The world is awaiting the discourse from G20 summit, which begins on Friday in Argentina, where President of the United States Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to negotiate tariffs regarding the ongoing trade war.
On a recent visit to the sunny island of Hawaii in the Central Pacific, driven by curiosity, I checked into The Trump International Hotel Waikiki in Honolulu, where the first couple stayed in November 2017.
According to the hotel staff, President Trump himself is no longer involved in the namesake hospitality business despite reports to the contrary.
Politics aside – if it is ever possible – here is what it is like.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the beach, the 38-storey building was designed jointly by New York-based Guerin-Glass Architects and Hawaii’s Benjamin Woo Architects.
The interiors were created by Suzanne Nessel, who is the founder and principal of SN Design, in collaboration with BALS Corporation.
The property offers one- to three-bedroom suites as well as six two-bedroom penthouse suites.
The two-level lobby is arranged with an open layout facing the Pacific Ocean.
Its design incorporates notes of the island’s Hawaiian culture and history, from the architectural inspirations to tropical furnishings.
When the taxi driver from the airport said “that’s a very expensive hotel”, thoughts of Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, were conjured up with expectations of a property coated in layers of gold and glitz.
Yet, it was not.
The atmosphere was serene with lots of wood accents in its decor.
Mahogany wood panelling, embellished with traditional Hawaiian tapa patterns, adorned the inside of the hotel, forming a relatively dark colour palette.
Indigenous Hawaiian koa wood, granite as well as Italian marble were also visible.
The glass sphere light fixture, which is designed to imitate the crest of a wave bubbling over the surf, was an eye-catching centrepiece.
A hand-painted mural on the wall illustrated a Hawaiian story of the Three Graces inspired by a 1930s decorative screen by female artist Esther Bruton.
A large number of artworks were also dotted throughout the resort, from the lobby and hallway to the bedrooms and suites.
The executive one-bedroom suite on the 37th floor was priced at around US$1,200, depending on the season.
It was exceptionally large, with the spaciousness further accentuated by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Boasting a panoramic view, the flat-style suite included a fully equipped kitchen with appliances from Wolf, Sub-Zero and Bosch, and featured granite and marble worktops.
The coffee machine was paired with local Hawaiian brew.
The rarely seen additions of a washing machine and dryer were very welcome in the tropical climate.
The living room connected to a large balcony with views of the Honolulu landscape from the Pacific Ocean to the city’s noted hiking trail, Diamond Head, to the southeast.
Muted colours are applied in the living space, from the furniture to furnishings, in contrast to the bright hued travertine flooring.
The master bathroom was decorated with floor-to-ceiling Italian marble and featured amenities from Natura Bissé’s diamond collection, and included a deep soaking tub, also crafted from marble.
Breakfast at the In-Yo Cafe in the lobby was not as impressive as its open-air view.
The international buffet and à la carte menu, which also served a mix of Asian fusion, was more outstanding in terms of volume than flavour.
Wai’olu Ocean Cuisine, the hotel’s signature restaurant that overlooks the military reservation of Fort DeRussy, was much more delightful.
It focuses on seafood including Alaskan king crab legs and the locally caught moi fish.
There is a strong Japanese influence on Hawaii’s dining choices, with the hotel often frequented by Japanese travellers.
Dishes are reinterpreted with local produce, and the sushi was fresh and tasty, while tropical cocktails such as the re-imagined mai tai were smooth and thirst quenching.
There is also an independently operated BLT Steak outpost on the ground floor, serving American-style beef cuts and seafood.
The hotel crew were beatifically friendly, boasting the joyful spirit of Hawaiian hospitality.
For an outing to the beach, staff could prepare a fully-equipped beach bag consisting of towel, water and fresh fruit.
Overall, the hotel was quite stylish and understated, and its utilitarian American style makes it suitable for large groups.