I have taken my time to write this review, as I am currently on my third visit to Shanghai's iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel. I have held back my comments during previous visits to fully allow my understanding of this property before passing judgement.
The Fairmont Peace Hotel is probably the best know hotel in all of mainland China. With it's majestic location on the Bund overlooking the Huangpu river and along Nanjing East Road, Shanghai's main drag, from the moment you walk in you are taken back to the roaring 20's in the heyday of old Shanghai's opulence and grandeur. The cool, quiet lobby is a cavernous oasis of rest contrasted with the thousands of people milling about on the streets you have just stepped in from. The well selected premium shops that flank the entrance area and the omnipresent 3 piece classical group sitting in the main hall do a wonder to immediately take your mind off of a difficult taxi ride, the manditory pushing and shoving of Shanghai, the foul odors intrduced to you on a Puxi stroll, or anything else that you may be experiencing your first or thirty-first time in China.
Needless to say, in true Fairmont style, when you arrive at the Peace hotel, you feel as if you have really "arrived". As mentioned to me by a veteran traveller to Shanghai (since 82!) staying here as a guest for the first time and sitting next to me at breakfast in the Gold Floor Lounge, ..."it makes me feel like Eloise at the Plaza" (a story of the adventures of a six year old girl living in the penthouse of the Plaza hotel in New York, coincidentally, also a Fairmont hotel).
If you have the chance, I highly reccommend you pay the extra 200 RMB that the hotel is currently offering for guests to upgrade to their Fairmont Gold Level Experience. With the type of service familiar to oil sheiks and dot com executives, you ushered away from the front counter and taken to the 9th floor where you are met at the opening door of the elevator by professionals who will greet you by name and gently glide you throught the process of checking into a Chinese hotel.
Since I have been travelling to China for almost ten years, and have been living here in Shangahi for the last 15 months, I can tell you from experience that check-in or check-out at a Chinese hotel is never a good experience. The protocol is to basically make you feel as uncomfortable as possible, and then ask for money for the pleasure. I have yet to check in on the main level, so I cannot vouch for that experience, but if you take the upgrade to Gold, please understand that Fairmont provides simply the best check-in available in China. Instead of standing at a counter for half and hour answering useless, redundant questions about who you are and what your intentions are with the hotel, a butler will come forth to directly seat you in a burlwood and leather lounge directy out of a Hemmingway book, offer you a cold beer, a stiff drink, or if you like, a cappucino or green tea. The half hour check may still be taking place, but at this point you no longer remember, nor do you care, as a long-tailed butler glides about the room as if on skates to cater to the needs of each guest as if he knew you since you were a child... and you grew up to be the President.
I have now stayed in a number of rooms, both on the street side, and the alley side. I must admit that as I write this review from the desk of my suite on the fifth floor (which is larger than some of my local friends apartments and has 100 percent more toilets) I can hear a techno version of "Wonderwall" by Oasis wafting across the road from down the block, and I am left wondering if it was what woke me at 3am, or if it is simply what has kept me from going back to sleep. This noise assualt is not evident from the other side of the hotel, but this is the price one pays to have a view of the Bund from your bedroom and living room windows. I can tell that the hotel has invested in high quality sound damping, but the DJ down the block is doing his damndest to remind me that I am in the heart of downtown Shanghai on a hot summer Friday night. On my next stay, I would prefer a room on the backside of the building, and give up the view for the quiet that I find synonomous with this property.
My suite (to which I was graciously upgraded by the Hotel manager, Tracy) sports a 10x14 foot parlour that is outfitted with comfortable period-correct furniture, a 42" flat screen, and a massive writing desk, topped with hotel stationery that has been personalized with "from the desk of Mr. Chad Peterson, in residence". Nice touch, Fairmont. During my week long stay, my wife and I have hosted both personal and business guests in our suite every night. With impressive digs like this, why wouldn't we?
As you enter the suite, you are presented with a full bar including a powerful Italian espresso maker, and a compliment of martini glasses, tumblers, demi-tasse mugs, and for China, an extremely uncommon bucket of ice. To the right is a guest powder room, and to the left is the walk in closet. Looking through the closet usually draws a gasp from the ladies as the catch a glimpse of the 6 foot, claw-foot soaker tub (with in-wall TV) in the 18 foot long master bathroom. They always want to go take a look in there first. Outfitted with great smelling, designer milled soaps and ecoutrements, one might never get past the bathroom if they didn't have second door on it to let you pass through to the bedroom.
