Shanghai, I noticed, is a city that is somewhat obsessed with grandeur. Walk into any restaurant or hotel and chances are, you’ll almost feel as if you’ve walked into a banquet hall. Red and gold are liberally used in architecture and decor throughout the city- and it’s impossible not to notice the range of bright colorful lights that constantly illuminate the urban skyline. So in this city that can often be flashy, the understated and elegant PuLi Hotel is all the more a welcome respite for discerning travelers. Branded as an “urban resort,” the PuLi strives to be a different type of experience for the Shanghai visitor: the soothing ambiance, round the clock butler service, Zen aura, and focus on wellness makes this as close as you can get to a retreat in the middle of the bustling city. It’s one of the newest and most acclaimed luxury properties in Shanghai- so I made a point to check in- and check out the PuLi last month.
Sitting at the junction of ChangDe Rd and YanAn Middle Rd, The PuLi is about as central as you can get in Shanghai. It is one block away from Nanjing Rd, the city’s main commercial strip and within easy walking distance to trendy shopping and dining attractions such as Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang. The hotel is located right next to the French Consession which is considered Shanghai’s most fashionable district- a mixture of old Chinese and European architecture, and home to some of the most stylish boutiques, cafes, and bars. It is on the JingAn subway stop- a huge convenience when I couldn’t find a taxi coming back from dinner on the Bund. The hotel also overlooks the famous JingAn Temple and the park, providing a soothing alternative to the city view.
As a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, The PuLi has that elusive boutique ambiance. The hotel mixes modern streamlined design with Chinese antique artifacts, creating an overall contemporary feel but with a lot of meaning and tradition in the decor. For example, stone sculptures of Timber Foo Dogs (also known as Chinese Guardian Lions which are used to safeguard buildings in Chinese superstition) are scattered throughout the hotel, next to sleek furniture and modern technologies. In the suites traditional brass incense burners, rumored to promote creativity, are located close to LCD TVs that pull out of the walls and swivel 180 degrees.
When I think about The PuLi, I think that what sets this hotel apart is that it’s always going that one extra mile to provide a level of service that you don’t get even at other luxury properties. The experience starts with checking in, where guests are provided comfortable seats and the hotel staff stands behind the counter in a sunken space- so everyone is eye to eye. Every in room mini bar is complimentary and on the club lounge, guests are provided with a courtesy mobile phones. Even the complimentary breakfast goes just one step further. While most hotels with included breakfast buffets limit the number of entrees you can order a la carte, at The Puli you can order entree after entree to your heart’s content.
Each of the 229 rooms at The Puli has its own foyer area where the closets, safe and minibar are located. The foyer is separated from the main room by a screen, which I particularly loved because it gave me space to set my luggage without messing up the actual living area. Walk past the screen and into a spacious and bright guest room that over looks the city skyline. The first thing I noticed is that the feel of the room is extremely tranquil. Despite being right in the middle of the city, the room itself is very very quiet and the dark and light earth tones create an instant serene feeling.
There are two parts of the guestroom that I particularly loved. The first is the open bathroom concept, which I thought was genius for maximizing the space of the room. The toilet and shower are located in separate cubicles to side but the actual vanity, sinks, and bathtub are located along the wall that runs the entire length of the room and opens into the actual living area, thus elongating the depth of the guestroom. Sliding screen doors can close off the section for privacy but I loved having that extra space.
My second favorite part of the room design is the couch and soaking tub that line the floor to ceiling windows. I often found myself awake in the early mornings due to jetlag and having a quiet place to perch and look out into the dawn was a particularly nice way to start off the day.
Overlooking the park, Jing’An Restaurant is located on the second floor of The PuLi and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant is helmed by Dane Clouston, a New Zealand chef, who serves a Western menu that also caters to the Asian palette.
I stopped by the restaurant for breakfast/brunch, which is the only meal that serves a selection of traditional Shanghai eats as well. Guests can choose anything they want from the continental buffet and then order to their hearts content from the western and Chinese style breakfast menus. I recommend trying a bit of everything from the Chinese menu as I found the food to be light yet flavorful, authentic, and satisfying.
The hotel bar, aptly named Long Bar is also a hot nightlife attraction. The Long Bar runs the entire length of the lobby and looks over the park and reflecting pool. While I saw many people milling about at night, I thought that the serene and sophisticated nature of Long Bar would make it a particularly wonderful space to unwind after work. The bar serves the largest selection of wines and champagnes by the glass in the city.
Spa & Wellness
The third floor of The Puli houses the Anantara Spa, one of the leading brands of luxury spas in Asia. The treatments mainly derive from traditional Chinese and Thai techniques and focus around the healing powers of four different varieties of teas- Green, Chrysanthemum, White, and Rose. Green tea treatments center around purification, white tea for moisturizing, rose tea for beautifying, and chrysanthemum for cleansing. Each treatment starts with a foot bath and a cup of tea, and treatments range from massages to facials to body scrubs to herbal baths. The extensivenss of the spa menu makes it difficult to choose just one!
Spa facilities also include steam rooms, experiential shower, Jacuzzi, sauna, health club and 25m lap pool. In keeping with the resort concept, the pool features an infinity edge and is lined with oversized, plush chairs for lounging poolside.
I thought The PuLi was unlike anything else that I’ve seen in Shanghai- and frankly, completely unexpected. From the moment you enter the lobby you feel as if you’ve stepped into another dimension, where times goes by slower, people are friendlier, and life becomes more leisurely. For a city dweller like me, I appreciated that the most about The PuLi- how it brings a rare sense of sanctuary into the bustling city center. Many urban hotels, I feel, are simply places to sleep in between exploring the city. But in Shanghai, The PuLi itself is a destination- and much like all the best resorts in the world, a place where you don’t want to leave.