Rosewood Hong Kong set for Spring opening

By Carolynne Dear for Expat Parent

Rosewood Hotel, Hong Kong
The new five-star Rosewood Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui

Slated for a March 17 2019 opening, the eagerly anticipated Rosewood Hong Kong is open from this month for bookings. It promises “an ultra-luxury property” on the harbour-front in the new Victoria Dockside district of Tsim Sha Tsui.

The 65-storey tower has been designed by American architects Kohn Pedersen Fox and 43 of the floors will be dedicated to the hotel. Views over Victoria Harbour will be “prominently showcased” from 80% of guest rooms; these include 322 rooms and 91 suites. The hotel will also be  home to 18 signature suites, including the 1,000 square metre Harbour House and The Garden House with wraparound harbour views and from their private sky terraces (which come with private lap pools) on the 57th floor.

The property will eventually have eight food and beverage outlets, including Chinese tea house Holt’s Cafe, Cantonese speciality restaurant The Legacy House and cocktail bar DarkSide, all three of which will be open from the March launch day.

Rosewood Hong Kong will also the first urban outpost of Asaya, its signature wellness centre and spa. Asaya will be set over two floors and will include alternative therapies, fitness and lifestyle activities, nutrition advice, social spaces and a membership programme open to local residents.

Rosewood opening events will dovetail with the launch of Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District, both of which are due to open early in 2019. rosewoodhotels.com

Hong Kong Island welcomes Marriott ‘resort’ hotel

By Carolynne Dear for Southside & The Peak

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The pool deck opens next Spring

Southside’s much-anticipated Marriott hotel has now opened, boasting no less than four resort pools and dining spaces.

Something of a game-changer for the local area, the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott is the territory’s first true ‘resort’ hotel. Surrounded by mountains and described by management as “a green, urban retreat”, it is nevertheless well-connected with the rest of Hong Kong via the Ocean Park MTR stop, which is directly connected to the hotel via a footbridge.

The three hotel ‘towers’ offer 471 guest rooms, including 130 club rooms. This is the only hotel in Hong Kong, possibly in Asia, with an entire tower designated to ‘club’ facilities.

The hotel has been built around a central, resort pool area, which boasts a fun-looking aqua playground for younger guests. The four restaurants all have al fresco dining areas overlooking the pool deck. They include the American-style grill house and cocktail bar Prohibition, Canton Bistro, the Pier Lounge and bar, and the all-day, buffet-style dining Marina Kitchen, with an adjacent fully-staffed tots play area. All four hotel restaurant outlets are open to walk-in guests.

As you would expect, the hotel is very much family-oriented – panda-themed twin-bed rooms include Ocean Park children’s gifts, junior robes and slippers and views over the park. The hotel will also be running various resort activities such as seashell art, scavenger hunts and special dining. But whether the ‘Meet the Animal’ hotel packages – including encounters with captive dolphins and sea-lions – meld or jar with the overall conservation message is something for guests to decide for themselves.

Other eco-credentials that Marriott has taken into consideration with the build are commendable. Air, water and noise pollution was monitored and controlled from the very first construction stages. The building itself uses sustainable timber, non-ozone depleting insulation materials, rainwater collection and water recycling. The hotel has a recycling and waste reduction programme, an organic rooftop farm and has implemented energy saving initiatives to reduce load and thus keep the building cooler during the summer. Vertical planting systems have also been installed. The restaurant outlets all serve Wild Wildlife Fund-certified sustainable seafood from approved suppliers.

The hotel says it is targeting the local, staycation market as well as chasing the international market. The new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will no doubt play its role in upping tourist numbers. After a sluggish couple of the years, 41-year-old Ocean Park is certainly committed to raising its profile globally, with a $2.9 billion water park scheduled to open next year and a Fullerton hotel on track for a 2021 opening. It’s hoped that the Tai Shue Wan Water World, as it is to be known, will attract up to 1.5 million visitors in its first year of opening.

Bookings are now being taken for the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, with guests taking up occupancy from last month. All restaurants are open for walk-in guests during the soft opening period; full opening is planned to take place early in the new year. The pool area is still awaiting licensing and is due to open in Spring 2019.  marriott.com

 

Your ultimate guide to Hong Kong’s Christmas markets in December

 

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DEC 1

Italian Day at Sandy Bay

The Italian Women’s Association is back with its annual fun-filled market. Bargains a-plenty plus lots of authentic food and drink. All profit goes to charity. $20 per person. 10am-5pm, The Gardens of the Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital at Sandy Bay, 12 Sandy Bay Road, Pok Fu Lam. iwa.org.hk

DEC 1

St Stephen’s Chapel Christmas Fete

The annual event sees Santa arrive by helicopter plus all the fun of a traditional English summer fair with a Christmas twist. $20 per adult, free for kids. 11am-4.30pm, Sports Ground, St Stephen’s College, entrance on Wong Ma Kok Road, Stanley. ststephen.org.hk

DEC 1 – 2

LUMP Christmas Ceramic Market

Browse over 40 ceramic artists and makers selling everything from decorative pieces to handmade ceramics. Cash only. 12 midday – 7pm. Free admission. LUMP Studio, 11A, Gee Luen Hing Industrial Building, 2 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang.

