The Peninsula Hong Kong celebrates its 85th birthday this year. This sure is a luxury hotel with history, says the gal, but it knows how to keep up to the minute. Its latest new look is the first complete re-do in 19 years and it is now one of the most gorgeous hotels in the world. And it is so up to date. Everything is control pad but so amazingly simple that there is no way that even a techophobe could complain. Touch pads around your room are exactly where you hope they will be, and clear logos show where you are turning on your fibre optic reading light or the overhead lights (logos are very useful for those of you, dear readers, who need eyeglasses but because it is dark you cannot see where you put them). The signage wording, by the way, is personally programmed for your arrival. Check into the hotel with a Korean passport and the wording on all your control pads is in Korean.. and so on. It instantly translates from Chinese or English into another nine languages (11, in all).
In suite 1807, a harmony of strawberry awaits – sorry, have already drunk the fresh strawberry juice in the double-walled glass flask to the right of the picture. This harmony is the main colour in the rooms. Like all its neighbours in the 300-room hotel, this, the Pomegranate Suite, has colours like a swirl of different strengths of milk chocolate, perhaps in an icecream sundae glass (a Riedel, of course). It is almost devoid of dominant colour. Pale milk chocolate icecream walls are banded, at the edges, in highly polished walnut. The carpet, another brand of milk chocolate, has a darker carpet border. There is a burnished bronze appliqué of a cherry blossom twig on the main wall of the salon.
The overall effect, once you have eaten, and drunk, the strawberry bits, is colour that does not intrude. It is the same in the corridors, which have similar polished walnut vertical edges. I am sure all the guests, all two thousand of them, coming to the hotel’s official birthday gala on December 11th, 2013, will exclaim with delight at the overall new look – they will undoubtedly also have a look at the re-done Marco Polo Suite, one of the old rooms dating back to 1928. Its louvred shutters have been kept in place, as have crystal chandeliers, but its ice and white colouring is, well, gorgeous.
As part of the celebrations, too, four tea-parties for local 85 year olds are being held, perhaps here, in the inner room of the upper, first, floor Verandah, another area that evokes memories of the past. I love its soft gold colouring, and the room divider that looks like old cabin trunks. They might, alternatively, take tea down in the main lobby. One ongoing activity in the lobby, by the way, is tea dances, on the first Sunday of every month. On the fourth Sunday of each month, artists, say Chinese puppets or Russian ballerinas, come here to entertain.
The hotel is always adding something new. Since my last visit, the breakfast buffet has been substantially upgraded. There are now even tarts on the displays – are they expecting Donatella Versace, perhaps, as it is primarily Italians who have fruit tart at breakfast (although from the look of her Ms DV eats about the same minute quantities of anything as the current Miss World). This is certainly a forever young luxury hotel. As the GM, Rainy Chan, says, she does not want an old hotel or a new hotel, she wants a timeless hotel.
Finally, back to the Marco Polo Suite, one of the most beautiful all-time hotel suites ever. Interestingly, not many years ago the foreigners you saw staying at this luxury hotel acted as if they were mature even if they were not. As I watch, waiting for a business meeting here, a Britney Spears double walked by, in day-glo yellow work-out vest and matching shoes, and shortest silver shorts. She had a three year old in tow. This illustrates two features of today’s luxury travel life. First, never judge people by their informality and, secondly, there are increasing numbers who travel with at least one child.