Vertical limit

R Pallavi        Print Edition: Jan 8, 2012

In a world where civilisations clash for supremacy, height is an important advantage. No, we're not talking about anatomy, or Napoleon, but cities and how they are built. Skyscrapers may not be the best way to gauge development, but they stand testimony to commercial and technological prowess; something East Asia's governments are acutely aware of. Here, soaring skylines symbolise aspirations of post-colonial states and exemplify national clout. A perfect example is Hong Kong's tallest-and the world's eighth tallest skyscraper- the International Commerce Centre. The top 17 floors of this 484m structure house the Ritz Carlton, and have become the latest hangout for the region's elite travellers.

Billed as the world's highest hotel, the Ritz is a super-comfortable aerie with unparalleled views of Hong Kong's Victoria harbour and the concrete jungle around it. At the Ritz, you can experience the city in its entirety, even if you don't have time to head out. Just perfect for those ultra-short business hops that leave you with absolutely no time for sightseeing. Since its launch last March, this 75th Ritz Carlton has established itself, by virtue of its commanding height, as one of the world's most coveted properties.

The hotel offers a Rolls-Royce pick and drop for privileged guests
The hotel offers a Rolls-Royce pick and drop for privileged guests
A circular drive-way takes guests to the arrival lobby on the ninth floor of the ICC tower. Here, the staff escort you through a glass door, flanked by immaculate greens and fountains, into an ocean-blue marbled hall with tastefully-arranged bouquets of purple flowers. Once the front desk runs a quick background check, you gain access to the wood and onyx lift lobby with marble damask elevators. These whisk you to the hotel's main lobby 94 floors higher in just 52 seconds. With clogged ears and a slightly dizzy head, your tryst with high-living has begun.

Capitalising on its location, the hotel features floorto-ceiling glass walls for a 360 degree view of Hong Kong's downtown district, Kowloon. Occasionally, a cloud floats by reminding you of just how high up you are. Here, the hotel has deliberately chosen muted colours and dim lighting to guide your eyes to the windows and the splendid vistas beyond.

The business lounge by night
The business lounge by night
The black marble and onyx floors are chequered with rich, rust coloured hand-tufted wool and silk carpets. At the crossroads of the orient and occident, the Ritz is furnished with contemporary Chinese artworks. Occupying floors 106 to 117 are 312 guest rooms and suites. Each one has been thoughtfully equipped with a telescope. Yes, they really do want you to enjoy the view. Oriental accents are everywhere: from the silkpanelled walls, to the floral motifs on the carpets and even the bright tangerine, silk-lined interiors of the Chinese jewel-box shaped closets. While the rooms guarantee comfort, chances are you won't spend too much time in them.

On level 102, just below the main lobby, are the Ritz's restaurants. The first is Tin Lung Heen, a Chinese finedining experience. Conveying a spirit of fire, an important symbol in Chinese mythology, the restaurant features two giant, convex chandeliers. Each is dotted with more than 100,000 Swarovski crystals. Here, you can savour traditional Chinese delicacies like braised bird's nest and char-grilled barbecued pork, which can be washed down with steaming cups of traditional herbal tea.

A walk through the colourfully lit wine cellar transports you to the southern Italian restaurant Tosca. The two giant fountains bang in the middle of the dining area make the restaurant's aqua theme evident. Touted as one of Hong Kong's best Italian eateries, Tosca offers excellent seafood options such as Sardinian red shrimp and grilled Mediterrenean cuttlefish. The food is cooked right before you in a live kitchen, adding a dash of flamboyance. Just above the restaurants lies the Chocolate Library. Furnished and upholstered in cocoa-tones, this open lounge is just the place to enjoy a framboise tart, a white chocolate berry shot or confit macaroons.

Each suite comes with a telescope for a great view of Victoria harbour
Each suite comes with a telescope for a great view of Victoria harbour
Touted as the highest bar in the world, Ozone is located on the top floor. With it, the Ritz hopes to change Hong Kong's after-hour's scene. In its edgy, mirror and marble interiors, lies a sushi counter, a DJ console, an open bar and scattered lounge seating. Here, you can devour oysters and caviar as you sip on signature cocktails.

Besides two private dining rooms, the larger of which looks out onto the harbour, there's an option for outdoor al fresco dining. Remember to book your table well in advance, else the hundreds of employees from the numerous offices below the hotel will just beat you to it.

The fun at the Ritz is mostly restricted to Ozone. The rest of the Ritz is best described as a serious business hotel. This comes across in the sombre dress-code you are required to maintain-an unspoken expectation from the staff. The 116th floor features a business lounge complete with meeting rooms, a library, computers with Wi-Fi connectivity and a club concierge facility. Besides personalised check-in and check-out service, the Club Lounge offers 24-hour food and beverage facilities. And since work and wellness go hand-inhand, sharing the 116th floor with the business lounge is a well-appointed spa. This one is run by the international spa consultancy ESPA. Like most things at the Ritz, it too is billed as the world's highest spa and offers therapeutic oriental and jade stone treatments. If the thought of lying still on a massage bed doesn't energise you, head to the rooftop pool and the multi-gym next to it.

More than anything else, your stay at the Ritz gives you a novel and intriguing perspective of this glitzy and fast-paced city. In the race for the title of 'the most innovatively designed concept hotel', The Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong, stands tall, quite literally.
Price HK$ 6,000 to HK$100,000 per night(plus tax)

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