Visiting Hong Kong at the tail end of a month away from Vancouver, I arrived on the heels of a series of long, hot days we enjoyed in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The late February weather offered a marked transition from the sunny islands we’d visited, and was much more like home. It also required an entirely different wardrobe. Out with minimalist apparel and sarongs; it was time to pack away the sunscreen for a few more months and bring out the layered clothing that had been waiting dormant at the bottom of the suitcase.
Prepare to Treat Yourself
… to unforgettable views, meals and hospitality. Arriving at the InterContinental Hong Kong, the brand’s Asia-Pacific flagship hotel, I appreciated another significant transition. While we’d stayed in other four- and five-star hotels on this journey, we also changed the mid-trip portion of our itinerary and found ourselves in a couple of properties I’d just as soon forget. To say it was a treat to step inside the InterContinental would be as understated as suggesting that a tall glass of ice water might be welcomed mid-day in a desert.
Even before reaching my room and the luxury of a soaker tub, oversized shower and the return of face cloths and sumptuous bath products, my thirst for comfort was well on its way to being quenched.The magnificent views begin the moment you step into the lobby. The reception desk is an island in an open space that boasts three- or four-storey glass walls flanking the rear of the hotel. From the lobby, you can soak up the views of Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon Island highrises across the water while you check in.
I also felt taken care of right from the get-go. When the taxi driver dropping me at the hotel tried to overcharge (the only time this happened while in Hong Kong), the doorman intervened and quickly put an end to that nonsense. This, and the gracious and efficient check-in facilitated by Reiko, were indicative of our experiences with this hotel brand. Staff are subtle, professional and welcoming; you feel like a valued guest.
Location, Location, Location
I chose this hotel for its brand and location. When planning your first visit to the area, it can be challenging sorting out whether to stay in Hong Kong itself or Kowloon, which is across Victoria Harbour. Frankly, whichever side you select as your home base, you’re likely to visit the other. So, I let the brand – which I trust – serve as the deciding factor.
There are two InterContinental hotels in Hong Kong, and I picked the Salisbury Road locale in Tsim Sha Tsui, also known as TSM. Here, you’re perched over the promenade that’s home to Hong Kong’s Avenue of the Stars, which is currently closed for a somewhat controversial redevelopment locals are being told will be completed some time in late 2018.
As you’ll see in this look at the Lobby Lounge, the impressive daytime views become incredible by night. We enjoyed tasty appetizers and, foregoing the Lounge’s signature cocktails, some very fine wine. Yes, those crimson sails you see represent one of the famous junks that glide by the hotel on a regular basis – and yes, those are the towers of Kowloon in the background. That’s just how close you are to the water. You can see why, with such great views and service, it could be tempting to stay put. With so many interesting places just a short walk from the hotel, though, you won’t.
On the Waterfront
Walking along the waterfront, you have ready access to the Star Ferry terminal. Ferries run frequently and will have you across to Kowloon Island in mere minutes. In this shot, you can see the terraces of the InterContinental Hong Kong at the far right in the background … and its proximity to the city’s Cultural Centre, directly behind the ferry in this pic. Unlike my hotel, which boasted floor to ceiling windows on its waterfront wall, you’ll see that the Cultural Centre’s waterside wall has no glass. You may also see why it’s earned nicknames for its resemblance to a ski slope.
Walking from the hotel, the Cultural Centre is less than five minutes away and an obvious landmark for collecting your bearings.
On performance evenings, you’ll know you’ve arrived should you see musicians slipping out from backstage for a quiet smoke and a chat beneath the Centre’s angular columns.
Another Local Landmark
Stroll behind the Cultural Centre and close to the ferry terminal, and you have the landmark Clock Tower. While the tower itself was constructed in 1915 as part of the Kowloon – Canton Railway Line, first World War I and then subsequent financial limitations meant that the tower was without operational clocks until 1921. The railway station was demolished in the 1970s, but the Clock Tower was preserved and ultimately identified in the 1990s as a Declared Monument.
