My wife and I spent two days at the Panda Hotel. Because we crossed over to China to visit Shenzhen in between the two days, we stayed in different rooms, the first time on the 25th floor and the second time on the 13th floor. Both rooms had identical layouts and were clean and spacious. They were large enough for a two-seater couched to be placed in front of the TV. Both rooms had ensuite bathrooms, but the difference was that the long bath on the 25th floor was delightfully deeper than normal (perfect for a good soak), whereas the water in that on the 13th floor barely covered the belly. (No, I don’t have a beer belly.) I found the hotel staff members manning the reception and concierge desks courteous and helpful. They spoke good and generally accentless English. Gone was the sing-song twang that I remember from my last visit to Hong Kong some 25 years ago.
The Tsuen Wan sector where the Panda Hotel is located is away from the city centre, and is hence not the hub of Hong Kong’s business bustle. But that’s precisely the attraction of the area. This is the visitor’s opportunity to see more of the other face of Hong Kong that you don’t normally see on CNN or Bloomberg TV: the vibrant daily life of its citizens. A short walk from the hotel takes you to the neighbourhood of Chuen Lung Street where shops and roadside stalls compete with one another to sell all kinds of market fare, from fresh pork, fruits, vegetables and condiments to waxed meats and dried seafood. Vendors loudly extol the virtues of their wares (sometimes with the help of recordings), beckoning passers-by. Others call out the special offers of the day. All transactions are in Cantonese. But don’t worry if you don’t speak the language because most items have price labels. You only need to point.
Speaking of price labels, a lot of the prices are quoted per 500 grams of the produce. This might puzzle some visitors: why label the price per half kilogram instead of per kilogram? The reason for this is that the traditional Chinese unit of weight measurement is the ‘kati’, which is approximately 600 grams. Pricing goods per 500 grams enables older clientele to have an easy grasp of the price per kati that they are familiar with.
There is no lack of shopping outlets, including some large modern shopping malls, close to the hotel and even within the same building as the hotel. If you have, nevertheless, a hankering for designer labels, the hotel has a free shuttle running from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at hourly intervals to take you to the upmarket Kowloon shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui. Close by the shuttle drop off-pick up point is Harbour City Shopping Mall that is worth a visit. Walk to the pier where, in the evening, you can see the lights of Hong Kong Island. The hotel shuttle also stops at Mong Kok, another lively shopping area enroute, on request. Note, however, that there is no shuttle pick-up from Mong Kok.
Despite the many strong points of the Panda Hotel, the main disappointment was the absence of free Wifi that had been promised. Having read earlier hotel responses to Trip Advisor reviews, I was aware that the previous hotel practice had been to provide free Wifi only for rooms booked through the Internet (and not through a travel agent). But my understanding was that this condition had since been lifted and that - in the words of the hotel management responding to a December 2013 TripAdvisor posting - “… free Wi-Fi will be offered from 1 Jan 2014”. No conditions, such as a requirement to book online, were set. I explained this to the receptionist at check-in, and I actually showed her a printout of this pledge made by the hotel. But no reasoning on my part could sway her. The hotel was quite adamant in not honouring its pledge of free Wifi. If I wanted this facility, it would cost HK$120 per day. That would have been a lot to pay for spending a few minutes mainly to update my email. Panda Hotel should realise that few guests come all the way to Hong Kong just to surf the internet the whole day. Hotel Wifi is mainly a facility to relieve the guest of an inconvenience. In this connection, it is only fair to mention that - less conveniently perhaps - ‘free’ Wifi was available at the hotel’s Sports Bar. I use the word ‘free’ loosely because it was free only “with any patronage”. So even here, ‘free Wifi’ came with a cost (if you’d excuse the oxymoron).
I did manage to get free Wifi a short walk from the hotel. Here’s how. Emerging from the hotel exit along the overhead walkway, turn right at the T junction (whereas turning left would take you to the trains). At the end of the walkway, at street level, you will find the Sweet Potato Noodles shop nearby. (The English writing on the signage is quite small; you have to search for it). The Sichuan-style noodles served there were excellent (although they might be a tad too spicy for Western palates). Enjoy your noodles along with the free Wifi, courtesy of the Seven-Eleven outlet next door. Here, then, is a refreshing contrast to the hotel. Free Internet is available from the noodle shop which makes no claim to the fact, while the Seven-Eleven welcomes your patronage but does not demand it in offering a Wifi facility that is truly and unconditionally free. Nevertheless, please do be considerate and don’t overstay your welcome at the noodle shop if it is the peak hour. The tiny shop has only four tables which strangers share with one another.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Panda Hotel is one of the largest hotels in Hong Kong. The combination of our friendly service, approximately 1000 comfortable guest rooms and suites along with four highly acclaimed restaurants and catering venues with full range of business and leisure facilities, it makes Panda Hotel your true home away from home. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Panda Hotel Hong Kong
- Panda Hong Kong