I used to think an airport transfer was simply a welcome convenience upon arrival in a new city. I've just changed my mind.
I'm travelling from Hong Kong airport to The Peninsula Hotel. Our "limo" is a cut above the ordinary executive Mercedes: a deep green Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with an immaculately uniformed chauffeur. It's quite possibly the most beautiful car in which I've ever travelled. Just breathing in the distinctive luxury-car scent of leather upholstery and polished wood makes me feel special.
I think that's the point. The right kind of transfer can change your whole perception of a hotel stay, and first impressions – and bucket list moments – don't come much better than this.
At the hotel we're whisked through the entrance, past liveried bellboys in pillbox hats and into the opulent lobby, with soaring ceilings, monumental columns and plenty of gilt decoration. A string quartet is entertaining the guests at the tail-end of the famous afternoon tea service, as cocktail hour gets into full swing.
On the southern tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, at the edge of Victoria Harbour, The Peninsula is Hong Kong's oldest hotel and one of the oldest in Asia. Founded by the Kadoorie family in 1928, it was built directly opposite the quays where ocean liners docked with the intention of becoming "the finest hotel east of Suez".
With such esteemed heritage, it's not really surprising the hotel is a significant Hong Kong tourist attraction.
Such reverence for history and heritage doesn't mean the hotel is old-fashioned, however.
We're ushered to our guest room, in the modern tower behind the original building, to find a very contemporary, streamlined space in a soothing palette of cream, caramel and dark chocolate, with lacquered timber, textured fabrics and laser-cut metal flowers covering one wall.
It's luxe, minimalist, restful and tasteful at the same time. Among other features, the bathroom has metres of marble, a deep tub, separate loo and shower, his and hers vanities, a television and a hands-free phone. A costly refurbishment a couple of years ago has delivered cutting-edge in-room technology with software the company developed itself and has since rolled out to all other Peninsula properties.
Each room has at least three interactive digital tablets preset in one of 11 languages. You can control everything in the room on this device, including the lights and the "Do not disturb" sign, as well as viewing room service menus and even watching television and movies (noise-cancelling headphones provided) if you can't be bothered with the regular TV screen. And good news for more mature guests is that it's easy to operate and easy to read.
With technology come economic advantages for guests, including free international telephone calls, which are channelled through the hotel's VoIP system.
The doorbell rings and a housemaid delivers a pot of jasmine tea, which I sip gazing at the mesmerising view across Victoria Harbour and the lights of Hong Kong Island's sky scrapers. It's a small gesture but a welcome one. Indeed it's little things, such as the hand-made chocolates delivered to the room each day, that make such an impression.
Like any good destination hotel worth its 1000-thread-count sheets, you don't need to leave its confines to experience the best of the city.
The signature afternoon tea in the lobby, complete with dainty finger sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream, might be the entry-level Peninsula dining experience for many, but there's a United Nations of food offerings beyond it.
I try making the famous shrimp dumplings in a cooking class organised through The Peninsula Academy. After an hour of rolling and filling and pleating and pinching, I realise that this is an art that takes a lifetime to master.
There's also a choice of drinking spots from the clubby Bar, all polished mahogany and leather seats, just begging you to try one of the extensive range of single malts, to the uber-cool Philippe Starck-designed Felix at the top of the hotel's modern tower, which serves killer cocktails and innovative modern-European dishes.
You could spend an entire day at The Peninsula Spa, a haven of indulgent treatments, where even the waiting areas have knockout views. The spa's design fuses traditional Chinese elements with contemporary marble, timber and textured granite and has swagged plenty of awards.
The changing areas have hammam-style steam rooms, saunas and aromatherapy showers, which with a turn of a nozzle take you on a global journey of precipitation experiences. The aromatherapy massage does its job so well I'm in a deep slumber in minutes.
One of the beauties of the Peninsula is its position, five minutes' walk from the terminal for the Star Ferries, which travel back and forth across the harbour, and directly above the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR, part of the city's efficient metro network, so you're in easy reach of the airconditioned, interconnected arcades of Central, Admiralty and the areas beyond. And there are plenty of red taxis if you're not taking the Peninsula green Rolls.
There's something truly special about staying in a hotel that is an important part of the city's tourist infrastructure. On my first visit to Hong Kong many years ago, I was one of the many tourists snapping shots of the Peninsula's facade and driveway, where the Rolls-Royce fleet takes pride of place.
On a subsequent visit I made it to the lobby and queued for more than an hour to experience afternoon tea. (A tip for those partial to a cuppa and a finger sandwich: house guests get priority reservations.)
There's nothing quite like staying at an iconic heritage hotel. For a real splash-out, a good dose of history, tradition and impeccable old-fashioned service in a very modern metropolis, the Peninsula Hong Kong fulfils the brief. Do it, if only for one night. And consider your bucket list ticked.
Qantas has 21 non-stop flights a week to Hong Kong from Australia, including daily flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with connections from all other Australian cities.
Doubles from $700 per night in a Superior Room, excluding breakfast.
The Peninsula Academy's dim sum-making class is $360 per person plus taxes.
Sally Webb was a guest of The Peninsula Hong Kong