This was a first. The driver from Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong, said proudly, ‘this is a brand-new Mercedes, new today’ – the gal later said to the GM, Ulf Bremer, there was really no need to buy a new car, sir. The meeting and greeting platoon at the hotel also included the one and only Edward Wa, who has been at the hotel since it opened in 1981 (as he says in this super video on loyalty, see below, he started on his birthday). Edward Wa is officially Imperial Butler of the luxury hotel but in fact he is Mr Everything, Mr Everywhere. There is not a Very Important Person whom he has not welcomed and cossetted. When we got to room 1615, facing over the harbour, he poured the welcome green tea.
The 688-room hotel ran as a Westin for ten years, and since becoming Shangri-La in 1991 it has soared from strength to strength – it is easy to see why an amazingly high proportion, 38% to be exact, of guests come back again and again. The staff are so absolutely lovely. Edward Wa is not the only one of the 771-complement to have been here from the start, and 21 total are related to others working here. Luxury travellers used to staying in highly-unionised hotels, in France or USA, must be bowled over backwards coming here. Ask someone the way and they will personally take you there, say out of the mezzanine door and across a footbridge over Salisbury Road to get to where Avenue of Stars was before it was temporarily removed, to Garden of Stars, for the building of a mammoth skyscraper that New World is putting up.
Get a room with a harbour view, like 1615 – see the night view, above, and, here, the daytime scene. I wish there was more time to take the hotel’s current Cultural Heritage Package, which runs through June 2016. Choose morning, or afternoon, for a lengthy escorted walk. You see Tsim Sha Tsui‘s oldest military facility, Gun Club Hill Barracks, built 1860, now used by Chinese, and Bruce Lee’s primary – Tak Sun School, built 1930. Other sites on the agenda are the replacement Kowloon Cricket Club (the original 1904 building was torn down for firewood in World War II). See the 1907 Signal Hill Tower, and 1900-era Fuk Tak Chinese temple. Among the local stores you visit are Ms Tsoi’s Chinese Herbalist clinic, and David Chan’s modern and antique cameras shop. Well done, Kowloon Shangri-La, for offering such an exciting walk – I am sure that London walker, Sophie Campbell at One Aldwych, would be equally impressed.
Actually this luxury hotel is lots of fun. Where else is a restaurant lucky enough to have a same- name chef – here, Alessandro Angelini, from Rimini, is the culinarian of Angelini (try the pan-friend John Dory with Amalfi lemon from his new menu, see @angeliniautumnmenu). As I arrived for breakfast in the 21st Horizon Club lounge, a young server in bright scarlet announced he had a tasting of French yoghurts he has prepared, specially. He brings pots of Danone Taillefine le Brassé and Yoplait Perle de Lait. After a comparative tasting, I much prefer the Yoplait, any time – it tastes real. I seem to have been eating and drinking ever since I arrived here (thank goodness for the 24/7 gym).