Why I Think The Upper House Hong Kong is Overrated

May 18, 2015

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Anytime The Upper House in Hong Kong has come up in conversation with fellow travelers, they’ve swooned. So on the final leg of my recent Asia trip, I was excited to finally stay there myself. And true to form, when I posted my photos from the hotel on Instagram, it seemed like everyone exclaimed,”That’s my favorite place!” And it was nice, for sure: chic, different to the point of being unique, and definitely sporting a cool design.

However, here are five solid reasons why I think The Upper House isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A view of Hong Kong's Pacific Place from the Upper House.
A view of Hong Kong’s Pacific Place from the Upper House.

1. Location. The Upper House is set next to the JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong in the heart of Pacific Place — a huge mixed-use development of apartments, offices, hotels, restaurants and shopping that’s been open since 1988 — so it’s not exactly isolated. However, to put it bluntly, it’s a hotel on top of a mall up a gigantic hill. I think there are many hotels with more convenient, fun locations in central downtown Hong Kong, such as the Mandarin Oriental and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.

Want a little relaxation while at The Upper House? You'll have to settle for a bathtub rather than a spa.
Want a little relaxation while at The Upper House? You’ll have to settle for a bathtub rather than a spa.

2. No spa. Sorry, but if your property is a Leading Hotel of the World, it really should have an on-site spa. By the time I arrived at The Upper House, I’d been on a crazy, whirlwind trip and just wanted to chill out — and I didn’t want to have to leave a high-end hotel in order to do so. On weekend mornings here, you can take part in complimentary group yoga classes on the lawn, but it’s not remotely the same as relaxing with a good old-fashioned massage.

Art abounds in the hotel, even in the guest rooms.
Art abounds in the room and bathrooms — but electrical outlets? Not so much.

3. A focus on design over function. There are 117 rooms, including 21 suites and two penthouses, all with harbor or skyline views. Features include large bedrooms, huge bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and limestone bathtubs. And while everything looked great on the surface, it was like the designer had never stayed in a hotel room before. For one thing, there were no outlets near the bed – or even in the bathroom! I’m not kidding, you’d have to blow dry your hair in the closet. Also, the doors were paper-thin; I could hear everything that happened in the hallway. None of this said high-end to me.

Dim sum deliciousness at Café Gray Deluxe. Finally, some noodles!

4. Room service fail. Coming home from sightseeing at an off hour, I wanted to get some noodles to tide me over, but the room service menu ran more along the lines of hamburgers and French fries than anything found in the eastern hemisphere. But seriously, I didn’t travel to Hong Kong to eat a hamburger — I wanted noodles while visiting a place famous for this food! It might sound nitpicky, but if you have an item on your restaurant menu, why not offer it as a room service item, as well?

Let me just say that my disappointment did not extend to the food in the hotel’s gorgeous, popular restaurant, Café Gray Deluxe, which is a great place to indulge in a traditional dim sum breakfast — including some noodles.

My room at The upper House was certainly nice, but not the Amex FHR upgrade I'd been hoping for.
My suite at The Upper House was nice, but if I hadn’t educated the staff about Amex FHR, I wouldn’t have been upgraded at all.

5. Amex FHR recognition. Room rates at The Upper House start at $5,000 HK ($644.91 USD, including taxes) for a Studio 70 Island View. However, my American Express Platinum card enabled me to book my two nights at The Upper House through the card’s exclusive online portal/concierge service, American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, to receive daily breakfast for two people, a $100 property credit, complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and an upgrade to a Suite. When I asked for this upgrade at the front desk, though, the agent told me no right off the bat, without even looking into availability. This particular agent was a junior staff member who didn’t understand the Amex FHR program and therefore didn’t know the benefits – but no one else at the hotel seemed to know them, either.

Overall, I think you’re better off staying closer to where the action is, at a property that’s truly full-service and high-end, rather than just another pretty face.

I look forward to hearing about your own Upper House experiences in the comments!

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