So you know that thing I espouse about not doing sponsored posts? Turns out it only applies to insulting/boring stuff like cans of tuna and expat banking services. I mean if you guys want me to give away a lunch pack of sandwich tuna in future, let me know and I’ll try. But I’m pretty sure you’ll be more interested in the inaugural giveaway I’m doing in this post. This is something I would genuinely love to win. I’ve always said if and when that ever happened, I’d write about it – it has, and so I am.
The thing I’m happy to be writing about here is the Hilton HHonors program. Hilton HHonors is a loyalty program where members accumulate points that are actually useful. Unlike other loyalty programs, with Hilton HHonors there are no black-out periods and the points are redeemable on the range of room types in all Hilton properties*. They’re currently running their Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale, which is all about finding a reason to get way for a weekend break. If you book a trip through the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale before 14 February 2013, you’ll receive up to 40% off the usual room costs. Check out the link for more details and to book your Any Weekend, Anywhere.
For one person, though, you don’t need to do that – because at the end of this post, I’ve got 100,000 Hilton HHonors points** to give away. Hilton HHonors offered Joel and I the same amount of points so we could take a weekend getaway and report back on. Um YES PLEASE. We stayed for two nights in the 5-star Conrad Hilton here in Hong Kong. It’s situated right in the middle of Central, above Hong Kong Park, the Pacific Place mall (and, yes, my work, but the weekend was as far removed from work as you could imagine, so even when I cracked the curtain in the morning and found myself looking directly into the High Court, pleadings and statements of claim didn’t even briefly cross my mind).
It’s a beautiful hotel.
We enjoyed all the regular hotel facilities like the pool, fitness centre, and buffet breakfast. When I say we “enjoyed” them, we didn’t actually swim – do you know how cold it is here right now? I did read for a while on one of the deck chairs, silently cheering on the brave soul doing a few laps in the frosty morning air. And okay, we didn’t use the fitness centre, because do you know how lazy we are? But we visited it for research purposes, and I can report it’s large, well-equipped, open 24 hours, and it looks like if you go there, you’ll be super fit and toned. We thoroughly evaluated just about every element of the breakfast buffet, though, and it was superb. We were also very impressed with the petits-fours in the executive lounge. Hilton bakers know how to do a tiny cake up right!
All the little things you’d expect from a top-of-the-range hotel were present, like complimentary newspapers, a turn-down tray of fruit and homemade chocolates, fragrant toiletries, and a big bathroom. I stay in a lot of hotels for work and this was definitely one of the bigger ones I’ve seen. The nicest personalised touch was the little Conrad teddy bear left on our bed. I went down to the concierge and indicated I had an awkward request to make of them. Full kudos to the staff for understanding when I said, in classic total embarrassment styles, “So I know I’m 32 and I swear it’s not for me, IT’S FOR MY KIDS, but can I get another *cough*teddy*cough*bear?” – and immediately handing over another teddy. We called them Connie and Rad. (The bears, not the staff. Though they were clearly rad, and the possibility that one of them may even have been called Connie can’t be ruled out.)
So, what did we actually do on our weekend as tourists in our own town? We ate, a lot. Eating is more than just the provision of sustenance to Hongkongers, it’s a passion, and one of the most typical ways to indulge it is with dim sum. We had a family lunch at Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant in Nathan Road, Jordan. The lunch was great (for us, though not for the world’s soy supplies). Afterwards we headed to Mong Kok, a few train stops away, which has not only one of the densest population per square metre in the entire world, but also the markets – Ladies, Flower, Fish, Bird, probably others. Lots of places where things cost $2, basically. Intermingled amongst all these markets are Hong Kong’s ubiquitous dai pai dongs and street food stands. We didn’t sample any of their “delights” this weekend – although one time, I did eat a chicken foot by accident and it was pretty much exactly what you’d imagine it would be like.
After a few hours pounding the Mong Kok pavement (which included dodging, weaving, ducking, avoiding old ladies pulling rubbish carts, trying not to get run over, haggling, and hallucinatory levels of sensory overload) we were absolutely ready for afternoon tea back at the hotel. Despite my high praise for the Hilton pastry chefs, we limited ourselves to six or seven cakes (each) because our next destination was our topline event – dinner at Kea’s Kitchen.
