We haven’t stayed in a whole lot of hotels since setting sail with Semester at Sea, primarily because the ship often occupies a better location in the city in which we’re docking than any hotel we could afford. But when I had a weekend off while the ship was sailing between Hong Kong and Shanghai—a period when less than 10 percent of the community is actually on board, as most make their own way between cities—and saw a Fairmont had recently opened in the latter, I knew where we’d be spending my time off.
You see, Fairmont is my absolute favorite of all luxury hotel brands—that should come as no big surprise, as I’ve stayed in the properties in Hawaii, Vancouver, Banff, Lake Louise and San Francisco in the past three years—and the latest Chinese acquisition just happens to be the most famous landmark in town.
Located on the bustling Bund, the Peace Hotel (originally the Cathay) was built in 1929 and a favorite among diplomats and celebrities back in the day (or rather, it still is). As one hotel employee explained to me, the Peace Hotel is to Shanghai residents what the Plaza is to New Yorkers—the fact that the hotel received 10,000 applications for a mere 40 marketing positions a couple years ago before it reopened should illustrate just how beloved the building is by its community.
It was the outcome of real estate tycoon Sir Victor Sassoon’s vision and a throwback to the Old Shanghai, but the victim of neglect for many decades, being all but forgotten by the end of the 20th century. Three years ago, the renovations began, and the hotel officially opened under the Fairmont name in the summer of 2010.
Many of the elements of the hotel are the original furnishings from the 1920s, such as much of the glass and some of the wooden floors. During the renovation, as many as 12 layers of the walls were peeled off to reveal the originals. Talk about having your work cut out for you.
In fact, this ornate atrium, the epicenter of the hotel, had been buried over time and was only uncovered a few years back. In the past decades, it actually had held clusters of cubicles—can you even imagine?
Our accommodation, the standard Fairmont Room, was very cool and modern—and quite spacious for city digs, too—forming a square, with a foyer on one side and a huge walk-in closet on the other connecting the bedroom and bathrooms.
The hotel has two historians on hand who oversee the gallery up front, and we had the good fortune of taking a historic tour of the property with one of them. Jenny pointed out all the intricate details of the hotel, which included the heavy emphasis on geometry, a trait of the Art Deco period during which the hotel was designed. Being a former math student, I was digging all the patterns and shapes.
We also got to go to the top floors and take a peek into a couple of the Nine Nation Suites, which just opened this year after being restored to their original forms. My favorite was the Japanese suite. Each Nation Suite is around 1,900 square feet and is themed around a specific country; others are American, English, Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, Indian and German.
Though I also wouldn’t have said no to a night in the Sassoon Presidential Suite, which takes up the entire 10th floor and spans nearly 3,000 square feet (or three times the size of our San Francisco apartment!).
It’s also a favorite of Bill Clinton’s, who has stayed in this very room many times before.
He slept there (above) and ate here (below).
To be honest, we only left the hotel once in the 48 hours we were there—to go to a Chinese theater and see The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (we needed a little dose of American culture)—but with as tired as I’ve been since boarding the ship in August, that was exactly the rest I needed, and in quite the lap of luxury, too.
YYAAAYYYY! I’m first!! Loved the pictures… think I’m in love with the photographers!
They love you back and are excited to see you in one week!
I’ve stayed in a super fancy hotel exactly three times, and the last time was, by far, the best. Didn’t go anywhere, didn’t try and see anything, just ordered room service and enjoyed the ginormous bathtub, fluffy robe, and turn-down service including chocolate and mints. 🙂
Well, you should plan on another super fancy stay and doing just that for your HONEYMOON. Obviously. =)
Fabulous – I adore luxury hotels and will choose them every time if possible!
Given that I am not at all fancy in my day-to-day, I like a little luxury from time to time!
Holy fuck nuggets! Them’s some fancy digs!
Particularly in comparison to our “cozy” cabin home on the ship =)
Are you still in Shanghai? If you are and need a dose of home you should go over to Xintiandi! There’s a coffee bean and a coldstone’s there. I went there after 2 months in Africa and one month in India and felt like I was in heaven! (which is what the name means in english) Sounds like semester at sea is pretty amazing!
No, actually! Blogging wise, I’m about a month behind our current position (which is Honduras tomorrow, USA on Tuesday!). Though I could DEFINITELY use some Cold Stone right now…
I love the Fairmont too, have stayed in several including this one in Shanghai before it was a Fairmont property – did you see the jazz show?
good old pampering time. i wouldnt leave it either! ;-)))
It always blows my mind when such beautiful architecture is disrespected for so long. Buildings from that era just seem so well-designed, and certainly they have the beautiful details that are missing from today’s architecture (not that today’s styles are ugly, but you just don’t see intricate detail like that!)
I just wonder who uncovered this atrium and felt like they had struck gold! Can you even imagine? It was a block of office cubes!
Wow! That is so gorgeous – I’m a little bit of architecture nerd, and all of the Art Deco details are stunning. After 11 months of couchsurfing, I DREAM of spending a week in a place like this! Or, you know, moving in permanently.
I know, right? I was sad we only had two days, but we squeezed every last second out of those two days, believe you me!
That place looks amazing! The style is fabulous! Looks like the perfect place to relax and catch up on sleep!
I can’t believe I Ã¢â‚¬Å“forgotÃ¢â‚¬Â to read your blog since I found it 3 months earlier. Too busy with work I guess. Anyways I have it bookmarked now to be sure that I get notified as soon as you put some new content up.
Hotels have never been a big deal to me but I must say I love the approach to Fairmont hotels, they are all different and special and really make the hotel choice such an experience.
Lush and beautiful! I want to stay there!
Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a hotel that beautiful before. At this point, I’m just thrilled if I get a bathtub 🙂
Ooh la la…that hotel is stunning! I love the bedroom and bathroom. I stayed at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver this summer and loved it!
I’ve stayed at that one, too! It was actually my first ever Fairmont experience four years ago and a great introduction to the brand.