5 April, 2012

A stylish staycation at The Upper House, Hong Kong

5 April, 2012

Since when did the word holiday come to be associated with going abroad? To me a holiday encapsulates certain key things; quality time with the husband, cheeky cocktails, indulgent meals, and most importantly, the feeling of being utterly pampered. But my most recent jaunt abroad lost brownie points on a number of levels – high flight costs, a long journey time and a four-hour transit in Manila airport isn’t my idea of indulgent relaxation!

Thus, when looking for a way of celebrating my birthday, we decided to think outside of the box. Perhaps the reason that we don’t think of Hong Kong as a holiday is that we find it hard to switch off here; in fact, every weekend could become a holiday in itself. So for less than the cost of going on a two-night holiday abroad, we booked ourselves into my absolute favourite Hong Kong hotel for a night of dinner, cocktails and utter heaven.

Yes, you did hear me correctly. We booked a holiday in Hong Kong, or a staycation as I like to call it. Every time I have had a cocktail at Upper House, I have looked enviously at the lucky guests who get to retreat to their sumptuous rooms with breathtaking views and corner baths. I quite simply love hotels. They make the holiday for me. So why not try out this stylish, slick and oh-so luxurious hip hotel for one night of pure escapism? No transfers, taxes and all that malarkey, no finishing dinner and hopping in a travel sick inducing taxi home, no rushed bowl of cereal in the morning whilst scrappily making the bed. One night of holiday with a twist.

From the moment we arrived, I knew we had made the right decision. We booked in for a Sunday night and after a day at Discovery Bay to get us in the holiday mood, returned home and quickly packed our evening bags. Rather than wasting precious time in airport lounges, our total transit time was ten minutes door-to-door. But within those ten minutes, a total transformation took place. Our shoulders dropped, our smiles widened and the excitable holidaymakers within us fully emerged.

The doorman opened the taxi door for me as I stepped out smug in the knowledge that this time I was arriving as a guest, no longer merely a wannabe! Greeted by the incredibly cool and contemporary lobby with escalators in front acting as our stairway to heaven, we were escorted to our room by a member of the guest experience team. Another time-efficient wonder (no dawdling at reception waiting to be checked in!), thanks to the wonders of an iPad, the full check-in operation takes place in your room.

As we ascended in the lift from the divinely scented lobby (they have a signature room spray if you were wondering) to our enclave on the 42nd floor, my hopes also soared. The rooms all circle around a central atrium, beautifully decorated and serenely lit; a simple swipe of our key over the touch pad opened the doors to paradise.

We had been upgraded to a suite… But in Hong Kong terms, this wasn’t a suite but a palatial mansion. The whole room occupies 1,230 square feet, a gigantic size that puts most HK apartments to shame. First, we were led into the lounge. Harbour views could be enjoyed from window seats or most enticingly, from a giant deep soft grey L-shaped sofa. Natural wood, muted colours and sumptuous fabrics created classic but contemporary luxury, whilst hidden away in drawers and cupboards were the high-tech touches any man would love. True to the paperless approach at check-in, the in-room manual and room service ordering was done through an iPod Touch, which could also be used to select some atmospheric in-room music.

The cupboards revealed not a mini-bar, but a maxi-bar; a whole wine fridge, snack selection, coffee machine and tea selection, all of which (apart from the wine) was complimentary. It took a lot of self-restraint not to grab a handful of cookies right there and then! For those who prefer more laidback relaxation, there’s an array of books on the coffee table, tempting you to recline with a cup of tea watching the sunset.

Moving onto the bedroom… and I have never before in my whole life experienced such utter comfort, loving and caressing from a bed. The giant centrepiece of the room, it looks out of the windows and is decked in luxury down bedding and swathes of crisp white bed-sheets. I dove straight on and feared I would never get up! But the bathroom beckoned and I didn’t want to miss out. The 400 square-feet spa-esque cocoon was home to his and hers sinks and dressing areas, leading onto marble steps taking you up to the bathing area, where a beautifully aesthetically appealing freestanding bathtub accompanied by wonderful Ren toiletries awaits, plus a massive rain shower tucked into a corner too.

In daylight, the room is swathed in light, offering up unbeatable views. If you’re wondering about privacy, a discreet glass sign by the window informs you that whilst you may appreciate the view, at night it becomes two-way; if you don’t want people appreciating it from the other direction, shut the (electronically-controlled, of course) blinds!

I was now overcome by a mixture of emotions. Primarily, that I never wanted to leave… then that if I did have to leave, it was imperative that I redecorated my home to perfectly imitate Upper House… and finally, just that I definitely was never going to leave! But the pressure to maximise our staycation crept back in, so after exploring every nook and cranny of the room and gorging ever so slightly on the maxi bar, we headed down to The Lawn. The Upper House lacks a pool of its own, what with its location being atop the Marriott, but this makes it perfect for winter/spring stays and the Lawn, a stylish terrace on the lowest floor, provides the perfect amount of urban outdoor space. Contemporary patio furniture decked with sleek grey cushions awaits you, whilst Buddha Lounge style music drowns out any background noise. We idled here for a few hours, before we reminded ourselves that we must return to our room in order to fully enjoy every facility!

For me, this meant the most soothing bath ever. I filled my limestone bath with perfectly tepid water and rejuvenating Ren bath oil, before instructing the husband to choose me an equally relaxing playlist of music. Feeling well and truly indulged, I then sneaked in a quick nap on the heavenly bed.

At 7.30, we preened ourselves and headed upstairs to Cafe Gray. A pre-dinner aperitif was obligatory and we sipped on lychee martinis, admiring the view once again and constantly commenting on our level of contentedness. We then slowly ambled our way through to our window table before embarking on a gastronomical journey through Cafe Gray’s four-course wine pairing. The food was all exquisite – the prawn starter whet our appetite for the following chicken dish, but neither had prepared us for the rich tenderness that was the beef shank with mashed potato. The wine pairings were faultless and all expertly and convivially explained by the sommelier. We finished dinner even more grateful that we only had to escort our stuffed bellies down in the elevator and no further!

My enveloping dream bed awaited and I enjoyed one of the best night’s sleep I have had since moving to HK. The next morning, we ambled our way back to the top floor; a decadent breakfast, including omelettes, toast and maybe a sneaky pancake or two, prepared us for the impending and dreaded departure from our Hong Kong haven. We reluctantly dragged ourselves back down to reception and bid adieu to our wonderful staycation hosts.

So next time you’re planning a holiday, consider a staycation at Upper House. Sure, you may not get a tan, but you will stay in the most stylish, contemporary and super-cool hotel on the Island and be swaddled with luxury and pure pampering. My advice? Forget the dehydrating flight, stressful transfers and battle with jetlag and find the perfect holiday escape on your doorstep.

Rooms from $4,000; Café Gray set-dinner from $725 per person

The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong, 2918 1838


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