A picturesque setting; a boat glides calmly on the shimmering blue waters to our left as we land at Hong Kong International Airport on a bright sunny morning. The somewhat turbulent weather we experienced on our five-hour flight from Sri Lanka doesn’t take anything away from the comfort provided on Business Class of Cathay Pacific [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Luxury in the skies and on land


“Red Guards- going forward making money”: At the entrance of the Cordis hotel

A picturesque setting; a boat glides calmly on the shimmering blue waters to our left as we land at Hong Kong International Airport on a bright sunny morning. The somewhat turbulent weather we experienced on our five-hour flight from Sri Lanka doesn’t take anything away from the comfort provided on Business Class of Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Although the Cathay Pacific official from Sri Lanka who accompanied us suggested that we should sleep out the overnight flight on their fully flat-bed convertible seats, arranged in angles so that every chair has direct aisle access, not one to nap on flights, especially on a short one as this, I make myself at home in the reclining position finding solace in the cosy duvet to forget the stormy weather while most of my colleagues on this three-day media familiarisation tour sleep soundly through it all. The row of single window seats provides you with your own little corner of the cabin with guaranteed space, comfort and privacy.

When it comes to the twin-seats row in the middle too there’s both connectivity and privacy and if you are not in the mood to chat with a stranger and would rather snooze or read you can move the seat back or forward if inclined to strike up a conversation. The personalised touch of being addressed by name by the chief stewardess gives that added feeling of welcome on board.

At the airport we are briefly introduced to the arrival lounge of Cathay Pacific. Aptly named The Arrival, it is obviously meant for those on the move in the corporate world who need to freshen up and even shower  before dashing off for a meeting as soon as they arrive in Hong Kong.  It’s  smallish  but well equipped with a seating area and counter with desktop PCS and iMacs and of course, an array of snacks.

A place to chill at the Cordis: The Back Yard

Heading to our destination the Cathay Pacific partner hotel, Cordis Hotel, I take in the view as the friendly Hotel official who greets us gives us an account of the geography of Hong Kong that comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories. The view is a pleasant surprise, as one expects skyscrapers synonymous with Hong Kong. But the scene is quite  pretty with the calming waters of Victoria harbour on one side and quite green hillocks on the other. The typical postcard image of Hong Kong, a land of skyscrapers of course soon emerges as apartment blocks and commercial buildings standing cheek by jowl, each competing with the other to get a closer look at heaven, come in sight, some even looking quite precariously perched on the hilly ranges in the distance.

After about a 45-minute drive we are edging through quite a bit of traffic towards the five-star Cordis rising 42 stories over busy central Kowloon district. On first impression the setting isn’t quite the ambience for what is publicised as a premium upscale hotel.  But perhaps there lies the charm of contrasts itself. The hotel is in what is considered the trendy Mongkok district, buzzing with popular traditional markets where bargaining is the name of the game and at the same time buildings boasting brand names, gourmet restaurants alongside wayside eateries. Mongkok is where tourists love to stay as it is the happening place in all of Hong Kong we are told. From a bustling street the doors open to an oasis of luxury.

One of the most attractive features of the hotel, especially if you are an art lover but on a tight schedule with little or no time to visit a gallery or museum, is its impressive collection of Chinese modern art that prompted TIME magazine to describe the hotel as an “art gallery masquerading as a hotel”.

Swing time at the Cordis: Club Lounge living room

An eye-catching sculpture with a socio-political statement grabs your attention as soon as you enter the hotel on the ‘street level’. Titled “Red Guards- going forward making money” we have two red guards with featureless child-like faces depicted with open mouths shouting slogans, one holding up the little red book, symbolising a blind following of Mao Tse Tung in the past, the other holding up a mobile phone, symbolising present day blind worship of capitalism. This work is by a contemporary Chinese sculptor Jiang Shuo who apparently became famous for her iconic “Red Guard” series begun in 2003.

On a more reflective note in a corner in the lobby sits ‘Meditation’, a sculpture depicting a man and his shadow that represents modern man who appears to be lost and dejected in the face of the ceaseless fast-changing technological and materialistic world. These are just two of a collection of 1500 sculptures and paintings in the hotel.

