Way back in 2012, The Peninsula Hotels were already offering sky-high champagne breakfasts replete with helicopter trips and tuk tuks as royal rides at their respective, Hong Kong and Bangkok flagships. Two years later, it comes as no surprise that the luxury hotel chain has launched the Academy program. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this is no mere training academy where one must enroll for lengthy periods, more an opportunity for guests to indulge in tailor-made immersive experiences during their travels. After all, no longer is a luxury consumer satiated simply by the prospects of rest and relaxation or even spa and fine dining packages, for that matter. Touristy options based on recommendations won’t cut it either. There has to be a dialogue with the pulse of the city, its history, art, culture, or local lifestyle. If you agree and we thought you might, scroll down to virtually traipse through some of Peninsula hotel’s flagship properties and our top picks of The Academy Program experiences at each.
The Peninsula Hong Kong: Caviar Connoisseurship
When in Hong Kong, before hiking your way up Dragon’s Back or taking a ferry to outlying islands, we suggest you check into The Peninsula and enroll in a class of Caviar Connoisseurship. Caviar is perhaps one of the best examples of this credo for luxury consumption today and few understand that better than those who’ve been witness to the banquets in China. Count in, The Peninsula Hong Kong, who has reportedly seen the world’s finest “black gold” pass through her lauded kitchens. You could now enter one of those very kitchens and spend an hour, picking and tasting from a curated selection of the world’s finest sustainably -farmed caviars. Not just this, expert chefs will also encourage you to try pairings of caviar with the world’s finest champagnes and vodkas, all for HKD 5,888 ($760).
The Peninsula Shanghai: A Heritage City Tour
Moving up, the Shanghai Peninsula is offering a chance to delve into the city’s inextricable heritage. So besides ogling Burberry merch at the newly inaugurated flagship or hitting Blancpain’s largest, you can accent your Timeless Shanghai story with an authentic Shanghainese breakfast in a private dining room at Yi Long Court, before meeting The Peninsula Shanghai Academy Director at the Concierge Desk. From here, a vintage 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom will drive you to a traditional Shanghai Tea House, after which, you will be guided through the historic Wukang Road district, enjoy a private tour by the curator of the Propaganda Poster Art Museum and visit Hong Merchant. All this, in a personally styled Chinese outfit! The tour is priced at RMB 3,800 ($610).
The Peninsula New York: Private MoMA Tour
Art aficionados would give an arm and a leg for this! Of all the things there are to do in New York, imagine an exclusive pre- or post-opening tour of The Museum of Modern Art! Beginning early morning or late afternoon when the bustle’s either not hit or dead, at the hotel’s Concierge Desk, a Peninsula Page will escort guests to MoMA to meet their private PhD Art Historian guide. Not only does this bring the best in art up close but also promises exclusive attention. The tour, priced from $500-$550 comes with day passes to the museum so you may enjoy the entire museum for the day. An optional Chef Tasting Menu dinner in the museum’s restaurant, The Modern, is available for an additional cost as well.
The Peninsula Tokyo: Washi-Paper Art Experience
Kyoto native Eriko Horiki uses handmade washi rice paper to create sculptural works and installations. So if traditional Japanese craft ever caught your fancy, this journey that begins bright and early with breakfast packed in a Peninsula cooler tote bag and take-away coffees or café lattes waiting in a chauffeured customized Rolls-Royce Extended Wheelbase Phantom and takes you to Tokyo station and Kyoto via the shinkansen bullet train, is one of the best. After all, no one with a penchant for interior decorating or even respect for artistic excellence would turn down the chance of meeting Ms. Horiki in her Kyoto atelier to learn first-hand about her work and the use of washi-paper in interiors. For this the price of JPY 280,000 ($2,744) is probably nothing. Did I say lunch in a private room with garden views at Manshige? Yes, well. Sampling fine Kyoto-kaiseki cuisine at the classic restaurant is included.
The Peninsula Bangkok: Fine Wine Meets Adventure
Now about this program, it probably won’t be premature to call it a once in a lifetime experience. I mean, how often does one expect an elephant ride in a vineyard? Yep! Starting with a helicopter ride to Hua Hin from The Peninsula Bangkok’s own aviation lounge, Paribatra, being whisked away in a bespoke BMW after arrival at Hua Hin Airport and then riding atop an elephant at the Hua Hin hills vineyard, there’s nothing about this offering that’s conventional. Neither is what follows- painting personalized, handcrafted, unique wine labels to take back as souvenirs. The Peninsula folk do of course realize when exhilaration can turn into exhaustion, which is why they’ve designed the program such that it ends with wine tasting and fine dining at the vineyard’s restaurant. It is priced at THB 270,000 ($8,300).
The Peninsula Manila: Spirit of Corregidor
While this one might sound spooky and like the title on the cover of an Agatha Christie, it is anything but. It is definitely as dramatic though, bringing to life the last stand of the combined Filipino and American defenders against the invading Japanese forces in World War II. Taking off from The Peninsula Manila’s helipad on a BELL-407 helicopter, guests will course the skies and cross Manila Bay to the rocky island fortress of Corregidor where a guide will take them on a private tour of the island onboard a 1940s tranvia (tram) through major sites. Later a Peninsula page will offer Champagne and canapés before the helicopter flies along the spectacular Cavite – Batangas coastline before descending into Taal Lake, hovering over Taal volcano, and eventually landing in the hillside town of Tagaytay. The tour ends in a garden lunch at Antonio’s restaurant, one of Asia’s best and is priced at PHP 245,000 ($5,590) for one person.
The Peninsula Academy offers a collection of bespoke programs for children as well. And here’s our favorite- Origami for kids at Peninsula Tokyo. The program that teaches kids the art of Japanese paper folding for JPY 51,000 ($500) will probably take them a long way with appreciating modern art form and even understanding advanced mathematical theories, most of which are excellently conveyed through the figures. These ninety minutes also mean making their own souvenir, one that harkens back to the upper-class samurai society of the 15th century, when origami was an etiquette practiced for gift giving and banquets. I’d take this over a triple scoop banana Sundae any day. So I don’t see why parents shouldn’t check into one of the Peninsula properties, enroll themselves and their kids in the Academy and kick back knowing they’re going to return with a lifetime’s worth of experiences.