Features

Rich In Ambience

30 Apr 2009 by intern22

Historic precincts are the best places to experience a city at its most authentic. Julian Tan checks out some hotels in the midst of a remarkable neighbourhood

HONGKONG

Langham Place, Mongkok

There’s no better place than Mongkok for those who want to experience Hongkong’s unique and boisterous street life.

Meaning “busy corner” in Cantonese, Mongkok – part of the Yau Tsim Mong district comprising also Yaumatei and Tsimshatsui – is a distinctive mix of commercial and residential buildings, both old and new.

Because of its strategic location, easily accessible via the Mongkok MTR station linking Kowloon to Hongkong Island and the New Territories, Mongkok is popular with culture vultures and out-of-towners alike and so is dotted with many hotels and other accommodation options catering for all budgets.

One of the better-known Mongkok hotels is the modern-looking, glass-fronted Langham Place hotel. Guestrooms – 665 of them – are stylishly named Vital Place, Essential Place, Trio Place and Quad Place, along with those on the premium Club L Floor such as Club Place, Paramount Place and Sweet Place. These are all technologically equipped with electronic key-card entry, internet-protocol phones, printer/scanner/fax/copier machines (found only in some rooms) and wired and wireless broadband connection among others.

Langham Place also offers six dining establishments – Tokoro-Robatayaki and Bar for Japanese, The Place for international dishes, The Backyard for barbecue buffet, Ming Court for Cantonese, Portal-Work and Play bar for high tea, drinks and fresh seafood, and Contemplation Corner for bites. All this in addition to the myriad of offerings in the mall that’s connected to the hotel, as well as the varied choices one will find on the streets of Mongkok. (Deep-fried fermented tofu, anyone?)

Hotel guests will find that the neighbourhood is not for the faint-hearted or timorous as the area is characterised by a riot of sights and sounds. If you get lost in the crowd, orientate yourself with landmarks such as the Ladies’ Street Market (which stocks an array of apparel, accessories, DVDs and household items) and Nelson Street (also known among the locals as “Sneaker Street”, for trendy sports wear and equipment) – two of Hongkong’s most-frequented shopping areas.

PRICE: A Big Deal package is available till December 30 for HK$1,499 (US$193), inclusive of accommodation, breakfast, internet access and a HK$358 (US$46) credit for use on dining, spa or other hotel services.

CONTACT: 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hongkong, tel 852 3552 3388, http://hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com

JAKARTA

Alila

The surrounding heritage buildings lend a historical touch to Jalan Pecenongan in Kota, where Alila is located. The property is situated at the gateway to Chinatown and the old Dutch Square, making it an interesting place to explore.

“The main entrance to Chinatown was where Dutch ships used to sail from the harbour to the inner city,” says Michael Wandow, director of sales, Alila Jakarta. “Kota or the old town of Batavia (what Jakarta was called under the Dutch rule) is the remains of a city built by the Europeans. Today, many old buildings still exist although they desperately need renovation.” Attractions in the Kota area include the Fatahillah square, the Presidential Palace, National Museum and National Monument.

With a prime address to boot, Alila is minutes away from Thamrin-Sudirman central business district and 5km away from the Jakarta International Expo, a boon for guests planning to attend events there. And being five minutes away from the Gambir Station, Alila also caters to visitors arriving in Jakarta by train from cities such as Yogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya.

The 249-room property features an abstract-minimalist interior with clean, modern lines. All guestrooms, including 19 suites and four apartments with a separate living area and kitchenette, are fitted with parquet flooring.

High-speed internet connection is complimentary in room, and if the guest is a Garuda Indonesia passenger, the hotel offers free city check-in service and issuing of boarding passes as well.

A range of dining options is available in the hotel, including buzz Restaurant serving Indonesian and Western food and Shanghai Storm for dumpling fanatics.

For those who want to venture out, Wandow suggests visiting Pasar Baroe, a colonial-era shopping street for bargain buys such as watches, bags and shoes, or chilling out in some of Jakarta’s finest clubs that are a short taxi ride away.

