We find Mod ’60s Glam in Hong Kong’s ex-Red Light District
Driving through the Hong Kong city streets at night from the airport, our taxi takes us past vast green mountains, vertiginously perplexing derelict high-rises, a bay of futuristic light shows projected upon gleaming 5-star accommodations and then finally through the previously seedy streets of Wan Chai. I look out into the neon-lit lanes and my eyes light upon countless Cantonese BBQs, pokey gambling parlours and gogo-style strip clubs. As we emerge from beneath an overpass, an 80-foot black and gold banner lights up the side of a building and announces our arrival at ‘THE FLEMING’.
Surrounded by greenery, mountains and ocean bay views, Hong Kong is as much a nature lover’s destination as it is a foodie hotspot, fashionista paradise, history buff buffet or glamourama playpen. And The Fleming Hotel, located in Hong Kong’s hipster haven and ex-red light district of Wan Chai, manages, if you can believe it, to encapsulate all such diverse worlds in its nautically-themed ’60s throwback to the city’s maritime trading heyday.
The ’60s marked an incredible decade of change for Hong Kong in what was then a hotbed of culture and counterculture – east meets west, capitalism meets communism, worker rebellions meets old world aristocracy – you name it, they had it and from this ideological maelstrom they developed an iconic style that remains deeply embedded in the city to this day. Every noisy market, street art-strewn wall, hidden cocktail bar, cracked pavement, gleaming tower block and Michelin-starred street cart acts as a love letter to the city’s divergent pasts. It’s no wonder then that The Fleming chose the city’s most swinging decade as its reference point for style.
After gathering our bags and saying cheerio to our friendly taxi driver, we head into the darkly lit lobby and are immediately drawn into the romantic, maritime world of mod ’60s Hong Kong. We hang about for a few minutes, unsure of what to do with ourselves, before a helpful chap informs us we need to check in on the 1st floor. Blushing, we pile into the brightly lacquered red lifts and ascend to reception. During our brief check-in, we learn our room number, check-out time and that we have a complimentary drink waiting for us downstairs in Osteria Marzia, the hotel’s on-site restaurant run by the of-the-moment culinary heroes from Black Sheep Group.
We’ve been travelling non-stop for two days, so after arriving in our room we immediately flop down into the sumptuously thick sheets of our queen bed…wait. Did I see a welcome cake on the desk? Yes, and oh-my-word it is the most delicious chocolate ganache/sponge/jammy thing from the nearby award-winning patisserie! Buoyed by a much-needed sugar hit, I start to properly take in my surroundings. They are exquisite. Impeccable. A genuine perfection in style. Dark mossy green panelling is contrasted with soft white walls, accentuated with stained brass fixtures and honeyed wood and wicker furniture. The seams on a paper folder are hand stitched. Not a single piece of furniture, stationary or toiletry is out of place or unmatched to the mood.
The bathroom continues the dark mossy hue with floor-to-ceiling tiled walls, lightened by an achingly beautiful grey and white marble herringbone floor. The rain shower, sink and other fixtures utilise the natural oxidative qualities of stained brass to create a delightfully organic patina. The room is moody, romantic and just a little bit too dark to really nail my wingtip eyeliner, so I call reception for one of their on-hand Old Hollywood-style starlet makeup mirrors. I still don’t nail the tips but it was nice having the extra help all the same.
All dolled up and nowhere to go, we consult the cheekily written neighbourhood guide for a fun run-down on what’s good, great and – most importantly for us this particular evening – close by. We’re reminded of the fact there is an in-demand Italian coastal restaurant just two floors down waiting to proffer us a glass of beer, wine or bubbles. Down we go. If the hotel is punctiliously designed, the restaurant is no exception. We take a seat at the bar, exchange our vouchers for drinks, tuck into a bowl of olives and soon realise that we’ve not actually slept for about 48 hours…shattered, we drag our weary bodies upstairs and sink into a welcome and restorative sleep.
Morning comes and I’m delighted to find that my partner has risen early, taken advantage of the members’ gym located just five minutes’ walk from the hotel (to which all Fleming guests get a pass), and come back via the aforementioned award-winning patisserie with coffee and hands-down the best croissant of my life. Check-out is just as breezy as check-in and after handing back our keycards, we relax in the lounge while waiting for the concierge to fetch a cab to take us to our next stop.
The Fleming is a perfect getaway for loved-up couples or a calming bolt hole for solo business travellers. It stands out as a beacon of taste and understated charm in a world that has seemingly forgotten the beauty that can be found in subtle pleasures – like a hand-stitched paper folder.
The Fleming Hong Kong, 41 Fleming Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
Tel: +852 3607 2288
Located in the heart one of Hong Kong’s coolest neighbourhoods, Wan Chai and just a short walk from the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Type of Hotel: 4-Star Urban Boutique Hotel
Number of Rooms: 66 rooms including complimentary Wi-Fi.
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: Ask reception for a makeup mirror if you’re finding the lighting in your bathroom too dark.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Melanie Chenoweth has spent the last decade scouring the globe for the best in food, travel and adventure. She loves writing about bold flavours, beautiful views and new experiences.
Photographs courtesy of The Fleming Hong Kong