Newsflash: unlike other lifestyle bloggers I’m not cool.
A friend’s teenage daughter once said she loved how I wore hats in an ironic way. I don’t dress ironically. I dress to stay warm. She thought I was dressing to be cool and when she found I wasn’t, she reckoned that was also cool. Teenage fashion is very confusing.
No matter how much you spend, whatever logo you wear, you can’t buy ‘cool’ though, can you? You’re born with it or not. Midwives should actually say, ‘Congratulations, it’s a cool girl’ (or let a parent down with, ‘Congratulations, it’s a healthy girl’).
The coolest place I’ve ever stayed is a luxury hotel called The Upper House in Hong Kong. Enter it’s cappucino towers and you’re transported into another world. If like me, you’re not a supermodel, rockstar or Oscar winner, then it’s worth staying here at least once just to experience it.
The most chilled out party in town
The whole place, from its silky lighting, to its velvety background house music oozes cool. Not in a pretentious, aggressively shouty hipster way, but in a subtle, gently seductive mode.
Unlike other luxury hotels which look down on its guests with haughty disdain, The Upper House envelopes its visitors in a world of casual conviviality. Staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgable. Yes, they’re mostly young and beautiful, but they act like they don’t know it. A hotel booking reference is an invite to one of the coolest parties in Hong Kong.
Perhaps ‘party’ isn’t the right word. With its warm beige and mocha tones, restful artwork and natural wood throughout, this hotel makes you feel incredibly zen. This is a place for tranquil reflection in a 24/7 go go go world. This is true luxury.
Doing things differently
I once had brunch with Brian Williams, the recently promoted Deputy Chairman of Swire Hotels, the brand behind The Upper House. After a rather long wait for the menu I could see that he wasn’t entirely at ease. ‘I wonder if we could do this in another way…’ he muttered to himself, head cocked to one side in thought. Doing things differently is typical Swire Hotels.
Like its sisters across China, The Upper House flips the normal hotel experience on its head. There is no check-in desk; check in takes place on the escalator en route to the room or over drinks. Instead of an imposing reception, visitors are greeted with space and light.
Space and light
I love Hong Kong but after an afternoon spent rummaging in the nearby Pacific Place mall, I’d had enough of artificial light, concrete and asphalt. Tucked within a horizon of skyscrapers, The Lawn, a little garden for drinks, yoga and general relaxing was a welcome relief. I’m used to field after field of fresh air in the British countryside and while The Lawn is miniscule in comparison, it’s a real trump card in such a concrete metropolis as Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Expaters, you’ll also appreciate the floor to ceiling windows everywhere. Space, light and oh, what views! Don’t do like I did though – drop the blind when you bathe. Oops.
It’s the little things
The attention to detail is unprecedented. I have it on good word that when the hotel was being set up, staff slept (and jumped) on a range of mattresses to find the best. Coat hangers were tested to ensure they didn’t clang when put back on the rail. When I was there, my stuff hadn’t just been tidied by the cleaning staff; my hair straightener cable had been coiled neatly around itself and my jewelry items placed in symmetrical lines. A guest who mentioned to concierge that he was travelling to Germany for the first time found a surprise guide book on his bed.
Everything is taken care of, so you can think about the important things. Or not at all.
A smart hotel made simple
I’m not cool but neither am I a geek, (or perhaps geeks are the new cool?) so I can’t comment on the amazing technology. The televisions were large, the electronic blinds did the job and the speaker systems worked well. Let’s leave it at that.
I’m relieved though that unlike so many other luxury hotels, the air conditioning worked and my bedside lamp came with a simple on / off dial. Admittedly I’m so used to ridiculous hotel gizmos that after several attempts to get it to switch off with clapping and talking to it, I ended up asking concierge to help.
I could go on and on about the excellent food, where you’ll enjoy treats from home as well as Hong Kong specialities (I loved the oysters), about the incredible wine and cocktails (the Hong Kong Highball is well known among locals), or about the beds which hug you to sleep, but countless other critics have done this before, so I’ll contain myself.
What’s not to like? Personally I’m not a fan of the complementary maxi bars (far too many sweets and no fruit) and I wish there was a pool, or at least a spa.
But less fruit and no pool isn’t a bad compromise. In fact, eating sweets in bed after a night out here is the closest I’ll ever get to becoming cool. Pass me the Haribo.
Room rates from 5,200 HKD (approx £495 GBP) for a Studio 70 type room. Apart from the photo of me, all images are courtesy of Swire Hotels. (My camera hard drive with more photos of my time in China is lost somewhere between Nigeria and the UK).