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Wednesday 18 December 2013

A Holiday at Home: The Indigo Hotel Hong Kong

As much as I love living in Hong Kong, it's sometimes a bit like what I'd imagine going out with Russell Brand might be like... far too much fun to be a good long term thing, ever so slightly grubby and after a couple of months guaranteed to drive you more than a little crazy (why else would Katy Perry now be going out with Meyer the Player???).

So ever since I moved here, every couple of months I try to escape the city and recharge my batteries so that I can return a week or even just a couple of days later, feeling refreshed, rested and ready to take on a new round of 60 hour work weeks and pick-me-up vodka jelly sessions in Lang Kwai Fong…

The longer I'm here though, the lazier I get. I don't want to do anything much more than sleep late and read a good book, I don't want to fly for longer than a couple of hours, in fact I don't really want to be messing about at airports and customs and passport control at all when I only have a precious couple of days to chill out. So this year I've interspersed beach breaks and short hops around Asia with my new favourite type of holiday, the Staycation.

While on the face of it spending your holidays in the city that you live seems like a pretty rubbish idea, take a moment to think about the logistics (or lack of them). Let's say you have a rare spare weekend and you're planning a little R&R, if you opt for a staycation, you leave work at 6pm on Friday and by 6:30pm you can be snuggled up in a fluffy bathrobe drinking champagne from a well-stocked mini bar while planning where to head for that evening's meal out (without the danger of picking somewhere rubbish, aimed solely at clueless tourists…). When Sunday evening rolls around, the post-holiday blues aren't exacerbated by a tortuous six hour journey home, pack your bag, hop in a cab and a few minutes later you're back home in your onesie watching a trashy boxset. Two days of bliss + minimal fuss = the perfect break - it's pretty basic holiday maths…

This year I've managed to clock up stays at the Grand Hyatt, the East Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental, all very different and great in their own respects, but each had its own slight quibble. The Hyatt lacks the boutique cool factor, the East lacks in location and the Mandarin Oriental's missing a pool. So when I started to hear good things about the newly opened Indigo Hotel, a boutique hotel, set slap bang in the heart of historic Wanchai (with a glass bottomed pool to boot) I wondered whether I may just have found the key to Staycation perfection in Hong Kong…

After a week of office nightmares, daily conference calls at anti-social hours and a never-ending stream of "URGENT" emails, by Friday evening I was in dire need of two days of down time. After flagging down a cab outside my office in Quarry Bay and a speedy ten minute journey, I was delivered to the driveway just outside the the Indigo. I opened the taxi door to be greeted by the chilled out tones of Morcheeba tripping along from some hidden speakers - I'd arrived.

Check-in was friendly and incredibly pain-free - within moments I was being whisked up in what can only be described as a hippy-disco lift (the lift's walls are a mosaic of gem-like stones which gradually change from green, to blue to purple to pink) to the 23rd Floor and my home for the weekend.

Arriving as I was, after the room had been turned down, and the curtains drawn, it wasn't at first apparent what a plum of a room I'd managed to bag. Winding from the lift past an array of awesome modern art, my room was right at the end of the corridor - a corner room with huge floor to ceiling wrap around windows overlooking the bustling streets of Wanchai below. 

I was a very happy girl. But happy tripped into delirious when I spied a tray laid with a personal note from the Hotel's manager, a box of macaroons and a rainbow-coloured slinky - best welcome ever!

Tipping the super helpful porter, I got down to the serious business of checking out the room. Decor throughout the hotel is bright and fun with well-placed references to the fact that we're in Hong Kong. My room carried through that theme with a huge, swirling blue and gold dragon mosaic on one wall, a turquoise tai chi master figurine in the bathroom and a sweet little Chinese tea set laid out on a silver stool. Take a particular shine to the quirky goldfish bathmat and think it would be perfect for your bathroom at home? Well the good news is that everything in your room is available to purchase - a hotel room that you can shop? That's pretty much my idea of heaven…

Talking of heavenly things, the big, marshmallowy bed sits slap bang in the centre of the room (yes this is a room in Hong Kong big enough that you can walk right around the bed - miracles do happen), perfectly placed for lazily gazing out at the city or snuggling in to watch a film on your huge flatscreen TV which comes complete with a set of snazzy Bang & Olufsen speakers. 

The bathroom is neat and compact but still super-luxe think a rain shower with a dinner-plate sized head and boxes of spa quality beauty products. The Indigo also triumphed in an area that so many hotels fall short in, a good selection of mirrors - a huge well-lit mirror in the bathroom complete with a magnifying mirror (great for precise eye make-up) and an enormous full-length mirror beside the bed. It may sound obvious but there's nothing I hate more than having to stand on the loo to try to see if my shoes look good with my outfit.

