Back in March we already expressed our affinity for the “Peninsula Moments” video series by the Peninsula Hotels. Now the Shanghai episode is out. Enjoy.
Back in March we already expressed our affinity for the “Peninsula Moments” video series by the Peninsula Hotels. Now the Shanghai episode is out. Enjoy.
This week the Kempinski brand announced the take-over of the former Gran Meliá Hotel Shanghai in Pudong, Shanghai, which had been operated by Meliá Hotels since its opening in 2010. It seems that the owner company of the property, Shanghai Suncuba Co. Ltd, was not all too much satisfied with the performance of the Spanish hotel management company. However, we understand it’s pretty hard not to succumb to the red dressed ladies’ charms, for which the Kempinski’s lobbies have become well known. From now on the property is called Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai, being already the second Kempinski hotel in Shanghai besides the extra-exclusive ONE Executive Suites in Puxi.
Today we received the news that the Silks Place (reviewed on May 2nd) is currently closed down due to a huge landslide after heavy rain. Internet and telephone are broken at the moment. No one was injured inside the hotel.
The China News reports that 600 people are trapped in the gorge at the moment. One rock hit a car and injured two people. The road is estimated to be open again next week after clearing out some big rocks and mug.
[Update from May 21st: The hotel re-opened today, but nevertheless the landslide area (Highway No. 8 at 181.4km “Baisha Bridge” ) is still under construction and opens for only 3 times a day for passage: 07:30-8:30 / 12:00-13:00 / 17:30-18:30. If you plan to travel to the Silks Place, then have a look at the latest updates on the hotel website.]
Silks Place Taroko, Taiwan
Taiwan’s most famous natural site was formed by a river called Liwu. In the course of millions of years it continuously has worked its way down, sharply cutting through the granite and marble of the island’s Central Mountain Range. The Japanese once named the canyon Taroko and therefore it is generally known by Westerners as the Taroko Gorge. Chinese call it Tàilǔgé (太鲁阁). The gorge itself is characterized by a highway that was built in the 1950s – mainly for defense reasons – by 40,000 soldiers, and which nowadays can become especially crowded on weekends. To experience the most scenic parts of the area, people can hike on the numerous trails along and around Liwu River (立霧溪). The area has the status of a national park that covers 27 peaks over 3000 meters (9842 feet) above sea level.
Hardly any buildings had been allowed to be erected in this area, which is why accommodations are rare. Not surprisingly, however, they did an exception for Taiwan’s longtime dictator Chiang Kai-shek, who had a villa right on the picturesque spot where the Taisai River flows into the Liwu River. Like other similar residences this site was finally democratized by building a hotel in 1997. Being part of the Gran Formosa hotel group, it is today called Silks Place (晶英酒店).
Throughout the hotel I noticed a certain, somewhat muggy smell that seemed to originate from the cream-colored carpets. That’s why the next time I would rather choose one of the so-called Honeymoon Studios which have wooden floors as part of an emphatic minimalistic design. They are part of the more expensive Retreat Floor, which means that guests also have access to the Retreat Lounge and hence to its 24-hour beverage service.
The Silks Place includes some very special venues and services, like an ample kindergarten, the Kid’s Club. On the Roof Floor guests can attend Yoga classes in the morning, and at night there are complimentary dance and music performances on the terrace. I especially liked the elegant white marble sculptures by Tsai Ming-guan (蔡明冠). The sculptor personally changes and rearranges his artworks from time to time and hence adds an arty touch to the hotel.
The Mei Yuan restaurant is said to be very good. It derived its name from the plum garden in front of the hotel and serves Chinese and other Asian food, using local ingredients. Don’t ask why, but I had dinner in the Western cuisine restaurant instead. It’s called Wellesley and serves “steaks” without distinguishing between beef types, cuts or even the gradation of doneness. My colleague, to be fair, was extremely happy with his salmon.
All in all I would say that the Silks Place is a very simpatico hotel with a great location.
JSB talked with Beijing official Cao Pengcheng (曹鹏裎), Vice Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development
Last month we already informed about the new visa-free 72-hours permit for transfer passengers in Beijing and Shanghai. To promote this new policy, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development (formerly simply called Beijing Tourism Administration) is touring Europe at the moment. After the kick-off show in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and before heading on to Prague (Czech Republic), the delegation invited travel operators and the media to the Radisson Blu hotel in Vienna (Austria).
During an impressively professional show my colleague Stefan Tauchhammer and I managed to hale the delegation leader into a back room for an interview. Cao Pengcheng (曹鹏裎), Vice Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, revealed interesting future plans for the Chinese capital.
We want Beijing to become known even better, and the new visa-free 72-hours possibility for transit passengers is a good occasion. In the near future we will be able to provide tourists with a better service and with an easier approach to Beijing. There are many other famous cities with a 72-hours policy. We can learn from them. Our new policy is meant to serve the upscale travel market. We want these additional tourists to selectively visit the best places.
Into which direction do you want the tourism in Beijing to be developed?
