It is amazing what people will do to themselves. David Beckham has ruined his body by having it covered in ghastly tattoos. The Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Phillips at one point had a silver knob through her tongue. In days past Chinese noble women had their feet so tightly bound they were unable to walk. They had to be carried.
Somehow, at Chuan Spa in Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong, the gal had wax-covered metal platelets put by and into her ear. Keep’em in for at least two days, to control your balance.
After three days she had not yet fallen over so perhaps this form of traditional Chinese medicine TCM works. Apparently it is also used to cure insomnia and to prevent jetlag.
Not that jet lag featured at that moment. I was driven across the border, from mainland China (Shenzhen) to Hong Kong SAR. If you are flying into Hong Kong or coming in by ferry, immigration can take ages; here it was about 30 seconds.
I did not even get out of the car, continued working on the laptop throughout. It was 75 minutes door to door: when the highspeed train finally gets going, in about three years’ time, travel time will be cut to 17 minutes.
Anyway, more on TCM, and its pillars of Wu Xing (the five elements), yin and yang and also Jing Luo (the meridian system). .Nathalie asked questions like my favourite colour, and it turned out I am Fire. She used healing stones, one green and one white jade, to touch important meridian points, and then put the platelets in.
Staying in Mongkok, north of Tsimshatsui on the Kowloon mainland part of Hong Kong, is an eye-opener every minute. In the streets, minivans and man-pulled carts, coming at all angles, jostle for space.
Pavements in some cases are almost invisible beneath piles of newspapers being sorted, and vendors’ wares spill over to the public space… overhead old buildings go up to about five or six floors but behind there are sleek glass sculptures soaring to well over 50 floors.
Most dominant of ‘the new’ is a trio of buildings that form the Langham Place complex, an office tower, a shopping mall and the oh-what-fun 700-room Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong. As with Hotel Indigo Xiamen Harbour, I had no idea of what to expect, and I loved it.
At breakfast in the luxury hotel’s L Club I sat up at a counter by the window, looking down on Mongkok far below. This is a 24-hour club, by the way, which the (Australian) hotel boss, Shaun Campbell, says is great for some guests from different time zones (say Australians).
Actually whenever I was travelling in one of the elevators I seemed to be surrounded by people from all-over, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Most seemed to be carrying retail trophies.
After signing so much on to UnionPay if you are Chinese, or American Express or Visa, if you are from the rest of the world, you need to recover. This is where the hotel’s Chuan Spa comes in handy, as does its LifeFitness gym, also 24 hours, and, up 21 steps to the 42nd floor rooftop, the 70-foot outdoor pool, surrounded by deep-tomato loungers and open-sided cabanas.
Up there, it looks like a natural sculpture, of metal and fabric. The hotel is actually a gallery of sculpture, outside and in (Time Magazine says this is an art gallery that masquerades as a hotel…).
Outside the main entrance, down at street level, an area the size of a squash court is an absolutely lovely green garden. Up two floors, an area the size of three tennis courts is an outdoor entertainment area, Backyard, a favourite watering hole of local expat residents.
The bar in Backyard may well suggest a Mandarine Pearl. This is the cocktail invented by head mixologist Jackie Lo, and it won her the 2012 De Kuyper Cup Hong Kong Championship Cocktail Competition, organised by the Hong Kong Bartenders Association.
The drink is 40ml De Kuyper Mandarine, 30ml fresh mango juice, a hint of Orange Bitters and a dash of Champagne, and garnishes of pineapple and lime leaves. Others sit drinking the most popular local beer, San Miguel, brewed here.
Walk inside to Tokoro Robatayaki and Whisky Bar, and you pass a whole wall of individual glass cabinets holding locals’ own favourite bottles, say 16-year Lagavulin in locker 808.
In your bedroom there are constant surprises. At night, the linen foot mat by the bedside is charmingly embroidered, with two lifesize white feet and, in black, the words Dream Big.
You get a hand-sized clear plastic octopus with a label stressing, again, Dream Big (‘studies have shown that our brainwaves are more active when we are dreaming than we are awake: rub away your woes with this gift from us to you’).
A floppy animal sits in your bed. Slippers are in a bag, Slip Me On. A six-sided squeezy, hand-hold ball is labelled Roll Me. The sides of the ball say such things as Revitalise at Chuan Spa, and IPod art tour life! shop. A card box holds cards showing some of the art in the hotel.
And yes, this is a gallery. I love Meditation, a sculpture by Yin Hong. One man is white, one is grey. They sit by a red Chinese arch. This is to show a man and his shadow, lost in thought.
Down in the lower lobby, two oversized bulbous metal people, by Jiang Shuo, are labelled Red Guards – Going Forward! Making Money! This is the kind of modern Chinese art that makes one smile.
Hong Kong, I hear, is fast becoming the world’s capital of high-priced modern art, and as of 2013 the annual Art Hong Kong becomes a full brand extension, as is Miami, of Art Basel (the first Art Basel Hong Kong is May 23-26, 2013).
There is so much art around me I am not sure if – as with the metal bits in my ear – it is real or imagined. A car arrives to take me on to lunch and as I leave, a quartet of hotel people is there to say goodbye. They are all in black. Are they real or figments of an artist’s imagination?