Sleeping by the Fragrant Harbour
Whether it’s a budget hotel you’re after, or the absolute lap of luxury, Hong Kong has more than its fair share of hotels of every description. All the big name brands are there, of course, with the likes of the Mandarin Oriental, Grand Hyatt, Four Seasons, JW Marriott, Peninsula, Intercontinental and Shangri-La all dominating the skylines. More are on the way such as the Harbour Grand Hong Kong, Harbour Plaza Hotels & Resorts’ new five-star hotel, due to open in spring 2009.
The Shangri-La Group actually has two hotels here – one in Kowloon and the other just 2kms away on Hong Kong Island. The Kowloon hotel at Tsim Sha Tsui was one of the very first of the chain to open its doors in 1981; but it has been extensively modernised on three occasions, the last time just three years ago at a cost of US$25 million and to walk into its sumptuous interior you could never guess the age of this ‘grande dame’.
Patsy Chan, the hotel’s ever effervescent Director of Communications, is justifiably proud of the long list of awards it has received over the years. “It reads like a Who’s Who of just about every accolade there is going,” she enthuses. ”Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Business Traveller, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Euromoney, Executive Travel… the list just goes on and on.”
And it’s not hard to see why. The rooms, the restaurants, the views, the service – everything is simply … perfect (even down to changing the carpets in the lifts every 24 hours so you know what day it is!) which probably explains why over half the staff have been working there for over ten years, and why its appeal is not just to businessmen, but also to newly weds who flock to the hotel for their wedding parties. “We have around 370 of them come through our doors every year,” she continues, “and on occasions we have catered for as many as four of these parties in one day! “
For something a little different, the hotel offers ‘Cooking with the Stars,’ a series of cooking classes under the tutelage of the hotel’s chefs specialising in various cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Italian and pastry. “The classes include ingredients, recipes, a framed certificate and a lunch, with a welcome by the chef, followed by a menu briefing, explanation of techniques, menu preparation and presentation and food service,” says Chan, as she tries to cram in everything that her hotel has to offer, and more.
Whilst Kowloon hotels cater predominantly for businessmen who visit the many trade shows and exhibitions, the Island, in contrast, is the home of bankers, and its upmarket hotels therefore welcome a very different type of guest. Here you will find the Island Shangri-La, which opened in 1991, a more traditional luxury hotel featuring opulent interiors combined with a classic European style, with over 770 crystal chandeliers, over 900 paintings and a cellar that boasts well over 12,000 bottles of wine, including its most expensive – Chateau Petrus 1947 (which would set you back a mere HK$390,000 – or US$50,300 - a bottle!).
Situated on top of Pacific Place - a modern commercial, shopping and entertainment complex in the Central financial district - one in every 100 of the Island Shangri-La’s visitors comes from the Middle East and few can resist its impressive line-up of in-house restaurants, including its signature Restaurant Petrus, selected as one of the five best hotel restaurants in the world.
Apart from its long list of royalty, presidents and film stars who have stayed there, it is also famed for a masterpiece that has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest Chinese landscape painting, “The Great Motherland of China”. It’s an expansive landscape measuring 51 metres (or 16 storeys) by 14 metres and consists of 250 panels of Chinese silk. Forty artists from the Beijing Arts and Crafts Research Institute worked diligently for six months to create it.