Sunday, April 22, 2018

Staycation of Doing Nothing

We figure we should stay put during the Easter long weekend since half of people in Hong Kong were gone elsewhere so we could enjoy some much-needed tranquility in town, but it didn’t stop us from hopping onto the bus and head just north of our border to Shenzhen for a short overnight break for a staycation of sorts. Especially there’s a certain new hotel we would love to visit in town.

It’s a peculiar choice that Muji (無印良品), the Japanese lifestyle brand known for its minimalist design, decided to open their first-ever hotel in Shenzhen this past January, rather than any other cities in their home country of Japan or anywhere else. We are big fans of their products so we wanted to check it out whilst it’s still kinda brand new. The property is located in a new development project in Futian District called Upper Hills (深業上城), a vast complex next to a park with a shopping mall, offices, open spaces, exhibition venues and of course, a hotel (with another one still in development) – it’s clear they were trying to replicate the model of Roppongi Hills in Tokyo with a mix of commercial, business and lifestyle space within one compound. Many of the shops were not yet opened but we could definitely see the potential of this becoming a really cool place to hang out.

Our short journey to Shenzhen was not without drama (involving someone carrying an expired travel document) but we were glad that we arrived safe and sound at last. Our first order of business was a quick meal and visit to the Muji store right next to the hotel. I doubt they were the biggest store of the brand in terms of retail space - I thought at least the Fukuoka Canal City one is bigger from my recent memory – but this is the one with their complete line of products, from houseware to fashion to stationery to bookstore, plus a diner which serves breakfast to late night drinks.

During the day the diner operates as both café and restaurant, with the kitchen serving set meals complete with appetizers, main courses, soup and rice – very much like a simple Japanese home-style meal. Reckon it’s still a bit pricey in Shenzhen standard (RMB 80, or US$12 for a set meal), but the meal was delicious, quality was good with well-chosen local ingredients, interior was relaxed and there were a wide variety of dishes to choose from freshly prepared right at the open kitchen behind the counter.

After lunch, we checked in to our room and it was impressive. One we booked was probably the smallest, but nonetheless it still felt spacious with their neat layout – guess my only complaint was the bed a bit too small for two people. As you could imagine, (almost) everything was what you would find in the Muji store from the wooden furniture to the classic wall-mounted CD player designed by Naoto Fukasawa (plus other appliances) to stationery to the set of bathroom amenities. We felt we stepped right into a Muji showroom except this time we practically lived inside one. For the rest it’s what you would expect from any decent Japanese properties including the remote-controllable curtain, automatic toilet and a nice shower booth. The room even came with a balcony - though there isn't much of a view outside except for a random wooden ark in the terrace which we didn't know whether it's part of Muji or the Upper Hills - but at least our room was not facing the street and we didn't hear noise from outside whatsoever despite the hotel took up the lower floors of the building.

We also loved the public space at the hotel too. Each floor came with a comfortable (and aesthetically-decorated) lounge area, with zen-style flower arrangements throughout the buildings, and there’s also a gym and meeting room facilities in-house. Our favorite part was the library with the shelves filled with design and art books, with long benches and lounge chair so people could sit back and read. The next morning after breakfast we just spent time browsing through the books and reading them (which surprisingly most were still in mint condition as if no one has a laid a finger on them these 3 months since the hotel opened – perhaps we were the only few who found this amazingly enjoyable) Well if there’s one thing I didn’t like - in the hotel brochure it mentioned it’s open 24 hours but we discovered it only opens 6am-10pm when I wanted to drop by to read before bedtime. Still, I did chill a little while there in my pajamas and slippers by myself and no one came and told me off.

The standard room rate came with breakfast (making it even more reasonably-priced than it already was) and it’s served semi-buffet style – one could choose either Chinese, Western and Japanese set at the kitchen station, and then pastries, rice, soup and drinks at the buffet table in the middle of the Diner. Our Japanese breakfast came with grilled salmon, tamago egg roll, two types of vegetables, and home-made tofu, and I have to say their croissants were properly made with good layers of buttery pastries.

All 80 rooms of the hotel were booked on the day we were there – mostly occupied by Hong Kong families crossing the border for the long weekend as you would expect – but surprisingly the restaurant wasn’t packed at all when we went down for breakfast at 9am. We could definitely see ourselves coming back for another weekend of do-nothing – after all we only managed to cover a small portion of the books in the library this time around.


More pictures from our Shenzhen stay-cation:

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