Hong Kong has so many characters, some of them part of luxury hotels. The gal just happened to be rushing along Chater Road (in the Central area, on Hong Kong Island) when out of that particular entrance to Mandarin Oriental popped Giovanni Valentini, the hotel’s legendary concierge supremo. He has been here, wait for it, since 1979. The hotel celebrated its 50th birthday on October 17th, 2013, with a black tie gala party, for a guest list that included Dame Helen Mirren and some of its other advertising ‘fans’. (The guest list also, embarrassingly, included two high-profile Brits, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and a certain George Osborne, who looks after the UK’s purse strings, and apparently this pair did not have the decency to wear black tie and they stood out like a sore thumb – what were they trying to say?)
I am, like two of my bestest hotel friends, a fan of Mrs Wong of Hong Kong. She runs the Thomas Wong jewellery store with ethical perfection and she knows exactly what will suit you (+852-6051 7477 firstname.lastname@example.org). I went in for earrings and she instantly came up with the ideal ones. I wanted a ring and she cunningly started showing me the most unsuitable thing, following that up with others that were getting nearer the mark until, hey presto, she produced perfection. Her office, Fort Knox-like, is two blocks behind The Peninsula but call her and she will send someone to get you.
The only time you can avoid people, on the Kowloon mainland or on Hong Kong Island, is at daybreak. The rest of the daylight hours it is one long hubbub.
Try to walk the pedestrian bridge between Wanchai MTR and the convention centre when there is a tech show on. As you cross high over Hennessy Road, Lockhart Road, Jaffe Road and Gloucester Road, and through Central Plaza and Renaissance Harbour View, you honestly think the scrum is akin to an Indian religious procession. This is the bridge that also leads to Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.
And there I was, back at the Grand Hyatt for yet another Grissini lunch. This restaurant goes on and on, like a well-tended Louis Vuitton briefcase (I saw a 13-year old one this week, looks like new, hence the analogy). Grissini’s waiters pour oil into your oil plate, dribble in balsamico. We started talking about the unique patterns that are thus made. Someone could do an art show, or host a competition to that effect.
Grissini greets you with the aroma of baking bread, and whatever you then choose, you eat looking out across the harbour.
At The Langham at breakfast one day, I had a view inwards, into the kitchen. Watching chefs prepare the Chinese dishes reminded me yet again of the skills needed to cook in front of people. At Andaz Amsterdam, where even carrots are peeled in full view of guests, there is no place to hide.
Here, working the woks, there is the added challenge of having no time for error. People of all nationalities want breakfast now, quickly, so do not muddle up the order.
That afternoon, I was once again stealing a minute to watch the view from my pop-up office, also known as room 316 of the InterContinental Hong Kong. I look down at Avenue of Stars, and across to Hong Kong Island. Once again a junk went past. A luxury hotel that allows you to be part of the world around has a definite lead when it comes to memories – and those are what today’s discerning travellers want.