Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Peace Hotel On The Bund, Shanghai

The Peace Hotel, The Bund, Shanghai, China

One of the great joys of travel can be the hotels and 'hotels' you stay in - whether it's a yurt in in Huahouta in Inner Mongolia ...



... the Maharajah of Jaipur's Palace in India ...



... or the back-packer Sun Hotel ...


... with its resident monkeys ...



... and peerless view over the Ganges and its ghats ...


... at extraordinary Varanassi ...







I lived for a year in China - in 1988, just before the Tiananmen Square incident - and had another of those magic hotel experiences at the famed Peace Hotel on the Shanghai Bund alongside the Huangpu River ...



Completed in 1929 as the exclusive expatriate mens' club, the then Sassoon House was in a severe Art Deco style, but with lavish interiors ...




The Ballroom (During Restored)

A Passage Way and Stairs (During Restored)


... its passage ways and rooms encrusted with now priceless Lalique glass artwork. still in evidence when was stayed there.

video

There have of course been changes since the late '80s, not the least of which the transformation of the paddy fields on the opposite side of the river, viewable in 1988 from the second floor dining room, into the now bustling metropolis of Pudong ...


But what's in fact really amazing about this establishment is its quirky and anecdotal history.

In 1949, with bullets flying round the streets outside the hotel, a desperate refugee from the mayhem banged admittance on the front door, only to be asked by those leaning over from an upper balcony:

But are you a member sir?

The reply No! led to a hastily convened club committee meeting to advice on the complex question of temporary membership. It's not recorded whether the motion was passed or otherwise!

A myriad of delicious memories now come flooding back.

A hotel employee telling me that in the 1920s at the racecourse nearby there was a sign that read 'No dogs or Chinese allowed'.

And another that Noel Coward finished 'Private Lives' in the hotel.

But in fact my most enduring recollection is of the jazz band that had been performing in the basement since the 1930s ...

video

... with its then trumpet player a dead ringer of the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong - a totally surreal experience at 3am!

So, at least for me, my accommodation can be a far greater part of the travel experience than is conventionally accepted!

Have you guys had any such out-of-body hotel experiences?

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