The Upper House isn’t just another high-end hotel on Hong Kong Island. Dreamt up by lauded Hong Kong-born interior architect André Fu, it rises above the rest — literally. As you might expect from its name, the serene and sleek oasis occupies the uppermost floors of a cloud-piercing skyscraper in Admiralty district, where it sits atop another five-star property. Inside The Upper House, there’s no over-the-top, noisy lobby with chandeliers and dramatic flower arrangements. It doesn’t house an award-winning spa or rooftop infinity pool. You won’t find cranky hotel guests impatiently waiting in line at bulky reception desks, hoping their rooms are ready after a dizzying day of travel and crossing a few time zones.
Perched above the glitzy Pacific Place shopping complex, guests of The Upper House step into a mesmeric glass box lobby on Level 4, evocative of Philip Johnson’s “The Glass House.” Suddenly the frenetic city feels so far away. Awaiting your arrival is a smiling, stylish staff who warmly welcome then escort you to your room for a paperless check-in. But the unrushed, upward journey is just as impressive as the destination. And that journey begins with a soul-soothing escalator ride that smoothly glides you through a torii gate-inspired tunnel illuminated in a golden glow. This transcendent transportation feels nothing like the severely lit, always-packed and sometimes alarmingly rapid escalators at MTR stations all over the city. And while torii gates usually mark the entrance to Shinto shrines, you’re about to set foot into a hushed world that overflows with endless serenity.
As the escalator releases you onto the bright and airy Level 6, you’ll notice the hotel’s seductively soothing ginger and verbena signature scent. For additional aromatherapy, stop by Level 6’s The Lawn, a pocket of lush, fragrant greenery, comfy seating and arresting sculptures, where guests sip coffees and stretch in child’s pose upon yoga mats by day, and cocktail-clutching fashionistas mingle under lit-up high-rises at night. I made a mental note to frequent the chic secret garden throughout my stay (it’s the only on-site spot where you can enjoy a secret cigarette), but getting to my room ASAP was the priority. There was a lot of Instagramming, errr, unpacking to do!
But, not so fast. The gleaming lift lobby, graced with a duo of flying saucer-shaped brass sculptures by Hong Kong artist Man Fung-yi, reminded me to calm down, be present and enjoy the ride. Besides, there aren’t any “close door” buttons to poke, nor will you experience loud music or mirror selfie opportunities inside the shadowy lift. Instead, a meditative soundtrack softly echoes, and an equally meditative ceramic piece by Fung-yi adorns the lift’s wall.
More than 400 pieces of serenity-emitting original artwork are thoughtfully displayed throughout the property. Stop by the gorgeous Guggenheim-like atrium on Level 38. It offers an unforgettable sight: Japanese artist Hirotoshi Sawada’s multi-story stainless steel wall sculpture, “Rise,” which does exactly what its name implies. It rises above a rippling pool of water, climbing the atrium’s white walls like an enchanted beanstalk, up to the heavenly skylight. If you click on the location tag for The Upper House on Instagram, you’ll see that this serene stunner is quite liked.
Speaking of serene stunners, let’s (finally!) talk about the 117 guest rooms. Housed on Levels 43 through 48, all of the sky-high, apartment-like accommodations — including studios, suites and penthouses — are breathtakingly spacious. Even the studios, which happen to be the largest in the “standard room” category in Hong Kong, make particularly perfect staycations for residents of the tightly compact city. Minimalist and oozing understated opulence, this is the type of home-away-from-home you’ll dream of making your permanent residence. Other consistencies across the offerings include luscious beds paired with cloud-like comforters and pillows, an impressively stocked “maxi bar” where everything (besides wine and spirits) is complimentary, a fancy faucet that provides filtered drinking water, an espresso machine, several coffee table books on art and design, and 300-square-foot bathrooms featuring natural limestone floors and walls, double vanities, many mirrors, a brass handled toilet and sustainable bath products from Bamford.
Ascend a few limestone steps and enter the bathing area. Glowing in atmospheric amber-hued lighting and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s a spa-like sanctuary amidst the clouds. Then there’s the show-stopping centerpiece, a freestanding limestone bathtub, which is spectacularly deep and fit for a leggy supermodel or two. Just the sight of its grandness could turn a showers-only fan into an instant bath person. That is until they spot the walk-in, open rain shower.
