Posted By: Lina Broydo on: January 28, 2015
(Editor’s Note: This article is a continuation of Six Perfect Days in Tokyo and Hong Kong Part I, published in Kstati issue 1024)
Act 3: Hong Kon
My grand Rolls-Royce arrival (fun fact: the Peninsula Hotels has a fleet of 14 Rolls-Royces, all exclusively designed for the Peninsula Hotels, all in trademark Peninsula green, including the magnificent and immaculately restored Phantom 1934, which drives lucky newlyweds to their loving moment of “I do”) to the famed Peninsula Hong Kong H
As a tribute to an age of pioneering spirit, romance, and adventure, the China Clipper, served by the modern turbine-powered executive helicopters, is located on the Peninsula Hong Kong’s twin rooftop helipads and offers a 15-minute panoramic overview flight above the Hong Kong harbor, as well as providing a speedy connection to the Tokyo airports, for the hotel guest in a hurry.
With the cutest Mini Coopers and their eager-to-please chauffeurs, my colleagues and I managed to zigzag around town, visit Victoria Peak’s spellbinding panorama, and shop at the fab evening market (which added a very reasonably-priced gorgeous Ralph Lauren dress and a couple of the softest leather bags to my friend’s wardrobe). The city’s current addition to the exploding arts scene is a huge 55 foot inflatable yellow duck, swimming at the Hong Kong harbor. Created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, it brings a smile and a photo-op to over 100,000 visitors and definitely helps the city’s inflation.
The astonishing Hong Kong harbor with its playful kaleidoscopic symphony of lights in every imaginable color illuminating skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, sail boats, ferries large and small, with a nightly laser show that brings Victoria Harbor to life, created a true impressionist painting that any museum would love to own and cherish, all displayed from my elegant suite’s window. This city never sleeps and neither did I—and I loved every minute of it. (Is there a “Sleepless in Hong Kong” movie in the making?)
Act 4: The Peninsula Hong Kong
Every great lady has a history and the Peninsula Hong Kong is no exception: celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, the legend of Asian hospitality has been welcoming guests and patrons from all over the world. With the hotel’s recent $58 million room enhancement program, the magnificent accommodations embraced me as I sunk into the comfort of my stunning suite’s bed.
My insatiable appetite for travel hit a crescendo with the Peninsula Hong Kong’s creative and lively public relations team, who must have guessed my philosophy (which I share with Julia Child, the culinary chef supreme), “People who love to eat are always the best people.” Combining life’s greatest pleasures, and with this motto in mind, they created a wonderful and deliciously spoiling program and itinerary for my three-day rendezvous and familiarization with the grande dame of hotels itself.
From the perfectly orchestrated scenario of luxury accommodations to the gourmet restaurants, my culinary journey started with the progressive dining experience hosted by Xavier Pougnard, the hotel’s resident manager, who, by the way, also arranged for my impromptu and surprising greeting of Mrs. Roselyne Swig, a friend who is San Francisco’s most respected philanthropist and the arts commissioner appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to his cabinet. Mrs. Swig and her daughter arrived to the Peninsula Hong Kong, as it happened, on the same day I did. The warm embrace and the exuberant, “What are you doing here?” caused quite a lovely scene as the bellman opened the door for their arriving Rolls Royce. Did I mention that the world’s “who’s who” stay at the Peninsula Hotels?
My introduction to the gastronomic stars of the Peninsula Hong Kong was orchestrated by the hotel’s award winning chefs, starting with Remi van Peteghem of Gaddi’s, known as the finest gourmet French restaurant in the city. With an aperitif served in the gorgeous lobby, followed by the array of appetizers of exquisite authentic Cantonese specialties featured on the Spring Moon restaurant’s menu, this edible tour had a sweet ending with endless confections that won my affection created by the hotel’s Belgian-born maitre chocolatier Marijn Coertjens. This tasting took place at the amazingly modern Felix restaurant, created by avant-garde French designer Philippe Starck and located on the hotel’s 28th floor, offering spectacular views of Victoria Harbor and the Kowloon Peninsula.
Mentioning to my friend that I was on my way to Hong Kong, he recollected, “Ah, Peninsula Hotel. Have a cocktail there as the sun goes down. With a pianist playing American tunes in the background and the lights coming on in Hong Kong across the water, it was one of the most beautiful sites in the world.”
The elaborate daily breakfast served at Verandah, the hotel’s international buffet restaurant which was the first in the city to debut the concept of buffet menu, also includes on its extensive menu the sampling of Coertjens’ collection of signature chocolates.
One thing is sure: you will never be thirsty at the hotel’s lobby bar. Barman Johnny, who has been pouring signature cocktails for the past 55 years and has been privy to more celebrity secrets and confessions than the Pope himself, lists actor Clark Gable as one of his favorite clients.
The Grand Finale: The Enrichment Programs for Body and Soul
There are moments and places in life that are better experienced than explained. The aromatic flavors of the hot drink of lemon grass, cinnamon, ginger, and honey welcomed me to the Peninsula Hotel’s spectacular spa with its lavish surroundings of tranquility, fitness, and wellness. The swimming pools, with their spectacular designs and striking views of the city, are a treat I have never been introduced to before. Everything from the organic teas with raspberry macaroons to the understated opulence of its design, the pristine elegance, refinement, and the timeless glamour of the spas create an oasis of calm in the city that does not know how to relax.
Afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel is undoubtedly the best tradition exported and adopted from Great Britain. This piece de resistance of the beautiful ritual inherited from the good old Victorian days is a well-established meal with its own distinctive selection of foods, such as savory finger sandwiches filled with smoked salmon, egg, chicken salad, prawns, and cucumber (all on freshly baked bread with the crusts removed), or the warm battery scones made from a recipe unchanged at the Peninsula for over half a century. Tea was a time to indulge, share gossip and show off one’s prettiest teapots and china. The Peninsula extends this tradition by serving tea in cups of eggshell-thin bone china, in the magnificent lobby with its celebrated ambience to the sounds of jazz and classics.
The pure luxury of my accommodations intertwined busily with a number of enriching programs such as the Peninsula Academy experience, with its new activities designed to delight and educate guests of all ages by providing them with a taste of the local culture, such as classes for creating your own brand of chocolates or making dim sum, which I participated in under the watchful eye and kind guidance of chef Henry Fang. It was a fun experience. While realizing my limitations, he was very complimentary on my lop-sided wontons. In addition, Peninsula Tokyo offers washi paper-making and Japanese calligraphy lessons, as well as tours of Tokyo’s nightlife, new and old.
As I reflect on my short but enriching trip, sitting aboard the ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s direct flight to San Jose, my infatuation with the Peninsula Hotels as well as with Tokyo and Hong Kong, the two amazing cities in the Pacific Rim, is not a dream anymore—it is reality’s fantasy world, which I entered for six days.
I feel an uplifting sensation as I gaze through the Dreamliner’s large window to bid farewell to Tokyo, and I cherish the memories of this statuesque, friendly, and impeccably clean city as we head back to San Jose—technology’s gateway to the world.
Thanks for the memories…
The Final Notes:
The Peninsula Hotels currently operate nine luxury hotels in key gateway cities of Asia and the USA: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, and Manila, as well as the recently-opened Peninsula Paris. www.peninsula.com
ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner: New direct route from Norm Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, California to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, with connection to Hong Kong and other Pacific Rim destinations.
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, not the best of ‘‘balabostas’’ her beloved beautiful Mom, Dina, was hoping for. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out.