By David Armstrong
It’s not often that one gets to look down on a circling helicopter, as on a hard-working bumble bee, but I had that experience during a recent stay in The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Hong Kong, from my room on the 107th floor.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Hong Kong, opened March 29, 2011, soars 118 stories above always-busy Victoria Harbor, on the Kowloon side. The building in which the Ritz-Carlton is housed measures 490 meters (1,607 feet 7 inches) from ground level to the top.
Since the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is at the very top of the building, it is the world’s highest-up hotel. If you include the length of the shafts for the high-speed elevators which take guests from ground level to the hotel’s reception lobby on the 102nd level, it is also the tallest.
The Ritz-Carlton occupies the top 17 floors of the 118-story International Commerce Centre (ICC), the tallest building in Hong Kong and the fourth-tallest in the world. Offices occupy the rest of the structure.
Below ground is the high-end Elements shopping mall, tricked-out with international brand-name shops. Name it and they have it.
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s great height supplies much of the “wow factor” for the 5-star property, but by no means all. Guest rooms are spacious, among the largest in the city. Its expansive marbled bathrooms would dwarf some apartments. Service and attention to guests’ needs is superb.
Its 118th floor aerie, Ozone, is the world’s highest bar. Ozone is abuzz with a trendy, glossy crowd that includes many locals as well as corporate and leisure travelers.
The Ritz-Carlton’s six restaurants are among the best in Hong Kong – and that is saying something in a metropolis which boasts some of the best hotel restaurants – and better than the restaurants of some of the world’s best urban luxury hotels. The hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, Tin Lung Heen, earned one star in the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012.
Today’s 312-room Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong succeeds the U.S. luxury brand’s splendid boutique property in the Central district, which was demolished. In terms of development, the metropolis of 7 million people did not break stride before, during or after the 1997 handover from Great Britain to China.
Hong Kong, now a vaguely autonomous Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic, is still busy building – moving the venerable Star Ferry terminal several hundred meters to make way for a major landfill project in Central, for example.
The current Ritz-Carlton, too, sits on landfill, part of a sprawling, ambitious development called West Kowloon that is intended to be home to a designated arts and cultural district which will take some years to build out.
Hong Kong’s excellent Mass Transit Railroad (MTR) has a big station connected to the International Commerce Centre, which is a good thing. Taxis are plentiful but slowed by the city’s snarled street and tunnel traffic.
Walking is difficult in Hong Kong’s characteristic heat and humidity to begin with, and given that the district around the Ritz and the ICC is a construction zone, the area is not yet pedestrian-friendly.