The Sybaritic Single loves luxury hotel lobbies. For a solo traveller, lounges are the places to see and be seen, as well as the perfect spot to observe the crowd, almost as good as first class lounges, minus the annoying final calls. His favourite ones are at The Plaza in New York as well as at Hôtel Plaza Athénée and Four Seasons George V in Paris, The Peninsula Tokyo, InterContinental Hong Kong and Park Hyatt Milano. When in one of them, the Sybaritic Single orders a glass of Champagne and lets the time spin.
Yet, tonight he is a bit further away, in the lobby of Pyongyang‘s iconic monolith which is the Yanggakdo International Hotel. Run by two young ladies in tailored orange tweed suits, this lounge is the meeting place for large tourist groups, quieter-than-usual Chinese traders and a number of random guests who prefer to mind their own business. The local ginseng-ginko tea is simply excellent and so is the fruit parfait, decorated with sinful whipped cream and two M&M’s drops – the latter is ordered for photographic purposes only as the Sybaritic Single is extra careful prior to the Paris Fashion Week. It is intriguing to see the ‘hangover chaser tea‘ among the other 15 sorts of tea served. Perhaps it is in higher demand once the lounge’s stock of Johnnie Walker Blue Label gets depleted.
Whisky galore, here, but Champagne is not heard of, and the only wine by glass, a Bulgarian rouge, is offered merely at the bar of the revolving restaurant, 47 floors above, at the hotel’s pinnacle. There is no harpist but there is the young and charismatic Kim Jong Un instructing his generals on the two plasma screens broadcasting the main local television channel.
This is arguably the most fashionable lobby lounge in the North Korean capital, known to be more popular among the younger crowd. The older generation, Sybaritic Single was told, prefers the quieter lounge at the Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang‘s other top-tier establishment. It will be interesting to see whether the new 3,000-room (7,665 rooms, according to other sources) Ryugyung Hotel will impress its guests with once the 105-floor building, started 1987, eventually opens, though no longer with Kempinski.
As the Sybaritic Single glamorises away – fully dressed in Dior – he catches a few interested glances and is approached for a selfie by an American tourist, before proceeding to his spacious two-bedroom suite at the end of the 40th floor for a glass of Dom Pérignon before retiring. He has thought of this luxury-hotel memory in the few days since leaving Pyongyang, Champagne from his Baccarat red crystal flute looking out at the Juche Tower – from his bedroom.