Shanghai's newest hotel, Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund, touts itself as a romantic getaway in an urban resort. The hotel's expansive view certainly lives up to the "romantic" part, and the secluded location fits the "getaway" - at least for now.
But while its name suggests otherwise, Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund is not actually situated on the popular stretch of the city's historic waterfront. It's further up north, just past the bend of the Huangpu River. At the moment, the neighbourhood still looks very much a work in progress with plenty of construction going on in the area. The taxi driver took a while to work out the location of the hotel.
According to Carol Qian, the hotel's director of marketing communications, the spot was picked for its apparent isolation, as befitting the hotel's positioning as an urban resort. "It may seem like it's in the middle of nowhere, but the Bund is only five minutes away by taxi," she says.
Shanghai International Cruise Ship Terminal can also be reached by a leisurely three-minute stroll through the riverside park.
The Shanghai hotel is Banyan Tree's fourth "urban resort", says Abid Butt, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts' chief executive. The fifth will debut in Tianjin next year.
"We will continue to develop this concept internationally and within China, alongside our other destinations and integrated resort projects."
Housed in an arched building with a glass front constructed for a view, the hotel's 130 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the river and the futuristic Pudong skyline on the opposite bank. A private heated dipping pool by the window can be found in 27 of the rooms, but these are not the only rooms where you can literally soak in the magnificent view of yachts and ships sailing by - all the other rooms feature a round bathtub by the window.
On top of that, a bath menu offers choices ranging from "relaxing" to "stimulating", with prices starting from 460 yuan (HK$567) for a simple scrub to 880 yuan for an experience that comes complete with champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Other options include candles, bath oils, flowers, cocktails and snacks. The bath set-up can be arranged at a touch of the "Banyan Tree Host" button on the telephone. There's also a button for dinner reservations at any restaurant in Shanghai, or suggestions and directions for places of interest. The Banyan Tree Host, which is available 24 hours a day, replaces the traditional hotel concierge service.
Other departures from convention include a "living room" replacing the typical hotel lobby and a long counter at one end of the living room where discreetly concealed printers and other office equipment readily available for guests replaces the hotel's need for a dreary business centre.
The resort chain puts a lot of focus on its spas, and it's no different at Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund. The therapists at the resort have all trained at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy, and during the spa treatment, guests can select from a variety of scents to fill the room with. Scents get a lot of attention at this resort: a different one fills the reception area each day and there is also a selection available in all the guest rooms.
Similar little touches are also evident elsewhere throughout the hotel. When the doorbell rang in the afternoon, it was a pleasant surprise of afternoon snacks. At its restaurants, including Oceans, Ming Yuan and Tai Hei, and Banyan Lounge, shawls and reading glasses are available at the front counter for those who want to stay cosy while chilling out with a book.
An urban resort suggests insulation from the hustle and bustle of the outside world and thus would not be complete without food worth staying in for. At Oceans, head chef Jose Fernando Corona Burch - who has honed his culinary chops at Arzak and El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, both of which have three Michelin stars - sees to that. The restaurant is so named because it specialises in seafood.
At Ming Yuan, which serves Cantonese cuisine, the speciality is soup.
It won't be too long before the Northern Bund neighbourhood smartens up. Another luxury hotel is slated to open nearby in 2014. Next year will see the addition of a retail mall next door as well as the completion of Line 12 of the metro network - there will be a stop within walking distance from the hotel and its location might not seem so out of the way then.