HONG KONG - This fascinating city is exhausting for the first-time visitor, as my travelling companion and I discovered on a short stay recently.
Take a tram to the top of Victoria Peak. Check!
Take a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour. Check!
Mingle with the locals in the bustling Temple Street Night Market. Check!
Sample as much of the local cuisine as possible. Check!
Jump on one of Hong Kong’s famous trams. Check!
Get lost in the city’s maze of neon-lit streets. Check!
Need to rest. Check – into the Mandarin Oriental!
After each day of touring Asia’s most exciting city, there was nothing better than arriving back at the iconic Mandarin Oriental on Connaught Road and sinking into the hotel’s luxurious bed, draped in the finest of linens, and looking out on the busy harbour we had crossed on one of the legendary Star Ferry boats.
The historic Mandarin Oriental, known affectionately as MO, is as much a Hong Kong landmark as any of the above mentioned peaks and harbours and streets. In fact, when it first opened in 1963,
it was, at 26 storeys, the tallest building in Hong Kong.
Above: Mandarin Oriental has two magnificent properties in Hong Kong.
My, how time has changed in this vertical city; the flagship Mandarin Oriental now sits in the shadows of the skyscrapers that have grown up around it. The only thing that has not changed is the quality of service, luxury and pampering that this legendary property offers its guests, many of whom return many times.
As a side note, it was also the first Hong Kong hotel to offer direct-dial telephones and the first in Asia to include a bath in very guest room.
The Mandarin Oriental now boasts every modern convenience and indulgence that today’s traveller could possibly want, with service that put other hotels in this fast-paced city to shame.
Above: The rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong are among the best in the industry.
I came “home” on my first night in Hong Kong to find that a beautiful bookmark had replaced the piece of scrap paper I was using to mark my page in the book I was reading. And the full-sized pots of delicately scented lotions and potions that were left for me were also a step above what even the best hotels offer.
Located in the heart of the Central District, this five-star property is close to everything, whether you are travelling for business or pleasure. And, I would suggest, that if you are here for business, you mix in some pleasure and start with the hotel’s world-famous spa.
The Mandarin Spa is the very definition of luxurious relaxation. Its tranquil setting was inspired by the style of 1930s Shanghai and features nine treatment rooms, including two couples suites with private pools, as well as a Thai massage room, a Chinese herbal steam room, fitness centre and boutique.
Just what this weary traveller required!
And if you are planning a night out on the town, gentlemen can get a bit of primping at the Mandarin Barber, and women can have their hair done and nails buffed and polished at the Mandarin Salon. I told you they think of everything here!
Above: Mandarin Oriental is renowned for its spa programs and treatments at all its properties,
We quickly discovered that we didn’t have to go very far to eat well, either. The hotel boasts Michelin star cuisine at Pierre, where Chef Jean Denis Le Bras oversees the menu created by Paris’ Pierre Gagnaire. The cuisine, described as “modern French,” offers delicious blue lobster from Brittany, classic foie gras, and Wagu beef. Everything smelled delicious but it was the presentation that was truly amazing — a feast for all the senses — and the service was exceptional.
Café Cousette, however, became our favourite spot for a quick lunch or a luxuriously long dinner. With an open kitchen and a menu featuring dishes from all over the world, the offerings can be as casual — burgers and pizza — or as formal as you want — bouillabaisse and coq au vin, for example. There is also a huge selection of pastas, as well as Chinese and Thai dishes.
But, alas, I was not here long enough to try all of Mandarin Oriental’s 10 restaurants and bars, although I would have liked to have sampled The Krug Room. Set right in the hotel’s kitchen, the tasting menu and wine pairings allows gastronomes the chance the sample Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky’s creative cuisine, paired with one of the world’s best champagnes; the hotel boasts the largest selection of Krug champagne outside of France. There is no menu, but each evening the dinner varies between 10 and 14 courses.
Above: Mandarin Oriental perfected the old adage: "Service with a smile."
Our Harbour View room was amazing but the hotel is best known for its suites – sweet surprises, indeed, and are bigger than most Hong Kong apartments. There’s a full compliment of suites to choose from in various sizes and they come with lyrical Asian names – Temar, Maiji, Oriental, Macau …
Being the luxury brand it is, you want for nothing in any of this hotel’s rooms and our biggest challenge each day was tearing ourselves away to go touring. We were hoping for one rainy day just so we could remain in the hotel.
With not enough time in our visit to explore all that Hong Kong had to offer, I will certainly be returning. And I will be staying at the Mandarin Oriental, if only to visit The Krug Room … and the Spa … and Pierre. Check!