Now, when one travels one of the first thoughts that come to mind is where am I going to lay my weary head at the end of each day?
Choices are endless, and no where is this more evident than in Shanghai. Countless selections of hotels abound from the down and out to 5 star luxury. When Savoir Faire travels, there are lots of things that come into consideration and one of them is not only the reputation of an hotel but the history behind it. It does not have to be brand new, 5 star luxury or the most expensive. The hotel I chose must have something that will set it apart and transport me into another frame of mind.
Shanghai has several hotels that fill this criteria. There is the famous Cathy Hotel, now the Fairmont after a multi million dollar renovation, the Metropole from the 1930’s or Astor House, the grand hotel with a history that is as old as some countries. Of course to me the choice was obvious, Astor House!
Astor House or is one of those rare breed of hotels that only exist in Asia. Once in the same class as Raffles in Singapore and the Peninsular in Hong Kong, it is like stepping into another era. Luckily untouched by a big chain, or restored and renovated to within an inch of its life it is one of the charming hotels of old Shanghai that still stands and more importantly takes bookings. The only thing is, that it still trades under its Chinese name.
Established in 1846 as Richards' Hotel and Restaurant Astor House was the first Western hotel established in China. The story of the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai provides a revealing insight into the history of China itself. "The Astor House Hotel has witnessed the whole sweep of China's emergence into the modern world, from English opium running in the 1840s through the tea dances of polite society in the 1920s and to the excesses of Maoist China in the 1960s."
During the 1930’s Shanghai had an overwhelming choice of some of the grandest hotels in Asia.
I must admit from the outside it is a little grimey looking and I was slightly alarmed satnding outside looking up at the facade. However once entering all those fears were set aside.Walking through the front doors of the hotel one can almost feel the ghosts of bygone eras observing new arrivals. Highly atmospheric, you can only think of what the hotel must have been like in its heyday. Restored and renovated to maintain the atmosphere to a degree, none of the charm has been lost.
The rooms are large and although slightly dated by modern day standards were entirely satisfactory for laying one’s weary head.
One of the highlights is the serving of the ubiquitous breakfast buffet in what was once the main ballroom. This is a huge cavernous room with large crystal chandeliers hanging overhead. It was a wonderful way to start the day each morning!
Another wonderful feature were old wide hallways with the original wooden floorboards creaking underneath as you walked. Along some of these hallways were rows of windows opening onto a light well that flooded them with natural light.
A nice touch is the long gallery turned into a museum of sorts detailing the hotel’s history and past glory.
All in all this was a wonderful hotel that met all my expectations of savoir faire!