The Peninsula Hotel’s Classic Afternoon Tea is on many visitors’ “must-do” lists when in Hong Kong. Such was the case when our fellow expat friend, Julie, prepared to return to her home in the States. We had all been members of the same “Foon Ying” group when we arrived not long ago. Foon Ying (meaning “welcome”) is designed to help newcomers adjust to life in Hong Kong. Now, so soon, it was time for Julie to leave. As her days in Hong Kong dwindled, we decided that the Peninsula was the perfect place for a send-off.
A throwback to Hong Kong’s colonial days, High Afternoon Tea is quite an elegant affair. The menu is quintessentially British: scones, tea cakes, cucumber sandwiches all served on tiered silver trays accompanied by an assortment of teas. The music of a small chamber ensemble wafts down over the lobby as patrons take in the pure elegance of it all. One gets the impression that the cast of Downton Abbey will process down the grand staircase at any moment.
The high ceilings and gilded columns of the expansive lobby evoke images of timeless grandeur. For the past 80 years, Peninsula has hosted governors, generals and visiting royalty. It is Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, opening in December 1928 in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon just across from Hong Kong Island. Kowloon was the last stop on the Trans-Siberian rail link that brought visitors from Europe. Tsim Sha Tsui is also where passengers disembarked from ocean liners. It was here on Christmas Day, 1941 at the end of the Battle of Hong Kong, that British colonial officials surrendered to the Japanese.
Expats know that friends come and go very quickly. It won’t be the last time one of our friends departs, but for one afternoon, as so many ladies have done before us at the iconic hotel, we sipped tea, ate scones and enjoyed pleasant company, even with the knowledge that our time here is only fleeting. The Peninsula provided the perfect backdrop for a delightful afternoon.