It’s vast, elegant and perhaps a bit politically incorrect. But there’s simply no emotional rush quite like luxuriating in the back seat of a money-green Rolls Royce heading for a stay at Hong Kong’s luxurious Peninsula Hotel.
It’s only one of the sinfully rich pleasures of the self-proclaimed “Grande Dame of the Far East.”
Hong Kong has certainly taken an unbelievable growth spurt since the Peninsula Hotel was the largest building on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor in the days of the British Empire and slow boats to China. Every hotel chain in the world seems to have opened a hotel here in the years since, and many boast innovations in dramatic views, service or business amenities.
But The Pen hasn’t been content to sit quietly by and let others steal her claims to fame. She keeps evolving to stay at the cutting edge in luxury and technology.
It’s been a favorite hotel for my stays in Hong Kong over the years and on a recent visit, I checked in again to see if the classic is still keeping up with the times in Asia’s city that never sleeps:
1) Coasting in a Roller
Sure, there are more frugal ways to get in and out of Hong Kong, but there’s no experience that embodies the sheer “can you top this? ” exuberance of Asia quite as much as making an appearance in a custom-built chauffeured Rolls Royce limousine.
One of the Peninsula Hotel’s palaces on wheels was at the dock with a staff to greet us as we disembarked from a cruise on Silversea Cruise’s Silver Wind.
It is one of a fleet of 14 custom built extended-wheelbase Rolls Royce Phantoms in the hotel’s garage. The immaculate car with its buttery leather upholstery and burled wood trim is so gleamingly polished that sun glasses are in order. There’s even a carpet that folds out onto the pavement to ensure the bags don’t get scuffed as staff load them into the trunk–or should I say boot?
We turn heads wherever we go, especially as we glide up The Pen’s circular drive, and bellboys wearing white uniforms and pill box hats rush to attend to the luggage. Donald Trump couldn’t make a more audacious entrance.
Leaving town, the ride to the airport in the leather-lined chariot that even includes a back seat bar is just as smooth. And a hotel representative is at the airport to greet us, handle our bags and escort us right to the check-in desk.
2) The Classic Opulence
Opened in 1928, the hotel that’s the flagship of the Peninsula Hotel brand maintains the elegance of the days of the see-and-be-seen grand hotel. Its high, pillared lobby is a lesson in classical symmetry and grace, accented with palms, huge floral arrays and showcases around the walls that feature amazing jewelery and designer clothes.
The rooms have been recently renovated in a modern Asian décor that maintains the Peninsula’s luxurious residential feel. The beds and the ultra-fine linens are so comfortable, it’s difficult to decide whether to get out of bed in the morning. Each floor has its own personal valet and if you place your shoes in the cabinet box near the door, they’ll be returned beautifully shined the next morning.
But while history is great, The Pen has obsessively kept up with the times.
3) The Tech Toys
There are more gadgets in the suite than you’ll find in one of the electronics emporiums on Nathan Road. There’s a flat-screen 3D Blu-Ray LED swivel television with noise cancelling earphones; an iPod/iPad docking station, memory card reader and sound-bar speaker system with sub-woofer; a fax/scanner/printer/photocopier with office automation and wireless connections to personal electronic devices. There are 100 TV channels, enough free first-run movies to last for weeks, coffee and tea makers and even a nail polish dryer on the lady’s dressing table.
An unexpectedly neat feature of the complimentary wi-fi is that all long distance calls worldwide are complimentary thanks to voice-on-internet technology.
And you don’t need to be a nerd to understand how to run it all, because there are easy to navigate wireless touch screen control pads located on desks, night tables and even in the bathroom.
4) Dining in High Style
My choice for dinner was Spring Moon, designed on the lines of a 1920s Shanghai restaurant, that gives a master’s lesson in inventive modern Cantonese cuisine as well as having one of the most extensive menus of gourmet teas in the world.
The seasonal tasting menu introduced me to stuffed sea cucumber–delicious if you get over the fact that it looks like a big broiled caterpillar. The meal started with the finest bird’s nest soup I’ve ever experienced followed by lobster with fois gras and a steamed giant garoupa fillet. The setting, the presentations and the tastes are breath taking, which is why the restaurant consistently ranks in the top 10 of dining experiences in Hong Kong.
Among the hotel’s other top rated restaurants are Gaddi’s, a modern interpretation of a French Chateau with a menu that gives modern interpretations on Continental fare and Imasa, the Japanese restaurant that promises “an experience in culinary Zen”
5) Fun Factors
The pool with a plunging view.
In all the bustle of Hong Kong, the quintessential place to take a break is the Peninsula’s spa with a pool on the eighth floor that can have you thinking you’re about to swim off the edge of the world.
The whimsy of Felix.
Located at the top of The Peninsula’s tower, the Felix nightclub is one of the most avant-garde creations ever from eclectic designer Philippe Starck. It’s got a stunning view of the dramatic skyline of central Hong Kong and the harbor and a maze of small themed rooms that have to be seen to believed. They includes the Wine Bar lined with rare vintages, the Balcony with a vertigo inspiring view, a patriotic American Bar and one called the Crazy Box for reasons that become obvious.
6) The City at your Feet
The Pen has one of the most strategic locations in Hong Kong. On the corner of Kowloon’s bustling Salisbury and Nathan Roads, it’s within walking distance of major shopping districts. I’ll never understand who buys all those designer watches. From the hotel it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the Star Ferry to Central and equally convenient to the MTR subway system’s Tsim Sha Tsui station.
For a feel of why Hong Kong has always been a must-see destination, as well as the future of hospitality, The Peninsula is a fun splurge that will never disappoint.
A Rolls-Royce transfer to or from the airport costs about $190. Details on rates and deals are on The Peninsula’s website.