I may have lived in Seattle for 23 years and I’m now a Hong Kong resident, but for me Shanghai will always be my second home. There’s something about the constant energy, East meets West vibe, drool-worthy food, vibrant night life and anything-can-happen atmosphere that’s the perfect mix for a 20-something city girl. While most Hong Kongers jump on a junk or head to Shek O Beach for a lazy long weekend, I’m most likely to be found booking a cheap flight to the ‘hai and sending a mass text along the lines of “Back in town, let’s partyyy!”
Yes, while I’ve become somewhat of a domesticated grandma (did I say grandma? I meant domesticated ‘goddess’!) in Hong Kong, Shanghai will always bring out the wild, fun-loving party girl in me – and that means finding a comfortable base to trawl home to at 4 in the morning following a
harrowing fun night at Hollywood and greasy noodles from a street-side vendor.
Enter The PuLi Hotel & Spa. Situated right smack in the centre of Jing’an with proximity to shopping, nightlife (literally one of the biggest clubs in Shanghai is right across the street) and dining, The PuLi is the perfect base for a weekend in Shanghai, be it with the boyfriend or girlfriends. As the former editor of a property mag in Shanghai, I’ve been lucky enough to stay at many of the 5-star hotels in town, and I have to say that The PuLi ranks up there amongst the top 3 when it comes to the spot-on mix of location, atmosphere, accommodation and hospitality.
Lounging in Luxury
The PuLi is situated right in the heart of central Shanghai – a 2-minute walk from the famed Jing’an Temple and right above Metro Line 2, which extends to People’s Square, Nanjing Dong Lu, Pudong and Century Park (it goes all the way to Pudong Airport, but I’d recommend taking a cab for roughly RMB200 to save the time and hassle).
Billing itself as Shanghai’s first urban resort rather than another boutique hotel, The PuLi is a peaceful and luxurious haven that nonetheless has that ’boutique feel’ despite harbouring an impressive 193 rooms and 36 suites.
We arrived on a grey, rainy afternoon and while the rain didn’t let up all weekend, it was eerily fitting for our stay at The PuLi with its cool, calm aesthetic, minimalist grey and black décor, and tinted windows letting through just a glimpse of the foliage from Jing’an Park – all making you feel like you’re in a serene rainforest hideaway. The lobby has the feel of a very stately yet cosy living room, with big comfy armchairs and decorative table lamps, and the concierge desk extending into the renowned 32-metre Long Bar. There’s also a massive library, from which you can actually rent books to take back to your room! It’s spacial yet intimate, and immediately transports you from the crowded, busy streets outside.
Ranging from 45-130 sq. metres, rooms at The PuLi have all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star resort – plus a few more for that extra special touch. All suites are equipped with flat-screen LCD television sets, Bose wave music systems, complimentary WiFi, automated sunshades and Nespresso machines. Bathrooms are outfitted with rainforest showers, double vanities and bathtubs overlooking Jing’an Park and the Shanghai skyline. Hospitality at the Puli extends to 24-hour concierge, laundry and valet services, as well as complimentary mini bars and chocolates – could a girl ask for anything more?
F&B and Facilities
While this was my first time staying at The PuLi, I’ve been to the hotel’s signature restaurant Jing’An Restaurant several times before, and can say it produces consistently good food. Helmed by Executive Chef Michael Wilson, the menu changes seasonally and reflects an international influence, fusing East and West cuisine seamlessly. We were treated to the Sunday brunch buffet, which featured a selection of Chinese and Western dishes, seafood, cold cuts, salads, baked goods and even dim sum. In addition, you can choose two individually-portioned dishes from the a la carte menu (I highly recommend the rabbit risotto!). Jing’An is also where breakfast is served daily, with an emphasis on homegrown, artisan ingredients to give you a healthy start to your day.