DEC 1

German Swiss International School Christmas Bazaar

Grab loads of holiday goodies and enjoy some family friendly fun at this annual event. And don’t miss your chance to get your photo taken with Santa in his grotto! 10am – 4pm. Free admission. 11 Guildford Road, The Peak. mygsis.gsis.edu.hk

DEC 8

Treasure Island Charity Beach Ball

Give back this Christmas and book a table at the Charity Beach Ball with proceeds supporting charities for animals and wildlife on Lantau Island. From 6pm. $5800 per table, includes dinner and two hours free flow drinks. Treasure Island Restaurant and Bar, Pui O Beach, Lantau Island. treasureislandhk.com

DEC 8 – 9 & 15 – 16

Stanley Plaza Finnish Christmas Market

Held over two consecutive weekends, browse over 100 stalls, including Hong Kong’s first seaside Pets Christmas Market located at Murray House. 12 midday – 8pm. Free admission. Stanley Plaza Amphitheatre, Stanley. thelink.com.hk

DEC 8 – 9

Treasure Island Christmas Market

Browse treasures for one and all at this two-day Christmas Market. 11am – 5pm. Free admission. Pui O Beach, Lantau Island. Treasureislandhk.com

DEC 8

Island Christian Academy Christmas Fair

A festive and fun-filled afternoon of shopping, food, games, prizes and activities. Free. 12-4pm, 70 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan. facebook.com/islandchristianacademy

DEC 9

Handmade Hong Kong Holiday Markets

Browse over 120 of Hong Kong’s finest indie-craft talents. Pick up stocking stuffers and one-of-a-kind gifts, with the bonus of purchasing directly from local artists. 11am – 6pm. Discovery Bay South Plaza, Discovery Bay. handmadehongkong.com

DEC 11

The Christmas Gift Festival

Browse delightful treasures from around the world, like jewelry, children’s products and more. Free admission. 10am – 8pm. Grand Ballroom, Conrad Hotel, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty. prestigefairs.hk

DEC 14

The Hive Studios Christmas Bazaar

Enjoy various vendors, entertainment plus food and drinks. Free. 12 midday – 8pm. The Hive Studios, 8th floor, Cheung Hing Industrial Building, 12P Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town. thehivestudios.com.hk

DEC 15

Green Queen Zero Waste Christmas Market 2018

Embrace your inner greenie and shop beauty, fashion, kids, lifestyle and home with an environmental, ethical and low-waste twist. 11am-5pm, Garage Academy, 4F, Beverly House, 93-107 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. greenqueen.com.hk

DEC 15

The Hive Sai Kung Christmas Market

Browse various vendors selling a selection of gifts, plus participate in workshops throughout the day! 11am – 5pm. Free admission. 5 Tai Mong Tsai Road, Sai Kung. skhosts@thehive.com.hk

Tales of the tandor at Wan Chai’s Daarukhana

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Mixing it up at Daarukhana

New opening Daarukhana promises a ‘haute cuisine contemporary Indian’ experience for diners at its Thompson Road venue.

Hoping to spice things up, the restaurant mixes ‘overseas’ ingredients such as chilli honey-glazed French langoustines and American duck shami with regional Indian cuisines such as dum ke chaap – lamb chops cooked the Northern Indian way in a rich gravy and spicy saffron sauce. Tandor dishes include Norwegian gongura salmon tikkaand prime short ribs.

All dishes are large enough – and designed – to share; the plant-based menu includes vegetarian dishes such as roasted baingan (aubergine) cooked two ways and there are plenty of creative sides including stuffed baby breads, daal of the day, kulchas (mildly leavened flatbreads) and Persian-inspired barberry pulao.  141 Thompson Road, Tai Yip Building, Wan Chai. daarukhana.com

 

 

 

 

Macau lights up for Christmas

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Christmas celebrations at The Venetian Macao – Santa will be in his grotto until Dec 30

Christmas has arrived in Macau this week with the lighting of Christmas trees throughout the Venetian complex and the opening of an outdoor ice rink at The Parisian Macao.

But the show stealer is perhaps the 50-foot inverted Christmas tree which hangs dramatically from the lobby ceiling of The Parisian Hotel. Organisers admitted the tree had been inspired by Paris’ famous Galeries Lafayette department store which suspended an ‘upside down’ Swarovski-covered tree from its Art Nouveau cupola in 2014. Recent followers of the trend have included London’s Tate Britain, Claridge’s Hotel and Victoria Beckham’s Dover Street boutique.

