Hong Kong (Part 1)
After several long and tiresome trips to my dear sister in Melbourne, Australia, I have learned the importance of visiting another place on my way to Australia that I might not otherwise have visited. I would rather fly for 10 hours and stay somewhere for a couple of days than travelling the full 22 hours in one go.
Now, Hong Kong happened to be quite high on the “to do list”, so a couple of days of shopping and sightseeing before a few weeks with the Aussie family sounded perfect.
Once arriving at Stockholm Arlanda, the disappointment of waiting hours before flying at the boring Terminal 2 could be cured by Swedavia's transfer bus. The bus has, without my knowledge, transported the bunch of vacationing Swedes between the various terminals for several years. Just push a button and the bus will come. Who wants to walk the 10+ min when you can take the bus? Not me!
Since the beginning of 2013, when my travelling became more frequent, I quickly realized the benefit of access to airport lounges.
With a Priority Pass I have enjoyed comfortable armchairs combined with free food and spirits in all kinds of airport lounges around the world. Some better than others, but always better than an overcrowded, sweaty airport terminal without AC or WIFI. Snobby, some will think, but the older I get, the more I feel the urge to pay for things that enhance my journey. I had other priorities when I was young of course. At the same time, the price of a dry sandwich or muffin served in airport terminals around the globe can hardly be interpreted as good value and I bet that I’m actually saving money with the priority pass.
American Express by Pontus
Historically, Stockholm Arlanda has had quite average airport lounges, but luckily for me, American Express has opened their very own in the last few months. The lounge is located inside the ‘Pontus In The Air’ restaurant and offers high quality food and service. Free breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks if you have an American Express Platinum or Centurion card.
Prioritize time before money?
Before choosing a trip, I spend many hours in front of the computer in search of the perfect flight. What should be given priority? Short flight time? Good price? Known airline? Usually, like most people, I try to weigh up most things. For example, I would rather choose one longer stop than two shorter ones. If you have lounge access at the transiting airport, then it's not terrible to sit there for a couple of hours while saving hundreds of dollars on a cheaper airline ticket.
To go to Hong Kong, I chose to fly with Cathay Pacific. After a quick Google search, I discovered that this airline is based out of Hong Kong. I decided to stay 2.5 hours in London to bring the price down a bit, an excellent opportunity for my girlfriend and I to do some luxury shopping and hang out in the lounge. Tax-free in London is by far the best in Europe, so enjoy if you happen to end up there!
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
The plane touched down around 4:00pm in Hong Kong. Exhausted after watching three movies instead of sleeping I was looking forward to getting in a taxi and off to the hotel.
In the city's tallest skyscraper lies the hotel that we had been looking forward to for weeks, The Ritz-Carlton! You get what you pay for, and the hotel's impeccable service showed itself immediately when we arrived with the hotel’s staff negotiating down the price of the taxi fare. You can always ask the hotel before you start your trip what a standard fee from the airport to the hotel is. This to avoid the otherwise usual "you will always get ticked when taking a taxi from the airport."
Already in the foyer, we noticed the hotel's fantastic attention to detail. As we were making our way to the front desk, the fragrance "The Black Orchid" revealed itself, a scent especially created for this hotel.
Did you know that the name Hong Kong means "Fragrant Harbour"? The explanations as to why they named it this vary, but according to the history books the town could have been named after pirates or a waterfall, or even a name linked to the large scale incense production. I guess we will never know.
The feeling of luxury and quality remains during the check-in process, where we received terrific gingerbread tea and a hot towel.
In most cases when I book a hotel room, I usually take a standard room and then try to negotiate an upgrade on my arrival. All hotels handle this kind of behaviour differently, but a more expensive price category in rooms is almost always available. In this case, neither the negotiation nor the bribes were required, we booked the hotel through the American Express travel agency, which means that you get room upgrades when available, complimentary breakfast and between $100-400 credit to spend at the hotel. But of course, the amazing staff at the Ritz-Carlton did the little extra anyway and upgraded us several levels instead of just one.
The room we were allocated was one of the best I've experienced - 50 sqm and at the top of one of the world's tallest hotels. Combine a stunning view of Victoria Harbor and a big bathtub, and you have the perfect room 😉