Of course, a stay at The PuLi Hotel and Spa wouldn’t be complete without checking out the spa! The PuLi has teamed up with the renowned Anantara Spa to provide a world-class spa experience with five treatment suites fully equipped with steam and shower rooms. The spa menu draws inspiration from the power of tea, integrating Chinese healing practices with modern techniques and taking advantage of tea’s detoxifying health benefits. It’s a luxurious experience, best followed by a dip in the 25-metre lap infinity pool.
Unwind at the end of a long day (or grab some early night tipples before hitting the town!) at the lobby’s Long Bar, which offers an extensive selection of wine and champagne, as well as specially crafted cocktails. It’s unlike any bar you’ll find in Shanghai and definitely a cool place to take visitors, no matter where you’re staying. The Long Bar looks out on the hotel’s gorgeous outdoor terrace – a secluded garden hideaway which serves up a fantastic happy hour during the summer months.
Whether you’re in town to party, to relax and rejuvenate at the spa, to discover Shanghai for the first time, or to enjoy a relaxing holiday, The PuLi has your bases covered with its prime location, chilled-out vibe and world-class hospitalities. Take advantage of their Club Benefits (in more detail below) for a truly unique experience.
So you’ve got your accommodation covered, what about your itinerary? If you’re planning a weekend to Shanghai, you’ve probably done your research for some of the must-see places (the Bund, Tianzifang, YuYuan Gardens etc…) but here are a few of my own favourites (looking for something more specific? Shoot me an email here!):
What to Do
- Stroll around the tree-lined streets of the former French Concession and spend hours getting lost amongst the hipster bars and cafes, art galleries, antique shops and boutiques. Wander through the shop-filled alleyways of Tianzifang and try some local street specialties.
- Take in the glittering panorama of the Bund at night and walk up and down the promenade for a post-dinner stroll. Most typical tourist photos you see will feature the Pudong side with the iconic Pearl Tower in the background, but I prefer the view from the opposite side (take line 2 one stop from Nanjing Dong Lu to Lujiazui), soaking in the stately skyline of colonial-era buildings along the Bund.
- Bike, hike and meander through Century Park, one of the largest public green spaces in the city. Rent a two- or four-seater bike from one of the park vendors and cycle around the park, stopping for street-side ramen and scenic lake photos.
- Pick up an assortment of jewellery, clothing, bags, watches, home decor and electronics at a petty price at one of the cheap markets in town (underground at People’s Park, Qi Pu Lu, Fabric Market). Brush up on those bargaining skills beforehand!
- Take a boat up and down the Huangpu at night and soak in both sides of the glittering skyline. Shanghai Huangpu River Cruises start as cheap as RMB50 (dinner cruises also available).
Where to Eat
- Skip the crowds at Yuyuan and the sky-high prices at Din Tai Fung, and head to Jia Jia Tang Bao for some of the best XLB in town.
- Grab a group of friends and enjoy an authentic feast at the original Jesse’s (it’s shabbier, but better than the “new” ones). Here you’ll dine on Shanghai specialties like glutinous sweet red dates, caramelised lotus root, honshao rou, and drunken shrimp.
- Truffle Hot Dog at Bikini – This is a personal favourite that I crave every time I visit Shanghai. You may have tried truffle fries and truffle grilled cheeses, but this beats all. The combination of Emmental cheese, arugula, truffle oil and Dijon mustard will leave you in a serious food coma…
- Yang’s Fried Dumplings – This is an institution for the best shengjianbao in town, and with the remodel, it’s more of a hipster hangout now than a shabby hole-in-the-wall.
- CHAR Bar and Grill – A steakhouse located on the southern end of the strip in Hotel Indigo, CHAR offers one of the Bund’s best fine dining experiences, in my opinion. Head up one level to the bar on the 30/F for some crafty concoctions.
- Madison – Brunch culture is just as big in Shanghai as it is in Hong Kong, and for the best brunch in town, look no further than Madison. The Scotch Duck Eggs, Chicken Waffle Sandwich and Duck Fat Fries are not to be missed.
