So, what was the destination after the long plane flight from Los Angeles? Island Shangri-La, the other "twin" building to the Conrad in terms of the building's shape. If you have read my Tripadvisor review from before, you'll know that my companion stayed at Shangri-La quite frequently in the past, which has also allowed to me stay at quite a number of Shangri-La's over Asia. Coming back to Island Shangri-La certainly felt quite like the right welcome to Hong Kong- familiar but still special.
Before finally planning on Island Shangri-La, I had planned on staying at some other places for a change, like the Upper House. But such hotels were even more expensive, and plus we would not get the benefits of our mid-tier Golden Circle Membership. Might as well enjoy the luxuries of several welcome amenities and breakfast for a few more times in case if we drop to the lowest level next year, right?
This time, the welcome I received from Shangri-La was the best I've ever seen before. It was probably due to the fact that it was early morning. We were the only ones rolling into the porte cochere and right away as the taxi stopped, the bellman lifted the trunk (boot) lid and started to place our luggage onto a gold colored cart. Since the hotel was decked out in holiday decor, I decided to take some group pictures, in which the Shangri-La employees were very helpful with. Bellman Jay took my camera and instantly started to think of good compositions of group shots in the hotel! How fantastic. I can't blame him, after all, as we talked to him further, we learned that he also had a D90.
Inside, we were calmed further by the light, easy-listening pieces of music flowing through the speakers as well as the little foot traffic. That indeed was a reason why Jay decided to work the Island Shangri-La. Unlike some other hotels in Hong Kong where their location is on a busy street, Island Shangri-La is located in a much calmer area with less traffic. So, better for the customers (it's still convenient, as you can walk through Pacific Place to go to multiple other connected shopping areas, the Admiralty MTR (aka subway- this is ultra convenient), the ding-ding tram, or walk out into Wan Chai) and the employee's well-being.
Being early morning, the Lobby Lounge was preparing for the day's work. Cafe Too, the buffet/casual dining option had just opened too.
Standing at the door to talk with Jay, I noticed there was a piano upstairs. A piano!!! (look at the railing and the black object) How fun would this be. Unfortunately, this instrument was not available for guests to play. Of course, why would they, since the music would fill the entire lobby! A careful analysis later showed that it was probably a Yamaha piano...something I would see else where in the hotel too! However, this piano also seemed to be just for show; throughout my stay I saw nobody playing this piano.Not paying any attention to the check-in area since my companion was checking in, I did not take any pictures of it at all. So here you have an old picture of the check-in area from when this blog did not even exist! The classic luxury feeling was definitely felt in this area.
If you haven't noticed already by some of the photos, Island Shangri-La conveys quite a sense of grandeur in the lobby. There are multiple giant chandeliers, and even on the walls where you may not notice, there are elegant crown moldings. I did not notice either until I edited these photos!
/*EDIT April 6, 2011: I actually did take a picture of the check-in area!
Talking about old visits, my past visits to Island Shangri-La varied in success. Some visits, especially about ten years ago, were fabulous- the room rates were cheaper, the service was very dedicated. However, in the my past two visits demonstrated some lagging points to the hotel. I could commend them for some unusual gifts like flower bud tea, but then I would then notice that the rooms were in great wear or that the service was unfriendly. And to hurt that more, the room rates went up to the point it seemed like it was not worth spending money here at all. Especially with the opening of Guangzhou Shangri-La, that hotel demonstrated that you could receive better rooms and better service for one-fifth of the cost at Island Shangri-La. It made no sense what so ever. Additionally was also the fact that this hotel was sort of designed to follow the notes of Lost Horizon, which Shangri-La bases some of their specialties from. For example, they strive to have the "lovely" feeling that the book describes, and the library that is described about in Lost Horizon seems to be replicated here at the Island Shangri-La! That is for a later post...
In comparison to my previous visits, my first impression of ISL was fabulous. I was able to find a better deal through the Advance Purchase program that Shangri-La has, and so far in what I have described to you, all the service had been great. Even more surprising was the fact that my companion was holding a large, fat gift already when he told us to go to our rooms. What was the gift? It was a nice plush cotton robe that the rooms have, but this one was new. (I sense a trend of offering robes/pajamas at higher end Shangri-Las- China World Hotel in Beijing handed out pajamas when we visited before) Typically, the employees would also send you to your rooms to talk to you about the features or try to recommend that you upgrade to a nicer room by showing you the room, but this time we declined them to send them up to our rooms. After all, we were quite familiar with the hotel from the past! After all these years, just being minimally renovated/redesigned throughout, Island Shangri-La still had the beauty of its past being wonderfully well-kept throughout the years. No wonder why they can still charge high prices even when the property and the rooms mostly have their old designs intact still!