Kea’s is a private kitchen on board a gorgeous yacht berthed in Aberdeen. An old man took us from the pier to Kea’s doorstep in a rickety sampan, past the garish Jumbo floating restaurant (which made for a very Hong Kong backdrop to our dinner). Kea greeted us at the door with a beautiful open smile and character. She showed us to the open top deck for drinks and homemade taro chips while she prepared the night’s menu for the two parties on board. Her first menu is traditional Thai food and the second is fusion cuisine. That’s the one we chose, and while we were struggling by the end of the six courses, the food was truly delicious. Every course was fresh and unique, the atmosphere was perfect, and it was a pleasure to be hosted by someone who is obviously living their dream. You guys know I’m all for this, and that we moved overseas in the first place to live our own dreams. Watching Kea work in the kitchen and talking to her about her food and her life was just a privilege. She has a combination of such skill, innovation and passion that it would be impossible not to leave her kitchen without feeling uplifted (not to mention completely satiated). Bonus points for her youngest child, who is frankly the most adorable baby I’ve ever seen who isn’t my own!
Far from being just the highlight of the weekend, our night at Kea’s Kitchen was one of the high points of our time in Hong Kong so far. I’ll be writing about this place again in a future post, and we’ll definitely be going back soon. In the meantime, Hongkongers, if you have an occasion to celebrate and are looking for somewhere special, you have to go to Kea’s – one very special hidden gem.
One thing I wish we could have done if we’d had time was Disneyland. We were reluctant to go there when we first moved to Hong Kong, but once we finally relented, we realised it actually is the happiest place on earth and now we just go all the time and have memberships and wear caps with Mickey on etc. I’m as surprised as you are. We didn’t have time to go this weekend, but I’ve written about one of our previous experiences there. Particularly for Aussies who have always wanted to go to Disneyland, the Hong Kong one is a great option at about half the flying time compared to the US.
It was a wonderful thing, to be a tourist in our own city, but I should point out that if you happened to choose a getaway in Hong Kong, there’s also a whole other side of life here off the beaten track. Where we live, it’s village life, white-sand beaches, hiking, the floral abundance of the tropical jungle, the animal kingdom, and dogs wearing jumpers. It’s a completely different life. We chose to do “city” things this weekend because it’s not what we usually do. There is more to Hong Kong that meets the eye. Just like there’s more to this house than meets the eye – including the 15-foot python that was pulled out of it recently. That’s the house next door to ours, by the way. What I’m saying is, don’t stay in our spare room. Stay at the Hilton. Pretty sure they don’t have snakes there. It’s probably a condition of obtaining a hospitality licence of something.
Of course, while I would love to show you around Hong Kong, you don’t have to come here for your Any Weekend, Anywhere – apparently there are nearly 4,000 Hilton properties in 90 countries, and you are free to choose any one of them.
So, here we go then. How do you win your own snake-free, divine-cake-filled, spontaneous getaway? All you need to do is answer five questions about previous Jadeluxe posts. I really want the winner to be a regular reader, because you guys are so awesome, rather than a random ring-in. This also (I think) avoids any suggestion of rigging towards family or friends because to be honest they’re the least likely people to read my posts – which contain all the answers to the questions. The first correct answer received*** in the comments section will win the 100,000 Hilton HHonors points. To continue down this unimpeachably fair road, I’m not putting the questions in this post, but in separate post on Thursday, 24 January at 7 pm Hong Kong time (that’s 10 pm Melbourne time, and I’ve done a conversion for you rest-of-the-world peeps here).
That leaves you more than 24 hours to cram on my previous posts. Sorry about that. I will never be sorry, though, for hoping you’re all imagining the ticking that goes with this Jack Bauer “24” play-off:
*Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations.
**One standard night in a Hilton property “costs” the following points:
Hotel Category 1 – 7,500; Hotel Category 2 – 12,500; Hotel Category 3 – 25,000; Hotel Category 4 – 30,000; Hotel Category 5 – 35,000; Hotel Category 6 – 40,000; Hotel Category 7 – 50,000.
To learn more about Hilton HHonors, how to earn and redeem points and what you can spend your 100,000 points on (if you’re the winner!), visit HiltonHHonors.
***May not necessarily be in the order that comments show up on the site, due to moderation requirements –if you’re a first-time commenter, your comment has to be moderated by me first, which delays display. For the purposes of this contest though, the winner will be the first comment received on my dashboard, regardless of moderated status. I will screenshot this and post it when I announce the winner.
EDIT: THE WINNER WAS RHI! YAY RHI!