Due to a rapid growth in recent years the tourism has become an important factor in the city’s economy. There are 230 million overnight stays per year, and we estimate the total revenue in the city’s tourism sector to be around 360 billion Yuan. On the other side we know that we have a very general visitor structure. We would now like to increase the number of wealthy tourists.
You understood right. But we also want to increase the numbers of congresses and trade shows. Besides that, we see a high potential in health tourism.
Health tourism in Beijing?
In Beijing we have the best doctors related to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). We from the tourism department gathered with people from the health administrative office, and together we evaluated the existing institutions and doctors. In the near future the best of them shall be booked systematically by tourists.
How will the communication work with the doctors?
The service will be fully provided by travel agencies, from picking up the guests at the airport to taking care of them during the whole trip, with a translator included. This shall by the way not only count for health trips, but for upscale travels in general.
Even in many five-star hotels the language barrier is an obstacle. Due to the high demand there is a lack of perfectly trained personnel. Are there any initiatives to fight this problem?
People who want to work in the travel industry already now have to know a foreign language. However, we have to confess that there is still a certain potential in terms of professional competence. The city of Beijing is currently working on a college of higher education for tourism. I hope it will be opened at the end of this year. Furthermore there is an already existing institute for foreign languages, which will focus on tourism in the future.
Currently 64 hotels in Beijing are classified as five-star. Is the upper bound reached?
At the moment there are enough hotels in Beijing. Nevertheless around 80 new hotels are currently being built, many of the in the upper price range. We try to convince the hoteliers to build theme hotels in order to create a higher diversity. Themes could be TCM, for example, or a specific architecture. It would be nice if the hotel operators combined their hotels with the Chinese tradition and culture. We consider the construction of too many hotels a great danger. It leads to a high competition in prices that harms everyone. The room rates are already now lower than in other comparable cities. However, we can only give recommendations. Very often the construction of a new upscale hotel has psychological reasons. Some hotel operators want to erect themselves signature monuments.
For the tourism industry it would be better to have no visa restrictions at all. Wouldn’t you agree?
For a Chinese citizen it is more complicated to get a visa from a country of the European Union (EU) than the other way round. Of course everyone should first put his own house in order. But in fact China enables European visitors to receive their visas comparatively uncomplicated and non-bureaucratic. For Chinese who want to travel to Europe, on the other side, the whole visa process is connected with much more efforts.
I guess you would like to see that changed.
Yes. I think that the tourism industry brings advantages for everyone.
How is the visa situation in the USA compared to Europe?
It has lightened up in the recent years. However, it is even more complicated for Chinese citizens to get a visa from the USA than from an EU country. An additional advantage of the EU is the fact that you only need a visa for one EU country, but then you are allowed to visit the other member states, too.
If I only have 72 hours when I come to Beijing the next time: What shouldn’t I miss in any case?
At least once in your life you should have visited one of the restaurants serving imperial cuisine.
This interview was held on April 22, 2013, with the help of a translator in German and Chinese.
Very short after opening its second mainland China property in Guangzhou, the Mandarin Oriental group will cut the next red ribbon on April 25th in Shanghai. The hotel is located right on the banks of the Huangpu River in Pudong.
It is very likely that it will not only become a checkpoint for picky tourists and businessmen but also an outstanding culinary centre for locals. Among the six food and beverage venues the Yong Yi Ting restaurant will serve regional Jiang Nan cuisine (“south of the Yangtze river”). There will also be an exclusive French grill restaurant called Fifty 8° Grill, and the Qi Bar will show off with creative cocktails.
Until the 30th of September the Mandarin Oriental Pudong is seducing Shanghai visitors with two special offers: By booking one night guests can either choose to stay for a second night for free or to receive a spa or dining credit instead.
The Shangri-La group recently announced to officially open the Jing An Shangri-La on June 29th. Jing An is the name of a district in Puxi (West of Hanpu River), Shanghai. Together with offices and shops the 508 guest rooms will be part of the new Jing An Kerry Centre, which is located near the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. More precisely, the hotel will occupy the top 29 floors of the main tower.
The Jing An Shangri-La will come up with some original features: The staff costumes will be designed by Han Feng (韩枫), who regularly creates costumes for international opera productions. Large-scale artworks of Zeng Fanzhi (曾梵志) and Zhou Chunya (周春芽) will furthermore increase the value of the interior design.
Besides that, 80 silk laterns will float inside the Summer Palace Restaurant, a Shangri-La brand serving Southeastern Chinese cuisine. Another restaurant called 1515 West will offer a “ranch to table” concept to the guests, with Australian prime beef grilled in an open kitchen. Guests of the Grand Premier Room category will have a 360-degree panoramic view of Shanghai from the Horizon Club Lounge on the 55th floor.
The Jing An Shangri-La is the group’s third property in Shanghai, in addition to the Pudong Shangri-La and the Kerry Hotel, Pudong.
In an interview with Marie Giuge Perry from past December we announced October 2013 as the opening month of the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain. According to the hotel’s website this date was adjusted to “early 2014”. We were not able to find out what exactly caused this delay, as our inquiries concerning this matter failed to be answered by the group. Probably it has to do with the usual bunch of unexpected challenges. konya masaj salonu It will be the group’s first property in China.
