Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Farewell to British Hong Kong: Hotels
Hong Kong hotels are another eye-opener. For those who stay on the Island i.e. Victoria side, my personal recommendation goes to the Grand Hyatt. This hotel, with wonderful waterfront views, may be the benchmark by which to judge all others when you get home. The rooms are large and comfortable, the service impeccable, the staff outstanding and the food outlets so high in standard that I have never been able to fault any meal I've had in this superb hotel. By contrast the Mandarin, often voted the best on the Island side by bankers who I suspect, base their judgment on proximity to the city's financial establishments rather than on other factors, is a hotel which I think is way past its time -- old, cramped and with a lobby so packed that it makes Grand Central Station feel like a holiday resort by comparison. My experience with food outlets here has been equally grim. For a hotel that prides itself on its high standard, the roast beef I was served here last time would have been far more suitable for soling boots than putting on a plate. When I complained about this, the person in charge said that meat can occasionally be tough and he would tell the Chef about my complaint. No offer to replace, no apology, no "Can I get you anything else?" I'd have got better service and attention at MacDonalds.
But there are many other great 5-star hotels on the Island side which care about their clientele -- the Ritz Carlton, the Conrad, the Island Shangri La and The Marriott. They have one factor in common -- an occupancy rate that hoteliers in other major Asian cities can only dream about. Many visitors prefer to stay in Kowloon and take the ten minute ride to the CBD of Victoria Island on the historic and efficient green-and-white Star Ferry. On the way across the harbor I still marvel at the breathtaking view of the skyscrapers jostling for position right along the waterfront, their line now stretching in either direction almost as far as the eye can see.
The hotels I consider best on the Kowloon side are, firstly The Peninsula, the Grand Dame of Asia's 5-star establishments and still arguably the numero uno. The other superb Kowloon hotel is The Regent of Hong Kong, the alternate to The Peninsula for finding the world's Movers and Shakers when they are visiting. But there are a lot of other excellent, lower-priced establishments like The Omni or the Holiday Inn which are less lavish but kinder to the wallet.
One of the hardest tasks anyone can set themselves on the streets of Hong Kong is to walk in a straight line. I defy anyone to try it and succeed. Walking here is nothing like doing so in North America, Australia or Europe. This is firstly because every other building is either going up or being pulled down, resulting in curbside hoardings and numerous potholes. Secondly, pavements seem to carry three times the density of population, none of whom -- tourist, expatriate resident, or local Chinese -- show the slightest inclination to move as you approach. The way of walking here is the famous "Hong Kong pavement two-step" -- two forward, two right, two forward, two left -- ad infinitum.
The result is that within half an hour of leaving the hotel, you feel that you have just completed the New York Marathon -- sideways. Burning feet are the tourist's Repetitive Strain Syndrome in this city.