Hotel High in Shanghai

| Monday, 04 Nov 2013
 Meet modern Shanghai, China’s answer to New York City; world-class dining and shopping
The Langham, Xintiandi, Shanghai
Looking for futuristic skyscrapers, dazzling lights and sparkling river views?  World-class dining and shopping?  And you want it all by taxicab.  Meet modern Shanghai, China’s answer to New York City.  An Asia sail highlight, this enthralling metropolis welcomes countless ships spending two-to-three days in port during cruise season (fall-into-spring).  But Shanghai is also rapidly becoming an embarkation/debarkation port, for lines like Crystal Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Princess Cruises.  If you are flying into, or departing from, Shanghai, check out (or rather, check into) The Langham, Xintiandi – a standout from peers.

Luxury for Less

A comfortable Grand Room at The Langham, Xintiandi
Shanghai is chockfull of stunning six-star hotels.  Lucky for cruisers, unpacking at a posh property is easier on the budget during cruise season (it’s not primetime for land-based tourism).  For instance, The Langham, Xintiandi is offering Grand Rooms (deluxe) on its web site beginning at $270.77 (excluding tax and fees) in early February with no cancellation fee up to 24 hours prior.  (Remember prices can fluctuate until you book.)  
This low cost does not mean a double bed in a cramped room like in London or other top cities.  Au contraire.  Rather, The Langham, Xintiandi offer features a “Deluxe Grand Room” with a king bed (or two twins) and 430-square-feet to move around in.  If you’re like me, such genius pricing allows you to move money from the accommodations budget to – guess what - the shopping budget.

Location, Location, Location

The Langham, Xintiandi is steps away from Xintiandi, an upscale dining and shopping enclave constructed with ancient walls and original tiles of old Shanghai.  It’s teeming with galleries, bars and cafes, and is safe and fun, even at night.  
This hotel is also adjacent to Huai Hai Road, known as the Champs Elysees (Paris’s famed fashion boulevard) of the East.  Shopping here is fabulous as labels showcased are rarely seen in the U.S.  Fashionistas, listen up; edgy high-end clothes and designer accessories worthy of bragging-rights are within walking distance from The Langham, Xintiandi.  
Nearby restaurants include Crystal Jade, a top-notch Singapore-based chain wildly popular throughout China for its stylish décor and Cantonese cooking. This branch is a mecca for locals and visitors, who come for dim sum, including the famous xiao long bao (dumplings filled with soup and pork).     

Roomy Rooms

The large Zen-like bathroom of a Grand Room
The Grand Room may rank as entry level, but its title is apt. The spacious accommodation possesses elegant Asian elements harmonious with a modern décor.  
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of Shanghai yet block out all sound.  Push-button controls bedside allows you to open shades, request housekeeping and much more.  Sheets are silky and pillows, soft.
The bathroom is huge, with dual sinks and a glassed-in showering room featuring a rain showerhead and big freestanding tub.  Towels are thick and baby-soft.  The Toto toilet is loaded with luxe features, from a heated seat to front and rear wash and dryer (kid you not).    

Grab a Club

It’s always mealtime at The Langham Club
Upgrade to The Langham Club floor for substantial perks (about $100 more).  The room is the same but there is a large, intimate lounge for relaxing, staffed with private concierges at your beck-and-call.  They are most helpful in navigating the city and recommending restaurants, tours and other attractions.  In addition, you may check in and out at The Langham Club, making travel easier.  Checkout time is extended to 4 p.m.; helpful for late-day flights.
 Silken smoked salmon at breakfast in The Langham Club
Food and beverage service at The Langham Club is unusually grand.  Breakfast is a feast of assorted fresh fruit, exotic juices (like fresh-squeezed watermelon), cereal, breads, cheeses and much more.  Come teatime, flaky scones served with silken cream, house-made preserves and fresh-baked pastries (such as mini opera cakes and macarons) are served.  
Cocktail hour (actually, a generous three hours) can become dinner because the hors d’oeuvres are substantial and generous (another money-saver).  Besides fresh-baked breads, crackers, fruit and European cheeses, the Langham Club Lounge also presents canapés, dim sum and hot dishes like curries and stews.  A toque-topped chef stands ready to grill meats or poultry.  I’ve never seen such a hearty cocktail spread in any club floor lounge anywhere in the world.    

