I flew into Hong Kong with FlyScoot on a Sunday evening, after spending over three hours on my plane from Singapore. It was one of those occasions where the flight was on time, the passport check went seamlessly and without too long a queue, my luggage arrived in a second. What could possibly go wrong, right?Wrong. We decided to call an Uber with a location-limited airport Wi-Fi, but not being very well-versed in Cantonese we couldn’t communicate with the driver well enough to find a common location to get picked up. After walking back and forth in the stinking heat with our luggage for about an hour, my phone died and, exhausted, we decided to call it quits and just get a normal taxi. Needless to say, I didn’t make the dream entrance into Hong Kong as hoped. Luckily, the Island Shangri-La came to my rescue with a perfect stay worthy of a queen that soothed even the worst of my anxiety symptoms.
Built 25 years ago, the Island Shagri-La is part of the Shangri-La Hotels group and is located by Central Station, Hong Kong’s main public transport artery close to the city’s main shopping and nightlife districts. Like a colonial British mansion with traits of Asian heritage, the Island Shangri-La is set in an unique location, offering guests the opportunity to choose between views of Hong Kong’s harbour or of The Peak, the beautiful green hill overlooking the city.
The hotel’s atrium boasts the “Great Motherland of China” silk painting, the largest in the world expanding for 16-storeys, as well as a 140-year-old Banyan Tree in the lobby lounge that cost HKD 24million to conserve. We were blessed with a harbour-facing room on the 55th floor of the 56-storey Island Shangri-La. All it took was walking in to bring a smile back to my face: coffee and caramel chocolates were left on my bed, and we received hot Chinese green tea as we unpacked our bags.
When I walked into the bathroom, all I could remember was my teenage self thinking that every truly luxurious house or hotel had two sinks: well, the Shangri-La not only had two sinks, it also had a separate shower and bath tub, complete with in-bathroom television and bath sets by L’Occitane En Provence.
Staying on the 55th floor granted us access to the Horizon Club Lounge on the floor above, the hotel’s very last floor. In the Horizon Club Lounge we were able to enjoy free-flowing champagne and cocktails during happy hour from 6 to 8, wine and beer with snacks afterwards as we celebrated our arrival to Hong Kong in a relaxed, luxurious setting. Oh, and did I mention that they change the carpets in the lift every weekday?
The morning after, the Shangri-La woke us up with a breakfast buffet worthy of the Gods, including pandan pancakes, kaya spread and the best pastries and freshest fruit you can imagine, all enjoyed while flicking through the latest HK-based and international magazines while chatting with the lovely hotel team.
Harbour view rooms at the Island Shangri-La start at £380. Complete with a pool, a Spa and a library, the Island Shangri-La brings old glamour to an extremely forward and fast-paced modern city. But no Spa, pool or breakfast can beat the view from our room. Soz for the photoshoot.
The Horizon Club Lounge (made up for Christmas)
Top tips about getting into Hong Kong, so you don’t end up stressing out like a dumbass or like yours truly.
- If you are a European/US/Australian citizen, you won’t need a visa. All you will need is a passport with an expiration date beyond six months;
- Pick up cash at the airport – taxis and public transport don’t accept credit cards;
- Brush up on your Cantonese to make your life (and the cab driver’s) easier: “Mm goi, daai ngo heoi“= “Please take me to“
- If you’re as dumb as I am when it comes to accents, don’t take an Uber: chances are there will be miscommunication between your odd accent (I am Italian, I lived in London for five years and I now live in Australia, so I weird people out) and theirs;
- The cheapest (and quickest) way into Hong Kong is the Airport Express (HKD $75 return), which brings you to Hong Kong Station, right by Central and close to all the main hotels; from there, taxis shouldn’t cost you more than HKD $45;
- Urban taxis (the red ones) have a fixed starting charge of HKD $22, which increases by $1.60 every 200 metres. They charge HKD $5 extra for luggage and toll fees if you’re crossing the harbour;
- The HK underground is very fast, clean, efficient and easy to navigate. A single ticket can cost you as little as HKD $5, while if you’re looking at hopping on and off a daily pass might be cheaper – it will set you back HKD$65.
Picture by: Charlotte Howells from The Fashion Division (the good ones), Carolina (the bad ones), Michael Matti (the official ones)
*The Island Shangri-La offered me a night’s stay but all opinions are my own*