Setting out on our gourmet journey within the hotel, its two star Michelin restaurant Ming Court offers a unique experience with its own Ming wine cellar. The aim of the fine dining experience here we are told by the Irish General Manager of the cellar is to popularise wine pairing with Cantonese cuisine, as one would with French or Italian cuisine. The restaurant offers a delectable contemporary menu with mainly influences from China and also Europe, Australia and Japan. Our experience begins with a taste of champagne from the cellar followed by a five course menu that includes an appetizer with Chinese black fungus, black vinegar, spiced sesame sauce, chilled layered silk tofu, gold leaf, followed by an array of what was termed ‘wellness dim sum combination’ interestingly named such as steamed drunken shrimp dumpling. What arrived next was both delicate in flavour and presentation–chicken consomme, matsutake mushroom, bamboo pith served in a miniature glass teapot. No sooner we down the broth, a cold fish fillet with minced shrimp,  spiced shrimp and fried silver comes along. Just as one thought one must leave room for the dessert, we are served up a delicious Ming Court version of a gourmet chicken fried rice. Oh no, groan our stomachs and we take a little taste and apologise to the chef that there’s nothing wrong with the dish but being Sri Lankans we all have a sweet tooth and we’ve got to leave room for the best to come. And we are not disappointed when a minimalistic plated dish of black sesame bean curd pudding, crystal extravagance, honeyed bird’s nest, mango pudding, osmanthus  wolfberry curd and a chilled cheese tart is set before us  complete with a visual effect of  a misty sort of winter wonderland landscape created by using dry ice. What is most appealing is the freshness of flavours and the fact that nothing is too sweet.

The Alibi with its groovy, namesake hideaway  kind of ambience is a chic bar and restaurant. It boasts a wine wall, award-winning mixology  and creative international cuisine.

Cathay comfort: The Arrival lounge

The Place, the largest of the restaurants has a bright, open, welcoming feel about it with its interior decor of soft hues. It offers a variety of buffets, both western and Asian with the most popular attraction being the three-metre long seafood bar and the desserts counter with a great assortment including some delicious South American and African chocolate-infused desserts. From the Place we step in to the Back Yard. So what you may say; it’s not just a backyard, but with a capital B and capital Y, what the hotel describes as an eco-chic, outdoor deck and bar. Open from 5 p.m. onwards its greyish-black lounge furniture with touches of red amidst mango trees bedecked with red lanterns is an ideal setting for a chilled out outdoor event complete with live music.

From pampering the palate to pampering one’s wellbeing at the hotel’s Chuan Spa, our treatment begins with a therapist asking us to answer a questionnaire to determine which of the five elements of water, earth, fire, wood and metal would suit us best and should be incorporated in the massage.

While answering the questionnaire on a tab in the waiting room one is struck by the beautiful antique traditional medicine cabinet. The trickling water featured in the corridors between the therapy rooms adds to the overall calming effect even before you begin the therapy.

The hour-long blissful almost sleep-inducing massage to the strains of soft traditional Chinese music in private rooms decked in dark wood, jade, and candle-lit ambience, is over too soon. But the indulgence continues in the relaxing room with hot tea and cookies where we chill out for a while.

Still on a note of pampering if you are a last minute shopper, Cordis Hotel is the ideal place as it is directly connected to Langham Place Mall with over 200 shops and restaurants.

Lots of chocolate: The Place

One of my personal favourite spots in the hotel was the Club Lounge, with its bird cage inspired  lamp shades,  (Mongkok is well known for its bird garden), panoramic views of the city and its two comfy swing cum seats from where you can watch the world go by.

One of the features that the hotel management seemed really proud about was the complimentary handy smart phone in each room with many features including a Hong Kong city guide which tells you where to shop, visit and eat. It’s a handy asset indeed with its facility of unlimited local  calls so that you could keep in touch with your travel companions and international calls to Australia, China, Singapore, the UK and the USA. Perhaps after this media familiarisation tour they might include Sri Lanka too.

On this note of keeping in touch, await some city sites, a brief encounter with Cathay City, headquarters of Cathay Airlines and a final touch of luxury at Hong Kong Airport before our flight back home.

Delicate flavours in a dainty glass teapot

- Ishika Amerasinghe

(The writer was in Hong Kong on a media familiarisation tour at the invitation of Cathay Pacific Airlines)

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