In the Zone

The Chuan Spa pathway to treatment
If you’re reeling from jet lag (Shanghai is, for example, a 15-hour time difference from Los Angeles), or about to squeeze yourself into a torturous economy seat for a 10-hour-plus flight to the United States, a visit to Chuan Spa may be a necessity. 
Merely entering the spa begins rejuvenation.  Breathe in the aromatherapy.  See lit candles, wooden footbridges, waterways and mysterious archways. It feels like being dropped in ancient China.  Or at least, the China of our imagination.
The spa takes a holistic approach to wellness, with traditional Chinese medicine-inspired treatments incorporating the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.   The signature 60-minute massage can do the job, although the elaborate “Chuan Eternity” promises three-and-one-half hours of bliss, including primrose oil exfoliation, scalp massage and collagen facial.  

Breakfast Never Ends

 Organic eggs cooked to order at Cachet restaurant
Of course, it does end.  But it feels like it shouldn’t, because the choices are so vast, and the setting, so pleasant.  It’s easy to linger over the morning meal at The Langham’s Cachet restaurant for hours – even with a day of sightseeing ahead.
The buffet is world-class in taste, variety and presentation.  And it emphasizes healthful organic cuisine.  You’ll even find gluten-free food (including fresh-baked breads) and an ever-changing selection of fresh-squeezed fruit-and-vegetable-juice blends presented in little mason jars.  These juices are wonderful; each sip revitalizes, taking away an airplane ache or a jetlag yawn.  
A bevy of American cereals claims its own table, with milk from skim to whole.  Organic eggs are cooked to order in wee skillets and crisp waffles are excellent.  Bacon, charcuterie (including knockout Parma ham sliced before you) and various hearty fresh-baked bread loaves also line the counter.  Croissants and other French-inspired pastries are all butter and flake.
Naturally, Chinese dishes are a highlight and have their own kitchen at the far end of the buffet.  Wallow in steamed dim sum, delicate dumplings of assorted shapes and sizes, with well-seasoned fillings of shrimp, pork and vegetables.       
 Chocolate fountain at Cachet restaurant
Desserts are prettily displayed on a marble counter and in glass cases on the opposite side of the restaurant.  Fine muffins, gelato (yes, at breakfast), handmade chocolates - just about every sweet imaginable, even a chocolate fountain – is ready and waiting.
Frothy strong cappuccinos are brewed to order and new cups brought by a smiling server each time.  Starting the day at Cachet feels so right.  

Sing about Ming

 Ming Court at The Langham, Xintiandi
Ming Court, that is.  The menu showcases Shanghai and Cantonese dishes with modern finesse.  (This is the sibling restaurant to the Michelin two-star Ming Court in Hong Kong’s The Langham Place Mongkok hotel.)  
The signature restaurant opened in 2011 and has won two major awards, including “Best New Chinese Restaurant” and “China Top 10 Chinese Restaurants” from leading Chinese media.
Deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayonnaise dressing
That comes as no surprise.  Standouts are many, including deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayonnaise dressing.  The crispy prawns taste fresh-caught and the beautifully balanced sauce teeters between heat and sweet.  
For roasted beef ribs garnished with golden slices of deep-fried garlic, the meat falls from the long bone with barely a prick of the fork.  The flavor is deep, rich and intensely beefy.  Clearly such premium meat is gently cooked for hours.
 Ming Court crispy chicken with fried lotus
Ming Court crispy chicken, served with lemon sauce and salt on the side, is garnished with lotus and citrusy-wonderful.  Fried rice with shrimp is nothing like the diet-busting variations we eat at home.  Instead of greasy clumpy rice, the rice appears as individual grains.  Wok-tossed with scallions, egg and shrimp, it’s light and clean-tasting.  You might even consider it health food, much in keeping with The Langham, Xintiandi’s philosophy.
The see more about the Langham Hotel visit the website:

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