a tailor who could re-create one of my favorite old outfits that had actually worn out. And it had to be ready by the next day! It might not have been raining outside but it was Hot! In the upper 90s with equally high humidity! We were lucky to find a great tailor, just a block away! I selected the silk, left my old outfit with him and planned to pick it up the next day. We were hot and jet lagged so we hurried back to the hotel for a quick chill session. Then it was time to meet our friend in Hong Kong for tea. Cecilia Hong is a Hong Kong native. After she was Jerry Brown’s secretary she worked as Tony’s secretary until she returned to Hong Kong at the time Hong Kong’s turnover to Beijing. It was so much fun to catch up with her! The recently unveiled Van Cleef and Arpels Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula is spectacular! There is a long line of people waiting to be seated, but if you are a hotel guest with a reservation, you don’t have to wait! The tea features a lovely live mini orchestra playing during tea time. They serve the most beautiful opera cakes, scones and tea sandwiches and they have a great selection of teas especially selected for the Peninsula. And of course there is champagne! We prefer the jasmine tea! We were delighted when it turned out we were sitting next to an artist who put on an impromptu painting performance! Our tea was substantial enough that we really didn’t need anything else that day except a club sandwich (isn’t a classic Club always your favorite room service item?)to carry us through the night. We were so happy to be in our room with a complimentary bottle of champagne because each night at 8 o’clock there is a spectacular sound light and laser show. From our suite we had multiple viewing spots of “A Symphony of Lights, which is the world’s largest permanent light and sound show. Really, it surpasses Las Vegas in its brilliance! Just google it on You Tube. That is exactly what it looked like from our room overlooking Victoria Harbor.
The next day, we were ready to go shopping! First stop was the legendary Shanghai Tang, The clothes and home goods are beautiful and fun. Then we continued to walk down the street, stopping at iconic design houses like Dior and Louis Vuitton. But there is something different in Hong Kong! You immediately sense and see how prosperous Hong Kong is. There are 8 Louis Vuitton stores in Hong Kong and 12 Chanel Boutiques! Really! And most of them have a long line of people, just waiting to get in to buy Something! The reason for these long lines is that there is no tax in Hong Kong and residents of mainland China come to shop and save a few dollars on their luxury items. Well, we quickly learned how to get in without waiting (little smile) but I like to buy things I can’t get at home, so on we shopped! The streets are so jam-packed with shoppers you can’t really stroll leisurely along. If you stop to look at something in a window, you will probably get bumped into or maybe flat-tired! Really. The whole city is so dense. And so wealthy! So energetic! And so much fun! As our friend Cecilia said, “Hong Kong has a pulse!”
If you know me, you might know that I have been a long time fan of Issey Miyake. Several of my Miyakes are now in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I wore my Miyakes through 2000 and I thought my Miyake days were over. Until I saw this one beautiful dress from the 2017 collection. Had to have it! It was my birthday dress and I knew it would be perfect for the architectural photo shoot I had planned for my trip to Bali. (See future article about the Bamboo Mansion in Bali.)
At the Peninsula, it seems your wish is the concierge’s demand! Their specialty is making things happen! We wanted to have dinner on Saturday night at the legendary China Club. It is an exclusive private club. You can’t just call or book a reservation on-line. You have to know a member. No problem for the Peninsula concierges! We were not only booked at one of the best tables, but had the maitre’ D’s personal attention in selecting a menu for the evening, which featured their famous and exotic coral leopard trout, Peking chicken and a bottle of Raveneau Chablis. A friend told us about the club and we had read all about it in one of my favorite travel resources book called, “Everybody Eats There” by William Stadium and Mara Gibbs. So we had certain expectations upon arrival but quickly realized there was so much more to experience than the cuisine! There are different parts of an evening at the China Club. There is dinner in the art filled traditional old style dining room. There is a quirky little orchestra led by an enigmatic Chinese chanteuse right out of a classic film noir set in Shanghai. There is a hand made noodle making ” demonstration- performance”, which surpasses anything you might have witnessed at Mr. Chow and probably influenced him. And then there is a walk around of the building. The China Club is in the original Bank of China Building. The China Club is almost like a historical museum. It is art deco and has many floors and different rooms including the famous Long Bar and the Library. The staircases are filled with art of every kind of from ancestral portraits to pieces by contemporary Chinese artists like Yue Minjun. It is a showcase for post Chinese Revolution art. So it is really fun to walk around exploring the different settings, nooks and crannies, moods, and the amazing art collection. Finally we reached the roof top and were actually blown away by the view! It was incredible because from my room across the Victoria Harbor, I had been mesmerized by one building I especially loved.
Bank of China Video. Please click on Bank of China button to left to view video
It had a beautiful white light LED display which “climbs” the building like a 3D game of Pick Up Sticks. It turns out the roof of the China Club is surrounded by all the buildings I had been admiring from my room at the Peninsula and was right next to the building I liked the best, the new Bank of China Building designed by I.M. Pei! We decided to order another glass of champagne and sit down to appreciate our good fortune in being guided to this magical place. The China Club was created by Sir David Tang who sadly had died only a few days earlier. He was a charismatic figure who led an absolutely amazing life. Please google his obituary in the Financial Times. It is fascinating! He knew everyone! He was friends with Queen Elizabeth (Can you imagine,he actually danced with her!) At the time of his death he was planning a huge party because he wanted to be able to attend his own wake. He was trying to figure out how to tell the Queen that he might not be able to join her at the September 14th photo shoot they had scheduled. He was friends with, well, Everyone, I guess! But don’t think he was just a sweet heart! According to many accounts, he was witty, wry sophisticated and acerbic! He attended Oxford and on this evening the local Oxford club was holding a special memorial event in his honor. We sat on the roof and chatted with some of them. Heading back downstairs, I met a man I would call the Doorman except he was obviously so much more than that. More like the heart and soul of the place. He told me he had worked there for 20 years and he told me how much he loved his Boss. While Tony was in the men’s room, he delighted in taking photos of me in one of the big Chinese chairs! Actually, I was the delighted one!
The next morning, back at the hotel I wanted to find a copy of Sir David Tang’s book, Rules for Modern Life, A Connoisseur’s Survival Guide. It turned out the there had been quite a run on this book and it was unavailable everywhere. But those great Peninsula concierges came through again for me. They not only searched the city until they found a copy for me, they sent someone to pick it up and had it delivered to my room!
Breaking the special Red Birthday Egg and admiring the beautiful flowers which just coincidentally match my robe!
The view from the bedroom, Suite 2107
Peninsula Hong Kong
Honestly, this is why I love the Peninsula in Hong Kong. I love the place. I love the view and the location.I love the incredible jewelry stores on the second floor. I love the chocolate. I love the Felix restaurant designed by famed architect Phillipe Starck. I love having tea in the lobby. I love James who manages the tea room! I love the concierges! I love the soap in the intricately carved red lacquered boxes! I love the fresh flowers in my room. I love the bathtub with a view. I loved the special Red Birthday Egg that was delivered to our room! I love being chauffeured around in the British racing green Rolls Royce. I love the swimming pool. I love the service! We love it all! I am hoping to go back soon because I keep thinking how wonderful it would be to know Hong Kong the way I know LA! Thank you to the Peninsula and all the staff for making our travel dreams come true!