Inner Circle

My Hong Kong Oasis

Yeoh Siew Hoon returns to one of her favourite places in Hong Kong.

My Hong Kong Oasis
The view from Kowloon towards Hong Kong Island was the better view – and still is.

I’ve lived most of my life away from where I was born. I probably belong to the tribe known as “global nomads”, people who are constantly on the road and travelling to new places in search of different experiences.

Like the Bedouins, we move from place to place with our possessions. The airplane is our camel, as it were, but just like the desert nomads, we have our oases, places we return to again and again because they represent the constancy and consistency missing in our lives. 

My hometown of Penang is one such oasis. In Hong Kong, where I lived for several years, my oasis is Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong. It’s one of the first places I visit whenever I come back.

The hotel – which opened in 1984 – was one of my favourite haunts, even though I lived on Hong Kong Island. In Hong Kong, it is said, those who live on the island stay on the island and those who live in Kowloon stay in Kowloon and rarely do the two worlds merge.

Coming from Penang, which is also an island, I didn’t think much about venturing across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon and seeing the best of both worlds.

In those days, Tsim Sha Tsui East had just been developed and Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong was one of the first hotels in the area.

The view from Kowloon towards Hong Kong Island was the better view – and still is. So, whenever I missed the view of the ocean, the boats and that amazing skyline, I’d head to the hotel to gaze across to the island and imagine its colourful history – how a rock became a world city. 

I appreciate the fact that when I stepped out of the taxi at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong on my most recent visit in March, the man who opened my door was the same one who used to greet me at the airport.

He recognised me and said, “Welcome back.”

I appreciate the fact that the hotel doors are still opened by staff dressed in elegant golds and reds, that guests are still greeted by the tinkling of a piano and the original Shangri-La mural. It’s like being transported back to the 1980s, when hotel lobbies were built to be grand and crystal chandeliers were a symbol of prestige.

My oasis within this oasis is Shang Palace. Today, most travellers avoid hotel restaurants – there are so many other places to choose from and they typically look for something more “local”.

I return to Shang Palace not for nostalgia and familiarity (although there’s a bit of that), but for its constancy and consistency. Its food is always good. It’s lighter now, thanks to the health consciousness of our times, but every dish has just the right amount of flavour – not too salty, not too sweet, not too sour.

I always order the E-Fu Noodles, which now come with a modern twist – wild mushrooms and truffle oil – and let me tell you, every bite goes down with a slurp you want to savour.

What the hotel has been able to do is adapt with the times – it embraces the new, but it doesn’t lose sight of what makes it what it is. So, next time you visit Hong Kong, don’t just look for the new and glitzy, but keep an eye out for the things that make the city special.

Note: Other “new” old things to appreciate in Hong Kong – the tram, the Star Ferry, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and Spring Deer, a restaurant famous for Peking Duck that’s been on Mody Road for ages. I walked in there without a reservation on a Sunday night and was turned away. I shall return.

 

 Make a booking at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong Back to Heart Talk 

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