A layover letter day

Image of Tyler Brûlé

A six-hour connection at a major Asian airport may not sound like the most productive way to spend a quarter of the day, nor the most brilliant scheduling on the part of an airline’s planning department, but there are far worse places to spend your day catching up on things than The Wing, the just relaunched first-class lounge at Hong Kong airport.

An altogether more glossy and slick affair than John Pawson’s original, Cathay Pacific’s renovated lounge makes a slight nod to the work of Masamichi Katayama at the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong, and aims to feel more like a finely tuned cocktail lounge (at least in parts) than a space to park premium passengers between flights.

As Chinese New Year has packed out the cabins of many airliners flying in and out of Asia this week, it was tricky to find a convenient connection from Tokyo to Auckland (via Hong Kong). Nevertheless, after considerable negotiation some seats were found and the extended layover happened to coincide with the popping of corks in the new lounge.

It’s also given me an opportunity to open up the Fast Lane mailbag and get round to responding to some of the frequently asked questions. Here’s what’s made for the tallest stacks of correspondence.

I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of inconsistency with the ban on liquids in travel. Should I still put all my toiletries in one of those see-through cases?

Indeed, there is a lot of inconsistency and I’m all for it – so long as it means that this ill-conceived security measure is about to come to an end. I tend to keep a token little bag of liquids near the top of my tote to humour security officers, but it finally looks like this little nuisance is running out of steam.

I’ve been living in London for about five years now and have always rented. I’m now getting my permanent residency and have decided to make London my official base – should I buy a flat?

If you’re looking for value for money, then I’d say no. Unless you stumble on a great flat in a mansion block that hasn’t been renovated and doesn’t saddle you with crazy service charges, then you’ll be frustrated by a market saturated with residences that have all been recently redecorated and by the poor workmanship. You might want to save your money for the moment, find some like-minded individuals and build your own small-scale apartment block. I’d recommend the firm Bunzli & Courvoisier to realise your perfect apartment building.

What’s your view on luggage these days? As computers are now much smaller and we’re all carrying less paper, is there a set of bags that I should be using?

As you might know, I’ve become a fan of the four-wheel in aluminium, big enough for an overhead locker on an Airbus Rimowa – this is what happens after 40. I use this for trips from five days to two weeks and a small Porter tote and a canvas bag from Ichizawa Hanpu for shorter jaunts. As for less paper, I continue to lug around as many presentations and magazines as I always have.

I’ve been thinking about going to Okinawa but I’m worried about the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the nearby Senkaku Islands. Should I consider Bali instead?

This is a big question, and all depends on China behaving and focusing its efforts on improving the state of its cities rather than stirring up attention-diverters beyond its borders. As Okinawa is home to tens of thousands of Americans (and to some excellent hamburger joints), I think you’ll be completely safe. Make sure you don’t miss out on visiting Naha. It requires a bit of digging but there are some real gems on its cosy side streets.

Any ideas for a three-day city escape this spring?

If you’re in Europe, I’d say Ett Hem in Stockholm in early June would be a great place to hide out while staying in a lovely residential part of the city. If you’re in Asia, I’d try a ryokan (a Japanese guest house) around Obuse – about two hours outside Tokyo. The Masuichi Kyakuden is a good little place to go undercover. In the Americas, I’d go for an action-packed weekend in São Paulo and take a suite at the Fasano – the bar is still a tough one to beat.

When do you think the Boeing 787 will take to the skies again?

I’ve been thinking of setting a betting pool for this topic. I don’t think we’ll see it in full service till late spring (May perhaps). That said, I’m not an engineer at Boeing.

What brands or labels should be in my wardrobe for spring?

I’m going to deal with this topic in an upcoming column but I’d say Riding High, Barena, Caruso, Comme des Garçons Homme and Batten.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine


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