Sporting another huge flatscreen TV (which are seemingly always placed at an odd angle due to the rooms being built long before TV's were available), a king bed that feels like it is made from the clouds that cheribum float upon, and a bose sound system pre-loaded with a cool jazz CD, I can't help but pour a glass of water into the bedside cup, turn on the music, and sink into the pillow for a moment, no matter what time of day.
Keeping in mind that this a nearly century-old hotel in the center of downtown, you must compare it with likewise properites (which in most cities are probably another Fairmont hotel). Everything has been modernized as much as possible, but you can't change the size of the elevator shaft, or the hallways, or many other things for that matter. But that is why you stay in a Fairmont like this, it's a heritage building that takes you to another time, like standing at the bottom of the grand staircase in the original Queen Mary and thinking that you are the "king of the world". Even as you unpack your high-tech, indestructable roller bag, you can't help but think of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks being set up in the closet; fashioning a portable boudoir for a Hepburn-esque heiress travelling abroad.
The indoor pool is fine, but perhaps a little creepy if you are there alone, as it does not have as much direct sunlight as one would hope, Or perhaps you will find the silence peaceful. I would prefer a hottub, as my back has been killing me, and I find that the tub jets are more relaxing than a Chinese massuese, others may disagree with me, but hey, I am the one writing this review! You will find the swimming pool hidden away on what the call the 1st floor (which I think is actually the 3rd floor) at the end of the Willowstream Spa section of the hotel, where you can indulge in all sorts of spa-ish type things... again, the ladies love it, so gents, either hide your wallets or grin and bear it.
I took a walk last night through the fabled jazz bar at the back of the hotel lobby, aptly named, "The Jazz Bar" and noted that I was the only non-chinese person inside, and also the only person under 40. Another point of interest is that this band may well have been the orginal house band from this venue, as the yougest of the six-piece looked just shy of eighty. I had heard many good things about this Jazz Bar, but quickly got to moving on from the Lawerence Welk hour as I could feel it stealing my youth like the Pied Piper... so back to the Gold lounge for happy hour snacks and cocktails for me, before heading out to M1NT, Bar Rouge, or one perhaps dinner in Tianzifang or Xintiandi.
Well it's 4:30 am, and horns are still honking on the streets below, but the music from down the block has faded... So perhaps my story can come to an end. I hope that you can come to this hotel and understand it for youself, walk it's halls and take it the history displayed through the artwork throughout. Don't lose your youth in the jazz bar, your wallet in the spa, your mind out on the street, your pant size one of their many dining rooms, or your patience with the way things are done in China.
Just take it all in and live the dream, then go home and make your friends jealous with the type of stories that make little boys play lion-hunter, and little girls wear crystal tiaras in front of a vanity mirror while twirling their hair in their finger and dreaming about the day that one of those lion-hunters will bring her to a place like this.
Thanks Tracy (manager), Rose (contract sales), and Terry (evening butler) for a fantastic stay, I hope to set up a contract rate with you in the future so i can impress all of my clients with your irreplaceable charm and world-class hospitality. But it's almost 5:00 am, and the sun is starting to rise behind Pudong. I should go back to bed before my princess knows that this lion-hunter has been waxing poetic about your hotel instead of sleeping like a good boy.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Shanghai's legendary landmark since 1929, the Fairmont Peace Hotel, overlooking Shanghai's Huangpu River and the world famous Bund, boasts a history that overshadows that of any other hotel in the Far East. With its origins dating back more than a century, this beloved landmark served as a glamorous playground for the elite of Shanghai, where every night was an extravagant gala event and veritable Parisian fashion show. After our three year meticulous restoration, the romantic history and social significance which made the Fairmont Peace Hotel a Shanghai legend has returned with its timeless grandeur - and a new and contemporary spirit. Each guestroom and suite has been luxuriously decorated with opulent furnishings and modern amenities - providing the guest with an experience that is both indulgent and exquisite. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Peace Hotel Shanghai