China - Hong Kong
- amazing beds
- blisteringly fast wifi
- Sunday stage and music outside
- no decent iPod/music player integration
- ten top-notch restaurants
- it's the Mandarin
The Mandarin Oriental is probably the most famous upmarket hotel in Hong Kong. It's smack-bang in the middle of everything, hasn't lost any of its 1960s-era glam, has more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can shake a stick at, and I can't say enough good things about the beds.
Most recently renovated in 2005-06, there are a few technological niggles that make newer options better for those of us who want instant-on connectivity, but it's hard to beat the wifi, even in super-connected Hong Kong.
Location & Impressions
You want central Hong Kong? You've got central Hong Kong. The Mandarin -- call it the "old Mandarin" to distinguish from the smaller, boutiquey younger sister The Landmark Mandarin Oriental next door -- looks out on just about every Hong Kong banking tower you can think of.
It's practically on top of the Central MTR station if you need to nip across to the Kowloon side too, and connected to much of the Hong Kong side via the network of elevated pedestrian bridges.
I arrived into Hong Kong airport late at night, and the Mandarin collected me from the door of the airbridge from the plane. Yes, the airbridge. An electric golf cart whizzed me through Hong Kong Airport to passport control, and then the staffer handed me through customs to the Mandarin's airport liaison, Terry.
Terry helpfully pointed me to the airport shop to fix up a local SIM card for my phone, and then escorted me into the Mandarin's Mercedes car.
Which, naturally, had its own mobile 3G wifi network, a choice of classical and Chinese CDs, bottles of mineral water and cold towels to wipe off some of the airline grime. Despite the excellent Airport Express service, there's not a better way to arrive in Hong Kong.
The Mandarin's lobby is remarkably understated for such a grande dame of a hotel. As you walk in, the Clipper bar is up and to the left, with reception in a low-ceilinged area ahead of you.
Since my reservation for a regular harbour view room had been upgraded to a deluxe suite, a staffer whisked me up to the room to complete the formalities there.
My deluxe suite was expansive and opulently decorated -- but without the predominant bling that blights so many hotels. The door opened onto the living room, with the bedroom to the far left and the bathroom to the near left.
The warm wood-panelled living room was supremely comfortable, and featured a leather sofa facing a large flatscreen TV over a coffee table, with a separate leather armchair and ottoman as an alternative. The room looked out over Statue Square, with the Bank of China building and several other "you know you're in Hong Kong when..." landmarks in plain view.
The cocoon-like separate bedroom was a real bonus, since it was windowless (no need for blackout curtains when you have a blackout room) and relaxingly sumptuous, with its own large flatscreen TV.
Nobody will be surprised that the Mandarin Oriental beds and bed-linen are fantastic, but I can confirm that they're seriously excellent.
The bathroom, too, was amazing: a full freestanding tub in the middle of the room, with sinks on two walls and one of the best walk-in showers I've ever experienced. Double adjustable shower head to wash the jetlag away? Yes please, and a morning soak in the massive bathtub to boot.
Toiletries were the super-luxe Acqua di Parma -- some of the best I've ever come across, and in decently-sized containers that actually squeeze properly into your hands, which is remarkably unusual.
A separate walk-in closet was a welcome haven for my luggage and provided ample space to de-wrinkle my packed suit. And the valet cupboard (where you can pop shoes or laundry for cleaning, with your things silently disappearing and reappearing a few hours later) is a real draw.
The only thing missing in the room was an easy-to-use iPod/iPhone dock. You can in theory connect your device via the TV, but you'll never figure out how to do it. I found it deeply clunky and less useful than the standalone dock or dock-speaker combo offered at other Hong Kong hotels.
But if your budget stretches to the suite, ask especially for the utterly incredible Lichfield Suite, a red-and-monochrome homage to the legendary photographer:
The Mandarin's desk was excellent -- a good size and decent height, with a comfortable and ergonomic chair facing it.
Wifi was a lightning-quick 34Mbps down and 22 Mbps up. You really can't ask for more in a hotel -- except that it's HKD160 (A$20) a day, with a few dollars knocked off the per day rate for longer stays of 3-7 days.
The best pick of the Mandarin's breakfast options is the Clipper Bar, which is perhaps the best breakfast buffet around. Everything from homemade yoghurt to dim sum, from an omelette bar to freshly-baked bread is available, with the hotel's specialty Mandarin Oriental sausages a fantastic touch.
Of course, there are also ten restaurants in the hotel, with four Michelin stars between them. Hong Kong is renowned for its top-notch restaurant hotels, so make use of your special resident booking privileges while staying at the Mandarin.
If the full bathtub and sofa aren't enough for you, you can head upstairs to the incredible Mandarin spa.
Sauna, steamrooms and a hot pool the size of a hotel room are all available for your use, and massages and beauty treatments await your credit card.
The Mandarin's swimming pool is small but well formed for a good plunge, although you'll want to make other arrangements if doing laps is your thing.
An expansive gym with all the mod cons -- an ample number of cardio and weight machines, all in decent nick -- is also upstairs.
You won't want to leave the Mandarin's sumptuous rooms, which is the only real downside to the place. This hotel richly deserves its best-in-the-world reputation, and I can't say enough good things about it.
The only caveat I'd give is if you're at the hotel on a Sunday. Right outside the hotel on Sunday morning was a disco catwalk stage for a fashion-style event, and the sound was pumped up high enough to be fully audible everywhere in my east-facing suite.
These events are apparently a fairly regular occurrence on Sundays, hotel staffers told me, so if you're here on a Sunday and planning on staying in the room between 10am and 8pm, consider asking for a room away from Statue Square.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.