- Benjia – This popular spot for Korean bbq is always packed. Whether you’re 2 people or 20, each table is presented with an enormous tray of mixed greens, vegetables, signature house salad and side dishes to pair with the scrumptious bbq meat. You’ll leave here stuffed and satisfied.
- Ji Xiang Mian Guan – Go here for a comforting, warming bowl of Taiwanese Beef Noodles for RMB36. Also try the garlicky stewed tofu!
- Whisk – This is hands-down the best dessert café in the city. You can overdose on ice cream and chocolate here, and don’t miss out on the lava cake.
- Mercato – Fresh pastas and charcoal oven-roasted pizzas by Jean Georges make Mercato one of the hottest tables in town. For dinner on the Bund, it’s pretty reasonably priced as well.
More recommended restaurants: Hai by Goga, Lost Heaven, Elefante, The Commune Social, Scarpetta, Roosevelt Prime, Mr and Mrs Bund, Jade on 36, Cuivre, Table No.1, hoF, Xiao Nan Guo, Ruifuyuan, Hai Di Lao, Bukhara, Ultraviolet, XinDaLu, Pata Negra…
Where to Drink:
- Flair – Heralded as one of the best (and tallest) bars in the world, Flair – located on the 58/F of the Ritz Carlton – offers the most jaw-dropping views of the city.
- Bar Rouge – Bar Rouge is an institution in Shanghai and one of the best places to head for warm-weather nights.
- M1NT – Complete with a shark tank and world-class DJs, this club is packed day in and out, and attracts a largely European crowd. Dress to impress, and also best if you know someone at the door to avoid the queues.
- TOPS at Banyan Tree – TOPS offers a stunning, unique view of the Bund from the northern tip and is a snazzy, sophisticated rooftop terrace to grab a few tipples with friends before hitting the town.
- Myst – Whatever Shanghai’s affinity is with 4-letter club names beginning with ‘M’, they never fail to become the hottest spots in town! Myst is also conveniently located right next to the PuLi…
- Muse on the Bund – This is the newest member of the “Muse” group, and a place for movers and shakers to see and be seen.
- El Coctel – This hideaway serves some of the best cocktails in town. I’m a big fan of the chocolate martini, but you can’t go wrong with pretty much anything on the menu. A big plus? Your Bikini Truffle Dog awaits you right downstairs!
More recommended: Monkey, Liquid Laundry, VUE Bar, Salon de Ning at The Peninsula, Yongkang Lu bar strip, Yuan Bar, Boxing Cat, The Apartment, Brownstone, Hollywood, The Camel, MAO Livehouse, Kaiba, Constellation, Cotton Club, Barbarossa.
PuLi Club and Suite Benefits: For an ultra-luxurious stay at the PuLi, take advantage of their unique Club and Suite Benefits, with exclusive benefits delivered to guests in the privacy of the Club Rooms/Suites. The PuLi Club experience begins upon confirmation of a room reservation, with PuLi GuanJias – reminiscent of heads of households in ancient china – acting as each Club guest’s personal assistant. Services include organising daily schedules, transportation and dining arrangements in the city, and assisting with minor garment repairs, shoe shining and personalised cigar services. Club rooms come with a personalised minibar and a daily in-room aperitif prepared by your Guanjia. Inquire here for bookings.
Buy-1-Get-1 Suite Promotion: The PuLi is now offering a special promotion – receive the 2nd night free for every night paid, applicable to Junior Suites and above. Rates start from RMB7,888, with benefits including complimentary breakfast, one-way airport limousine service, complimentary laundry service, free use of the health club and pool, and 20% off spa treatments. Valid unti 31 December, 2015.
The PuLi Hotel & Spa, 1 Changde Road, JingAn District, Shanghai, 200040, China, +86 21 3203 9999, www.thepuli.com