The Peninsula Shanghai brings old-school luxury back to the Bund

Culture | by Stephan Larose
Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Updated: September 16th, 2010 | Comments
Peninsula Hotel Shanghai Prior to the Peninsula Hotel Shanghai's March 18th grand opening, took a tour to see how things were coming along. Read about where the hotel shines, and where things are still taking shape before the hotel's March 18 grand opening below. History in the making: From Astor House to the Peninsula Hotel Its always nice when things come full circle. Birds return to their nesting ground, lovers to the place they first met, and the Astor House, in 1907. Then, just as now, the goal was to take luxury and service to rarefied heights, and to do so the Peninsula has stayed true to a long-standing principle of practicing the utmost in discrimination when choosing locations (the 120-year old company owns just nine Peninsula properties) while bringing back some Gatsby-esque 20s glamour. (Though the only moral quandary in this tale regards the serving of shark's fin soup; Yao Ming disapproves.) Though the Astor House (still visible across Suzhou Creek, just to the north of the new hotel) was known for its architectural bravura and decorative grandeur, the Peninsula's flair is more obvious on the inside. Once through the threshold, gray facades and rectilinear grace give way to a rich, modern interpretation of Art Deco style. Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai Bund Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' The experience (at least for an elite few) starts at Pudong International Airport, where you can elect to hire one of the hotels 14 extended-wheel base Rolls-Royce Phantoms to transfer into town. Inside, tiny details, such as veneer finishes taken from single trees to ensure decorative continuity, well demonstrate the Peninsula's attention to detail and "no expenses spared" approach to exclusivity and comfort. Peninsula Hotel Shanghai Rolls Royce Phantom What's most remarkable about the ride is the sheer quiet in which you're enveloped; a leather-scented bubble of equanimity if there ever was one. But if you do like distraction, there are dual 12" flat screens for DVDs. Sounds come courtesy of a 15-speaker Lexicon sound system delivering 420 studio-grade watts of aural pleasure. Alas, all that power and technology seems somewhat wasted. The only DVD on hand during our sneak peek was a promotional film on HSH's history filmed in Hong Kong more than a few years ago and with not a word said about the new flagship Shanghai property. This may simply be a pre-grand opening hiccup, but watching an episode of House or a 007 film would have been preferable. Alcoholic libations would also have gone over well, but water was the only drink available. Still, this capsule of peace made for a stress-free transfer, nonetheless. Service with a smile Expecting our arrival, staff were awaiting with a near-comic barrage of friendly greetings (ten greeters for little old us?). But the smiles were all genuine, and this is where the Peninsula deserves greatest credit. Staff appear to have been selected on strength of character and authentic love for people. On the whole, the most memorable part of the tour was the sincerity and warmth of the Peninsula staff. The Peninsula Hotel Sanghai - Lobby That being said, one may lose count after maybe the 20th warm greeting in less than 30 seconds, and the modest among us may even blush a bit at all the attention. I, for one, was raised to be polite and to reply, but 20 thank-yous in a row can be somewhat exhausting. Fortunately, such exhaustion is quickly relieved once inside a Peninsula Superior Room (RMB 3,200), where triple-thickness glass insulates even the most chaotic construction noise, and barista-quality espressos can quickly be made using smart-looking Nespresso coffee machines. As you'll see in following sections, with any lofty, multi-billion RMB project as highly-anticipated as the Peninsula’s grand return to Shanghai, things can be almost perfect but not quite perfect, but not to worry... perfection is for the afterlife, right? In the meantime, the Peninsula does very nicely indeed. Continue on to the section of your liking: A room with a view Making the most of the facilities Divine Dining Exploring: the Bund and beyond
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