Hong Kong’s grand Peninsula Hotel is one of the city’s most elegant landmarks – an elegant building of the art deco era, opened in 1928 at time when the skies over the then-British colony were dotted with ‘flying boats’ rather than jets.
But few visitors get to see the exclusive China Clipper lounge tucked away on the building’s 30th floor.
This aviation-themed ‘lounge within a hotel’ is reserved for guests flying on the hotel’s helicopter between the two rooftop helipads and Hong Kong airport...
... or just taking a sightseeing jaunt over the city and its enviorns.
The China Clipper lounge is named for the first Pan Am flying boats which flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong, a journey which took seven days including stop-overs.
The lounge was a pet project of Sir Michael Kadoorie, Chairman of the Peninsula’s parent company Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, who has always been fascinated by aviation and holds a helicopter licence.
The China Clipper lounge also has a subtle link to Australia – it was opened by Aussie entrepreneur and round-the-world helicopter pilot Dick Smith.
The China Clipper lounge celebrates the role of aviation in the twinned history of the Peninsula Hong Kong and the city herself.
Mementos of those days – many provided by members of the public - line the walls of the corridor which take invitation-only guests into the lounge itself.
This includes several pieces of well-worn luggage carried by the Clippers' well-heeled travellers, who paid the equivalent of US$32,500 (A$41,200) in today's money for a return ticket between San Francisco and Hong Kong.
But it was worth it. With their spacious cabins, smoking lounges, sleeping berths, dining rooms and white-uniformed attendants, the Clipper-class flying boats were the last word in luxury.
More obvious ‘statement pieces’ of the lounge’s decor include this highly-polished propeller from one of the Clipper’s engines…
… and this sparkling clean fuselage panel from a Douglas DC-4, the window of which provides a glimpse over Victoria Harbour between the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island.
There’s a much better view over the harbour from the main part of the lounge...
... which also evokes an art deco theme in the series of raked armchairs chairs, with engine piston heads as ashtrays (a holdover from the days when smoking was allowed in the lounge).
While we were touring the China Clipper lounge, every now and again came the rapid thud-thud-thud of the Aerospatiale Squirrel AS355N helicopter landing directly above.
Those rides range from a 15 minute sight-seeing tour for HK$10,000 (A$1,500) to an airport transfer (HK$26,000 or A$4,200 one way for the speedy seven minute flight).
David Flynn visited Hong Kong as a guest of Virgin Australia, the Peninsula Hotel and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.