Magazine article The Spectator

Bonkers for Honkers

Magazine article The Spectator

Bonkers for Honkers

Article excerpt

I was recently offered the chance to go to Hong Kong. Our small group was to have luxury spa treatments and fine cuisine, and fly on Oasis, the new low-fare long-haul airline.

I don't have anything against luxury, but it wasn't what I was really interested in: I've always wanted to go to China, and I thought this was my chance to discover the real Hong Kong.

I had plans. I would drop into the Foreign Correspondents Club and snoop around Red Cabinet antiques in Hollywood Road. I could order handmade shoes for £100 at LIII LIII in the Admiralty Centre. I might visit Stanley market to buy pearl earrings for £15 and hand-embroidered sheets from Far East Linen for a snip. I would eat noodle soup at the Red Ant Restaurant and visit Chinese Arts & Crafts in Kowloon.

I would swim at Deep Water Bay Beach and walk part of the 50km Hong Kong Trail. I might take the ferry to Macau and hop across to the mainland for a day.

Arriving a week before the tenth anniversary of the handover, I was keen to see if British fears that the Chinese would ruin Hong Kong had been justified.

The Mandarin Oriental is utterly convivial and comfortable. Venini chandeliers sparkle everywhere you look and recent renovations include a suite Nicky Haslam designed to celebrate the photographer Patrick Lichfield. My suite had an enclosed bedchamber in wood and mandarin red -- and soaking in the tub I gazed through the wooden blinds at the entire panorama of Victoria Harbour.

Stepping out of the hotel, the heat enveloped me and my plans and my hair just dissolved. Hundreds of Filipino maids were spending their day off sitting in the street, giving each other pedicures, eating noodles and chatting happily. I wandered past stalls of dried fish, incense, birdcages, clothes, pak choi -- everything. Diving into a glossy air-conditioned mall, I found it was connected to the entire Central district by enclosed walkways. The city is an overwhelming forest of shopping malls. I bought a pair of Ray-Bans and a cake of pu'er tea and retreated to the hotel in a daze.

I was instantly seduced by the Mandarin Spa and spent untold hours immersed in its fragrant twilight world. A Chinese massage, facial and circulation-boosting water treatments seemed just the thing after flying. …

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