My husband, Jules, and I live in Toronto, but we met in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s. Back then, both of us were just starting our careers, and had little money left over after paying living expenses, so we weren’t able to experience the luxurious side of what was then a British colony. We loved Hong Kong anyway, of course, with its buzzing streets, great food and fabulous skyline; it’s a very special place that everyone should try to see at least once in their lifetime. When we left in 1997, we always knew that one day we’d return for a visit.
First up was The Langham Hong Kong hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Langham is a 150-year-old hotel group, with properties from London to Sydney to New York—all of which invite guests to experience what they refer to as “timeless European elegance.” That is not an exaggeration; the 498-room Langham Hong Kong has just undergone an expansive multi-million-dollar transformation, and has been awarded the Forbes Travel Guide five-star rating and named by Travel + Leisure one of the top five hotels in Hong Kong. It oozes traditional style and luxury, from the moment you step through the front doors and are greeted by a waft of its bespoke scent of fresh ginger flower, something featured in every Langham hotel worldwide.
We were fortunate enough to have an Executive room, which meant we had private check-in (accompanied by a glass of champagne) at the hotel’s lovely Langham Club on the 11th floor, where we would also enjoy delicious breakfast and canapés in the afternoon. But our jaws dropped when we got to our room and discovered the staff had decked it out with “Happy 20th Anniversary” balloons, rose petals, gorgeous sweet treats perched on fine china and a bottle of Champagne on ice. In terms of attentive and caring service, it really doesn’t get better than that—unless you can enjoy that Champagne at the newly opened outdoor swimming pool on the rooftop, which is exactly what we did.
Tsim Sha Tsui is a great spot from which to explore Kowloon. For one thing, the shopping is incredible, but for another it’s perfect for checking out the night markets, restaurants, temples and even a nearby street filled with fortune-teller booths. One of the great things about being in Kowloon is that it faces Victoria Harbour, and the spectacular Hong Kong island skyline is best viewed from the waterfront promenade not five minutes’ walk from The Langham’s front door. Jules and I held hands as we took in the spectacular laser light show, which is put on every night.
We had a wonderfully comfortable sleep in the king-sized bed, and I have to say I absolutely loved the luxurious marble bathroom—it gave me some ideas for a future reno for our own bathroom—and the lovely Chuan amenities, exclusive to The Langham. I even got to see a few more of the suites available at the hotel; the next day, Jenny An, manager of marketing communications, took me on a little tour, and while we checked out the rooms, she explained the Langham brand’s attitude towards service. “We spend a lot of time making sure there is a ‘plus 1’ kind of service,” Jenny said. “We focus on personalized attention.” They also add touches of luxury wherever they can: for example, displayed on an occasional table in one of the suites was an exclusively designed Hermes accent plate.
Jules and I so enjoyed our time at The Langham Hong Kong. And we were loving being back in Hong Kong among the familiar sights and sounds. We said goodbye to Kowloon and took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island to reach our next destination, The Park Lane hotel in Causeway Bay. (By the way, if you go to Hong Kong, the Star Ferry ride is a must-do. It lasts about 7 minutes, costs next to nothing, and gives you a breathtaking view of spectacular Victoria harbour, which is teeming with vessels of every description, from traditional Chinese junks to ocean liners.)
Hong Kong’s Park Lane is a Pullman hotel (Pullman is based in Paris), and was recently renovated to the tune of US$38 million. On arrival, we loved the contemporary lobby with its vintage-train-travel touches—and that was just the beginning of what would be a very chic, ultra-connected experience that struck me as so well-suited to today’s traveller.
Vicky Wong, marketing manager for the 832-room hotel, told me that was exactly the aim of the renovation. “Today’s generation of travellers expects to be connected everywhere,” she said as she showed me around Ebb & Flow, the buzzing lobby lounge with cutting-edge tech elements and array of food options, not to mention fabulous coffee choices. Similarly, the hotel’s large “urban industrial” style restaurant, Playt, is all about modern—as is obvious with its walls covered in spray-paint art by renowned Spanish street-graffiti artist Victoriano.
Our executive room was absolutely gorgeous, with its view of Victoria Park and the harbour—a view you can enjoy from the large glassed-in soaker tub. Simply stunning. We had access to the Executive Club, which offers made-to-order breakfasts; beverages and snacks all day; as well as hors d’oeuvres and cocktails each evening.
But I’ve saved the best part of our experience at The Park Lane for last. On the Saturday evening, Jules and I took the elevator up to the 27th floor for our special 20th anniversary dinner date at SKYE. We stepped out onto the spectacular rooftop bar and ordered a local microbrew, taking in the view with astonishment just after the sun set. I’m telling you, this was something to behold.
Then we stepped back into the restaurant for an unforgettable gastronomic experience: Chef Lee Adams’ signature degustation menu, which consisted of six courses with wine pairings, all based on contemporary French cuisine. How are these for some mouthwatering highlights: Hokkaido scallops with a curried cauliflower puree, accompanied by a glass of Hungarian tokaji, a crisp, minerally white. Wagyu beef, parsley spelt and chard with a glass of fine Australian shiraz. A selection of cheeses accompanied by a smooth 20-year-old port. And a delectable lemony dessert plate (with a special anniversary message—sweet touch!), and a glass of Austrian dessert wine.
We spent almost three hours enjoying this special dinner. What a way to finish off our excursion back to Hong Kong, our long-anticipated trip to celebrate where we began our marriage, 20 happy years ago.