From the Flair bar atop the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pudong, under July’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant colonial style of The Bund on the Shanghai side. Shanghai is a city that has that magic romantic attraction blended in well with elegance, glamour, and sheer sense of global economic standing. The city used to be known as 'The Paris of the East'. While some old fashioned people may still refer the city with its nostalgic title, I however believe that this city has surpassed even the delights of New York and London (these two cities are not even close to where Shanghai is...in terms of everything...economically, culturally, and for beauty too). You realize this when you visit places such as the well renowned MINT club (you never know who you may bump into there). When you are in Shanghai, it feels like the center of the world (it really does).
The changes to the city in the last three years have been enormous. I used to live in Shanghai and nearby Suzhou for a number of years, and miss it so much. Make a point of coming here for a holiday, have lunch at the Yi Cafe at the Shangri-La Pudong (read this); afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel (read this), dinner at Le Sheng (read this!), have a drink at Hyatt on the Bund (read this); and then bop it off all night if you wish at the MINT nightclub or at Bar Rouge with some good company. Then bask in the history of the city which is spearheading China’s incredible growth.
I have a special affection with the Peninsula Hotel. It all started way back in 2005 when I went along for a short stay at the Hong Kong Peninsula. That hotel and location has a special place in my heart- it just projects the ambiance of Hong Kong’s culture, history and buzzing lifestyle which blends in well the fusion of the west and the east. The Peninsula is a sign of luxury, comfort and style more than anything else that a hotel offers. I fondly recall going to the 81st birthday of the Peninsula in Hong Kong last November, and it was at that event that I was informed of the opening of the new Peninsula in Shanghai. It’s no surprise that I was tempted to go and check the new facility out, even more tempting that it is well placed in the old colonial Bund, right opposite the Suzhou creek and the Huangpu.
The Peninsula Shanghai- the first new building on the world renowned Bund in over 60 years opened in October 2009 and brings along the culture and strong heritage from its parent company, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited used to own and operate four premier hotels in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s when the city was classed as the Paris of the East. Even today, now with the Shanghai Expo 2010 around the corner, the hotel is well placed to represent the finest elements of this fine city. Shanghai is now the “New York of the East” and the Peninsula in 21st century Shanghai represents luxury and lavish art decor.
Well, it goes without saying that the Hong Kong Peninsula is almost like a flagship hotel site for the whole Peninsula group, but wait till you get to the Shanghai Peninsula-every inch of this 14 floor hotel is just stunning- it portrays true luxury. I really cannot think of any other word than that. While most of the interior decor is largely based on the same kind of design and philosophy as that of the Hong Kong Peninsula, the Shanghai Peninsula, with its 235 glamorous rooms and suites, focuses more on providing an experience that will take the guest to as close as being to the Shanghai of the 1930s. Examples of this are well laid out in all of the bars, including the very old fashioned and laid back Chinese Restaurant, Yi Long Court (13th floor) and the equally affluent western eatery and bar, Sir Elly’s (13th floor). It’s so good that even the likes of VVIPs’ such as Hu Jintao and the former leader of China, President Jiang Zemin are frequent guests. In actual fact Mr. Jiang Zemin dined at the Peninsula yesterday- the security was so tight and everyone was closed lipped that even journalists’ were only informed once he departed the building. The 14th floor, which houses the splendid Rosemonde Aviation Lounge, is ready for use, although is currently closed off to the public because the hotel is waiting for permission from the Shanghai government to allow helicopter services to commence. Once the hotel receives that approval from the Shanghai Aviation Ministry, the Rosemonde will be used to bring in distinguished guests by Helicopter from the Airports (both Hongqiao and Pudong), and also will be able to offer Helicopter tours of Shanghai for guests.
If there was an example of luxury than that is portrayed in the guest rooms- each room is a great fusion of the old and new. At the touch of a button you can control the humidity and the temperature of your room. Lights have a superb phased “mood” effect so that you can sleep in a dreamy atmosphere. One may say, well all five star hotels are the same, right? The Peninsula is in the correct position to argue that this is not true- especially when complimentary international calls, complimentary fax, scanner and copier machine, complimentary internet (including Wi-Fi), and a fully automated digital TV in your bath are included in the room package. Toiletries’ are provided by Davi. Then there are those minor but important things of life such as the laundry and the ironing that are taken care of. But the most important aspect of the Shanghai Peninsula is its prime location on the Bund, and the experience it provides to its guests. The message is simply, you are in Shanghai in the 21st Century, but you want to experience what life was like living in a classic hotel during the pre and post war era in colonial Shanghai- then the Peninsula is the place.
Peninsula is all about chic and class- but more importantly it’s about perfection in everything from the food to the quality of the furniture at the end of the day. I have travelled to so many places and lived in so many high quality hotels around the world, and more importantly in China- and with this experience it is a fair comment to make that I have not found a single hotel in China (except for the Peninsula) where the staff can speak good enough English, where you don’t have to end up being frustrated at not being able to get the essentials of life that we in the west are used to (such as an Adapter for example, or a perfectly cooked western breakfast for example). Yes, there is a price to pay but you pay for absolute comfort, experience and a hassle free stay- the Peninsula provides all of this. The Chinese staff are fluent in very good English, and if there is a problem you can be rest assured that you do not have to end up being frustrated like in some other 5 star hotels. In actual fact the service and living experience at the Peninsula is so good that one wishes that every other 5 star hotel in mainland China were up to this high quality standard. One interesting aspect of the Peninsula Shanghai is that over 60 percent of the guests are from mainland China and Hong Kong. With this fact in mind it is still amazing that the staff at the Peninsula Shanghai understand western culture and ethics so much better than staff at any other western five star hotel in China. This great preparation to please the foreign guest in the heart of China’s most happening city is to be applauded.
Some of the great highlights of the Peninsula are its stunning indoor 25 meter swimming pool, which has a glass ceiling, so you can look up towards the stars while swimming- and, oh, that Jacuzzi is just something out of this world! If you don’t swim then a dip in the Jacuzzi is well worth a go. There are also over 45 massage and beauty therapy treatments on offer in the Spa on the 3rd floor- exclusively for guests. Prices here start from around 350RMB for as traditional head massage. The Rosemonde Lounge, the Compass Bar and the 1930s style Salon De Ning. The Salon De Ning, which is open from Tuesday to Friday in the evenings, houses a spectacular decor consisting of various themes such as Indian, Upside down and underwater (there is a full diving suit from the 1930s lying right beside the seat!). During the Shanghai Expo 2010, the Shanghai Peninsula is offering special packages known as the “Peninsula EXPO-rience” from 1st May until the 30th October 2010. Prices start from 2010RMB excluding a 15 percent surcharge. For a Grand Deluxe Room with the Huangpu river view, prices start from 3610RMB plus 15% surcharge (this excludes breakfast and airport transportation).
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