04/10/2012 07:18 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2012

Two Well-Designed Stays In Shanghai (PHOTOS)

2012. The Year of the Dragon. It's powerful, magical, mysterious and energetic. It's everything I want to be.

So it was natural to end up in Shanghai on a whim in February when the Chinese New Year was just ending. I had been on a whirlwind trip from Mexico to Miami to Milan and then to Shanghai. I was circumnavigating the globe with one carry-on bag..

Since I was going to be in the city for 10 days, I decided to try two different hotels in two different areas of the city: the ever-fabulous PuLi Hotel and Spa and its Design Hotels sister, The Waterhouse on South Bund.

Though both were a part of Design Hotels, which represents a curated selection of more than 200 independent hotels in over 40 countries, they were the complete opposite of the other. I was intrigued.

The 229-room PuLi effortlessly combines the relaxation experienced in a resort escape with the excitement of a stay at an urban hotel. My room was far larger than my TriBeCa apartment and just as comfortable. There was a definite nod to the past that never crossed the line to kitsch. The nods to the present: a Bose sound system, 32-inch LCD TV, lighting fast wireless Internet, a Nespresso coffee machine and a rain shower.

No wonder I was reluctant to check out.

My next destination was The Waterhouse at South Bund. Located next to Shanghai's hottest cultural destination, The Cool Docks, The Waterhouse is a 19-room boutique hotel housed in what was once an unremarkable riverside building. Now, thanks to the Shanghai-based Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, it's an extraordinary representation of the city's cutting-edge design: Think being on the outside looking in, then being on the inside looking out. Hard to explain, but somehow the designers managed to blur the line between public and private without completely impinging on your privacy.

My room featured a deep concrete soaking tub, as well as a large walled terrace overlooking the internal courtyard. The furniture is a design fan's fantasy, spanning contemporary offerings by Milanese maestro Antonio Citterio and pared-down Scandi pieces by Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl.

While the rooms fully reflect the polished gleam Shanghai's of present, Table No. 1, the hotel's casual restaurant, revels a bit more in the building's industrial past. Communal-style tables of unfinished wood stand on grey brick floors; the main dining room and two private areas are actually in what was once a major shipyard. I became obsessed with the clams à la plancha starter, a tidy bowl of bacon-flecked razor shell clams in a beautiful sea salt flavored broth.

I went back for more. Now, I want to go back to Shanghai for more.

A Stylish Stay In Shanghai