The wow factor doesn’t stop there. Rooms also come with bucket list-worthy views of Victoria Harbour or Victoria Peak via lofty windows, which I assume are heavily soundproofed because the city’s piercing symphony of construction drills and dinging trams felt a million miles away. The panoramas are everything, and in my 1,230-square-foot Upper Suite on the 46th floor, they were everywhere — from the bedroom’s matcha green cushioned window seats to the sumptuous living room’s humongous pale gray L-shaped lounger. But it’s The Peak’s vast greenery, admired best when soaking in that glorious bath, that might make you believe you’re immersed in a steamy onsen somewhere surreal and mountainous in Japan. Important tip: if you’re not interested in all of Hong Kong getting a peek, be sure to use the remote-controlled blinds at night. (You’re safe from the sight of others during daylight, so go on and disrobe sans blinds.)
From the hibernation-friendly chambers to that out-of-this-world tub, good luck pulling yourself away from your slice of paradise. But you’d be missing out because The Upper House unsurprisingly is home to Hong Kong’s hottest hotspot, Salisterra, 49 stories up in the sky. The awe factor hits the moment you stumble onto the Sky Bridge, the candle-lined walkway overlooking the atrium and illuminated by the skylight that guides you into the restaurant. Expect to watch as designer-clad Hong Kong socialites and influencers strut down the Sky Bridge like it’s a fashion week catwalk. (Okay, that might’ve just been me after a few extra Dirty Martinis.)
The interior of the perpetually buzzy restaurant embodies a hip Mediterranean bistro, from the plush seating in Mediterranean coastal-inspired tones like terracotta orange, burgundy and dusty turquoise, to the cocktails, such as the Mediterranean Smash (basil-infused gin, Italicus and lemon). The all-day restaurant, whose name means “salt of the earth” in Latin, is an especially popular spot for afternoon tea, where reservations are recommended. For dinner, reservations are essential. Salisterra is the beating pulse of the hotel. It’s the place to see astonishing bird’s eye Victoria Harbour views, plus Hong Kong’s best dressed. And sometimes, you just might spot an in-town celebrity, especially during Art Basel. Luckily, the menu, helmed by Executive Chef Cary Docherty, is just as delicious as the restaurant’s feel-fabulous vibes. It features a range of dishes inspired by the coastal regions of France, Italy and Spain, including vitello tonnato, seafood risotto, bouillabaisse and bake-to-order (see also: must-order) madeleines with lavender cream.
There’s no need to hit the town after dinner. Grab a drink at the restaurant’s bar, then make your way to the rear of the bar where you’ll find Green Room, an intimate, glamorous drinking den that looks like a peacock green shooting location from an unreleased Wes Anderson flick. Inquire about the event calendar because the lively cocktail lounge often plays host to nights featuring comedians and drag queens. Also check out the calendar for Up Close, the hotel’s signature events series and the hottest ticket in town for intimate talks with cultural tastemakers, artists, entrepreneurs and the innovative like. The sought-after events takes place by an expansive fireplace in the Sky Lounge, located on the opposite end of the Sky Bridge, where previous guests have included everyone from Dr. Jane Goodall to Christian Louboutin.
Since opening in 2009 by Asia’s hottest hotel group, Swire Hotels, The Upper House has established itself as one of the most stylishly tranquil hotels in not just Hong Kong, but the world. Need more proof? Just this month, it was rewarded with the #4 position on the World’s 50 Best Hotels list. During my two-night stay, Hong Kong was hit with record-breaking rainfall. But even an apocalyptic vista from my suite couldn’t disturb my peace. (My 16-hour, fully-booked return flight on the other hand…)
I’m back in my no-frills New York City apartment, where I have closed my Amazon-purchased curtains until further notice as a result of jet lag and staycation-is-over-induced situational depression. When things get dark, I may or may not shut my eyes and give my shoebox-sized apartment a generous spritz from my bottle of The Upper House’s signature scent. It’s a citrusy, multi-sensory reminder that home is indeed where the heart is. Unfortunately, I left mine somewhere on a luxurious limestone floor 8,000-plus miles away.
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