HOTEL PHOTOS AT THE END
I’m from New York City, and I live in Paris. If you asked me to name any other city in the world I would like to live in, Hong Kong would definitely be in my top-5, and it might even be my first choice…that is as long as I could add a caveat that I would only have to live there for two or maximum three years. The ex-pat scene gets a bit incestuous and high school-like with the gossip.
My first proper day back in Hong Kong, my friend and I took the ferry out to one of the little islands and had lunch at a seafood place. I was still downtrodden from the previous evening’s exploits, but she was determined to have wine with lunch…until the wine arrived, then she became very envious of my bottle of water and can of coke.
Another friend from NYC was due to arrive in Hong Kong at some point that day as well, however, he was MIA. My HKG friend who we will call M organized a dinner with some of her friends that evening.
After dinner, my friend from NYC and the friend he was staying with met up with us and our large group ended up at Le Jardin, which is absolutely one of my favorite bars in Hong Kong. It’s like a frat party as a bar. Oddly his friend and the friend I was staying with had worked at the same company, and my friend had been his friend’s boss…small world, small HKG.
On day 3, we had Dim Sum for lunch at Din Tai Fung, then I went to the dentist. My tooth had been hurting since Singapore, and it was getting worse everyday. I have a phobia of dentists, as I hate people putting their hands in my mouth. So the prospect of going to a foreign dentist was not something I was looking forward to.
This dentist office had been recommended to me by a local friend, so I figured it was worth a shot. My “dentist” who seemed to be more of a technician, took a quick X-ray and told me I would need a root canal. He then tried to pressure me into commencing this procedure right away.
As someone who had only had one cavity in his life prior to this, I was shocked and less than thrilled about the prospect of needing a root canal, especially as I was still under-30.
I declined to proceed, conferred with my dentist in NYC and then called the Peninsula. I wasn’t checking in until the next day, but their concierge had me come by for a chat. I explained the situation to her, and she went to work. She found a dentist that it would otherwise be impossible to get an appointment with. This dentist spoke perfect English and was willing to speak with me on the phone before I signed off on the appointment.
This is the kind of transcendent, personal and caring service that really makes the Peninsula stand out. It would have been incredibly easy for the hotel staff to pass me off to whoever the dentist of note was in their contact book, but they took a personal interest in me, even before I had checked in and made sure that I was satisfied and comfortable with services they arranged. I can’t say enough good things about the staff at the Peninsula. I have always liked this hotel, but after this stay, they have earned my loyalty in perpetuity.
With the dentist issue resolved, and my root canal scheduled in two days time (on my birthday as it were), there was nothing left to do, but go out.
Since my birthday fell on a Monday, we were celebrating on Saturday, and my HKG friends had arranged a party at the club Fly.
It was a bit of an odd place. First of all, the main room was 100% foreigners and ex-pats. Behind this room, there was a corridor leading to another room that was 100% Chinese people. It seemed very odd that the two groups would choose to keep themselves totally segregated. I’m not sure if there had been an event or something, but a huge contingent from the fashion world took the bar over part way through the evening, and it began to resemble a scene from Zoolander for better or worse.
On Sunday it was finally time to check in to the Peninsula. My friend had been incredibly hospitable in letting me stay at her apartment for three days, but I was very much looking forward to a king sized bed and solitude.
At check-in, the desk clerk noted that it was almost my birthday, and they were able to upgrade me to the next room class.
In the room, the hotel had generously given me a birthday cake and a free bottle of champagne.
The girl I had been dating in NYC had also called ahead and sent a bottle of champagne to my room, so I was left with a plethora of booze, but no desire to drink it, as it was Sunday, I was hungover and needed a root canal in the morning.
I spent the entire day enjoying the comfort of the Peninsula and accomplishing absolutely nothing.
The following morning, when I went to the dentist, I was still unsure what to expect. I thought root canals took more than the one or so hours this dentist said she would need. At this point I was about one month into the trip with around two months remaining.
The dentist told me she would in essence offer me a stopgap solution that would allow me to continue on with my trip and have the work completed at my leisure.
Still partially numbed from the dentistry I set off for my absolute favorite restaurant in Hong Kong.
The last time I was in HKG, I found this fantastic restaurant totally by chance while wandering around the streets in Central. I had taken a card from the restaurant, but long since lost it. As such, I had no idea what it was called or what street it was on. All I had was a mental picture in my head of looking down Wyndham Street as it curved left past Dragon-I. I knew the from that starting point I had to descend towards the water and make a right at some point and this restaurant would be on the right hand side of the street with ducks or geese hanging skinned in the window.
Working from this loose mental blueprint I was able to retrace my steps and I found what I was looking for. Yat Lok (28 Stanley Street). There was a lunchtime line out the door, so after a brief wait I was seated at a communal table. Everything is in Cantonese, but they have an English menu for the obvious non-Cantonese speakers. The waiter won’t understand if you try to order in English, but if you point at what you want, it’ll work.
Apparently in reading reviews after the fact, this place is known for their goose. That’s not what I order there. The roast pork over rice is an absolute symphony of flavor. It’s an exceedingly simple dish and lunch with a coke will run about $4 USD, however, I would choose to eat here over scores of Michelin starred eateries I’ve been to. Hell, I have contemplated routing myself through HKG just to have a layover long enough to go there. If you’re in Hong Kong…go there.
My enjoyment of lunch was somewhat blunted by the fact that half of my face was still slightly numb and I was prone to chewing like a mentally handicapped person. It was still worth it.
Post lunch I went back to the Peninsula to relax for a bit and then booked a massage. The spa facilities at the Peninsula are stunning. One of my favorite spas anywhere. The massage was adequate, although not exemplary, but the steam rooms, sauna, common areas and relaxing spaces overlooking the harbor are really top notch.
From here my night got much stranger. I went first to the new Ritz-Carlton to have a drink at their bar on the 118th floor and watch the light show from the Kowloon side. However, when I got to the top floor, it was totally socked in with fog and all I could see was gray.
After a few drinks I went back to the Hong Kong side to have dinner with another friend living in Hong Kong. She thoroughly embarrassed me with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” at the table.
Towards the end of dinner a Vietnamese movie star I had briefly dated during my time in the ‘Nam joined our table and the three of us piled into the Viet’s car and had her driver take us to a nearby hotel bar.
Apparently the Vietnamese girl was branching out from acting and was now running some sort of questionable sounding Diamond business based out of Hong Kong. Her business partner who was a 70 something year old Hong Kongnese woman arrived in knee high boots and a short skirt with her son, sporting a faux-dinner jacket, in tow.
After some strange conversation, I said goodbye to everyone and went back to the Peninsula, I had a 7am flight to Bangkok with an onward connection to Koh Samui, followed by a ferry ride to Koh Phangan, and I did not want any part of that marathon with a hangover.
Pros: It’s the grande dame hotel of Hong Kong, the service is amazing, there are a number of top restaurants, pleasant bar, great spa, nice gym, super location.
Cons: On lower floors the view of the harbor can be obstructed, I wanted to check out the China Clipper room for the Pan Am memorabilia but was rebuffed.
Verdict: Whenever your budget allows for it, stay here unless you need to be very close to your business meetings on the Hong Kong side…like across the street close.