In the late 1990s the Pudong area of Shanghai consisted of nothing but a few buildings, and those were not classed to be high rise either. The award-winning Shangri-La Pudong was one of those buildings, and when opened in August 1998 it was one of the tallest and most grand 5-star hotels in this part of the city. Ever since that day, countless other international brands have opened and in a space of under 16 years, the Pudong area around the Shangri-La has become something of a ‘Manhattan of the East’. With so much competition going on all the time, it is no wonder why the team at the Shangri-La Pudong are doing so much in terms of providing excellent customer service, and striving to stay ahead of the competition. And it is exactly that one key feature that makes the Shangri-La Pudong stand out from the rest. It is not unusual to see the General Manager, and the Hotel Manager both in the overly decorated lobby at some point of the day. It just goes to show that even though they are busy the one key thing on their minds is to maintain the quality of the service provided to the customer- the people who pay their bills.
Unlike most other hotels in the area which only have one tower, the Shangri-La comprises of two towers- River Wing and Grand Tower. Combined together, the two towers have 952 spacious and well-appointed guestrooms and suites. The Grand Tower is the newer one of the two towers. It was designed by a New York based architect named Kohn Perdesen Fox (KPF) and was opened in 2005 with 375 rooms and suites. This also includes the premier room, which is 54 square meters. The River Wing houses the rest of the 577 rooms and suites.
The true glory of the rooms only comes to affect once you are inside them- full of rich ambiance and warm colours, and providing a true shaker of what absolute luxury feels like. Not only that but it glamorises the reality of being in the fantasy legend of the Shangri-La. The rooms have a few jewels to peek at too. The journey to karma begins once you are whisked by the smooth and fast elevator to your desired floor and room. Be welcomed by priceless views of the Bund on one side, and that of the futuristic Pudong financial district skyline from the other, security box large enough to hold a 15 inch laptop, a powerful monsoon shower, exclusively Mediterranean style wash basins next to the conventional Western style toilet, toiletries by L’Occitane En Provence, and 6 different pillows on offer on the menu including one remarkably filled with traditional Chinese Medicine. Each room proudly presents a copy of ’Lost Horizon’ by James Hilton, the book which inspired the Shangri-La legend and the book that gave way to the hotel’s existence. The screening room, gym, and Chi spa – a sense of heaven cocoon straight out of Lost Horizon – are well worth the trip.
On the subject of the Chi Spa, it’s worth pointing out that unlike other hotels, the Shangri-La has dedicated a whole just for the spa. It’s so good that you may as well feel as if you are in the woods of Tibet. Deriving from the origins of the Shangri-La legend, the Chi Spa offers 21 various treatments and gives a sense that it’s a place of personal peace. I went for the ‘Chi Balance’ treatment for 2 hours that started with a shower and a foot bath, followed by a unique blend of Asian techniques personalised to suit the current yin/yang status of anyone, focusing on the earth element (building chi), wood element (moving chi), and fire element (clarity and peace of mind). Techniques include acupressure, energising massage for yang simulation and a relaxing massage for yin calm. Apart from the massage treatment itself, the best part of it was the chance to smell and choose the five different treatment oils are offered of which you can choose one. The humorous part is that by the time you get to smell the last oil, your nose can’t recall what was the first one- it’s all good fun. If that’s not enough then try one of the two swimming pools, two health clubs and an outdoor tennis courts. If the time prevails then this is certainly a playground for the wealthy.
And where to begin for the food? There are 10 innovative designer restaurants, bars, and lounges to choose from. Each displays a work of architectural and culinary art and they are all designed by international award-winning creative geniuses such as Adam D. Tihany, Bilkey Llinas Design, and Super Potato. The latter is perhaps the most famous of all as this Japanese company is getting its teeth into all the luxury hotel brands in China. The highlight? There are too many to list here. If you want to try a richly authentic Chinese cuisine then make sure book a table at the Gui Hua Lou, which serves a blend of Shanghainese, Sichuianese and, Huaiyangnese cuisine. Oh, and how can I forget the Jade on 26? Of course everybody that comes to Shanghai must come and have a drink at least at this beautifully designed by Adam D. Tihany. The Jade on 36 guarantees marvellous views across to the Bund and the rest of Shanghai’s Puxi area, and can even turn your evening into an affairs de amour.
We also tried out the Yi Café, where you could easily have been fooled into thinking that this is a night market in Asia. With it’s contemporary design, warm lighting and food stations laden with cuisine from around the world, you can easily make this out to be a food festival every day. If you have the stomach for it then it is worth coming for everyday for at least a month and even then perhaps you would be able to accomplish completing all the dishes on offer. Free flowing drinks are a bonus for cuisine. The food is very exciting- big bowls of fish in fragrant broth, beautiful salads of mango, papaya, sliced dragonfruit, cheeses, salami, sushi, smoked salmon…oh I can go on and on. There are 10 open kitchens, each displaying a live cooking show everyday where native chefs present culinary delights of Japanese cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Middle-eastern cuisine, Malaysian cuisine, Western European cuisine, and Indian cuisine. Each table is manned by a native chef from the country where the cuisine comes from, and that goes to show how serious the Shangri-La Pudong is in providing a truly personalised service to its guests.
On the note of Indian cuisine, I can say (as a man of Indian origin), that it’s not easy to find high quality Indian food in China. The majority of the Indian restaurants in China are shabby, the ambiance looks cheap, the price is too high, and the quality of the end product is also comparable to something out of a no-frills take-away in the ghettos of Paris. I would not divulge into the number of times I have had to deal with the infamous ‘Delhi-belly’ IN China after eating Indian food because the quality of the food is just so bad. Nevertheless, on a happy note I can tell you with my hand on my heart that the Indian food at the Shangri-La Pudong is amazing. The chef has done a fabulous job in making sure that the guests experience the best Indian cuisine ever, and he has definitely passed my quality check.
The icing on the cake for the Shangri-la has to be the chauffeur driven limousines that can whisk passengers from any part of the city upon arrival or departure. Now, to make it really stand out they have even added a spanking new Rolls-Royce Phantom. On that note, I would like to add that I am sure that if the Shangri-L Pudong’s building was a standing man (or woman) surrounded by all the other grand buildings around it, then he (or she) would say proudly turned around to all of them and say: ‘Now, beat that!’.
The Yi Cafe - Gastronomic adventure at Shangri-La Pudong, Shanghai!
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