There is something really appealing about a city hotel set in green surroundings, and The PuLi Hotel and Spa in Shanghai has all the trappings of a luxury city resort. Centrally located and overlooking the charming Jing’an Park, it is only a stone’s throw from some of the city’s most exciting shopping, entertainment and dining options.
You check in at the reception at one end of the Long Bar that runs along one side of the lobby, which—with its impressive sweep, high-glaze stone floor, glowing wall panels and heritage Chinese fixtures—is a real showstopper.
The Grand Rooms and Grand Suites have the best park views, but we liked the Junior Suites for their romantic alcoves with Chinese screens and beds on elevated platforms. All the suites—Junior, Deluxe, Two-bedroom, Grand and Jing’An—have access to the Club Floor with 24-hour butlers and concierges, daily Long Bar allowance, complimentary minibar with daily restocking, and in-room aperitifs.
Tekkies will enthuse over the Bose systems, Nespresso machines and complimentary Wi-Fi. Bathrooms feature locally produced organic toiletries, and the old Shanghai Shikumen gray tiles on the walls underline the attention to the city’s heritage.
For families or VIPs make sure to ask for the bright and spacious Jing’An Suite with wonderful city views, two master bedrooms (each with a walk-in closet), and a separate living room. And for special clients, your best contacts are General Manager Jan B. Tibaldi ([email protected]; 011-86-21-3203-9999) and Reservations Manager Vivian Shen ([email protected]).
Spa Senior Director Elva Xue ([email protected]) can help with booking the rooms and suites in Shanghai’s only Anantara Spa. We are told the exclusive tea treatments using green, white and chrysanthemum teas were created by Anantara specially for The PuLi, and that most guests don’t miss a chance to relax in the adjacent sauna and steam room and do a few laps in the pool overlooking the park.
Australian Executive Chef Michael Wilson juggles, very skillfully, between international favorites and Asian influences, putting a lot of emphasis on locally sourced produce. His Sunday Brunch is legendary and features an extensive buffet as well as à la carte dishes. We learned from Marketing Communications Director Avon Wong ([email protected]; 011-86-21-2216-6973) that The PuLi butlers arrange in-suite bespoke couture tailoring services from Gucci and other prestigious brands, and that guests really enjoy Shanghai cuisine in the nearby Yongfoo Elite restaurant, a colonial mansion that once housed the British consulate.
The Jumeirah Group’s first hotel in Asia, the Jumeirah Himalayas in Shanghai’s Pudong district, is as jaw-dropping as the majestic mountain range after which it is named. Designed by Arata Isozaki, who also did the Los Angeles MoMA, with a soaring metallic tree trunk façade and a 14-story lobby where an LED ceiling replicates changing
skies, the structure could be excused for making the guests feel dwarfed. But they find just the right dimension in the 401 rooms, and 62 suites and residences, which have complimentary Wi-Fi, Illy coffee makers, moon tubs, Zen minimalist styling and Ming-dynasty features.
The Grand Premier and Club Grand Deluxe rooms are ultra-spacious, and guests looking for special views should ask for those facing south as they overlook the rooftop Infinity Garden. This green oasis links the two towers and is a popular venue for parties or weddings.
For A-listers who want a lot of space, Eve Z. Barkley, director of marketing communications ([email protected]; 011-86-21-3858-0828), suggests a Club Grand Deluxe or Club Premier Two-Bedroom Suite and says the Executive Residences, which are mini-apartments on a generous 1,000 square feet and have kitchens, are just the thing for families.
Good to know: Levels 8 to 21 are reserved for Club guests with 24-hour butler service and access to the new Club Lounge, which is due to be unveiled in 2014.
Sonny Ang, who is executive assistant manager, sales & marketing (011-86-21-3858-0818), says rooms fill up fast, especially from March to June and from September to November, as the hotel is next to the New International Expo Centre, which is Shanghai’s largest event venue. If you need special treatment for top-line clients, you should reach out to Ang or to General Manager John Roberts ([email protected]; 011-86-21-3858-0816).
We were excited about the contemporary take on traditional Shanghai cuisine in the Shang-High restaurant, but we chose the J-Mix and relished what has to be Shanghai’s best Sushi, though we were sorely tempted by the Teppenyaki counter.
TIP: Traffic in Shanghai is so horrendous that even a luxurious limo can feel like a trap. A faster way to get around the city is to head for the subway station close to the hotel. And the high-speed Maglev train, which whips to Shanghai Pudong International Airport in just seven minutes at a smooth and silent 300 miles an hour, is just minutes away from the hotel.
Twelve at Hengshan was designed by Italian architect Mario Botta as an “exclusive garden oasis of urban chic.” And it is the only luxury hotel in the Hengshan Road district, right in the heart of the historic French Concession, which dates back to a time when Shanghai was known as the “Paris of the East.” The warm terra-cotta façade and low-slung courtyard building blend effortlessly with Hengshan’s tree-lined avenues and restored Art Deco buildings.
We love the laid-back atmosphere in the sprawling lobby with its cool shades of gray and ice and hand-painted Chinese screens. Light pours in from the floor-to-ceiling expanse of glass behind which is an elliptical garden and, along one side, smart shops in the Retail Promenade and a Lobby Lounge for casual eats and fresh-brewed teas.
Of the 171 guest rooms, the Courtyard Rooms and Courtyard Suites have the extra plus of a balcony overlooking the greenery. Our top pick are the two Hengshan Suites (Nos. 388 and 588), which are perfect for choosy guests who want only the best as they come with butler service.
Bathrooms have Washlet toilets and 15-inch TVs and, like the Grand and Presidential Suites, the Hengshans have Hermès toiletries and top-of-the-range facilities.
Note: You cannot book the Presidential Suite through the GDS, so reach out to Assistant Marketing Communications Manager Daisy Yin ([email protected]; 011-86-21-3338-3879) who can also put you in touch with General Manager David Katemopoulos.
When we discovered the Sen Spa, we realized we were going to have to cut down on shopping time to try out some of its more unusual features, like the salt stone BIO sauna room, the herbal steam room and in-the-water relaxing loungers in the pool, which is cleverly lit by natural light from the garden. On a massive 7,300 square feet, the area has 13 single and one double treatment rooms and a VIP suite. Ken Zhou ([email protected]; 011-86-21-3338-2880), assistant director of rooms, who showed us around, says it is wise to book ahead for massages and beauty treatments and that many guests spend hours relaxing in this luxuriously indulgent oasis of well-being, which is open 24/7.
The multitasking front-desk staff can arrange tailor-made walking tours, and always ensure the hotel limo is well stocked with Twelve Hengshan’s handmade cookies. We learned that Chef Kuy Fai Chung from Malaysia, who teams with Executive Chef Luca Pulese from Italy, champions organic healthy dishes in the 12 Hengshan Chinese restaurant. Alas, we did not have time to try them, but his signature Bird’s Nest and Caviar and Slow-cooked Abalone in Truffle Gravy sound really amazing.
Not to be missed: Sipping a chilled sundowner in one of the gazebos on the Roof Terrace after an afternoon spent at the spa, followed by a stroll along the leafy Hengshan Road and its intriguing alleyways to explore boutiques, restaurants, galleries and cafés.