You cannot fully appreciate the immensity of a building like Hong Kong’s ICC tower, until you view it from afar. Even from the windows at the top of the Ritz-Carlton, which occupies all of the utmost levels of the building, it takes a moment of studying the landscape: realizing that you can blot out cars and semi-trucks down below with the tip of your thumb. Helicopters are not authorized to fly as high as the space that the hotel occupies. That is how high it is. The shape of the ICC building mimics that of a dragon, a fitting homage to this iconic Asian city that it seems to guard.
There are many striking elements to the hotel, one of the first being the fragrance that permeates the air: a sweet and earthy scent, mingled with spice and a crisp note that is refreshing. The bouquet was specially designed for the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, a pleasant touch that is a lovely idea since smell is so closely linked with memory. Soon, the delicate scent will be sold in the gift boutique in the form of various products.
Outside, Hong Kong is a bustling and crowded metropolis permeated by humidity and a varying combination of pleasant and acrid smells. Market streets in the Hollywood Road area are lined with vendors who kill live fish to order for every customer. Complementary stalls advertise mangroves, lychees and other more recognizable fruits or vegetables. Peppered in between are merchants selling spices, teas or various foodstuffs like dried oysters. Scattered even more sparsely, food carts add to the atmosphere, contributing to the delicious smell that accompanies anything being fried.
With a strong taste for the luxurious, other areas of the city boast some of the best shopping in the world. Malls are lined with designer boutiques where you can pick up anything from the latest Longchamp bag, the most recent release from fashion moguls like PRADA or extravagant watches from Audmars Piguet. The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong sits just a brief elevator ride from any of these; on the first levels of the ICC building lies ELEMENTS, a massive mall to match the enormous tower. Other streets in the city are exploding with specialty shops selling antiques and other various wares synonymous with Chinese culture: Stanley Market is an ideal spot for tourists to pick up anything from a Mahjong set to silk. Adding to the atmosphere, small Taoist altars are present on many streets lined with shops: an offering for prosperity and protection to the storeowners nearby.
Hong Kong citizens are largely soft-spoken and welcoming to outsiders. Many natives are eager to share their culture and are delighted when a visitor shows interest. The generally friendly attitude makes the city feel safe and exploring it is done with ease. The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong sits on the Kowloon Peninsula, in an ideal location for views and there is virtually no reason to leave at all. The property boasts delicious dining choices, a spa, business amenities, the world’s highest pool and one of the city’s hottest night spots. But you cannot very well visit such an amazing destination without venturing out to experience the culture, sights, smells…the ebb and flow of what it is like to live here. Being located in the ICC building makes getting around - and back - amazingly simple. After all, the skyscraper is the fourth tallest building in world, and the highest in the city; it not only serves as a compass while you are out and about, but no cab driver would ever have difficulty navigating to it, regardless of their knowledge of English (and those individuals are in short supply, nearly everyone in Hong Kong speaks enough English to communicate effectively with someone without an ounce of the local language).
Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong’s culinary offerings range from the very delicate and comfortable Italian fare at Tosca, to an adept execution of quintessential Chinese options at Tin Lung Heen. Dishes served at the aptly named Tin Lung Heen (directly translated as the “Head of the Dragon”) are championed by a kitchen staff with staggering experience. Forming the shape of a perfect dumpling is no easy task and the chefs in charge have it down to a science. This observation is based on personal experience as a quick visit to the kitchen and an attempt to recreate the little objects of art proved to be a miserable failure, much to the amusement of the chef. Should a hotel guest be so inclined to also try their hand at the technique involved, it was assured accommodations would be made.
Design elements within the hotel are all tailored around the identity of the ICC building: that of the dragon. Textures are a major influence on all of the décor. Nearly everything is three-dimensional and begs to be touched. Some hallways are lined with mirrors, the elevators are lined with plush leather. All border on animalistic, keeping with the feel of the giant lizard form that keeps watch over the city of Hong Kong. The property is fashioned to cater excellently to business, tourists and groups alike. Amenities are abundant for corporate events or weddings. In fact, the hotel has been in high demand for matrimonial purposes for more time that it has been open. There are rooms that are ideal for entertaining clients: small dining and meeting rooms that are classy and quiet amongst the excitement of the hotel.
Rooms at the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong continue the theme emanating throughout the hotel. Rich leathers, natural colors, all designed to blend coolly with the expansive views of Victoria Harbour - vistas that expertly rival those from the The Peak, a mountain top viewing area on Hong Kong Island that until now, held the esteem of being the best in the city. The Club Level rooms are ideal, as of course guests have access to additional amenities that are well worth the upgrade. Club guests enjoy checking into the hotel in the comfort of the 24-hour lounge, an area exclusively reserved for such patrons, that serves up yummy breakfast, lunch, snacks and hors d'oeuvres. Additionally, daily suit-pressing service is complimentary, along with WiFi and concierge services.
Studying the city from the respite of a guest room or lounge area within the hotel reveals the level of activity below in such a crowded city. The Hong Kong area is packed with people, buildings and tiny pathways leading to hidden streets and cobble-stoned walkways. Newer structures contrast against the old temples: 150-year-old Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is a favorite among tourists probably due to the accessible location. An ornate red and gold interior is filled with incense and candles, engulfing visitors in rustic Chinese tradition. The city's character is a sharp variance from that of the polished Ritz-Carlton that hovers gracefully above: a compass, a reprieve and a highly recommended place to call home.