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During its 78-year reign as the grande dame of Asian
hospitality, the Peninsula Hong Kong has had to adjust to changing
On Christmas night in 1941, when the surrender of Hong Kong to
the Japanese was signed in room 336, the hotel was renamed the Toa
until the occupation ended four years later.
In 1991, when the Hong Kong Art Museum went up directly across
Salisbury Road, obscuring the hotel’s dramatic harbor and skyline
views, the owners added a 30-storey tower behind the original
structure. This afforded even better vistas from the 130 new
guestrooms and the sumptuous Roman pool on the eighth floor.
The addition also incorporated the first helipad in the city and
Felix, a rooftop restaurant and bar designed by Philippe
The Pen’s latest nod to the trends of the time is a destination
spa. The Peninsula Spa by E’Spa is a 12,000-square-foot oasis of
indulgance. The “East meets West” tone of the spa is set by the
juxtaposition of bamboo design elements with sleek travertine and
granite architectural touches in the reception area. A chic
black-clad spa attendant led me to the changing area using only
gestures not because she didn’t speak English, she did to maintain
the spa’s hushed ambiance.
Cloaked in a yellow Frette robe, I padded into the private spa
elevator, which is illuminated by a “breathing wall” designed by
New York video artist Monika Bravo. The digital artwork was
commissioned to “transition the guest from urban intensity to
In the spa’s Asia Tea Lounge, another wordless attendant handed
me a steaming elixir, actually a cup of tea.
Then it was into the Thermal Suite, possibly the most sumptuous
of its kind, with heated slate floors and Bisazza glass mosaic tile
walls. The suite’s piece de la resistance is its staggering view of
Victoria Harbor and the dazzling Hong Kong skyline. I could have
sat in the jasmine-scented sauna for hours, ogling masterpieces by
“star-chitects” like I.M. Pei, Cesar Pelli and Norman Foster, which
flaunted their glamour like supermodels strutting down the
But the circular steam room beckoned. In the center of the domed
hamman-style enclosure obviously emitting positive energy I was in
dire need of was the largest piece of rose crystal I had ever
Between dry and wet heat, I doused myself in the snail-shaped
aromatherapy shower, under a red-hued rain forest downpour or a
purple-hazed refreshing mist.
E’Spa encourages clients to tailor their treatments to their
needs within a block of time. Since all treatment rooms six of
which have the same spectacular view as the sauna are equipped with
products for every treatment and your therapist can perform them
all, you never leave the sumptuous treatment bed.
Since I was determined not to let jet lag impinge on my short
trip, I opted for an anti-jet lag massage combined with a skin
brightener facial. (At least I’d look good, I reasoned.) My
therapist, a wisp of a woman, had strong hands and knew exactly
where the knots were. She was an excellent advertisement for
E’Spa’s 10-week holistic training course, which takes fully
certified, experienced therapists and turns them into spa
“Asian spas were getting gimmicky,” said Peninsula general
manager Ian Coughlan. “We wanted a spa that was an oasis from the
craziness of the city. We wanted to be about luxury and
E’Spa gave them what they were looking for.
“They were extremely technically driven about the facility,”
This meant no noisy facial machines and all telephones stashed
in a soundproof room. Guests can even plug in their iPod and enjoy
their own music in the treatment rooms.
I was perplexed, though, not to see an Asian specialty like
reflexology on the treatment menu, especially since hot-stone
massages to me, the biggest gimmick of them all were featured.
Luckily for me, the Russian therapist who gave me an
immunity-boosting deep-tissue massage before my flight home, knew
reflexology and, since I could tailor my own treatment, she
performed some. And she was much better than the therapist at the
reflexology joint I had found in town.
Part of the Peninsula’s program to offer a wellness component to
their boomer guests (average guest age is 46) extends to the food
and beverage offerings as well. Executive chef Florin Trento has
devised many delicious “naturally Peninsula” menu items using
organic ingredients. The hotel is also making an effort to support
local sustainable farming.
As in the spa, though, the hotel menu won’t be sacrificing
luxury for gimmicks. This is, after all, the Peninsula.
“You can get an antioxidant shake,” explained Coughlan, “but
also champagne and caviar.”
E’Spa has designed several signature body treatments for the
hotel that will introduce your clients to Oriental and Ayurvedic
treatments and ease them past the stress and fatigue of long-haul
These two-hour Peninsula Ceremonies which include a ginger foot
buff, salt and oil scrub, hot-stone chakra balancing and massage,
body mask and wrap, acupressure facial massage and a head massage
are priced at approximately $260. During an in-depth consultation,
the therapist determines the client’s body type, emotional state
and needs and chooses the essential oils and lotions
For the ultimate in pampering, four-hour treatments which
address jet lag and detoxification and will allow your clients to
tackle their Asian holiday or business voyage at the top of their
game run approximately $512.