Two things made my Hong Kong trip in early February 2016 unforgettable: the cold surge and ultra plush accommodations in one of the Marco Polo Hong Kong-Hotels.
As a Marco Polo Hong Kong-Hotels team led by General Manager Dalip Singh provided updates on new offerings in the three properties during a recent dinner in Cebu, I remembered our amazing stay at Gateway Hotel as below normal temperatures swept through Hong Kong.
The Philippines is now the second biggest travel market in Hong Kong, and the Marco Polo Hotels-Hong Kong gives Filipinos even more reasons to visit and enjoy this Chinese city.
From room upgrades to shopping discounts and free ferry rides, Filipino travelers to Hong Kong enjoy a world of privileges from the Marco Polo Hongkong, Gateway, and Prince hotels.
Samantha Poon, Marco Polo Hotels-Hong Kong director of communications, said their in-room guests enjoy exclusive offers across 125 lifestyle outlets at Hong Kong’s largest and most diverse shopping complex Harbour City.
These include such top brands as Adidas, Bally, Calvin Klein, Coach, Cole Haan, Diesel, Eslite, Kate Spade New York, Max Mara, Moschino, to name a few. What makes shopping easy for those staying at Marco Polo Hongkong, Gateway, or Prince is that the hotels form part of and have easy access to Harbour City. All Philippine tourists need to do is present their room key card at participating shops.
Star Ferry 4-day pass
Philippine Mastercard holders get additional privileges at the Marco Polo hotels in Hong Kong, starting with a complimentary Star Ferry four-day pass for two persons up until December 20, 2016. Filipino travelers who use their Mastercard credit cards to book a two-night stay at any of the Marco Polo hotels get to enjoy Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour through the Star Ferry ride.
According to Poon, the Star Ferry experience has been rated first of the “top 10 most exciting ferry rides” by the Society of American Travel Writers and cited for its value for money as well as being the most convenient way to undertake the ferry crossing.
For the same period, Mastercard holders also get the following complimentary privileges at the Marco Polo Hotels-Hong Kong
daily breakfast for two
room upgrade to the next category
extra bed for rooms with three guests
handy smartphone with unlimited 3G internet and unlimited local and international calls to 5 countries, including the Philippines
guaranteed late checkout until 2 p.m.
Free night promo
The three Marco Polo hotels in Hong Kong are also collaborating with three sister hotels in the Philippines — Marco Polo Ortigas, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, and Marco Polo Davao — to reward corporate clients and meeting planners across the four cities.
Clients who spend a minimum of HK$70,000 in Hong Kong, P200,000 in Cebu and Davao, and P250,000 in Manila for at least 15 rooms and a meeting or banquet earn a free night at any of the six Marco Polo hotels. Booking period for this promo is from August 14 to October 31, 2016 and stay period is from August 17, 2016 to March 31, 2017.
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There we were, frozen and shivering on a long line that snaked around a lonely bus stop in a cold mountain spot in Hong Kong, and there was no bus. A digital sign gave a countdown of the 15-minute interval before the next one comes. It was an eternity of waiting.
A thick fog had descended on everything at the Po Lin Monastery in Lantau Island’s Ngong Ping Plateau. It had worsened to the point that you couldn’t make out anything beyond a few meters.
The trees and vegetation, monastery temples, cafes and tea house, Big Buddha, and just about everything else were shrouded in a heavy mist. I could hear people talking nearby but I couldn’t see them. It took us a good 10 minutes to look for the bus stop when it was only around a hundred or so meters away from where we exited Po Lin.
At the long line for the bus that extended way beyond the waiting shed, the rain had changed from a drizzle to a torrent. The wintry chill had numbed my gloved hands and feet encased in socks and boots, and my nose felt like a hard slab on my face. It was so bitterly cold, we could see our every breath.
Chilly Ngong Ping
A German husband, with two kids in tow, was letting off steam at the bus stop. I didn’t understand his words but knew enough from his expression, side glances at his wife, and the reference to “Big Buddha” that he wasn’t pleased by the decision to go there. It was a painful trip even for people used to harsh winters.
Despite the agony of the numbing cold, I consider the Ngong Ping visit one of the highlights of our recent Hong Kong trip. The Po Lin Monastery is a common enough attraction in Hong Kong but the cold surge turned a humdrum experience into an extraordinary one.
As we went from temple to temple at Po Lin, stopped for hot tea and pastries and corn, checked out the shops at Ngong Ping village, climbed 268 steps to the Big Buddha, and stood at the long queue for the bus going down, with the harsh chill spreading on my skin and squeezing flesh and bone, there were times I feared my ability to withstand the cold.
