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Archive for May 27th, 2008

A travel guide book that I consulted when planning this excursion said that everyone should spend at least one night of their lives at the legendary Peninsula Hotel in Kong Kong.

Well, I thought that if one night is good, 3 must be better! Indeed, it was the best hotel stay of my life, and I have rested my head in some pretty plush spots. Like the Plaza and the Helmsley Palace in New York in the 90’s when the Queen of Mean still reigned. To describe a high end hotel, resort or even a condo development, as “luxurious”, is almost meaningless. What was once considered luxurious is now so common place as to be the norm. At a certain price per night, we expect marble bathrooms, fine linens and plasma TVs. Inspired by decorating magazines, lifestyle television shows, and broader travel, many of us have brought that high end “hotel style” into our homes, most certainly into the bedrooms.

So what makes a high end hotel special? And what defines luxury in a town where “over the top” is a way of life? For me, luxury at the Peninsula is best defined by their attention to detail. Details like 2 robes and 2 sets of slippers: one light set for lounging, one terry set for just out of the bath. 2 linen garment bags: one for dry cleaning, one for plain laundry. Nothing plain about the laundry delivery however: my humble work out top was returned in a separate cloth lined basket, wrapped in tissue and closed with a gold foil seal. Needless to say, the room was huge, the white marble clad bathroom came complete with TV and mood lighting, and the LED display on the room door gave you the exterior temperature, (as did the phone by the bed) and allowed you to set your room status to privacy please, or send the valet, so you need not open the door. No flimsy paper door knob hangers here! Indeed, the papers (international and local) were delivered via a separate box just inside your door. No fear of being locked out in your robe (or worse)! The control panel by the king bed means that you never need leave the comfort of your down duvet to open and close the wall of drapes, adjust the lighting, turn on or off the TV and radio. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Yes, I could learn to live like a “tie, tie”.

What is a tie tie you ask? (I am likely spelling it wrong, but the pronunciation is as you see) It is the moniker for the sort of wealthy woman who is so accustomed to being catered to, every minute of every day, that she brings her ama to her club to hold the towel for her as she steps daintily from the shower. She could be from anywhere, even the mainland: apparently no one nationality has a monopoly on the love of excess. Ostentatious jewellery and lots of it, is one of the hallmarks of these ladies. It also serves a practical purpose beyond simply broadcasting your husband’s wealth and proclaiming your status: it can be used to fund your defense when you hit said husband over the head with a heavy Chinese antique statue, have your 2 amas and driver help you roll him up in the Persian carpet and put him in the locker for 5 days until he starts to smell. A true story, and one that has inspired the expatriate wives in Hong Kong to threaten their husbands with being rolled in a carpet should they too become a little annoying! Meant with affection of course. I assume.

What is an ama? It is a housekeeper, cook, cleaner, nanny that lives with you, usually in a cupboard the size of the average North American bathroom. Maybe smaller. In this cupboard is the toilet, shower, and room for a bedroll. Good thing these Filipino and Sri Lankan women are tiny. ( I jest) My expat friend in Hong Kong, aka “Fabulous”, and the source of these stories, is the sort of good person who rejected most of the condos offered her family because the living quarters for the ama’s were no better than prison cells. It is expected that you will have at least one ama, and likely a driver. Sunday is the day off for the ama’s in Hong Kong, and they crowd the central parks of Hong Kong, having lunch after listening to the broad casted Mass, sitting on blankets or newspapers spread out under the trees. If you have ever been to a cocktail party with a hundred women you have some idea of the din caused by a thousand women in animated discussion.

Without their cook, the ex pat families head to their favourite local restaurant or private club. I had dinner in 2 very high end restaurants in Hong Kong and was struck by the lack of locals (unlike Shanghai). After my dinner at a private club with my friend it all become clear: why would you spend money dining out when you can come to your posh club and have a wonderful meal. away from the busy noisy city, overlooking the sparkling lights of the harbour. She certainly appreciates how extraordinary the expat experience is, and works hard to ensure that her kids know it too: life back in Canada is going to be an adjustment, and not just because of the weather!

If you don’t want to sit on the terrace, the helpful folks at the club will pack up a hamper for you to take on a private boat to a nearby island. Hong Kong is in the South China Sea, and although most visitors only see the high rises and conjestion, it is surrounded by lush tropical islands with beaches and few people. In fact, that is where I am off to now. On a public ferry mind you.

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