Forbes.com
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updated 8/31/2005 9:03:20 PM ET 2005-09-01T01:03:20

Imagine a Donald Trump-Warren Buffett hybrid who lives in Malaysia and honed his business skills trading sugar. That pretty much describes Robert Kuok, the richest man in Southeast Asia in 2004, with a net worth estimated at $4.1 billion.

The Kuok Group has partial or total stakes in everything from the South China Morning Post to Coca-Cola (nyse: KO - news - people ). Among these subsidiaries is Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, an Asian-Pacific luxury hotel group with a firm grip on the Asian hotel market and a burgeoning global presence. With more than 30 properties throughout Asia, Australia and the Middle East, and another 20 under development, the company will soon roll out the red carpet for guests in cities from Vancouver to New Delhi.

The Shangri-La hotel group encompasses two brands: Traders (high-class business hotels) and Shangri-Las, which cater to businesspeople as well as wealthy families and leisure travelers, celebrities and various VIPs.

Hong Kong is a hodgepodge of a city. Under an ever-thinning British veneer, it is a combination of the financial pyrotechnics of New York, the aesthetic influences of Los Angeles, the sweltering weather of Cambodia and a government and culture thoroughly rooted in China. In the years since the British handover in 1997, the island's wealthy ex-pat population has mostly packed up, taking their private yachts and economy-fueling conspicuous consumption with them.

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The Walt Disney Co.'s (nyse: DIS - news - people ) newest planned Disneyland, to open in September on nearby Lantau Island, will increase the number of families who visit Hong Kong. But business travelers still come in droves to the city, many of them working on the island's Central district in international banking houses such as Citibank (nyse: C - news - people ), Deutsche Bank (nyse: DB - news - people ) and Barclays. The Island Shangri-La, located in Central, is a natural magnet for them.

Slideshow: Alluring Asia

The sheer determination with which the staff here tackles their responsibility to make visitors comfortable is the first thing you notice. Uniformed doormen converge from every angle to open the doors of your car, grapple with your luggage, pull back the hotel's double glass doors in unison, and escort you to your room after check-in. In your room, "Welcome tea" waits in a wicker basket.

The hotel is 56 stories high, with 531 guest rooms and 34 suites. The rooms with panoramic views over Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon skyline are procrastination havens where you can watch the Star Ferry cross or count the fishing boats one more time before unpacking or answering your phone. Inside, the hotel has an airy atrium, and one wall is draped with the world's largest silk painting, "The Great Motherland of China," which is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records. An allegorical depiction of the country, the custom-made landscape is colorful at the bottom (South) and becomes monotone toward the top (North), where a Communist government is still in power.

The hotel's restaurants offer some of the best dining on an island known for its love of food. Petrus, on the 56th floor, is a French restaurant, while Nadaman is an incarnation of the excellent Japanese restaurant chain. Summer Palace serves traditional Cantonese food, and the Lobster Bar and Grill has casual fare and cocktails with live music. Café TOO offers breakfast, lunch and dinner at a variety of theatrical buffet stations, where you can sample dishes from all over the world.

An escalator down from the main lobby connects the hotel to Pacific Place, a three-story shopping mall at the bottom of the building. If designer fatigue sets in, cross the street from the lobby and take a walk through Hong Kong Park, which is particularly good for children. Families of turtles swim in the river that runs through the park. There's also a waterfall, and the park is big enough for a satisfying pre-dinner romp.

Business travelers at other Shangri-La locations join the Horizon Club, Shangri-La's chainwide program for corporate clients. Taking a room on the corporate floor gets you unlimited clothes pressing, expedited late or early check-in and check-out, a fax machine in your room and use of the hotel's function rooms. The Island Shangri-La has no official Horizon Club; the hotel was designed to give every guest the Horizon Club experience, and every guest room has a fax. In addition, there is a 24-hour business center with video and satellite conference facilities, courier services and Dictaphones available to borrow.

Guest room bathrooms are large, with a separate shower and bathtub, and an LCD flat-screen TV is embedded in the marble wall for square-eyed soaking. In-room amenities include broadband Internet access (there is wireless in the hotel's public areas), a private safe, refrigerator, a spare umbrella and laundry detergent, as well as a retractable clothesline that hangs over the tub. The rooms are cleaned and made up twice a day. Complimentary airport transfers in the hotel's Mercedes are offered to guests paying the published nightly rates, which start at $320.

The newly renovated Health Club and spa have a range of services available, from traditional Chinese reflexology massages to hot stone treatments, as well as hot and cold Jacuzzis and a solarium. Outside, there's a pool where you can do laps or lie in the shade, watching window cleaners work their way up the I.M. Pei-designed Bank of China building nearby.

A $30 million renovation took place in the hotel in phases from 2003 through May 2005 and involved an expansion of the Health Club, renovation of the reception area and guest rooms, and consultation with a feng shui master (whose advice is integral to the design of every Shangri-La hotel). Seven hundred and seventy chandeliers, prized for being great energizers in feng shui philosophy, hang throughout the hotel.

In Hong Kong, you can get a foot massage in Happy Valley, have a fortuneteller read your birth chart or buy dried seahorses at the local herbalist. You can gamble at the horse races, haggle for jade at the night market and visit the prime real estate of Repulse Bay and Victoria Peak. And you can choose from an impressive array of five-star hotels. Just keep in mind: Robert Kuok brings his must-impress guests to the Island Shangri-La to be wined, dined and wowed. If you follow suit, you'll see a staff so attentive and competent you'll wonder who the VIP is. At the Island Shangri-La, it's you.

Forbes Fact:
Feng shui, which means wind and water, is an ancient Chinese practice for maximizing the positive flow of chi (or energy). The Chinese believe strongly in nature, and practice feng shui in order to achieve harmony with their surroundings and gain good health, financial success and happy relationships. Many Chinese cities were even designed according to the philosophy, which is believed to be more than 3,000 years old.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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