This is also the spot – if you didn’t snag a seat in the hotel Lobby Lounge, as I did my first night – to gather with hundreds of locals and visitors to watch the Symphony of Lights. Stroll to the rear of the Cultural Centre, past the palm trees and the Clock Tower to the waterfront walkway, and then squeeze in with the rest of the crowd should you wish to catch the 8:00 p.m. show.
If you’d rather soak up the evening skyline and Symphony of Lights without bumping shoulders, you might want to opt for dinner in one of the InterContinental’s five restaurants, two of which have earned Michelin starts. Here’s a look at the Harbourside Restaurant, which boasts a hugely popular buffet that draws locals as well as visitors.
A Room With a View
Remember, now, that I’m writing this from Vancouver, a city renowned for its natural beauty. So, when I say that the windows spanning the full width of my room offered drop dead gorgeous views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Island, you’ll know it’s an impressive site. It felt as though I was suspended directly above the water traffic – and, of course, with the hotel being built on pile-ons, I was.
What did the room offer beyond tremendous views such as those above? Let’s start with comfort. Elegance. The customary slippers and bathrobes, and panel controls in case one was crazy enough to want to close the blinds and lose the floor-to-ceiling view of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Island. Oh, yes; there was also a window-side chaise lounge from which to soak up the setting.
Complimentary smartphone, with overseas calling My room also offered some much appreciated touches for people far from home. The desk came complete with an adaptor, which is a nice touch whether you’ve forgotten yours or simply wanted to charge more than one device at a time.
Having a smartphone at your disposal for the duration of your stay can be very helpful when making your way in a new city. Missing someone at home, or feeling the need to check in at the office? With this phone, I had unlimited long distance calling privileges to a number of countries, including Canada, the UK and USA.
After spending the day seeing the sights, it’s nice to be able to slip into a hot bath or shower. As IHG members who have stayed in a few InterContinental hotels, we know we can expect quality toiletries – either Agraria or, as with this visit, Salvatore Ferragamo.
Do you need more to feel truly pampered? In addition to the four perfect pillows on the bed, my room came with a pillow menu if I wanted something different. The options included a pillow with dried aromatherapy herbs, one with countoured pressure relief, another that specifically provided neck support, one for pregnant women, and another to filter allergens. All you’d need to do is pick up the phone, press the Instant Service button, and additional comfort would be on its way.
Three Infinity Spa Pools Overlooking Victoria Harbour
That’s right. It may look like a single unit, but you have your choice of three separate pools within the infinity spa that offers you sweeping views across Victoria Harbour. The middle pool is maintained at a cool temperature, and the larger pools on either side are, respectively, warm and (my favourite) very warm!
While the skies were grey during my stay, and the outdoor pool was undergoing maintenance, the views from the Pool Terrace and spas were splendid by day and by night. Whether soaking up the waters, or enjoying snacks at your lounge or one of the tables also perched over the harbour, this is a great place to unwind. As day shifts into night, and given sufficient time in the spa (or beverages from the attentive staff), you could almost imagine reaching out to touch the highrises and mountains of Kowloon.
Fitness and Spa Facilities
Enroute to the Pool Terrace and infinity spa, you’ll walk alongside the fitness centre (open 24 hours a day) and I-Spa. If you’re an early riser, you have the option of dropping into complimentary tai chi classes five days a week. Is yoga your thing? The Terrace is home to Saturday and Sunday morning classes for you.
If you’re looking for pampering, this is the place. I-Spa has a number of signature treatments available within private rooms, and the environment is lovely. I like the sound of the Day of Indulgence. Hmm. It would also be great to get together with friends and go for a champagne pedicure and manicure.
Feng Shui, and the Nine Dragons of Kowloon
If you’re familiar with the concept of feng shui, though, you’ll appreciate that there’s much more at stake. Click here if you’d like to see what I learned about Kowloon’s nine dragons and feng shui’s prominence in the region.
Dining – Something Different for Every Day of the Week
Two of the hotel’s five restaurants are Michelin-rated, and the diversity of choices is such that a visitor could stay here weeks and not have the same meal twice. You would also be eating very well. For a close up of my look at the five restaurants, click here.
