China Travel Guide
China, bless its little cotton socks, is not a country that we’ve traditionally associated with a thriving boutique hotel scene (the recently opened Jade Gallery Boutique Hotel in Chengdu, for instance, has an onsite casino!). But while the rest of the world busies itself with the millennial market, it looks like China is focusing on its boutique properties.
The latest to open is the Sofu Hotel in Beijing. It’s a fun location, on Huguosi Hutong (Street), a traditionally styled shopping street, which is also home to one of Beijing’s most famous snack bars.
Millennials have dominated the hotel scene for at least a year, now. Will the trend burn out soon? Who knows? But in the meantime, one lot of savvy hoteliers is going for the next generation – enter the Toy Story Hotel, due to open in Shanghai next year.
Who is this company thinking of the kids? It’s Disney, natch – the hotel will form part of the Shanghai Disney Resort (Disney’s sixth on the globe). This is Toy Story full immersion: the exterior will be done up to resemble the clouds-n-sky wallpaper of Andy’s bedroom, and there will be a gigantic Pixar ball at the porte cochere.
Toy Story Hotel will have 800 rooms, and, according to Disney, will “immerse guests in a world inspired by the toys from the Disney Pixar series of Toy Story animated films”. Which could be a little creepy.
Meet MiniMax, the next new hotel brand aimed at experience-driven millennials, and "big foot", which we think is a clever expression of the hotel brand's core objective of having a small ecological footprint.
Shanghai-based real estate giant, Shimao Group, has announced the launch of not one, but two, hotel concepts and guess what? They're aimed at discriminating millennials. (Is there any other kind these days?
The new brand is called MiniMax and there will be two versions under the same flag, MiniMax Hotel, the midscale concept, and MiniMax Premier Hotel, the high-end concept. The first hotel to debut will be MiniMax Hotel Shanghai Songjiang, opening this December.
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What’s more, we actually have a photo from inside the hotel: we present to you, above, what a Spectacular Room looks like. A step up from entry-level Wonderful Rooms, they run at $318 under the “Extraordinary W Offer”. That shoots up to $451 for a fully flexible rate. The room comes in at nearly 540 sq ft, with the prerequisite open plan bathroom and some interesting purple herringbone-style art-slash-headboard. That pattern comes back in the hardwood floors and what we think could be quite a pretty blue area rug.
The exterior of the hotel leaves no doubt about this being a W either: check it out below.
While Venice and Vietnam got their Aman Resort in 2013, the openings we so optimistically wrote about for China and Jordan never materialized. Another year on, and we’re still waiting, but just like that we stumbled onto two things for one of them: a recruitment ad and an interior image.
This page has the ad for an Executive Assistant Manager (Rooms) at AmanDayan, the 32-suite resort on Lion Hill in the ancient city of Lijiang, in China’s Yunnan province. While the ad refers to it without the capital letter, we were explicitly told at the time that AmanDayan is how it should be spelled. We’re going to liberally take the closing date of mid-November as a sign that the resort is nearing completion, so perhaps we’ll see an early 2015 opening?
Diving a bit further down the rabbit hole that is the internet, we came upon the above photo here, in a post now about a year old. While we’d take it with a grain of salt, the design does strike us as being very Aman, so who knows. We’re hoping to get some more detail soon, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, further east in Japan, we wouldn’t hold our breath for a 2014 opening of Aman Tokyo either – expect that to be a 2015 affair too. When we have more detail, we'll be sure to let you know.
[Photo: Weibo via Flyertalk, JasonD]
Right after Shanghai (now 2016, but previously 2015) and before Dubai (2018), Bulgari Beijing is slated for early 2017, next to the Liangma river in the Embassy District. Its 120 rooms will, apparently, be some of the largest in the Chinese capital. There will also be an Italian restaurant, bar, spa and – wait for it – a private park.
The hotel will be designed by Bulgari’s regular team from Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners, and the look will be “contemporary Italian”, though there are no renderings yet. But know that Bulgari has high hopes – according to the website, “It is conceived as a link between the discerning traveler in search of nature and art, and the sophisticated elite of Beijing.” Backhanded compliment or clumsy wording? We can’t decide. Either way, let's hope it's not Vulgari.
