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HOTELS

Hotel hopping in Hong Kong

The Mercer Hotel

The Mercer Hotel

A quick and honest review of five great - and not so great - places to stay

Hong Kong has some of the best hotels in the world. The two Shangri-La properties, the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental - all are among the finest anywhere when it comes to room quality, amenities and service. Recently, I spent a week staying in a wide range of the city's hotels and like many of you I started my selections using Tripadvisor.

Here are my impressions, with Tripadvisor rankings and what my stays cost in US dollars. Since I've stayed in hundreds of hotels in my 25-year career as a travel writer, my comments are naturally filtered through that experience, and yours may differ.

THE HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS, CAUSEWAY BAY

Nightly rate: $168

Tripadvisor rank: 130 (out of 548)

This was the cheapest of the lot. One of three Holiday Inn Expresses in the city, the 282-room Causeway Bay is the best located, although I'd recommend the newer, much better and less expensive Soho location (Tripadvisor rank 56), which I toured but didn't stay in. Indeed, the Causeway Bay property is all about location, in the heart of the popular Times Square area, near shopping and steps from the subway. A tiny room, no drawers to stash clothes; you'll be living out of your suitcases. Free WiFi, but sluggish at times. A great location to be sure, but the rooms were tired. There's no fitness room; however, an adequate set breakfast is included in rates. Definitely a case of getting what you pay for.

HOTEL INDIGO

Nightly rate: $260

Tripadvisor rank: 17

Just opened six months ago, this stylish boutique property on Hong Kong Island, has a lot going for it. The rooms are a decent size, the king-size bed was comfortable. Excellent lighting, including enough light to read in bed (a rarity these days) and enough plugs for electronics by the desk and ergonomic chair with a task light, but the slow WiFi was a pain. A small but serviceable gym, and a sleek rooftop pool and bar. But what is up with the trend with frosted-glass-enclosed bathrooms and toilets, something I've seen on a few cruise ships lately as well? My room had a great shower, but the sink was in the room itself and I really prefer a solid wood door rather than a thin pane of glass. The location is great, just a short walk to the subway. All in all, I'd say this was the second best value of the five hotels I bunked in, but service could improve.

THE MERCER HOTEL

Nightly rate: $459

Tripadvisor rank: 37

My two-night stay here was a disappointment and way overpriced for what it offered. It's in an older white-brick building and most of the rooms are "suites" - but that's an abuse of the term. My room on the top floor was no larger than the one at the Indigo, but was divided by a large glass window with a shade. Again, the bathroom / toilet was behind a glass door (not even frosted!) with a pull down shade that got in the way when I opened the door. Absolutely ridiculous, even if you're staying by yourself. I had trouble getting the finicky WiFi to work (turns out it doesn't recognise Firefox, but I had to go down to the front desk to find that out). Typical poor bedside reading lights. The reception was hardly what I'd call friendly and professional. Terrible value all around.

THE ICON

Nightly rate: $232 (non-refundable advance purchase rate)

Tripadvisor rank: 3

My new favourite hotel in Hong Kong. Huge gym and free minibar. Large rooms, even the cheapest ones, 80 percent with those iconic views of the harbour and the island. Ultra-fast free WiFi. Excellent lights for bedtime reading. Six pillow options, unheard of in a hotel at this price range. Solid wooden doors in the excellent bathrooms. Two notable restaurants worth checking out even if you don't stay here (the open-kitchen Market has the best buffet in the city). The only downside, for some, is that it's in Kowloon ($10 cab ride to the island, and a bit of walk to the subway). But if this hotel were on the island it would cost twice as much.

The Upper House

Nightly rate: $745

Tripadvisor rank: 1

At more than $700 a night, I wasn't about to spend more than a night here, but I didn't really need to linger in order to get the idea. Tripadvisor rates this as the No. 1 hotel in Hong Kong for good reason. Some reviewers say it's the best urban hotel in the world; I wouldn't argue with that. I've stayed in Four Seasons all around the world, but this is of an even higher pedigree. From the moment you approach the front door to the moment you leave, it's a peerless experience. It's not just the quality of the sleek decor and rooms, all of which are on high floors; but the service and the atmosphere. Anyway, it was, as others on Tripadvisor have noted, like staying in a private home rather than a mere hotel, and it made a marked contrast to the perfunctory reception I received at the Mercer.

What I learned

This was the first time that I'd stayed in so many hotels in such a short time period and the first that I made all of my selections based on Tripadvisor reviews. And one thing I will say: there was probably no need to read the reviews at all, so closely did the mere rankings correspond to my own experience. Next time I'll just choose from among the top 20 and I'll be all set.


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