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Golden Palace is New Hong Kong Tourist Attraction

Hong Kong's newest tourist attraction is the so-called "Gold Palace" - a showroom where all furniture and fittings are made from gold or covered with gold. It is the fulfillment of a dream for an entrepreneur who came to Hong Kong as a poor, illegal immigrant three decades ago. Claudia Blume reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

It all began with a golden toilet.

In 2001, Hong Kong jeweler Lam Sai-wing built the world's most expensive bathroom - complete with a toilet and bidet, a washing basin, toilet brushes and toilet paper holders, all made from solid gold. He had dreamed of building the luxurious amenities ever since growing up in a poor family in southern China's Guangdong province. Lam says he was inspired by a collection of Lenin's speeches, which he read during the Cultural Revolution.

Lam says that Lenin said after the victory of socialism, the best way to use gold would be to build golden toilets.

Instead of waiting for the victory of socialism, Lam came to Hong Kong in 1977 as an illegal immigrant to make his fortune. Starting out as grocery shop assistant, he soon built up a successful gold and jewelry retail business that today includes more than 100 shops in China and Hong Kong.

The latest venture by the man with the Midas touch (someone who can turn ordinary things into money or gold) is the construction of an entire apartment made from gold, which includes the famous toilet. Dubbed the Gold Palace, the more than 600-square-meter showroom includes a bed, a dining table, sofas, a desk and even a horse carriage - all of gold. Two-and-a half tons of gold were used for the construction of the room, which is worth about $60 million.

Some people may think the room, styled like a European palace, is too flashy. But the display is popular with tourists.

This visitor from South Korea says she has traveled to many places but has never seen anything as beautiful as this.

Ava Ho, assistant communications manager for Lam's Hang Fung group, says some tourists even dress up for the visit.

"We find some would dress up like a princess - maybe they dream of a palace like this," she said.

Since it opened in September, the gold palace has become a fixture on tourist itineraries. Up to 3,000 visitors come every day to snap pictures of each other sitting on the golden bed, at the desk or in the carriage. Only the use of the golden toilet is off-limits - there is no golden door to give the visitors privacy.