Oh, What a View!
This short trip to Shanghai started out as a need to get away from it all for a while; it was last-minute, and completely unplanned for. That would have explained why we chose to stay at Shanghai Baron Business Hotel instead of a better one because it just seemed awfully wasteful to me. We splurge on a lot of things when we travel, but accommodation is rarely one of them.
However I did badly want a night in one of those mad expensive hotels down by The Bund, along the Huangpu River (黄浦江) just so that I could capture the night view of The Bund from a vantage point. And our plan before flying off was to decide which hotel it should be – Waldorf Astoria Shanghai, Les Suites Orient Bund Shanghai or perhaps Ritz-Carlton Shanghai. Yet we could not come to a consensus, simply because a standard room in one of these hotels would be really expensive, not to mention a room with a river view. I just couldn’t bear to spend that kind of money.
The one-night splurge was all clean forgotten as I tried overcome the last-minute rush to produce some semblance of an itinerary we could refer to. It wasn’t perfect, but I did manage to get something sensible loaded onto the iPad.
Fast forward to our time in Shanghai. I was disappointed with the view, or lack of, in the room at Shanghai Baron Business Hotel although I understood with the price, came some sacrifices. If the mister was disappointed, he didn’t show it in any way. Hence, imagine my surprise when he posed me the question, on the second night, about whether we should move on to another hotel for the last two nights. I was naturally elated at the suggestion, although I still had concerns about the unnecessary splurge. We discussed about it a little more, and decided to go ahead with the decision by channelling funds for shopping into accommodation (since by the second night, we had bought absolutely nothing and knew for certain there wouldn’t be much shopping to be done in the next few days).
His selection was a surprise. Instead of the more reputable hotels we shortlisted, he decided on Hotel Indigo Shanghai, a relatively new boutique hotel on The Bund that sits right next to Shiliupu Dock (十六铺码头). Far away from every other sightseeing spot in Shanghai with the exception of Yu Garden (豫园) and The City God Temple (城隍庙), but oh what a wondrous sweeping view of The Bund and Pudong from the hotel! I was completely and irrevocably sold.
The first thing that wowed me over when we checked into the hotel on Sunday afternoon was not the view it offered, but the service we received at the swanky reception. A personable staff served the mister while I slouched at one of the two interesting bamboo-made chairs at the lobby, reviewing pictures I’d taken at Tianzifang (田子坊) earlier on. And then I got bored while waiting for something to happen. I walked over to the reception counter just as the mister was being briefed on certain privileges he got to enjoy as a Gold Card member (later on we figured out that the mister ‘earned’ the status due to his two-month at Virginia, USA). And while finalising the check-in process, we were each offered a cup of hot milo (even though we were about to walk away!). I noticed that the staff went on to offer every single hotel guest a cup of milo as we were whisked off to the lift lobby by the same affable hotel staff that served the mister at the reception counter. Such personalised service! It was a very nice change from the service, or lack of, received at the other hotel.
Then we entered our room at 2111 and I fell hopelessly in love. With the room, that is. Our Deluxe Bund Pudong view room on the 21st level is tastefully furnished, with just a touch of opulence. Classy, but not overtly crass. Behind the bed was a black & white mural of Yu Garden, with the brick roof of a typical house accenturated in its original red, which choice I’m certain is due to its close proximity to the real thing.
Then, I switched to my wide-angle lens so as to take in more of the room. At the far left corner, the black shiny console jutting out is the TV console with a 42″ flat-screen TV sitting on it, and at the right corner you see the study table with a ‘No Smoking’ sign. And we have not even yet looked at the view this room offers.
The mister, on the other hand, had long since gone on to explore other parts of the room including the walk-in closet, electronic toilet and a bathroom featuring Grohe rain shower system, a bath tub allowing you to view the Pudong skyline or a small TV, if you faced inward. We both have our own idiosyncrasies in this way: I have an obsession with good beds with sheets of high thread-count, and the mister is obsessed with the bathroom. We were happy to conclude that with certainty, Room 2111 passed both our tests.
And that would be the mister pulling the day curtains around to assess the view this room offers. No, don’t rub your eyes. They are not playing tricks on you; it is true that nothing can be seen at the time when I took this picture. It was really unfortunate that the few days we were in Shanghai, it was mostly misty and foggy. While we were happy with the room, it was a tremendous disappointment that the weather was such a letdown.
BUT… things improved in the night. And this is where you should pay attention if you are a photographer intending to capture night shots of The Bund. The bright lights illuminating the buildings on The Bund do get switched off, and the timing depends on the time of the year. According to our friend A, the lights go off at 11 pm. However we noted that the lights were turned off at 10 pm when we were there in mid-December. I reckon that is because the lights also come on earlier in winter when the sun sets earlier. This information was nowhere mentioned in the guidebooks I read nor available online, so you could imagine my surprise when A told us about it. To think I ever contemplated walking to the bund in the middle of the night to take some pictures. Thank goodness the mister did not entertain my whim, or we would have been in for a rude shock when we see complete darkness.
Finally, a view that befits the title of this post. And the reason why we gravitated towards Hotel Indigo in the very first place. This was the view we saw at CHAR Bar & Grill, on the 30th level of the hotel where the bar is located. Dinner for the day was settled at the restaurant outfit on the 29th level and oh, they serve really delectable steak with choices of quality cuts. Not particularly expensive to the extent that it will cost you an arm and a leg too. We were immensely satisfied after a good dinner following which we went up to the bar for some drinks. After sufficient liquor entered our systems, we stepped out to the terrace to brave the winds and drizzle. And didn’t even last ten minutes in the open despite being dressed for the climate. It was that cold.
Hastily, we stepped back into the comfort of the bar to warm up before going out to face the elements again. By the time we were ready to go out again, it was past 10 pm and all there was was a patch of black in the direction of The Bund. We were enlightened (that the lights switch off at 10 pm in winter) only after speaking with one of the service staff at the bar. Our only hope was that the following night, our last night in Shanghai, would bestow better weather upon us.
The next night, we returned to CHAR Grill & Bar. And simply told the service staff that we just wanted to take some shots at the terrace (after seeing how many tourists who didn’t stay at the hotel do it the night before). Now here’s the deal: you absolutely don’t have to spend at the bar to go out to the terrace for the view, but I think it would be nice to have a couple of drinks at the bar. All in all, I think it’s a very generous gesture on the part of the bar.
The weather was better in that it didn’t rain. But that was about it. The same strong wings howled and threatened to topple my tripod together with the DSLR attached to it. Yea, my tripod didn’t exactly work in that kind of weather because it is too lightweight. We did however manage to capture a couple of nice shots after countless attempts. And then it was time to go; a morning flight and the need to rise early the next day necessitated that.
In spite of its distance from most things interesting in Shanghai, I was very pleased with our two nights stay in the hotel. Hotel Indigo Shanghai is so my choice again when we revisit!