Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hotels in Hong Kong - Peninsula

The Peninsula in Hong Kong attracts me most because it features in James Bond. I explained last time why I found the Intercontinental - Grand Stanford a better place to stay at, but I still wanted to visit the Peninsula, and the ideal moment for that was for afternoon tea. According to at least two sources it is the best place to have afternoon tea in Hong Kong, so I was very disappointed when I failed to get there in time the day we had to leave Hong Kong. Obviously afternoon tea is at 16:00, but the book I had stated they would serve until 19:00. They don't. In fact, if you arrive after 17:00 you'll be out of luck, as there is a queue that takes at least an hour. I discovered that the next time I was in Hong Kong.

Because one of the things you can do in the Peninsula is watch other people, the wait in the queue is reasonably enjoyable. You can prepare yourself for the event by watching the people that are drinking tea, and there is a chamber orchestra playing from the balcony. The songs are rather popular (Vivaldi, Queen) and not every note is clean, but this, together with free Internet, makes for a quick hour. Once seated I discovered the tea isn't actually that expensive (obviously it is expensive for tea, but there are places in London where you'd pay more for less) and comprehensive. You can just order the afternoon tea (I'm not sure why they even bother with a menu) which consists of your choice of tea (or coffee) and a three course set of finger foods.

The initial tea is served to perfection. They steep it just for the right amount of time, and their tea leaves have a magnificent quality (certainly better than what Lupicia, Teavana or Twinings offer). Later cups are, of course, slightly more bitter, but still very tasty. The first course are the scones, with cream and strawberry jam. This is the only place where strawberries taste good, and I enjoyed them. The second course are a variation of sandwiches (cucumber, mushrooms, cheese quiche) which were tasty enough. Finally there were the deserts, which included cheese cake, chocolate and various other tasty bites.

The experience was worth the hour long wait, and the two visits. The atmosphere is good, the food is great and the tea is excellent. It might all feel overly English, but I loved it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hotels in Hong Kong - Intercontinental Grand Stanford

For our trip to Hong Kong we had only limited time. We would be there two nights, and would arrive in the evening, so I wanted to make sure a good hotel was booked in advance. As a James Bond fan, I thought the Peninsula hotel would be the best, but after consulting Frommer's Hong Kong guide and looking at prices online I decided that the Intercontinental Grand Stanford was a better option, because it had a much better harbour view, was slightly farther away from the centre (allowing more steps on the beautiful Tsim Sha Tsui promenade), and promised to be luxurious.

Travel to the hotel was fast and simple, using the airport express and the K3 shuttle. Welcome was great, bags were handled properly and (free) bottles of water were waiting in the room. The bed was great, the view was even better than on the pictures (sleeping with the curtains eased the jetlag considerably) and the bathroom was grand. The bathtub was not ideal, but very few bathtubs are (I'm picky when it comes to tubs). I know some people might object to the fact that you have to pay for the Internet, but when you have only a few days in Hong Kong being on the Internet is not of prime importance, especially when the front desk staff of the hotel is so helpful (providing maps of the city and the subway).

Normally I avoid restaurants that are inside the hotel that I stay at, but ate at the Cafe on M three times. The staff there was very helpful (although eager to get you to fill out the survey). The buffet was especially delicious, with so many options that you certainly find more than enough to enjoy, but the menu items are also tasty.

I've not tried any of the other hotels, but this one was so good that I would probably stay there the next time as well. In fact, the whole Hong Kong experience was such that I'd gladly come back. There is a YMCA in a great location too, but I've never really been keen on Youth Hostels. For me the $260/night for the harbour view room was very good value for money.