Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stopover in Hong Kong



After my long but pretty painless flight on Turkish Airlines from Barcelona to Hong Kong via Istanbul last June, there was nothing more welcome than the sight of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong’s Meet and Greet staff at the airplane door holding a sign with my name on it. She’d also thoughtfully prepared an airport buggy to speedily take me to the immigration counters, while everyone else just off the plane walked, and I only realized how fortunate I was after I’d been on the buggy a solid seven minutes and immigrations was still far away.


Once I passed through passport control, however, it was a completely painless process. Within minutes, I was comfortably ensconced in the hotel car and enjoying the scenic road to Central, of peaceful bays dotted with fishing boats and islets. Then, without my even noticing it, as soon as the car left the tunnel and entered the business district, my driver alerted the hotel staff so that a reception lady in a red cheongsam was waiting cheerfully at the entrance for my arrival.

BACK HOME AT THE MANDARIN


“Welcome back,” she greeted me, as I stepped out of the car. Being in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong indeed felt like coming home.

We walked through the lobby and straight into the elevator to complete check-in procedures in my room. I’d been staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong for years, you see, so they had most of my details on record. Everything was effortless and seamless; I was able to get from airplane to suite to spa in just over an hour.

The hotel’s Chinese herbal steam room was just the detoxing I needed after traipsing through three continents in 24 hours.

Afterwards, I returned to my suite, the 72 square meter Deluxe Oriental Suite, which has got to be among the loveliest in the hotel. Each suite is decorated differently according to a specific theme, so by now I've seen a couple of different themes. There are bigger suites, as well; but the Mandarin Suite is an inviting blend of warm colors and Asian accents so it’s instantly welcoming and comfortable. It’s got graceful Chinese furniture and Oriental porcelain for accents, potted plants and lovely artworks.


Two of its best features are its large balcony with a complete view of one side of Central district and Wanchai, and its spacious bathroom, finished in jade green and with a beautiful porcelain soaking tub that prompted me to briefly consider canceling that evening’s appointment.

If you'll look at the hotel from outside, you'll notice that all the balconies have been enclosed within the rooms so that no room has a balcony anymore save for the very top room floor. This is the top floor for all the suites, and this is where my suite with a balcony was. And what a view it had. I could see Victoria Harbor and the HSBC building at the same time, making me remember so many good times in Hong Kong.

AT YOUR SERVICE

Regular business travelers to Hong Kong know that the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong is one of the grand dames of Hong Kong. Its familiar profile has been an integral part of the former British colony’s business skyline since 1963, jutting out proudly in Central. It’s a classic hotel best known for its service, which is legendary in the hotel industry and considered among the best in the world. The latter is attentive and all-observant but also discrete and unobtrusive.


There’s something about the hotel staff that inspires confidence; you just know that they will find a way to solve any problem or overcome a challenge. Over the years I’ve stayed here, I’ve walked up to the concierge desk with not a few unusual requests that the staff has cheerfully assisted me with – from wrapping gifts and hiring a junk on the spur of the moment, to sourcing exotic foods and choosing a memorable location for a friend’s surprise party.

DINNER WITH FRIENDS

That evening, I was due to meet friends for a lauriat dinner at Man Wah, the hotel’s signature Cantonese restaurant, which is now the happy recipient of one (long overdue) Michelin star. But I was so enamored with my balcony that I decided to invite them over for drinks first. We popped open a bottle of champagne and stood on the balcony admiring the view and discussing favorite travel memories.

Coincidentally, some of my best memories or experiences in Hong Kong involve the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. I remember ordering an entire Peking duck at Man Wah by myself on one trip, and then one more Peking duck shared over lunch with my best friend on another trip.

There was also an instance when I’d celebrated a birthday at the hotel, and this had involved opening a present containing a diamond necklace and afterwards a wonderful dinner at the Mandarin Grill.

“I didn’t even know the Mandarin had rooms with balconies,” said my friend, who works just across from the hotel, as he admired my temporary digs with a glass of bubbly in hand. Actually, most people don’t know about these rooms with a view either because most rooms have had their original balconies enclosed and converted into sitting areas. The only rooms with open-air balconies are the suites on the highest room floor – and these offer adequate privacy and amazing views.


For dinner, we decided to leave ourselves in the hands of Man Wah’s Chef Man-sing Lee and the restaurant staff. Many of them have been with the hotel for so long that they were all familiar faces hovering around our table that evening.

We had a wonderful eight-course meal consisting of Chef Lee’s seasonal specialties. The meal was made even more enjoyable by the restaurant’s elegant atmosphere. It sparkled with golden lanterns, lacquered walls and filigreed window frames that framed a picture- perfect view of Victoria Harbor.

It was a fitting end to a short but sweet stay in my home away from home in Hong Kong.


Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
www.mandarinoriental.com

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2 comments:

  1. that is a one luxurious experience to boot hahaha. It is great to see how the Mandarin Oriental takes care of their guests. Well, backpackers like me, just kinda drool on these haha.

    Thanks for sharing this experience and what a pleasant surprise to see the famous Barcelona structure getting a facelift.

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  2. Thank you very much for your kind comments, and best regards for a wonderful weekend ahead from all of us at Travelife Magazine.

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