I was working my way down the famous Shanghai Bund (and its bevy of gorgeous hotels) when I came across Les Suites Orient, a super-luxe retreat that practically spills you into the Huangpu River and the Pudong skyline.
Comfortably contemporary, this boutique hotel is located only a few steps away from the famous Yu Garden and only 15 minutes away from the bustling city center and the Pudong Lujiazhui Finance District.
With two sister hotels in Taipei (a city on my list for 2012), the 168-room Les Suites is designed with a nod to the city's famed Art-Deco style complimented by an Eastern sensibility. A palette of muted earth tones dominates the rooms, creating an oasis of calm. As I entered the neat and uncluttered space, a view of the city scene leisurely cascaded from the window.
I love being in a hotel room, where everything is in its rightful place. No looking for light switches, touch pads, trash bins, bath amenities. Even if all of these things weren't obvious, you didn't have to look for them. And it was all so modern and superbly designed I wanted to whisk off the architect to my TriBeCa apartment. The guest rooms at Les Suites are a paragon of space planning.
Shanghai is the future, and true to the city's "wired" atmosphere, I became obsessed with the hotel's use of innovative technology enhancements. All guest rooms feature entertainment amenities including free Wi-Fi access, iPod dock, stereo system, DVD player and thoughtful details such as an Illy espresso machine (love!) and weather display panel on the bathroom mirror. Two other impressive technological features include the room key card that also serves as an instant electronic transportation card with a credit amount for use in taxis, buses and metro, and the Les Suites Orient "smart_life" phone, providing guests with a mobile phone to be used out of the hotel for local and international calls and direct access to the hotel's operator for directions and translation needs.
The hotel was a mix of international business and leisure guests -- predominantly male during my stay -- and quite a few would wind down at the laid-back and cozy cigar retreat, which features a menu of cognac, fine wines and selected tapas. True to its name of DongXi (meaning "west and east"), Café DongXi offers all-day dining menu featuring a perfect mix of Eastern and Western cuisine in a supremely relaxed atmosphere. With comfortable chairs and sofas, the stylish venue complements Cafe DongXi's casual, informal and sociable dining concept after a day in the energetic city. Menu faves included roasted Beijing duck salad, reinvented with an orange marmalade sauce and a gorgeous spicy and sour soup.
With its supreme privacy and sense of serenity, Les Suites is the ideal retreat for manic travelers like me to slow down the pace and savor time in a calm atmosphere. I loved returning there at the end of a day filled with meetings. On one rainy day I felt perfectly content to ensconce myself in the hotel, thanks to the number of leisure facilities, including a fitness center complete with a Zen space for yoga and meditation.
On my next visit to Shanghai I might just venture down The Bund to see what else it has to offer, but truth be told, I would be perfectly content repeating my visit to Les Suites Orient.