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No. 5, April 2000
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The Peninsula Hong Kong
The history of "the finest hotel east of Suez"
Photographs: copyright Roundhouse Publications (Asia) Ltd.
Online hotel reservations for The Peninsula Hong Kong.
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The Hong Kong Peninsula is one of the world's leading hotels. The 70-year old institution is known by its nickname: "The Pen". When the hotel first welcomed the public, on December 11, 1928, it was already a survivor. Construction work had begun on January 2, 1922. The completion date was changed from 1924 to 1926. When the British rushed troops to Hong Kong for possible military action against the Kuomintang, the Military Authorities saw the Peninsula, with it's structural work complete, as an ideal location for a temporary barracks, For the next 14 months, the British occupied it. When the soldiers eventually moved out, repair teams moved in the replace the flooring and all the bathtubs. 

The Peninsula, Hong Kong.

The panorama view from the China Clipper.
In the 1930s the Pen was named "the finest hotel east of Suez". But for a long time, Hong Kong remained in the shadow of the more cosmopolitan and prosperous Shanghai. The Pen was and is run by the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited.
 
The 1937 bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese caused an influx of 650,000 refugees in the next two years. With the onset of World War II in September 1939, refugees began to look elsewhere for safe haven. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and, later, Hong Kong and Malaya. On Christmas 1941, the British signed the capitulation document at the Peninsula. For two months, the Hong Kong Governor was placed in Room 336 of the hotel, when he was imprisoned in Woosung, near Shanghai.
 
The Japanese manager of The Hong Kong Hotel's barber shop turned out to be a Japanese spy and a naval commander - taking advantage of the informal atmosphere of haircuts and shaves to cull valuable information about the status of British forces. 
The Japanese accepted defeat on August 14, 1945. Discussions between the Japanese and the British took place at the hotel on September 3, 1945.
 
A new era began for Hong Kong's "Grand Old Lady", as the Pen is also known today, when it was de-requisitioned in June 1946. With the 1953 closing of The Hong Kong Hotel, The Pen became the company's flagship, a status it holds today. The rich and famous became its guests.
 
The Pen's postwar success is closely related to its Swiss General Managers Felix Bieger and later Peter Gautschi. In the 1990s, a Philippe Starck-designed restaurant opened. Its name: "Felix", as a tribute to the former General Manager. Rolf Heiniger and Leo Gaddi are other Swiss names associated with the hotel's success. The restaurant Gaddi's had opened in 1953.
 
In June 1990 work on a 30-storey tower of the Pen began. It was completed in December 1994 and made the Pen a more lucrative investment, without lowering its standards of excellency.
 
Source:
The Peninsula: Portrait of a Grand Old Lady. Hong Kong, Roundhouse Publications (Asia) LTD, 1997, 224 p.
 
Online hotel reservations for The Peninsula Hong Kong.
Click here for hotels of all categories in Hong Kong.
 

The Peninsula's Lobby.

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 5, April 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  Advertise  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.