Kempinski Hotels are now accepting reservations for their largest and their most striking hotel to date in China.
The Sunrise Kempinski Hotel, Beijing is located about an hour’s drive from Beijing’s city center and shares the site of a larger complex of Kempinski managed hotels overlooking the picturesque Yanqi Lake.
The design of the hotel—and this escaped even our eagle eyes—draws inspiration from the rising sun and other symbolism in Chinese culture. The architect, Shanghai Huado Architect Design Company, led a 60-day pow-wow with 60 designers from around the world, seeking a worldly perspective to come up with this unusual design, pictured above.
The 60 designers concluded that the hotel should resemble a scallop (anyone see a snail?) which is a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture. The large bull’s eye in the center of the hotel’s outside wall represents—we are told—the rising sun, which in turn reflects the rising Chinese economy.
The view from a room at The Upper House
One of Hong Kong's most luxurious hotels, The Upper House, was forced to cancel its Anniversary Party, which was scheduled for Wednesday, October 1, due to the pro-democracy demonstrations in the city's Admiralty and Central districts.
The demonstrations began over the weekend and have carried on today, forcing the city to cancel its fireworks show in honor of National China Day. A central issue for the protestors are the 2017 elections for the city's chief executives. Hong Kong, formerly a British colony, was promised full "universal suffrage" but then China said only candidates fully-vetted by a Beijing-friendly committee could participate. A police crackdown on Sunday involved the use of tear gas, pepper spray and batons but only resulted in having the opposite effect as people, outrage by the use of force, joined the protests .
As the demonstrations continue, more and more of Hong Kong's hotels are being affected. Here's a snapshot taken about an hour ago of the Mandarin Oriental Landmark Hotel:
Hong Kong's top Mandarin hotel is barricaded by protesters. Road access is blocked pic.twitter.com/Bt5NS08atg— Richard Frost (@frostyhk) September 29, 2014
Indeed the hotel has even pulled down steel gates over its entrance:
Not your usual Mandarin Hotel welcome in Hong Kong pic.twitter.com/jVjymRq8MB— Richard Frost (@frostyhk) September 29, 2014
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This: The Castle Dalian, one of the latest additions to Starwood’s Luxury Collection (or at least that’s how we like to imagine the creative process went). Especially in CGI rendering, it has a more than a touch of Dreamworks to it, but it’s very real, and has hotel rooms inside that you can book. Check out the understated minimalism (not) you will find inside below.
Beijing is adding a few more big names to its roster of hotels this fall: the W should arrive after some major delays in by the end of the month and Rosewood Hotels is set to open its first Chinese hotel in October.
What slightly confuses us is that on the weekend we were able to make reservations from October 20, but right now the availability calendar is blocked out well into 2015. We’ll just assume that’s a temporary glitch and not an indication of the opening date being at risk.
When it does open, Rosewood Beijing will have 283 rooms opposite the twisting CCTV Tower by Rem Koolhaas. Above an impression of what you’ll find inside, which we saw – and liked – for the first time a year ago: clean lines, dark woods, whites, and a bit of burnt orange (cognac?) in the swivel chair. There is of course a variety of rooms and suites, including a number of Spa Suites that have in-room treatment areas.
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Starwood Hotels & Resorts has done exactly what they said they would do in their expansion into China and the Asia Pacific. There are, and have been for quite some time, more hotels in the works than we can keep up with. Almost all Starwood brands have or will soon have an address in China, including Element Hotels, which is opening next year.
We've tried to list all that we know of that's happening with Starwood in China on our Master Openings List, but as seasoned readers of the list know, things change quite a bit and most hotels, get pushed onto the next year.
However, Starwood has three important openings in China in September, with properties that are very big on design and luxury. Here they are:
Are you a thrill-seeker, but only in a conservative way? Like heights, but wouldn’t jump off them? Enjoy getting to know a new culture, but only in familiar surroundings?
If so, we have your 2018 vacations sorted. You’re going to China! Specifically, to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in Central China.
It’s in Wuhan that the tallest twin towers in the world are currently under construction, and the Telegraph reports that they will house hotels, among other things. Exactly where they will sit in the 3280ft towers is unclear, but let’s hope they’re nice and high.