It’s a city of restless reinvention, of rapid change, where bigger is better and more expensive is de rigeur. The testosterone-fueled cityscape leaves one feeling rather exhausted which makes The PuLi Hotel and Spa’s position, nestled next to the historical green triangle of Jing’An Park, all the more impressive.
One of the city’s most halcyon hotels, The PuLi boasts Old World allure with its cultured, dark-wood interiors; each of the 229 rooms and suites are self-contained with breathtaking views of the stunning Shanghai skyline.
Proud, lavish and luxurious, this striking hotel ushers in a new era of grace and comfort for discerning travelers to Shanghai. The public areas–particularly the soaring lobby, with glass walls overlooking a graceful pond–are designed to give the impression of discreet indulgence rather than the colonial-era glamour or the cutting-edge modernism displayed elsewhere in Shanghai.
While its name translates as “beautiful, unfinished gem,” the hotel is most definitely beautiful, and quite finished. From the Sung Dynasty-style stone headrests in the bathrooms to the antique incense burners in guest-room living areas, there’s not much left to add to this self-contained urban haven.
Snuggled behind thickets of green bamboo, the hotel’s stark gray wall separates guest from the unbridled pandemonium that is modern Shanghai. Massive doors open to an impressive lobby. Along one side a single, 105-foot wood-slab bar stretches across the room, at which everything takes place from cocktails to check-in and concierge service. Across the corridor lies a comfy library stocked with the latest English language newspapers and books.
Cultural elements are featured in the architectural concept of the design, with traditional motifs–black lacquered furniture, screen-style partitions in the expansive rooms, reproductions of Han Dynasty ornaments–illustrating a low-key but Eastern design palette. Modern technology is ubiquitous: a battery of buttons to navigate the blinds in your room, rain showers, a Bose Wave iPod dock, a Nespresso machine, and flat-screen TV behemoths. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
The PuLi touts a “distinctive duality,” whereby guests combine the expediency of central Shanghai “with the quiet, emotional indulgences of a peaceful, luxurious resort.”
On the third floor, you’ll discover a green-tiled pool, a futuristic gym and the 500-square-meter Anantara Spa, which offers massages and treatments using green tea, along with a form of traditional Chinese massage that combines tui (pushing), na (pulling and dragging), an (rapid rhythmic pressure), pai (tapping), cha (rubbing), zhen (vibrating), bo (vertical pressure) and dian zue (acupuncture). Another favorite is the Indian head massage, which can help relieve insomnia, indigestion and headaches.
The Long Bar, which rules the hotel’s lobby, is a 21st-century take on an idea forged in the colonial days of the Shanghai Club. And the impeccable Jing’An epicurean restaurant overlooks the park, with a scrumptious menu (the ox cheek with green tomatoes was particularly impressive) overseen by executive chef Dane Clouston, who hails from New Zealand. Menus are built on tastes and designed using a partly modular concept, allowing diners the unique opportunity of tailoring their experience by selecting ingredients to create custom dishes from the freshest produce available. Make sure to try Jing’an burger, a juicy thick beef patty on a freshly baked brioche bun with a dash of flavorful homemade hot sauce.
Jing’an also has the best brunch in Shanghai. The buffet spread, two monstrous main courses and dessert, is a great option if you want to dine in style while indulging on large quantities of Clouston’s terrific food.
The haughty boutique shops of the former French Concession are just a brisk walk away at Yan An Road; the touristy Bund is a $3 taxi-ride to the northeast; and a cab from Shanghai’s glittering Hongqiao airport terminal costs around $20 and takes 45 minutes.
The PuLi Hotel
1 Changde Lu, Jing An District