Ever since the 1930s, Shanghai has always been the city that brought along the blended emotions of nostalgia, fashion with a posh flair, and above all else, romance. With over 19-million people on the move 24-hours a day, seven days a week, there is a certain rat race going on by everyone planning on having a stake in the booming economy of China’s most westernised and fastest growing city. This is perhaps the most happening place in the world. Everybody wants to be here for their own economic gain, and nothing else. If you have money, then Shanghai is the place to show-off, and there is certainly an air on snobbery in the place. Yes, it has come to this. Indeed this is the place where business deals were signed, and to some extent the same thing happens nowadays. It's common to see board room meetings being held at nearby boutique hotels, and then they all go and have a good time at the likes of the KABB restaurant.
The latter term may be applied even more so in the well preserved Xintiandi area of the city. The original form of Xintiandi’s antique walls, tiles, and, exteriors have been preserved by the Shui On Company. The whole area is enhanced, which is home to art galleries, trendy boutiques, international restaurants, bars, and lifestyle luxury shopping. I cannot resist falling in love with Xintiandi every time I come here. The area would perhaps easily pass as the most elegant, and certainly the most western in China. It’s the kind of place where you just have to be careful on what you are wearing, how you talk, and how you behave. It’s the place to see, and be seen at.
Nestled neatly amongst this nostalgic yet chic Xintiandi area, is the 88 Xintiandi boutique hotel. The property, which has been owned by Langham Hotels since 2011, is a re-creation born out of the sprawls of a sublime Shikumen residence. Inspired by beautiful artifacts and designs, this hotel will simply blow your mind away when it comes to attention of detail as presented by a boutique hotel. I love it. When you are in this part of Shanghai, you can’t feel for a whisker of a second that you are in China. When one stands on one of the suite balconies looking the park with the Pudong side in the horizon, they could easily be forgiven for thinking that you are in New York or London. The view is very deceiving that I would actually given this city the slogan of ‘New York of the east’ instead of ‘the Paris of the east’.
The hotel’s 53 well-appointed rooms & suites range from 41 sq m to 140 sq m and come along with a blend of exquisite Chinese and Western design concepts designed by Shui-On architects. Dark woods, well-equipped kitchens and bathrooms, oblique angles, designer toiletries by Gilchrist & Soames, complimentary wireless internet, state-of-the-art gym, and plenty of intimate space that would make you effortlessly feel like royalty- it’s no wonder that the 88 Xintiandi has attracted the likes of architect Kengo Kuma to create a spanking new Shang Xia suite in the hotel. Oh, and not to mention the in-room blender, microwave over, in-room foot massage machine, and even a barometer so you don’t forget to take your umbrella (which is, of course, provided). Therefore, effectively it seems that nothing is left forgotten, and all the creature comforts are provided. Or, are they?
While food lovers can order from one of the hotel’s thirty strongly recommended trendy restaurants and bars in the Xintiandi area, or indulge in all-day limited amount of finger food at the Club Lounge; there is not much else in terms of food available at the hotel itself. Hats off to the hotel’s management for providing a fine choice of eateries in the neighborhood however the ordering of food from nearby restaurants may not be everyone’s cup of tea because of the hassle of ordering food from a restaurant outside of the hotel’s premises. I personally tried it and happened to have a good experience. The ordering of food is quite convenient. Effectively this hotel is essential for the essentials. Mind you, the Club Lounge has some treats on offer too. One of the dishes that started on their "breakfast dish of the day" became so popular that they have made it a standard item on the buffet.
I also had the pleasure to attend an 'agarwod ceremony' being performed at the Shang Xia inspired suite at the 88 Xintiandi. Agarwood is the infected wood of the Aquilaria tree. Historically the Muslim Sufis and Japanese Shaman use agarwood oil in their esoteric ceremonies. The agarwood oil and smell is meant to enhance mental clarity and bring calmness and tranquility. During the ceremony, the healer inhales the agarwood many times to get the smell to perfection. I must say that during the ceremony it did feel a bit awkward just sniffing the agarwood smell in a certain pattern. 'Would this be addictive, and good for health?', I wondered. I have give kudos to the ceremony master, Ms. Wendy, by showing her utmost professionalism when performing the agarwood ceremony She must have a lot of good patience to be able to maintain the exposure for such a long time.
On one particular evening at the hotel, one of the senior executives of an unmentionable multinational I was having light dinner with posed a common yet challenging question to me (it always happens). ‘What’s your favorite city in the world?’, she asked curiously. My answer was equally compelling. ‘Any city in which I have had a good experience or any city that I am residing in currently’. Therefore, it goes nicely with those wonderful words that at that particular moment in life my favorite city was Shanghai (though Suzhou, and London are equally favorable . I was surprised she did not ask me the same for my hotel, for which I would have given the same answer back. Therefore, here’s cheers to the 88 Xintiandi for making my day (and night). If it sounds like a love affair I have with this city, then you won’t be far away from that mark too.
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