JUNE 19, 2018 — Prepping for a recent six-day trip to Hong Kong to get smart on the city’s marvelous public transit system, I decided to go for broke on a nice hotel. After studying one of the finest properties Hong Kong has to offer and a near-best place not far away, I opted for a hotel I’d never heard of. It proved to be an ideal property that met all my needs well, including the odd circumstances of my arrival and departure.
I wanted a luxe hotel in Kowloon conveniently located for walking and accessing the bus and train network. It’s been many years since I stayed in one of the famous Hong Kong palaces, and so why not? Too, my wife accompanied me, and I wanted to do something special for her.
Complicating the choice were the hours of our inbound and outbound flights. Our Cathay Pacific bird from JFK arrived before 6:00 AM, so we wanted a very early check-in in order to unpack, shower, and change clothes before spending all day in transit research.
Going home was even trickier: Our Cathay flight departed at 12:30 AM for New York, so we would need a very late check-out before leaving for the airport around 9:00 PM.
Therefore, I had to find a hotel willing to let us check in extremely early on the day of arrival and check out really late on our last day. Essentially, that meant reserving six nights, counting the first early arrival day and the last late check-out day. I was willing to pay for all six nights to assure that we would have a room on the first and last days, but I hoped to arrange for partial rates on the bookend days necessitated by our peculiar airline itinerary.
My top choice was the incomparable Langham in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon. I’ve always wanted to stay at the Langham, which has a fine reputation and is conveniently located for walking to the Star Ferry and taking Hong Kong transit buses and trains everywhere.
When I inquired directly to the hotel, I was politely advised that they could not promise the early check-in or late check-out, this despite my promise to pay for the first and last nights to assure we’d have a room. Perhaps something got lost in translation both ways, but their communications in English were, though polite, vague and not reassuring.
Too, the Langham rates, even after discounts, were steep at $536.25/night including taxes and service charges. No surprise there. Assuming full rates for the two days at the beginning and end would have set me back a total of $3218, enough to induce me to keep looking.
Next I looked at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. Located directly on Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, this property is also convenient for walking to public transit, though I doubt many of its patrons walk any more distant than the steps required to reach a limousine or taxi. My emails to the hotel were politely answered, and with a clarity I wish I had received from the Langham about the first and last days of the six I needed to book.
The Intercontinental offered a 50% rate for very early check-in the morning of our arrival and a nearly full rate for checking out at 9:00 PM on our departure day. Altogether, it averaged out to just $303.50/night including service fees and taxes, an excellent rate for six nights. The hotel didn’t promise a harbor-facing, high floor room unless I was willing to pay a lot more, but still, $303 (average) is a great rate. I was pretty sure that would be our choice.
A friend had suggested looking at the Madera Hong Kong, a brand and Hong Kong property unknown to me. Though I was leaning toward the Intercontinental, I did my research on the Madera just for good measure. What I found surprised me: a large double (by HK standards) on a high floor with an impressive city view of Kowloon, a massive and luxurious bathroom and shower with Jacuzzi, Continental breakfast, fridge stocked with complimentary drinks and snacks, and the hotel would let me book six nights, no questions asked.
This intrigued me, so I dug more and discovered the Madera is a Spanish outfit projecting a youthful, modernist vibe at its properties. Their Kowloon hotel is very conveniently located just off Nathan Road, the busiest north-south corridor in central Kowloon. And only a block or two from the MTR Jordan Road subway station, perfect for my transit system research and study.
The cherry on top was the price, less than $200 per night, even after taxes and service charges.
I booked it, and we had a near-perfect experience at the Madera. After all food and drink charges, taxes, and service, the Madera cost an average of $214/night. That’s an astonishing bargain in Hong Kong.
The Madera was a good choice. It was modern and friendly, the beds were comfy to sleep on, the A/C worked very well (important since daytime temps were in the nineties), and the location was perfect on Nathan Road. Upon arrival, hotel staff correctly had our room (1801) ready.
We found the young Madera staff to be universally competent and nice throughout our six-day stay. The building and our room were quiet, too.
The Madera boasts a rooftop bar with breaktaking views of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour. The bar itself is small, but classy, with adjacent stairs leading to the outside rooftop sitting area.
Here’s the view from the edge of the rooftop bar.
Reflecting on my choice of the little-known Madera for six nights at $1284 versus the “big deal” Langham ($3217) or Intercontinental ($1815), the Madera was a steal—and that price included all our extra food and drinks. We sacrificed no comfort, space, or convenience choosing the Madera over the posh brands and saved hundreds of dollars. It made paying for the two extra days at the beginning and end of our trip painless.