Typically by this point I would have told you to read my post on the rooms, but that won't happen just yet- there are over 100 pictures to sort, organize, and choose! Plus, I took lots of other pictures of the public spaces in the lobby area and the fitness center (centre) so I'll show you those first.
Usually, walking into Island Shangri-La from the front doors, there is no need for you to even walk right at all- walking left brings you to the check-in area and the elevator (lift) lobby. But since one day we decided to make dining reservations, we walked to the right side of the lobby area and I noticed some different parts to the lobby area. Here you can take notice of the various paintings displayed all over the lobby area as well as the grand staircase bringing you eventually into the business center (centre) or Cafe Too.On the top of the staircase provides a very different view of the lobby area. You can see the Lobby Lounge in its entirety and let the chandeliers wow you even further. And if you've noticed in the photo, there is yet another piano. What?
Unlike some of the other pianos in the ISL (Island Shangri-La), this one is not a Yamaha, if my eyes saw it correctly. Instead this is a Hamburg Steinway & Sons grand piano, and it is definitely much longer compared to the other pianos in the hotel. Yes, the Hamburg Steinway & Sons pianos are different compared to the ones manufactured in New York, which I saw during a visit a few months ago.
You may also be wondering why the lid isn't propped up to full-height. Maybe it's because ISL staff decided this piano was too loud, but I also noticed the prop stick seemed to be shorter than most other prop sticks.
Anyways, the best thing about this piano is that it actually does get some play by some musicians in the evening- it is not just a piece of furniture for just looks or a instrument left out in the middle of a space. The musicians played quite a lot of famous pieces, such as the instrumental version of "Close To You" by Carpenters. The flutes provided a sweet tone that filled the entire lobby and the grand proved its size well, also filling the entire the lobby with classical sounds. Together, the music added quite a lot of appeal to the hotel- not only was it enjoyable, it was a step up from just music from the speakers. Other days during our stay, guitarists also played pieces as well as violinists and cellists. It's great to know that music is an integral part of many good hotels!
Maybe one of the reasons why the Island Shangri-La won a Business Traveller Award for the Asia Pacific in 2009 is the music. ISL does offer quite a lot of other services too; even in the rooms there is a fax/printer. Like how LAX put their LEED award, this award was also set in a corner spot with little foot traffic or special mention.
A special part of staying during the holidays was the abundance of Christmas trees at the Shangri-La. It was not only just the hotel- Pacific Place, the large shopping center (centre)/mall downstairs also had many real decorated trees on display. However, all the hotels that I visited in Hong Kong put their largest tree in the lobby. Very grand.
Here's the same tree, but in the evening.
Downstairs, there was yet another tree.
And there was another one at the Fitness Center (centre) too!
The best part of all staying at Christmas time was that they also decided to gift children walking through the hotel. They decided to give me a gift as well, which had a small box of school supplies.
No, it was not anything expensive, but the touch and meaning is definitely there! Besides, pencils and school supplies tell kids to study and learn. The spirit of giving was certainly felt.
Anyways, since I mentioned to you about the fitness center before already, I might as well show you some pictures that I took! After eating breakfast one morning we decided to visit the fitness center and I was quite amazed with the pretty view the swimming pool had. Island Shangri-La uses it as a selling point- you can see a picture of the pool and the towers on their website. Speaking of which, they need to update their photo, as the chairs have changed quite a bit from before.
The chairs they put out during our stay were not only prettier but also probably nicer and more comfortable than the ones shown on their website! With the smooth pool waters, the entire scenery of the pool area was quite a sight to behold. Just like what I saw at Pelican Hill during 2009.
The area back of the pool was not left neglected either. There were more spots to lounge, and the tiles were also set in a nice pattern. You can definitely relax here, and with every passing hour after arriving at the Island Shangri-La I certainly felt much more relaxed.
