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Old Aug 28, 06, 9:24 pm
Peter N-H
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 153
Originally Posted by G8rGrrl
Also, not sure if you're aware, but I found a very inexpensive set of city guides for Asia and Australia that cater to more upscale tastes. It's about $9 for each city that you choose, and there is a 3-city box set that includes Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai for about $23. The guides even feature a few pre-planned shopping routes, which I plan to use.
These guides are in no way cheap, since for your $9 you get merely a single sheet of concertinaed paper. For your $27 you get only a fraction of a book, with very little useful detail, and with camp a high priority in making selections over perhaps other more useful criteria. With regular new editions these flyers are sometimes more up-to-date than printed guides, but in general only at the highest end, and telling you little about real China, and a lot about keeping yourself largely in a Western environment while there. At the right time in the book publishing cycle they might just make a worthwhile if rather expensive supplement to your guide of choice.

Here's a review of the Hong Kong edition published a couple of years ago, which tells you rather more:

Finally someone has produced a series of pocket guides which actually fit in the pocket. Luxe City Guides are concertinas of stiff card currently covering Hong Kong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, and Bali, which collapse to a mere 7.5cm by 15cm. They’re designed to be worn in the shirt pocket, logo outwards, to show you’re not one of the herd.

At first sight the guides seems to be the triumph of camp over content. “Greetings, Shimmerknicks,” opens the Hong Kong edition, before getting practical: “On a budget? Don’t come to Hong Kong.”

Advice throughout is in the manner of someone with a well-manicured hand giving your bicep a gentle squeeze supposedly of emphasis but in fact to see how much muscle is there.

The look matches the general tone, in designer-approved but eye-unfriendly SMALL CAPS throughout. One of the 22 panels is rather wasted with the standard claims of excellence found on the back cover of any guide, including the silly and self-contradictory assertion that it knows of “secret places”.

“You need only concern yourself with these...” opens the list of accommodation confidently, before describing The Peninsula (one of the best and most famous hotels in the world—hardly a well-kept secret) and the excellent but equally well-known Grand Hyatt.

Nor need the reader expect much practical detail in such a small space. The Peninsula is a “glammy old dolly... smart as a carrot and sweet as a nut” with a “fleet of rentable Rolls Royces [sic] (for shopping emergencies)”. All this is both true and to the point, but rates are not given. If you need to ask, sugarlips, you probably can’t afford it.

The guide only lists five properties altogether, but it lives up to its claim to be more up-to-date than others by including the brand-new and Phillippe Starck-designed JIA Boutique Hotel, which probably won’t be appearing in other guides for at least 12 months.

In the restaurant selections it’s possible to detect the hands of Hong Kong’s cannier PR people, although newly-opened choices such as Aqua at the top of Kowloon’s latest tower, No. 1 Peking Road, were so fashionable in March that not even the Peninsula’s concierge or the PRs themselves could get me a table. The guide claims to offer “the best of the best”, and Aqua was indeed the hottest of hot.

The guide proclaims itself “Brutally frank, and sometimes, frankly, brutal.” Hong Kong’s Temple Street night market is obviously far from glam enough, described as “Everything you never wanted in one rancid place.” Macau’s casinos win the crushing, “Take your pick, they’re all pretty foul.”

The claim to have “services you can’t find in any other guide” is certainly justified. “Sculptress Louise Soloway life-casts body parts into plaster, porcelain, or bronze so you can remember what they looked like before they dropped around your ankles.” This is certainly a remove from riding the Star Ferry across the harbour to find a tailor to copy that favourite shirt.

No replacement for a full-scale book, Luxe is nevertheless an entertaining supplement to your usual choice of guide, and with considerably more charisma. Excellent on spas and shopping, feeding and flirting, it also offers several compressed but detailed sightseeing walks, although many of the sights are shops.

With new editions every six months it certainly has its finger on the pulse, poppet. Probably on the one in the groin.

Peter N-H
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