China: The Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai

*In case you missed it, my first piece on my China trip went up on National Geographic here"

As I wrote in my Forbes piece on Ten Exotic Hotel Proposals, The Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai on the Bund "is perfect for those that thrive on Shanghai's futuristic excitement but want a taste of its legacy."  Come along for a view at this absolutely flawless hotel.

The Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai on the Bund at nightOne of my fellow travelers said The Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai on the Bund "moves you like a perfect Little Black Dress." And oh how it does.  From cocktails at The Long Bar (open since 1911) to a spectacular lobby with grand piano and cozy nooks to sit, I loved every minute of my stay. And especially my room, with a view of Pudong's skyline that I stared at every chance I got. The bathroom was the most high-tech of any hotel I've stayed at with a "TOTO" toilet--heated seat and control panel on the wall. Add in heated floors and incredible water pressure, and I wish it was eco-friendly to take 45-minute showers.

My roomMy desk, with view of Pudong beyondPudong, ShanghaiThe hotel is housed within two buildings, one historic (The Waldorf Club) and one new (The Waldorf Tower). The historic building (where the Long Bar is) was previously The Shanghai Club, the most exclusive club when Shanghai was the "Paris of the East" in the 20s and 30s. Because of the two buildings, there are two lobbies. I thought this would be confusing, but it seamlessly melds the past and future in a beautiful way.

Waldorf Club Lobby (Historic Building)

Waldorf Tower Lobby (New Building)

Cozy seating in Waldorf Tower lobby

Loved this open view of the hotel's restaurantMake sure you leave time for a nightly drink at The Long Bar, absolutely one of the world's best hotel bars.

Long BarI'd recommend booking a Tower room with Pudong View, like mine. I loved the rooms in the Waldorf Club and especially the original elevator still in use, but you can get a taste of that in The Waldorf Club lobby and Long Bar.  Here is a taste of the classic decor in a Club Room, versus the Tower Rooms.

Claw-footed tub & dressing tableLiving Area in a Waldorf Club RoomFour-postered Bed in Waldorf Club RoomI also toured one of the Presidential suites in the Waldorf Tower.

Bed in Presidential Suite

Office with a view in the Presidential Suite

Presidential Suite Bathroom

Presidential Suite

Fabulous view of the Bund from the hotel

Scenes from Shanghai

 

On my second day in China (staying in the Fairmont Peace Hotel), we took a quick tour of Shanghai before heading to the airport to fly to Lijiang and begin touring the Yunnan province.  Shanghai was INSTANT LOVE for me. Something about it was so much like the energy I feel in New York.  My number one tip for any city so foreign is to hire a guide (I was on an Abercrombie & Kent itinerary with one of their best guides) but I always make sure to spend some alone time on the streets.  

The Bund curves around Shanghai's river, and has been the cultural heart and best place to live in the city for decades.  I had no idea the architecture on the Bund was so worldly and international, dating back to when ex-pats lived and spent their money in the city.  

The beautiful Bund in ShanghaiThe HSBC Building now houses the Shanghai Pudong Development BankIn 2010, Shanghai commissioned the original artist of the famous Wall Street bull to replicate a bull for the Bund.  As the Financial Times stated, "Call it the sincerest form of rivalry. Shanghai plans to equal New York as a global financial centre by 2020, so it needs its own bull." The artist, Arturo DiModico, said that the Shanghai Bull weighs exactly the same as the New York Bull (though there are minor differences).

We also toured Old Shanghai, a very tourist-y but still architecturally cool area, with tea & chopsticks shops, and a very popular place with an hour-long line, Nanxiang, for soup dumplings.  I recently tried the famous soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in New York and it was a travel "duh" moment that connected all the dots. "It's called Joe's Shanghai in New York...The Shanghainese inhale soup dumplings...oh soup dumplings come from Shanghai, not Chinatown!"

The Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse has served Queen Elizabeth II and Bill Clinton and holds court in the center of this historic area, reached by a winding bridge with nine turns.

 The Mid-Lake Pavilion TeahouseContrast Between Old & New Shanghai

The Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai: Timeless

The Peace Hotel on the right, with green-topped roof
The lobby can be described in one word: grand. The Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai: timeless.  It's hard to find a flaw, especially because it so graciously melds its history from when Shanghai was known as the Paris of the East with its modern status as a gathering spot in the city.  Checking in was the best welcome to China and was where I met up with my fellow travelers and Abercrombie & Kent guide, Gerald Hatherly. 
The grand lobby & gorgeous artwork
Across the street are the bright lights of Pudong, a view that didn't exist 20 years ago. But the Peace Hotel has stood strong here on the Bund for over 80 years, formerly the Cathay Hotel before becoming the Peace Hotel in 1956.  American and British ex-pats loved the Old Jazz Club, which is now the Jazz Bar in the lobby today. When I arrived at night, completely bleary-eyed (I had taken my blurry, dry contacts out in an angry huff & thrown them on the Shanghai airport floor), I heard strains of jazz music through the lobby and was in another world. 
Pudong across the river
The entire place epitomizes the golden age of this city.  Each room and suite was refurbished in 2007 and mine was great. The only thing to make it better would have been a view of Pudong.
My room
Only the famous suites have views of Pudong (the front of the building is small) and we got to tour these Nine Nations Suites, which reflect the global flair of the Peace Hotel.  I loved the Indian Suite and the Japanese Suite. Other suites include the American, Spanish, German, Chinese and Italian ones.  
The Japanese SuiteThe Indian Suite
The founder of the hotel, Sir Victor Sassoon (unrelated to the hair family, but a very wealthy Indian family), kept a penthouse here, which is now the Presidential Suite and evocative of his time.  But, of course, it's now draped in the latest tech products. Someone even rented it out for the day of the Royal Wedding and invited friends and family to come watch it in the Suite.  Perfect! I took tons of photos.
The Sassoon Suite bedroomLiving area in the Sassoon SuiteView of the Bund from the Sassoon Suite
The Dragon Phoenix Chinese restaurant was and is very famous for its decor and food.
The famous ballroom, the Peace Hall, is popular for Shanghai society weddings.
I loved seeing these moments in history throughout the hotel--Charlie Chaplin stayed here. 

I loved the beautiful entrance to the peaceful Willow Stream Spa. Great pool in the spa

China Preview

What a magical, inspiring trip.  Ten days in China, but not the China you think of.  I saw the rural and remote China, the breathtaking landscapes, kind people, and incredible history, sandwiched between time exploring the electric city of Shanghai and its cosmopolitan hotels. All led by the seasoned Abercrombie & Kent guide, Gerald Hatherly.

I am just coming out of my jet lag fog and so happy to be settled back in NYC for the holidays.

Here I am at the Three Gorges Dam, that famous dam project that displaced millions in the area. Being in the heart of it reminded me again that nothing is black and white, and so often grey.  In the West, most coverage depicted the dam as a wasteful government project that made people lose their homes.  In China, I talked to people that had been displaced and they were happy and given money to move. I learned why the dam was proposed, for power purposes but also to prevent floods that have killed millions in the region. The real story is a story where many people wanted the dam and many people didn't.  And it's so important to know both sides, whether you're a traveler passing through or a journalist.