The first time I flew into Hong Kong was in 1992, onto the runway of the Hong Kong International Airport. It was ranked one of the most dangerous airports in the world, which I instantly realized as our Cathay Pacific airplane flew very close to skyscrapers and landed on a runway jutting out into Victoria Harbor.
This airport closed in 1998 and has been replaced by the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok. I flew into this safer airport recently in June, 2015, after 10 days in China. I was surprised to see so many more skyscrapers 23 years after my first flight. I learned that Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers in the world: 8,000 buildings that have more than 14 floors. That is almost twice as much as New York City.
Since I was staying overnight at two of the The Mandarin Oriental properties in Hong Kong, I was provided with car service from the airport to the first hotel. An airport staff member greeted my family and me as we departed from our flight and helped us obtain our baggage. Upon exiting the airport, a MO (Mandarin Oriental) driver welcomed us and guided us to our black van. Inside we received cold washcloths, bottled water and complimentary Wi-Fi connection.
The British government colonized Hong Kong in 1841 during the first Opium War (1839-43). It was handed back to China on July 1, 1997. Hong Kong now has a population of over 1.2 million people. It’s a formal city with men and women in business attire walking to work next to street vendors and butchers cutting raw meat along the sidewalk in the open air markets. Fish are piled up on ice for locals to purchase and live eels swim in small plastic white and blue bowls.
It’s a sophisticated city with British pubs, Marks and Spencer Stores and every high end jewelry, clothing and shoe store lined up in a tidy row along the narrow streets. Teslas, Mercedes and Audis purr along the streets next to Buicks and Nissans.
Our first night we stayed at the more sleek and modern The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Located next to a large and elegant shopping mall, the hotel appeals to all of your senses. The smells are pleasing the moment you walk into the lobby, elevator and guest rooms.
Our feet enjoyed the plush slippers with the signature M on the top located next to our king size bed adorned with Frette linen and goose down bedding. There is a walk-in wardrobe with black silk robes hanging inside. A stunning circular glass-walled bathroom offers a dramatic spherical spa tub, and plush cotton robes hanging next to the soothing rain-forest shower.
The Mandarin Oriental caters to an elite clientele and offers extra amenities that other hotels don’t, such as a tube of Happy Feet, a refreshing blend of peppermint to perk up hot and tired feet after climbing and exploring the hills of Hong Kong Island. There is also a bottle of tea tree oil to provide antibacterial protection and a deodorizing effect.
We dined at the MO Bar for a opulent breakfast buffet and later in the evening for a lively dinner and cocktails. Staff members Joyce, Nicole, Ryan and Nicholas offered exemplary service during both our culinary experiences.
In the evening , the MO Bar changes into a sophisticated nightspot with cocktails and dining. To add to the vibe, a DJ spins each night. The hip, club-like destination has debuted Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Annie Lennox on its small stage.
The second day, we checked out of The Landmark and into the hotel chain’s flagship, the Mandarin Oriental. Celebrating 53 years, it’s old world elegance with tradition and pomp, and about two blocks away from The Landmark.
We were professionally greeted by Niko Penttinen, the duty manager, who escorted us up to our suite on the 12th floor (rooms 1226 and 1227), checked our passports and took a copy of our credit card.
Our room offered the most spectacular bathroom I ever seen, with a large white soaking tub showcasing the center of the marble room, overlooking the Ferry Building, Hong Kong Ferris Wheel and Kowloon.
Since this is the year of the goat, our daughters each had an adorable stuffed Chinese goat on their pillow as a welcome gift.
The elegant living area had a sitting area and desk with every amenity discerning guests might desire. Niko brought us two large baskets filled with an exquisite china tea pot and cups. We sat on the sofa and enjoyed a proper afternoon tea with biscuits in our suite before exploring the sights of the city.
Taking the Star Ferry across the Victoria harbour to Kowloon, we gazed out to the impressive General Post Office and noticed the stately signature fan and brass Mandarin Oriental letters decorating the top of the hotel.
Upon our return I met with the General Manager, Jonas Schuermann of the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. He informed me that the Mandarin Oriental hotel spent $150 million to renovate its 501 guest rooms, 10 restaurants, and numerous public spaces, as well as to construct the Mandarin Spa. Now there are 71 individually-designed suites and 430 guest rooms with either exciting city or lovely harbor views.
I also learned that Hong Kong is very green, with approximately 3/4 of Hong Kong being rural, comprising 24 country parks, scenic hills, woodlands, reservoirs and coastline easily accessible from the city. The concierge team is happy to share with guests the best walking and hiking trails.
Also, within the last five years the art and wine world have established a major presence in Hong Kong. “During art auctions, the airport runs out of space for all the private jets,” shared Jonas. “Hong Kong has become a city filled with stunning artwork in all of the galleries.”
Jonas told me that people come from all over to buy rare and popular wine, because there in no tax. “It makes buying wine or anything in Hong Kong very attractive,” said Jonas.
Before dinner, management sent a staff member to our room with a tray of fresh bread, small bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and chocolates. An ice bucket held a chilled bottle of Ruinart French Brut Champagne. It was a treat before our dinner at the MO Bar.
Early the next day, the sun broke through an array of clouds to cast a rose-colored glow on the hills above Victoria Harbor. Situated between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the harbor attracts an interesting array of international ships with its deep, sheltered waters next to the South China Sea.
Before our car service took us to the airport, we bade goodbye to all of the professional and classically trained staff members we met at the Mandarin Oriental. The memories of our two-night experience make me long to come back to this exciting cosmopolitan city before another 23 years slips by.