The Peninsula Shanghai: Over the Top
"Every square foot is about quality," says Paul Tchen, General Manager of the Peninsula Shanghai and he couldn't be more on target. Opened last March, this Art Deco marvel, the first new building on the legendary Bund in more than 60 years, is poised to become the most glamorous hotel in Asia. Prepare to be impressed.
No detail has been overlooked from gracious rooms equipped with free VoIP long-distance calling to specially engineered beds with closely coiled bed springs (truly amazing but alas not for sale yet). Then consider the elevators, exact replicas of the 1930 model in the Belgian Lift Museum in Brussels.
The superlatives keep mounting with a neatly conceived device to dry fresh nail polish in the spacious dressing room, triple glazed windows, and laundry packaged like Christmas presents returned in less than six hours, If you have any free time in this exciting city, which I seriously doubt, you can put your playlist on an iPod dock or edit photos on your 46-inch TV. No wonder the total investment for this hotel was roughly US $450 million.
Most guests begin their stay at the hotel's spa with a vital Chinese massage and reflex zone treatment or what's billed as a "Bamboo Harmonizer," both are almost two hours long. I dare anyone to try just one massage during their stay and not opt for another the next day. The products are nice as always in upscale spas, but the therapists have magic hands. When they glide bamboo sticks along a distressed, jet-lagged body, tense muscles simply disappear and you're ready for another heavenly experience, perhaps dinner at the Peninsula's classic Cantonese restaurant, Yi Long Court. Several other restaurants---French, Continental, buzzy roof top chic, or 1930s nightclubby --- all excel,but nothing quite matches tea in the iconic lobby restaurant with live music throughout the afternoon and evening.
This is the place to hangout, especially on Sunday when locals arrive en masse for the very non-Chinese scones and crustless cucumber sandwiches. In contrast, few people seem to hang out in the comfy lounges lining the indoor swimming pool, an extravaganza at 80 feet long.
With only 235 rooms and suites, this 14-story hotel is indeed elegant, but it also has an intimate quality. Nothing is too grand, too glitzy, too in-your-face although it's easy to doubt that there's any black or white marble left in Italy.
The hotel is simply gilded in marble, exotic woods, Lalique-style glass, and the darkest black lacquer you will ever see. The entire hotel is rooted in an historically informed 1920-1930 decor reflecting Shanghai when it was dubbed the "Paris of the East." But it also has an astonishing contemporary quality, especially in the guest rooms where you simply wave your hand next to your beside control panel and all the buttons for lights, curtains, humidity, temperature, and phone light up.
Shanghai is an easy city to navigate on your own, but it's still worthwhile to ask the concierge to arrange for a walking tour along the waterfront and The Bund's 26 historic buildings. The Peninsula, located at #32 The Bund, is clad in granite from the same quarry as some of the heritage buildings so it blends seamlessly with its landmarked neighbors. The Peninsula was originally part of the grounds of the 1849 British Consulate which will soon be transformed into residential and commercial space, another Peninsula project. Luckily, the civic-minded company is preserving and updating its beautiful garden which is open to the public.