The Lalu Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
Did he say left or was it right? Less than a minute after having received the directions from the friendly smiling bellboy I can’t remember anymore. Okay, I did not listen particularly carefully, to be honest, but finding a hotel room is usually not that much of a challenge.
However, I did not anticipate the architectural consistency of The Lalu’s minimalistic design. Banishing signs might raise the optical poshness of a place, but not even the most perfect elegance will be able to lead you into the right direction after getting out of an elevator for the first time. Of course I took the wrong turn.
But this story is not meant to criticize The Lalu’s architecture; I am actually intending the contrary. The Zen style design of this magnificent building covering a rock at the shore of Taiwan’s legendary Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is absolutely beautiful. It was designed by Kerry Hill Architects. Founded by an Australian in Singapore, this company is also responsible for today’s appearance of other outstanding accommodations like the Amannusa (Bali), the Alila Manggis (Indonesia), or the The Datai Langkawi (Malaysia). As fittingly described on the Design Hotel’s website, Kerry Hill’s work is characterized by “clean lines and a low profile sense for luxury”.
The hotel is following a top-to-bottom concept: The lobby is located on the top floor, the eighth, from where the guests go down to reach their rooms. The main wing of the hotel is actually built in front of the hill, standing more or less by itself. All guest rooms have a lake view. And it seems that all the rooms also have a nice terrace with movable sun shades made of wood slats. There was even an additional bed on the terrace. In fact, the finally conquered guest room on level four provided me with a lot of enjoyment. Teak wood was its dominant material, which created a warm atmosphere. I also liked the orchids that added a certain kind of friendliness. The bath room area was connected with the bedroom by two open doors. As often, the minimalistic design also bore some challenges. I spent quite some time to search for the mirror light switches in the bath room, and it took even longer (a whole day and night, in fact) before I found the air-con control pad hidden in the bed. I could have asked, of course, but men don’t ask, right?
The lake view from my terrace was majestic, even in a literal sense: The actual hotel is built on the very same spot as one of Chiang Kai-shek’s villas. Taiwan’s erstwhile dictator owned around a dozen villas, which were all located on the most beautiful spots of the island. The Lalu (涵碧樓) peninsula was one of these sites. The name, by the way, is an expression derived from the language of the native Thao tribe, which used to live at this place, and which still is sacred to them. During the Japanese colonial time the former two lakes – the Sun Lake and the Moon Lake – were united by creating a water power plant and by flooding most of the peninsula. The power plant still exists, which is why the Sun Moon Lake is today called the Heart of Taiwan, as it provides many parts of the island with electricity. Besides that, the lake has become a busy touristic site, with a popular bicycle pathway, ferryboats and pagodas on the surrounding hills. Incidentally, Chiang Kai-shek even had his own chapel near the villa (he had to convert before marrying his wife, who is said to have been the real dictator in fact). It is very simple and now open to the public.
The Lalu’s cuisine thoroughly meets high expectations. The breakfast buffet has a good selection and also offers local “Assam” tea (a bit odd, as it is very light, hence everything but Assam). Besides a Japanese restaurant the hotel also houses a Chinese restaurant, which is said to be very good. For reasons that are not interesting enough for fussy explanations, I finally landed in the third restaurant, called The Oriental Brasseries, and had some Western food there. It was good but not outstanding.
At the end it would not be fair to point out the beautiful location and the felicitous architecture without mentioning the obliging staff of this original property. After my hotel room quest finally had turned out to be successful, I decided to refresh myself down on level zero, in the heated 60-meters outdoor pool. It was a misty day, with a cold wind slightly blowing; no wonder I was the only one out there. When I got out of the swimming pool the pool boy approached me with a steaming cup on a plate. “Some ginger tea for you.” Wow, thank you! The staff at The Lalu really made me feel pampered.
Last week the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group officially opened their second hotel in mainland China (there is one in Sanya already), not far away from their Hong Kong headquarters, in Guangzhou. More than 200 VIP guests followed the unveiling of the hotel’s individual fan designed by Vivienne Tam. The Guangzhou born and New York based fashion designer is known for combining East and West in her work.
[Update from April 9th, 2013:] The fan consists of 32 patterns, one for each fold. Each pattern would make a beautiful fan for itself, but the colourful mix is obviously is thought to express the diversity of Guangzhou, the city to which it is dedicated to. [End of the update]
Located in the business district Tianhe, the MO Guangzhou is part of the Swire managed TaiKoo Hui complex, which was designed by the worldwide active architecture company Arquitectonica. It houses around 170 luxury brands and a cultural centre.
The interior of the Mandarin Oriental was designed by Tony Chi & Associates, who also is responsible for one of my favorite hotels, the Landmark MO Hong Kong. The MO Guangzhou has a manageable amount of 233 rooms, 30 suites and 24 apartments. The Standard Rooms measure comfortable 60 square meters, hence currently the biggest in the city. There are five restaurants and bars, a spa with nine treatment rooms, and a heated 25-meter-indoor-pool.