Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monday Monday

Now I am alongside the GM's office at the ar Park Hyatt in Pudong. He is French and has taken me on as his assistante-- I have always been a sucker for a tall, handsome Frenchman, especially when my maternal instincts arise. Sarah and I will meet him for breakfast along with the PR director in a few moments. Shortly after that meeting, we head across the river to inspect the not-yet-open Peninsula Hotel and have lunch with the director of communications for Asia, an old friend from Beijing. Since The Pen is not even ready for a hard hat inspection (it opens in September), we are meeting Ceci at Hamilton House, one block from the Bund.

HH (as sign out front says) a terrific new restaurant designed in the 1930 Shanghai salon style with a menu that enables you to eat a main course for about $10 (at lunch)and more decor that you can photograph on one digital. Even the ladies' room is spectacular. The location is also excellent, it's on Fuzhou Street just one city block away from Suzchow Cobbler (not as great as it used to be) and a new store called Patterns where you buy clothes, fabric by the yard, koi lanterns and accessories at high prices because you are knocked out by the whimsy that makes you think of Betsey Johnson on Chinese Steroids.

We are very excited to see the new Peninsula, but will have to wait for our next visit. As it stands now, it's hard to imagine a more dramatic hotel than the Park Hyatt Pudong, the newest of three Hyatt's in Shanghai.

We drove into the new World Financial Tower entrance for the hotel around 2pm on Sunday. It was hard to even get to the driveway because of the one way streets and barricades and building blocks but once at the lip of the entrance we were stopped by guards with dogs. The car was totally searched and sniffed. Memories of Mumbai, I assumed, but was later told that no, this is jsut a high secruity area because it is the tallest building in town and people like to know they are safe.

Park Hyatt is the most upmarket of the various Hyatt brands and this hotel is the new kid on the block in terms of the many luxury hotels to have opened in Shanghai and Pudong. We passed the lots where W and also Ritz Carlton are building, so more will be coming in time for Expo 2010, but there will never be another hotel as pulled together as this one.

Entering the hotel from the GF was almost like gaining entrance of Oz or a fortress or finding Number One in the TV show The Prisoner. Glass doors automatically part, walls glide and shut, modern art laughs at you while you stare at the splendor and technology. I had been annoyed that Sofitel Hotel had charged us $50 to deliver our luggage earlier in the weekend, but once I saw what was involved in terms of security and technology at this new hotel, I decided we got a bargain.

The lobby is on the 87th floor. As you exit the elevator and turn right you are on a platform equal to the clouds and the crown of the tower of the Hyatt Regency stares out at you like the foot of King Kong or the Jewel of the Crown. We both actually gasped aloud.

To say the lobby is elegant is to say I am a tall woman, yeah, right ...and what else is new? It is gray flannel, crisp white linen, enameled ginger jars and plush textured beige chic with the merging of comfort and control. Your environment has been manipulated so that if the clouds outside don't convince you, a look around at the Architecural Digest-like room , called The Living Room, to ascertain that you are in heaven. I sound silly. You think I am over the top. I am actually just on 91rst floor.

Because I am afraid of heights, Sarah has requested a room as low as possible so we are bunked in on the 85th floor. We have a veiw of the crown of the Jin Mao Building right outside our window. I am waiting to see this view on the last page of the magazine that writes Room With a View.

The elegance of the 30 foot ceilings in our room and the stunning views to PuXi and beyond were a contrast to our weekend stay in Hangzhou where we purposefully chose the Sofitel because it is not a high-rise. There are only a handful of deluxe tourist hotels in Hangzhou and the Sofitel is known by those in the industry as the best hotel in HZ.

This is a 6-storey hotel that is not only intime, but right up against West Lake, the city's main attraction. The only thing wrong with it is that we didn't know a Starbucks was nearby until it was too late-- think of the Citymug we could have bought for Sarah's mug collection. The hotel is constructed so that one end overlooks West Lake thus each floor has either a suite, a restaurant or a function room overlooking the lake.

We had an arrivals lunch overlooking the lake while enjoying local specialities, many of which seemed to come from that lake-- lake shrimp (very white), lake fish, soup with algae from the lake, etc.

The main reason I even wanted to go to HZ was to shop the Night Market which I had heard was amazing. What can I say? Don't believe everything you hear? But you already knew that.

Before nightfall, we did daylight shopping errands-- cruising the wide downtown boulevards, passing all the department stores and checking out the two other famous markets in town: Silk Street and the Tea & Nut Market. We also came to the conclusion that we want to retire to HZ-- it's perfect: clean, modern, good shopping, little pollution and only an hour from Shanghai.

Silk Street was clean and fun but a tad boring-- the merchandise in Shanghai and Beijing is more chic and less expensive. The Tea Market was fabulous as from the front it looked like nothing, but turned out to be deep and hidden and secretive with Chinese varieties of nuts that tasted different from what we know at home. The best things in life are often hidden, eh?

HZ is also famous for its local tea, although the tea harvest (Lung Ching Dragon Well Tea-- it's a green tea) is in April-- so we were too early. Nonetheless, there was a tea tasting and selling store on the corner just past our hotel. Around the corner from that is a mall with McDonald's, Watson's (the chemist) and a Carrefour hypermarche. You can't beat that location! Should you think I am only about drug stores and supermarkets, note that HZ has its own branch of Gucci, Hermes, LV and Giorgio Armani.

The Night Market began at 6pm, before it was totally dark. It was not a large market and I found it quite disappointing. Yes, stall after stall was filled with fake handbags, but they were bad fakes. There were no silks and since this is the heart of Chinese silk production, that was really too bad. The asking price for DVD's was 5yuan, half the price in big cities-- many deals there. I bought Jay Leno a copy of Little Goat and Big Big Wolf. But I somehow refused to spend any money on the Hello Pig! merchandise, which I regret sorely.

From the Night Market, we went directly to Impression West Lake directed by Zhang Yimou, of which I have already written. (See below.) They claim this production is 'a scene in heaven and a dream on earth.' I can't disagree.

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