Saturday, November 21, 2009

3 variations on a Hong Kong hotel theme

Silicon Dragon keeps exploring new frontiers and continues to come up with new hotels to recommend--this time for executive travelers on a budget to the jet set on an expense account. The most recent explorations took place in Hong Kong.
Let me start with the low end and work up. The newly opened Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees makes up for its out-of-the way location in Kowloon (close to the old Kai Tak airport) with hospitable service, starting with marketing communicatons manager CeCe Hoang (pictured above, who pinch hits as duty manager as she was when I stayed there. And talk about going beyond the call of duty! She bought my book and asked me to autograph it. Back now to the hotel, which is still working out some kinks, like designer-ish faucets that send water sprays over the top of the equally designer-ish sinks. There's also some raised number lettering on the doors that is so sharply easeled it can cut. These are minor issues in an otherwise sleeky designed hotel, and CeCe assures me they're being fixed. In fact, she's making a list of all the guests' feedback to send to the hotel management. One thing that definitely does not to be fixed is the plentiful breakfast and dinner buffets here at the ground-floor cafe. Some highlights of the hotel include a hideaway terrace bar overlooking an outdoor pool with a waterfall and the well-equipped fitness center. The executive lounge wasn't opened yet when I was there, but work was underway for completion soon. Once the old Hong Kong neigborhood gets more developed--and it will now that the airport has been moved to Lamma Island--the Harbour Plaza will be an excellent affordable choice. Until then, the hotel's shuttle service to the nearest ferry, metro and commercial area will do just fine.
Next stop was the Mira Hotel, also in Kowloon but in the heart of Tsimshatsui. More for the fashion crowd, the Mira is over-the-top with design elements. My first impression wasn't so good when I was put in a smoky-smelling room with no view. But a word with the club lounge staff and presto, I found myself in a smoke-free room with a view of Kowloon Park, where I watched Hong Kong'ers doing morning tai chi. One irk: housekeeping staff who didn't observe do not disturb signs.
Many rooms forget that executives traveling on business need to have comfortable desk chairs, but not the Mira, thankfully. It was fun staying at the Mira and commuting by Star Ferry to business meetings across the harbour.
I am saving the high-end option for last--the recently refurbished landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel. What can top a spacious room with a view of Victoria Harbour, a rendezvous in the Clipper Lounge, or the old-world British flavor of the place--down to afternoon tea or a night-cap of whiskey and cigars at The Chinnery. That's why the place continues to attract the well-heeled from all points of the globe. A check of the spa upstairs showed it hopping with both male and female guests who didn't mind splurging a bit more on themselves. Another great thing about the hotel: the fact that you can access the elevated walkways that lead directly into Hong Kong's finest designer boutiques. Of course, shopping isn't for everyone, and I prefer to use the walkways as a short cut to the in-town flight check-in and the 22-minute express train to the airport. You can't beat Hong Kong for mass-transit infrastructure.