But it is the experiences that bring us the greatest challenge that are also the most unforgettable. Still, the sight of the Citygate Outlets in Tung Chung, where we started the long trip by bus all the way up to Ngong Ping, provided me not just a little bit of relief.
Hong Kong street markets
The rest of Hong Kong was tame by comparison. We didn’t follow a set itinerary but let the whim take us where it would.
Exploring Harbour City, Hong Kong’s largest mall, was a natural consequence of our stay at the Gateway Hotel of the Marco Polo chain of hotels in Hong Kong. From there, we stumbled upon the Clock Tower and Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade by accident.
We made the short ferry crossing between Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong Island once or twice, got lost a few times until we were able to work out the mass transit railway (MTR) system, and sampled restaurant and street food along the way. Tried the Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan and Mido Cafe in Yau Ma Tei because they came highly recommended but we stumbled upon other local establishments that served tastier fare.
Transferring to Dorsett in Mongkok brought us nearer to the famous Temple Street Night Market, Ladies’ Market, and electronics bargains on Ap Liu Street.
We didn’t always follow the natural order of tours. So many people lining up for the tram to Victoria Peak? We used the bus and just tried the Peak Tram on our way down.
Place of contradictions
Taking out the rigid preparations from the equation made our trip much more flexible. Getting lost was not always a bad thing.
It was out on the streets, on foot, that we discovered Hong Kong, and it wasn’t always the spotlessly clean and modern Admiralty, Central, and Soho or the Canton Road littered with global brands like Hermes and Prada. It wasn’t just Causeway Bay with its ode to retail heaven.
Hong Kong was also about streets in Kowloon lined with stalls where whole pigs and roasted ducks hung on hooks while wonton or noodle soup simmered in pots. It was an avalanche of people rushing along Nathan Road or the railway stations.
Sometimes, it was a quiet corner made up of two or three old people sharing a friendly moment or a back alley turned momentarily into a soup kitchen.
A place is also about the people you experience it with. Our Hong Kong, that is Max’s and mine, was a contradiction of sorts: immaculate and stained, prosperous and broken, but always a hotbed of vigor and purpose.
Travel to another country can be intimidating but our recent trip to Hong Kong was smooth all throughout, thanks in large part to a complimentary two-night stay at Gateway of the Marco Polo chain of hotels in Hong Kong.
We took an early morning flight from Cebu and Gateway Hotel checked us in because our room was ready even if it was still 10 a.m.
Though we were willing to wait for the 2 p.m. check-in time, having access to your room early when you’re tired from waking up early to catch your flight and navigating the streets of a foreign country to get to your hotel is a big bonus.
Samantha Poon, Marco Polo Hotels-Hong Kong director of communications, told us beforehand in an email that we were being upgraded to a deluxe room at the Continental Club but we didn’t really know what that meant until we arrived.
Gateway exceptional service
The Continental Club of Gateway offers exceptional service and an extra level of convenience, with a host of benefits and privileges thrown in for good measure.
Our remarkable time in Hong Kong begins with a welcome fruit basket and complimentary drinks that we hardly had to time to finish when these were again replenished.
Continental Club rooms and suites are located on the 14th to 16th floors of the hotel and have exclusive access to the Continental Club Lounge where there is complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktail, and all-day snacks and drinks.
For someone who is not very adventurous when it comes to food, I appreciated the mix of Western and local cuisine that we had access to at the lounge. When we were tired from all the walking and touring that we did, there was always the hotel food to perk us up.
Gateway Continental Club Lounge perks
Since our trip came at a time when we had to coordinate coverage of a big event back home, Gateway’s Continental Club Lounge was a life saver. Getting in touch with the team in Cebu from Hong Kong’s Gateway Hotel was easy with free and fast connectivity. The lounge was an ideal workspace, with plush furniture and unlimited drinks and coffee.
Even out in the streets of Hong Kong, we were really never out of touch. Gateway provides in each of its room a handy, a mobile phone that you can bring with you when you go exploring. It comes with free unlimited 3G mobile internet and you can turn into into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The phone also offers free unlimited calls to five countries including the Philippines, a city guide, and exclusive deals on tickets to attractions.
Taking into account that this was Hong Kong, our deluxe room was surprisingly spacious and comfortable. Our window had a view of the harbor and other high-rise buildings in the vicinity of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Gateway is part of Harbour City, Hong Kong’s largest shopping complex, so you get easy access to such top global brands as Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, Givenchy, Armani, Balenciaga, Chanel, Bvlgari, Tissot and the like.
If I have to pick what I really missed about our trip, I would have to say Gateway Hotel because it was the closest thing to home in that Chinese city that is Hong Kong.