PRICE: Valid till December 28, an Intimate Moments package starts from US$270 for two nights in an Executive Room and US$390 for an Executive Suite. Perks include breakfast for two persons, a three-course candlelight dinner with house wine, hour-long aromatherapy massage in a couple room, in-room internet access, two pieces of laundry daily and a 4pm check out.

CONTACT: Jalan Pecenongan kav 7-17, Jakarta 10120, tel 62 21 231 6008, www.alilahotels.com

MALACCA

The Majestic

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage City, Malacca has benefited from a legacy of forts, museums and churches bearing the imprints of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Reflecting Malacca’s colonial past, the hotel features an architectural style drawing influences from the three colonial forces as well as the Peranakans or Straits Chinese.

The Majestic is situated on the banks of Melaka River, once an important trade route in the 15th century and now used for tourist cruises. The hotel compound comprises a 1920s private mansion and a tower consisting of 54 rooms.

Inside, guests are transported back to bygone eras through a setting of teak wood fittings, leather furniture, authentic artworks, antiques and traditional Portuguese porcelain flooring. The nostalgic mood continues in 52 Deluxe Rooms and two suites (Majestic and Tranquerah), all of which feature four-poster beds and silk-upholstered chaise lounges.

A breakfast and dinner menu combining Portuguese, Dutch, English and Peranakan is offered in the signature restaurant, aptly named The Mansion. The namesake lounge and bar provide for casual chats and relaxation.

There is much to do and explore even outside the hotel. Guests can stroll along a 600-year-old narrow pathway and red-brick Dutch colonial buildings, or shop for antiques in shophouses on Jonker Street. Other attractions nearby include Stadthuys, formerly the Dutch governors’ and officers’ residence; Christ Church standing in its original site since 1753; and Villa Sentosa which showcases a collection of Malay embroidery, furniture and other relics.

PRICE: Deluxe Rooms from US$250 per night; suites from US$650.

CONTACT: 188 Jalan Bunga Raya, 75100 Malacca, tel 60 6 289 8000, www.majesticmalacca.com

HANOI

Maison D’Hanoi Hanova Hotel

Every street in Hanoi’s exquisite Old Quarter, between Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) and Long Bien Bridge, is supposed to stand for something. Maison D’Hanoi Hanova is located on Hang Trong, which means the street of shops (hang) selling drums (trong).

Try as I might, I didn’t find any sign of the instrument, but I did find numerous art galleries stocked with masses of reproductions – both the European and Vietnamese schools of art – as well as retail ateliers carrying tastefully designed clothes, accessories and home furnishings. These seem to be quite common in a city that enjoys the good things in life while working hard at the same time.

Hanoi’s space restrictions have given rise to the “tube house” (long and skinny buildings with narrow facades) and Maison D’Hanoi is no exception. It’s so easy to miss, so if your driver isn’t familiar with the hotel, and he may well be as it’s only six months old, you had better advise him to go slowly. He would have to anyway as vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the area is always thick.

With just 55 guestrooms, this is a boutique hotel in every sense of the word. The colour red (auspicious in Chinese culture) and coin symbols permeate the public spaces and guestrooms, and the stained dark wood detailing contributes to the elegant feel. Kudos to the designer – and the owner for allowing it – for creating a delightfully oriental gem, and not going overboard in doing so.

There are four types of rooms: Classic, Deluxe, Classic Suite and Deluxe Suite, all equipped with ensuite bath (tub only), minibar, personal safe, multi-channel satellite TV, IDD phone and free internet access. Suites have DVD players. The vanity table doubles as a work desk, although one should be out exploring and being part of Hanoi’s exuberant street theatre rather than checking emails.

F&B choices consist of the Minh Hai Lobby Gallery, Piano Bar and all-day dining Hanova Café, which offers an Asian and Western set menu, artfully presented and complemented by a good wine list.

PRICE: Until September 15, there’s a US$190 package of two nights in a Classic or Deluxe Twin Room with daily buffet breakfast, one-way airport transfer, early check in upon availability, complimentary internet access and daily newspaper among other perks.

CONTACT: 35-37 Hang Trong Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, tel 84 4 938 0999, www.hanovahotel.com

Margie T Logarta

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