The gateway to Asia was my playground for one night with some girlfriends recently.. and we wanted to do it right. Should we stay on the Hong Kong side of Victoria Harbour.. or the Kowloon side (north of Hong Kong Island) ? What hotel would be the shortest trip from the airport to maximize our time out the night we landed? What about a hotel near good restaurants?
Middle class problems, I know. Cue the violin.
We ended up on the Kowloon side – which was my vote only because there are the best views looking back at the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island. A stunning sight.
The hotel… was different. This is a lesson in how ads – and even websites can be misleading. Do your research!
We stayed at the Shangri-la, which looked elegant on the website. Elegant can sometimes be code for “outdated” the same way “charming” can be translated to really small. I really find traveler reviews helpful to confirm (or not confirm) what you see on a website- where there is smoke, there is fire.
The Shangri-la is terribly outdated… and for a hotel in one of the most efficient cities in the world, I had to laugh when the “morning free coffee in the lobby” consisted of .. a coffee pot brewing ONE CUP at a time. Needless to say, there was a long line of Americans waiting. On the other hand, they had many cups of tea available. Tea IS Part of the Chinese culture after all, but management needs to know it’s audience better!
Anyway -…the people there were very nice, and I am able to share a lesson in hotel booking with you. Now I will offer other different Hong Kong hotels, since we drove right by two of my favorites on the way to the Shangri-la. One is high-end, and one is low…. I love giving options!!!
High end – this hotel needs no introduction. The Peninsula Hotel. If you can afford it, it is truly one of the best hotels in the world for service.
The rooms are luxurious with insane views, and high tech touches, like buttons by your bedside to control everything. I had an incredible view from my bath tub, as well as the living room. If you want to enjoy the view, ask for a room in the modern tower. Another high class Peninsula perk: Limo service to and from the airport in a Rolls Royce. Round trip is about $385. The price tag for a king bed, Harbour view room? Get ready for sticker shock: $1005… plus tax. www.peninsula.com/hongkong
My other favorite – and SO SO affordable and family friendly is the YMCA Salisbury Hotel, just a stones’ throw from the Peninsula. This place is clean, pleasant, and totally family friendly. Some rooms have views – and yes you pay for that, but a 350 sq ft family suite with a king bed and separate living room with pull out couch goes for about $250 a night!
The activities include an indoor swimming pool and rock climbing wall. If you want a casual, family environment, this is the place. Because of Hong Kong’s tradition as the epicenter for business and international travel, this is really a rare hotel. www.ymcahk.org.hk
Hong Kong may not be on your tourist map… but with more travelers visiting Vietnam, Bali, and other areas of Asia, many times you will find yourself staying over in Hong Kong. Not a bad pitstop…especially for five girlfriends!