And when Patten sailed away on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia in the early hours of July 1, 1997, having handed Hong Kong back to China, the Regent’s party (tickets were a capitalist HK$2,500 – plus 10 per cent) offered a perfect perspective of the cheers, the tears, the flotilla of boats, the news helicopters, the ceaseless rain …
Two years later, millennium night at the Regent was marked by One Party – Two Centuries.
On both occasions, favoured guests received special mementos made by Tiffany: a porcelain box in the shape of a star with China’s flag on it to mark Hong Kong’s celestial repositioning and a porcelain box decorated with a golden dragon; the Western date of 2000 was also the Year of the Dragon.
By the turn of the century, with its excellent feng shui, the Regent reigned over its patch of shoreline.
When I did a story in May 2000, tracking 24 hours in its life, starting at 3am as housekeeping collected the room-service breakfast orders dangling from each door handle, there was the curious sense of being on an ocean liner, as if some force humming beneath the harbour fuelled the entire enterprise.
In fact, the Regent had quietly had its own handover: in August 1992, it had been acquired by Four Seasons Hotels, which retained the name. In June 2001, however, having been sold to Bass Hotels and Resorts, the first Regency era ended and the hotel became – some people uttered the new title with a slight sniff – the InterContinental.
Three months later, the events of September 11 meant that North American guests, who made up half the hotel’s usual clientele, hesitated to fly.
In 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome – Sars – arrived and tourists left.
In 2004, the Avenue of Stars – which has nothing to do with the Space Museum, being a Hong Kong version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to entice visitors from the Chinese mainland – was built on a strip of concrete that snaked along the water just beyond the hotel’s windows. Kiosks were placed along it. These played jingly, ear-wormy music all day long.
In 2015, a consortium of investors led by Goodwin Gaw, chairman of Gaw Capital Partners, bought the hotel, which continued to operate under the InterContinental brand.
In the interim, other changes have taken place. The original Regent had been umbilically attached to the old New World Centre, which, in recent years, has morphed into the stupendous K11 Musea. Its vertical garden and the Rosewood Hotel, both owned by New World Development, now rear over the Regent’s swimming pool.
The beds and side tables are designed to look as if they are floating and the overall effect is soothing – although there is rather a nervous moment climbing into and out of the free-standing bathtub.
This is the subtle luxury of the zeitgeist: a harbourside room costs HK$6,000 (US$770) plus 10 per cent.
After the gala dinner, guests gathered in the Lobby Lounge to watch a troupe of acrobats batter themselves against the Regent’s windows.
As participants in the “first vertical facade dance in Hong Kong”, the men wore black tie, the women were in red gowns that streamed behind them like flags. They seemed to be pleading to be let in: they pressed their hands and feet high against the glass in a strangely eroticised frenzy. Hong Kong Island winked steadfastly behind them.
The following morning, over Harbourside’s unfailingly delicious breakfast, the hotel’s window cleaners were already at work on a cherry picker, wiping away the footprints of yesterday, getting ready for the next party.
Article was originally published from here