Yeoh Siew Hoon returns to Shanghai to find the glitz is even glitzier. A friend once described Shanghai to me as an MGM movie set.
I think he means Pudong. Everything on this former farmland seems to be built for show, with each building shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!”
As though not content with their towers reaching up into the sky, all have spires that look like fingers trying to touch the stars, each trying to be higher and flashier than the other.
It’s been 12 months since my last visit and already, the Pudong skyline has changed. There are more skyscrapers here than on the “Towering Inferno” movie set.
And because it’s nearly Christmas time, all are decked out with lights brighter and more colourful than on any skyscraper in Singapore or Hong Kong.
From my bedroom at the St Regis, I get to watch a laser show every night. Beams of light shoot from building to building, like in a movie. Who needs to go to Disneyland?
On check-in, I am shown up to the Ladies Floor. The hotel wants me to try a new service they have introduced for the growing legions of women business travellers. They started off with two floors and have now added a third, due to popular demand, says a hotel spokesperson.
Personally, I am not fussed about wanting to stay on a Ladies Floor. The rooms do have special amenities for women such as an extra set of Bvlgari toiletries, women’s magazines, a well-stocked vanity set.
I asked my butler (female, of course), just to check her reaction (of course) as to what would happen if I brought back a man for the night?
She blushed and giggled. I am not sure I got an answer but I felt like I was living back at home with my mother, asking for permission to bring home a boyfriend.
But I do wonder – what if a man specially requested for the Ladies Floor? Would he be told no? “Of course we would not turn him down if he insisted,” my butler giggled.
If you’ve been to Shanghai, you’ll realise that no one seems to talk about anything other than how to make money and how to spend money.
The former is of course more difficult than the latter.
At every conference, speakers obsess about the consuming power of China, with every one sharing numbers that are bigger and better than the other. The problem is, no one’s quite figured out how to actually make real money yet – the pot of gold at rainbow’s end remains elusive.
But when it comes to spending money, now that’s a different story. Every visitor shops like they’ve gone mad in this Planet Consumer – I’ve seen grown men weep at the gates of shopping paradise here. They buy everything from golf clubs to fake suits, and they boast about the bargains they got.
Women? Well, big girls don’t cry, they just spend.
You can also spend a lot on hotel rooms, as hotel rates are the envy of most hoteliers in the region. Charles Abbott, general manager of St Regis, who’s been there for three years, wears a constant smile on his face. His eyes are always twinkling. You can tell he loves his job, the city and the results he gets.
The Pudong Shangri-La just opened a new tower with 300 rooms and I am told they just filled up as easy as water down a duck’s back. The new tower is as flashy and glitzy as the rest of Shanghai with every restaurant there. The Café Ye is impressive. I think it’s about the size of a football field with more food stations than I could count.
When in Shanghai too, there are always new restaurants for you to try and spend your hard-earned money in. I went to M On The Bund, which I think is over-rated and the food over-salted. The view from the terrace is the best thing going for it.
I tried out Whampoa, the new Shanghai restaurant at Three On The Bund. It takes 10 minutes to walk into the dining area. The entrance is opulent and loud. I am overwhelmed by the profusion of gold and glass. Here, all that glitters is indeed gold.
The food is contemporary – this means, traditional food tarted up in modern ways. I have to take my hat off to the chef for his creativity – he does spare ribs in almond and cocoa. It looks sweet but tastes sour. It grows on you with each tasting.
The service is impeccable though, unlike in other establishments. Service standards in Shanghai do not yet live up to the promise of the hardware.
Movie sets are easy to build
The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia’s most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company’s mission is “Content, Communication, Connection”.
She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published “Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries”. Her motto is ‘free to do, and be’.