Eating well can mean different things to different people. While you have dizzying choices in Harbourside, all you’d expect (and more) in a restaurant called The Steakhouse, and fine dining at Nobu, Spoon and Yan Toh Heen, the hotel has also partnered with an area hospital to offer health management menu choices. Known as IHealth options, these menu items reflect nutritional guidance for those paying attention to living with or preventing diabetes, heart disease or hypertension – as well as those seeking antioxidants.
In the Club InterContinental, which overlooks Harbourside restaurant and the harbour itself, I appreciated the range of options. Whether you’re there for breakfast and a look at local or international papers, a late afternoon snack and break from sightseeing, or an early evening glass of champagne and some canapes simply because, you’ll appreciate the service.
If you’re a foodie, you may want to join the ICHK Dining Club before departing for Hong Kong and reap the benefits while there. Or, whether or not you’re a guest, you can take advantage of a Baking Club and Cooking With the Stars, led by chefs from the hotel’s restaurants.
Corporate Events and Weddings
With a ballroom that can host more than 700 for dinner and up to 1,300 for cocktails, the hotel is home to a number of corporate events. At 9,031 square feet/839 square meters, this is the largest ballroom in all of Hong Kong. You know you’re on your way to an impressive space when you make your way up the Italian Carrara marble staircase to the ballroom, which has all the tech support you may want.
The hotel also offers 11 harbour view function rooms for business and other events. If you want something a bit smaller than the ballroom, you can combine four of the function rooms to create capacity for a dinner function for 216.
It’s little wonder the hotel is a popular wedding spot. Brides and grooms have a number of choices, including the option of hosting their event in the hotel’s Presidential Suite, with costs starting at $30,000 US.
Business and Luxury Travel
With its waterfront location, the InterContinental Hong Kong is the place to be and be seen – or not, if you’d prefer to conduct business or enjoy luxury travel in private. Beyond its executive suites, you also have your choice of seriously grand travel with three additional suites ranging in size from 4,500 to 7,000 square feet.
Want to see what you might do with a bit of your lottery win, or how the one percent live? Click here for a look inside my tour of the sumptuous Presidential Suite.
This hotel has some serious bragging rights. It’s home to two Michelin-rated restaurants and another that received the 2013 Wine Spectator (USA) Award of Excellence. The prestigious TTG China Travel Awards named it 2014’s Best Meetings and Conventions Hotel in Hong Kong. Spoon, pictured here and one of the hotel’s 1-Michelin Star restaurants, was awarded Five Stars in the Forbes Travel Guide 2015. The property earned Forbes Travel Guide’s Five Star Award in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well as a 2013 appearance on National Geographic Traveler’s Best Business Hotel Gold List, and ranked in Travel + Leisure USA’s 2014 World’s Best 500 Hotels list.
After the absence of recycling bins in a number of hotels during our month away, it was good to see such an option in my Hong Kong room, where the hotel adheres to the brand’s Green Initiatives standards. The InterContinental Hong Kong was both the first Hong Kong hotel and the first IHG property to earn Gold Certification from EarthCheck, which is a science-based certification and advisory body focused on sustainable travel and tourism outcomes.
You’re familiar with KPIs, yes? EarthCheck uses KEIs (Key Environmental Indicators) including water and energy consumption, community commitment and total waste production to assesses environmental, social and economic performance. In 2015, the hotel qualified for EarthCheck’s Gold status for the third consecutive year.
The hotel has 498 guest rooms, including 87 suites with harbour views and the luxury suites mentioned above. If you’re organised, you can nab a Spring stay beginning at 2,332 HKD nightly, which (depending on currency rates on the day you read this) translates to roughly 209 GPB, 265 Euros, 209 GPB, $300 US, or $389 CAD. This is a prestigious property and these are just entry points; rates will vary depending on your travel dates and the type of room or suite you prefer.
If you’re an IHG member, as we are, you may want to use your rewards points for a night or two of your stay. This is a landmark property and, whether you book a few nights or simply visit the Lobby Lounge or one of the restaurants, you can look forward to tremendous views, food and service.