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The stunning ‘upside down’ Christmas tree at The Parisian Macao

 

The Parisian’s Eiffel Tower installation at the front of the hotel will be lit up with a Grand Illumination Show Christmas Edition light performance until Dec 30 and the hotel’s ‘Winter in Paris’ activities include a fun ice rink on the level 7 observation deck of the tower. Skaters will be kept well fed with an adjacent pop-up cafe serving an assortment of hot and cold refreshments and some pretty tasty hot chocolate.

Meanwhile, down the road at The Venetian Macao, a ‘Winter in Venice’ theme includes a Venetian Express train installation and Santa will be taking up daily residence in his pop-up grotto.

The Christmas installations run until Jan 6 2019; The Parisian Macao ice rink is open 4-10pm daily. sandsresortsmacao.com

 

Don’t forget your Box of Hope this November

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Box of Hope volunteers checking and packing boxes

One minute you’re lazing happily on a junk with a sea-breeze in hand, the next there’s tinsel and mulled wine everywhere you turn.

Each year, Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier, and particularly so for Sian Trodd, director of local charity Box of Hope. The charity now in its eleventh year and Trodd and her team have been beavering away since Easter to ensure its infamous gift boxes reach those most in need this festive season. This year the charity aims to deliver 33,000 Christmas boxes of donated gifts to under-priveleged communities throughout Asia.

The charity distributes shoeboxes full of Christmas cheer to disadvantaged children throughout Hong Kong, Macau, China, Cambodia and the Philippines. What started as a mini-project at former director Nicole Woolhouse’s children’s school has now mushroomed into almost 30,000 boxes of hope being handed out to children via over 40 charities throughout Asia. Trodd and her team are effectively bringing Christmas to almost 28,000 poverty-stricken children every year.

“The boxes used to be packed in Nicole’s apartment,” explains Trodd, who took over as director last year after Woolhouse relocated back to the UK. “It grew and they were offered space in the offices of lawyers Allen & Overy in Exchange Square. But when they started moving in on desk space it became evident that the project was really taking off and Allen & Overy kindly persuaded their landlord to offer a vacant space for a couple of weeks from which we could pack the boxes.”

The raison d’etre behind the project was for kids to help kids. Woolhouse’s own children, plus classmates from Kellett School, simply got some old shoeboxes together and filled them with small but useful gifts. The idea stemmed from similar projects Woolhouse had seen in action in the UK. In the first year they distributed 800 boxes to underprivileged children throughout Hong Kong.

Eleven years on and the gift drive is one of the best-known events on Hong Kong’s charity calendar. Each year around 140 preschools and schools take part, along with corporate organisations, church groups and individuals. “There are a team of 12 of us,” explains Trodd. “We get together in April to talk dates and start planning, and then when everyone returns from the summer holidays it’s all systems go.”

Schools are sent stickers and instruction packs and children are invited to bring in their packed and wrapped shoeboxes full of gifts from the end of October. If schools have over 50 boxes to contribute, Trodd and the team will organise for a truck to pick up the donations – this year collections will take place between November 5 and 9.

This year the charity hopes to collect a mammoth 33,000 boxes and has received support from a number of Hong Kong-based corporates, including Meridian Capital, Wooloomooloo Group, Clifford Chance, Halfords, The Lion Rock Press, Bloom&Grow, Dachser, Redbox Storage, Wah Yuen stationery and Allen & Overy.

The charity will also again be running its popular box design competition. Winners will be invited to help hand deliver Boxes of Hope to children living in Hong Kong. To enter, email a photo of your decorated box to siantaylor1@boxofhope.org before November 15. Then, over the following three weeks, around 200 volunteers will open and check every single box in order for it to pass through customs.

“We say no to liquids, but yes to toothpaste,” says Trodd. “We recommend that every box contains a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, some sort of stationery – something to write with and something to write on is a good starting point – and then a treat, such as a small toy, or some Lego, or a pack of playing cards.”

Memorable boxes include one filled entirely with the proceeds of a lemonade stall – four children organized the stand in their building so they had the funds to donate scores of filled boxes, each one lovingly packed and decorated.

Woolhouse recalls another little girl who saved up her pocket money for a year and packed it up along with a handwritten note. “She so wanted to share some happiness,” says Woolhouse. “Every year our volunteers were simply overwhelmed by the generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness of Hong Kong’s schoolchildren.”

“A huge amount of thought goes into some of these boxes,” admits Trodd. “We safeguard the integrity of the boxes as much as possible when we’re checking them, but sometimes we do have to step in. We get the odd box where someone has basically emptied the dregs of their stationery draw, stubs of pencils and so forth. We ask for everything to be new and unused, a proper Christmas present.”

While all the charities Box of Hope delivers to are in need, some are more in need of certain items than others. “The Hong Kong kids all need stationery, anything goes from notebooks and pens to rubbers and packets of coloured pencils. In places like Cambodia and the Philippines, they’re happy to receive anything. These children have absolutely nothing. It’s heartbreaking to see them treasuring even the cardboard box.”

The delivery trucks are provided free-of-charge by Red Box Storage and Crown Relocations for a certain number of days, after which a courier company jumps in at a discounted rate.

“The boxes destined for the Philippines and Cambodia are shipped and we are currently looking for a shipping company to offer discounted transportation,” says Trodd.

Once at the destination, local charities step in and take over.

“It’s humbling to see how excited the children are to receive these gifts,” admits Trodd. “They are living in such impoverished conditions yet all are smiling, all are so happy to see us each year.”

If you, your school or preschool would like to take part in this year’s Box of Hope campaign, contact boxofhope.org. Follow the charity on Facebook @Box of Hope and on Instagram @boxofhopehk

Is this the world’s most luxurious villa?

By Carolynne Dear for Mid-levels magazine

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The ‘oversea’ sundeck of Conrad Rangali Island’s undersea villa

In an area of the world strewn with luxe residences and picture perfect beaches, the Maldives is a tough location in which to create wow factor.

But Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is this month opening the doors on what it believes is the world’s first undersea residence.

The James Bond-worthy two-storey villa – named Muraka, meaning ‘coral’ in the local patois – hit the seabed earlier this year following a complex building project. Lead engineer Mike Murphy of New Zealand-based MJ Murphy Ltd was approached in 2017 to manage the construction, having previously supervised on Ithaa, the hotel’s undersea restaurant. He admits Muraka was a once-in-a-lifetime brief.

The seriously luxurious residence is a two-level structure for up to nine guests, with space above sea-level and an undersea suite five metres below sea level. The undersea area includes a king size bedroom, living area and bathroom, with a spiral staircase leading to a further living room. Like Ithaa, the space is encased in an acrylic dome with 180-degree ocean views.

Upstairs, above sea-level, there’s a twin-size bedroom, bathroom, powder room, gym, butler’s quarters, private security quarters, integrated living room, kitchen, bar and a dining area that leads onto a sunset-facing deck. A relaxation deck and infinity pool on the opposite side enjoy sun-rise.

No stranger to submerged structures, Murphy has worked on watery projects around the world, including Guangzhou Ocean World in China, Sentosa Underworld Aquarium in Singapore, the Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur, plus a host of other aquariums, underwater worlds, penguin pools and sea-lion enclosures. But he admits Muraka was a particularly exciting project to be involved with.

“Being a world-first is very motivating,” he tells me from Rangali Island, where he was in the final stages of the project at the time of our interview. “The 600 tonnes of submerged residential space included components such as plumbing, as well as a lift connecting the undersea and oversea sections. There is nothing like this in the world currently.”

It is the latest ‘first’ in a series of inaugural launches for the resort – Conrad Maldives Rangali Island was the original international hotel brand to enter the Maldivian market 20 years ago, and it opened the world’s first undersea restaurant, Ithaa, 13 years ago.

The resort is located in one of the Maldives’ best diving spots and Muraka is designed to blend in with its marine environment, giving guests unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean.

All aspects were carefully planned, with two marine biologists hired to minimise any environmental impact during construction. At-risk coral colonies were relocated from the construction site and stored 150m away from where the building work was taking place. They were relocated back to the residence reef once construction was complete. Since the submersion of the villa, the underwater marine life has begun to call the new arrival home, with anemones and urchins attaching themselves to the structure.

The residence was first assembled on a barge in Singapore and with the assistance of two tugs, it was pushed-pulled on a four-hour journey to the wharf. It was then loaded onto a jumbo crane ship and shipped to Rangali Island. Submersion had to coincide with dry season, which runs from November to April, and was scheduled for February this year.

“For a complex project like this, sinking is the most critical point,” says Murphy. “The ship’s captain was essentially ‘blind’, so clear communication with the divers was paramount. I’m the first to say I’m completely confident that we are the leading experts in this field, but even I admit to losing a bit of sleep at this point. When Muraka was finally sunk, everyone was happy, the owners were happy, the engineers were happy, so we were all relieved.”

Just how the first guests will sleep remains to be seen. Perhaps all that marine activity will keep them glued to the glass all night, perhaps it will lull them into a deep slumber.

“Muraka encourages guests to to explore the Maldives from an entirely new perspective,” says chief architect and designer Ahmed Saleem. “Alongside Ithaa, we’re very pleased to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge design, technology and architecture.” conradmaldives.com