I rang in the New Year in Hong Kong, one of my favorite cities. So culturally different from New York, I know I’m not at home anymore when I arrive at CDG and see the familiar surgical masks that many wear on their face, and I pass through the ‘temperature check’ on route to immigration. This time I asked my greeter if people wear the masks to prevent disease as I once heard they do not act as a barrier to such. She confirmed but then surprised me by saying many of the young girls also wear them if they have a pimple outbreak they would rather no one see! Couple that with all the girls at the mall taking photos of themselves in front of every store window, store ad, logoed wall and random orchid, and I know ‘we are not in Kansas anymore.’
In order to keep things fresh I decided to stay at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Right out of the gate (literally), they impressed me by having a greeter wait for my arrival on the jetway and efficiently usher me through immigration and baggage claim. Something else I won’t see back home unless of course I’m Reese Witherspoon. (Wink, wink as I recently ran into new mom Reese at JFK.) The service upon arrival was no less exceptional. The rooms – however well-appointed – felt modest compared to my lofty Upper House experience and left me longing for a view. After two lovely days I missed my Hong Kong skyline view and dutifully checked into Upper House on the 47th floor. View? Check.
One thing Upper House lacks is a spa. This is where The Landmark Mandarin Oriental excels. I fully spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve lounging by the indoor pool and reading the new Tom Wolfe. New Year’s Day was spent having a reflexology treatment and reading in the most sublime relaxation room I’ve ever seen. Heated stone recliners and ‘massage’ chairs in the whirlpool round out the experience. Worth the trip and worth the stay if you don’t miss the view.
Unfortunately I was plagued with stomach issues for the duration of the stay, making a 3 a.m. visit to the hospital for mild dehydration, so I didn’t get to indulge in one of Hong Kong’s best assets: its food. I did venture out for a New Year’s Eve dinner to a local Cantonese restaurant, Island Tang, as it was one of the only spots where I didn’t have to order the price fixe menu. Despite the very ordinary meal of white rice, I loved the art deco ambience and classic feel with servers in white tie.
I’ve been dreaming about the breakfast at Cafe Gray at Upper House for the past year. You can’t beat a homemade ten grain hot cereal with stewed raspberries and a peppermint tea while watching the container tankers and the star ferry cross the harbor from the 49th floor. Good morning Hong Kong!
Don’t miss Yardbird, a Japanese style Yakitori bar just off the Hollywood Road. They offer Yakitori from all parts of the chicken so be sure to try the oyster (the juiciest part) and meatball. The more adventurous among you might like the neck, knee, heart or gizzard. The cucumber salad is a refreshing delight with miso, pine nuts and sesame. Homemade salted peanut butter ice cream with orange zest is the only dessert on the menu (um, yes!). Meet a friend at the bar and enjoy.
I thought I may spend New Year’s Day at Hong Kong Disneyland but alas, my stomach begged me not to. Next trip.