Last but not least the room boasts a Nespresso machine (always my mark of a hotel I'm going to like) and a fab mini-bar which has all your usual mini-bar offerings covered but also includes jelly worms, Haribo and Burt's British Crisps - perfect midnight feast fare.

After an indulgent shower and quick change, I headed out to hit up Wanchai. While a Friday night in Wanchai may conjure up images of dancing on the bar at Carnegies after far too much ropey vodka, I decided to reset those preconceptions and look a little harder at the area around the hotel. Plotting a Friday night which avoided the rowdy bars with flashing neon signs was very easy with the Indigo's brilliant Wanchai Guide which talked through the history behind the area and flagged the best spots to visit on a super helpful illustrated map. I've lived in Hong Kong for five years now and there were numerous little gems I'd never seen or even heard of - exploring Wanchai for the weekend was very much like seeing the neighbourhood through completely fresh eyes.

I'm going to save my weekend itinerary for a post to come very soon, but let's just say my Wanchai Little Black Book has swollen to about quadruple its previous size…

So, on waking up on Saturday morning in my giant bed, despite an amazing night's sleep, my head was still a little heavy thanks to the evening before's cocktail intake. Nothing, I decided that a good cup of coffee and plate of eggs could't fix, so down I trotted to the hotel's Cafe Post.

Cafe Post has a cool retro vibe with bright geometric tiling, wicker lampshades and a huge terrace which is perfect for an alfresco coffee and croissant. The vast breakfast spread is laid out in pots and pans sitting atop hobs all scattered between stacks of cook books and next to fridges full of baby flasks of freshly squeezed juices. The overall sense you get is that you're helping yourself to delicious provisions from a very well-stocked kitchen of a domestic goddess friend.

Bodyweight of coffee and scrumptious breakfast inhaled I was good for only one thing, lying beached whale style by the pool. Luckily the Indigo pool is a bit of a corker, so it was back to the hippy-disco lift to zoom up to the roof and check it out...

Perched up on the 29th floor, the pool overlooks the Hopewell Centre and the other neighbouring skyscrapers but it's far enough from the hustle and bustle below to feel like your sunbaking and swimming in the clouds. What's the best feature of the pool? Well the hidden jacuzzi which overlooks the city is pretty great. The ridiculously comfy sun beds with in built face shade are pretty cool. But the prize has to go to the glass-bottomed deep end of the swimming pool… test your vertigo by peering down at the toy taxis and ant people going about their business on the streets below as you do your laps. 

I had the pool completely to myself but after a morning of lazing around reading my Kindle in the sun (yup sun at the start of December, this is why I heart HK!) I was ready to pull myself together and get my exploring boots on. 

A few hours and much wandering, nibbling and shopping later (with a sneaky foot massage thrown in for luck), I was back at the Indigo for a dash of downtime before heading back out on the town. Feeling a little bit thirsty after my day's adventuring, I decided a cocktail in the hotel's sky bar was in order to get my evening started. The Sky Bar sits just opposite the pool and is small but perfectly formed, a great mix of sleek steel and cosy red booths plus the huge floor to ceiling sliding doors that open up onto a terrace give the bar a very cool inside/outside feel. 

While I looked out over the city's twinkling neon skyline and sipped on a perfectly mixed lychee martini, I thought how very lucky I am to live in a city with so much history sitting right in the middle of an ever-changing metropolis. To misquote Samuel Johnson, "when a girl's tired of Hong Kong, she's tired of life". 

Although, the next morning, after another great night out, I was feeling pretty tired… So tired in fact that I decided even the lift ride down to Cafe Post was a little too much exertion. Only one thing for it, breakfast in bed…

There's nothing quite as decadent as lounging with the Sunday papers, grazing on a tray of breakfast yummness and forgetting that Monday even exists. Eventually at midday I decided I need to get myself up and out for a last few Wanchai wandering before attempting the tough journey home. The tough ten minute taxi ride home…

The Indigo has well and truly lifted my benchmark for Hong Kong staycations. For me it checks all the boxes - service, design, location, pool. Chuck in a deliciously comfortable bed and all the unexpected touches that make you feel well and truly spoilt and I think I've found Staycation Nirvana…

The Hotel Indigo
242-246 Queen's Road East
Hong Kong Island
+852 3926 3888
Prices from HK$2,300 a night for a Superior Room

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