And what about the rest of the fitness center? The area has a salon as well as multiple machines and gym equipment, and you have a great view of Wan Chai also while exercising. Fruit as well as flavored waters, water bottles, and chilled towels were also available as complimentary items, with some other beverages for sale.
Below the lobby, since I already mentioned about a Christmas tree there, are also some restaurants. There is the Island Gourmet, which is a pastry shop and a restaurant where you can try caviar or dim sum, as well as the Michelin Starred Summer Place where apparently Mango and Pomelo with Sago was invented.
A pretty detail to take note in the area was the extravagantly decorated doors, as well as the intricate marble floors. It is not easy to form any of these decorations at all and requires lots of skill and precision!
Downstairs also provides a route to Pacific Place. There are actually two simple routes; you can either go downstairs indoors to enter the middle of Pacific Place, or you can go outdoors and go down two sets of escalators to reach the end where Queensway Plaza, Admiralty Centre, and United Centre can be reached (you can find lots of dining options in these three malls- these are all much cheaper compared to the more upscale Pacific Place) as well as the Ding-Ding tram which can bring you to many places across Hong Kong Island for only 2 HKD for adults or 1 HKD for children/seniors. For entering the MTR or going to the JW Marriott however, going downstairs inside Island Shangri-La is better.
You can also connect to Conrad from this walkway, which is also a good thing since their buffet is located right there. Additionally, a set of elevators there can also bring you down to Pacific Place. If the bubble lifts/elevators are not open for use yet (they were not during our visit), walking to Conrad and going down from there can save you from walking down a flight of stairs instead. Take your pick! I used all three different methods of reaching Pacific Place during our stay.
Island Shangri-La is a luxurious hotel and that being said, they also have a fleet of luxury cars as well. However, some guests also have fabulous cars too. For example, this Rolls-Royce Ghost was painted in yellow and white- even the rims are painted in such fashion! Such a sight.
Here is a badly composed photo of the ISL's custom made Rolls-Royce Phantom, of which I learned that they are actually stretched versions of the Phantom (I had so many days to take pictures of it but I didn't until much later....which is why procrastination is not key!). Maybe if you have a airport transfer you may be able to ride on this beautiful vehicle, but if not they still have a fleet of Mercedes and Audis to pamper you. Once we were seated on a van due to our copious amounts of luggage, but the most recent time we were drove efficiently to the ISL via an Mercedes S-Class. The driver welcomed us with some bottles of Bonaqua water- supplied in plentiful amounts throughout Island Shangri-La which is a plus!
Speaking of pretty and amazing things, the Island Shangri-La is also a great piece of architecture along with the similarly eye shaped Conrad. The photographers decided to highlight the smooth pointed glass section of the Island Shangri-La, for those wondering what section of the building was shot in the professional photos of the place.
For the first picture of the review I had wanted to show the pointy part of the building, but with the Shangri-La logo. But that plan failed, as Shangri-La was renovating their sign! And to cover up, they put a large poster which wrote "Shang" on it. How funny.
A older photo that I took before (cropped) shows how the sign looked like before. I would have used this, but who knows what the designers are planning for the new sign? After all, Conrad changed their sign before from a hard to read from afar "Conrad International" to a larger, bolder sign that simply read "Conrad." I wonder what the designers have at freshening up Shangri-La's sign.
Thus, during the nighttime, it does feel like the Shangri-La has no sign. It is also nighttime when you can tell that not all of the building where Island Shangri-La is housed in is just for a hotel- a office area is located in the lower parts of the building, with the rooms section of Island Shangri-La taking the top 10 or so floors only. Conrad in contrast has apartments owned by Swire in the lower section which you can also rent out for a month if you plan on staying longer in Hong Kong.
Being renovated or not (the signage), Shangri-La's building looks pretty from the other side where there is no signage at all. I took this picture from Hong Kong Park which is located just across from the ISL and the simple curve was certainly quite pretty.
And for now, you don't need to miss out on a large Shangri-La logo until the building's signage is renovated, as the porte-cochere has a giant one! The bad composition comes from the fact that I noticed this when I was on a vehicle going outside the hotel during the last day of our stay. Great!
Supreme Court Road
Central, Hong Kong
T: (852) 2877 3838
F: (852) 2521 8742
Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX.