I came, I saw, I’ve had enough…
Now fortunately, I’d been to Hong Kong before. But on my most recent trip, it occurred to me around three days in that I’d barely left the hotel. I was jet lagged, tired generally not feeling well and the amount of effort required to put on suitable clothes and take the elevator two floors up was just about all I could muster at the moment. In that sense, a hotel club lounge, especially one as decadent as the scene at the Langham Hong Kong was a godsend at the time. But wtf was I doing in Hong Kong, if I wasn’t going to leave the hotel?
I flew from London to Doha and Doha onto Hong Kong, enjoying no fewer than 14 hours in the air en route. I had landed in one of the world’s most fascinating, cultural melting pots and here I was enjoying french pastry in a high rise. This wasn’t the first time either. Hotel club lounges can be transformative and incredibly enjoyable. So much so, people embark on “mattress runs” just to lock in enough yearly nights to enjoy club lounges as a benefit.
Hotel club lounges can serve amazing utility. For the business traveler, they’re a civilized place to prepare for meetings and enjoy breakfast before facing the world. I get that and I respect that. But although I always claim “business and pleasure” at any immigration checkpoint I generally do not see myself as a business traveler, even when I have meetings. I travel in part to experience new takes on cuisine, coffee, cocktails and cultivate a deeper understanding of place. Club lounges have eaten into too much of my adventures.
It’s hard, I get it. It’s not easy turning down bottomless champagne, free canapés, convenience and often beautiful views too, but it’s just not the point of leaving home. There’s a Marriott, Hilton, IHG or Hyatt almost anywhere you go and even if you “go” boutique, your club lounge experience is curated to be comfortable, not challenging, inspiring or authentically local.
For this reason, I’m done with club lounges. That’s not to say I won’t pop in for a bottle of water before bed, but I see each “free” glass of bubbles or evening nibbles as a lost opportunity to explore. None of my happiest travel moments have taken place in hotels. They’ve come from the joy of finding the new best pastry shop I’ve ever experienced, the best view of the city or just a neighborhood that feels like where I might fit into a destination in an alternate life.