An Icon Turns Eighty

A lot of hotels throw around words like “iconic” and “legendary” when describing their properties. Some hotels truly deserve the accolades—The Plaza Hotel in New York or The Oriental in Bangkok come to mind. Other hotels stretch the heritage angle to the breaking point. Their efforts remind me of a tour I once took in Naples, FL, where the guide proudly showed off the town’s historic treasure, a 1925 bank building that would have looked right at home in Passaic, NJ. Naples was (and is) flush with cash, but rich in historical architecture? No.

Peninsula Hong Kong in 1928

The Peninsula Hong Kong in 1928.

A hotel that truly lives up to the claim of being legendary is the Peninsula Hong Kong. I recently sat down with the irrepressible Rainy Chan, the hotel’s general manager, as she made a swing through Los Angeles. The Peninsula Hong Kong is observing its 80th anniversary this year, and Rainy was full of stories about how the hotel is celebrating the occasion. “Turning 80 is a big milestone in the life of Chinese person—it means you’ve lived a long life. We feel the same way about the hotel,” says Rainy.

The Peninsula is the oldest hotel in Hong Kong. From its inception, the aim was to create “the finest hotel east of Suez.” The Peninsula opened on December 11, 1928, and it soon became the focus of Kowloon’s social life, earning the nickname “The Pen” as it weathered the unique changes that buffeted Hong Kong through the decades.

Peninsula Hong Kong today

A room in today's Peninsula Hong Kong.

“One of the ways we’re honoring the past throughout the rest of the year is by bringing back our traditional afternoon tea dances,” says Rainy. The afternoon tea dances are held in the lobby every first Sunday of the month through December. The lobby—already elegant with marble-topped tables and Tiffany chinaware—is transformed even further back in time, with a live band playing swing music and waiters and waitresses in period costume. There are even cigarette girls, although this being the new millennium, the cigarette girls sell chocolate cigars. The afternoon includes ballroom dancing, accompanied by a Deluxe Afternoon Tea Set, including a glass of champagne, for $64 per person. “You definitely need to make a reservation for the afternoon tea dance,” says Rainy. “We’re booked three months ahead.”

As an example of how the Peninsula indulges its guests, Rainy told me about an over-the-top request she received one evening at 10 p.m. “A guest said he wanted a private jet to go to Taiwan, and he wanted it by 8:00 the next morning,” says Rainy. “Hong Kong is all about indulgence—the city is so efficient, it’s scary.”

Rainy Chan

Rainy Chan, general manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong.

But even as the Peninsula celebrates its heritage, it still remains cutting-edge. “We want to take the hotel experience beyond the hotel,” says Rainy. To this end, they’ve created a luxurious program that introduces guests to the unexpected natural settings of Hong Kong. The new excursion takes guests in Peninsula’s rooftop helicopter to some of the territory’s remote wild spaces, accessible only by sea or air, before boarding a luxury yacht for a champagne lunch and then returning to the hotel by chauffeured Rolls-Royce. The excursion is priced at approximately $7,822 for up to four persons.

The Peninsula’s director of sales, Charis Yim, can field agents’ requests. She can be contacted at 852-2920 2888, [email protected].

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