Mirrors draw in beneficial chi, which is just what the gal wants in this buzz that is Shanghai that, with every visit, more than ever makes Manhattan seem like a sleepy backwater.
One of the many rooms that constitute the gym of Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel is completely mirrored, with a recycled wood floor. Everything about this hotel is real, environmentally aware.
Take the overall shape of the 21-floor hotel. It is a square, with a central cutout circle from the seventh floor up. This is Yu Cong shape. The outer square represents earth, the inner circle is heaven, so you look up from the seventh floor outside circular terrace, with water features, up through a 14-floor circular open atrium, a passageway connecting heaven and earth.
The 401-room hotel, and the adjacent 1,110-seat DaGuan Theatre and the Himalayas Art Museum, are owned by Dai Zhikang, an entrepreneurial philanthropist whose Zendai Group includes the Shanghai Zendai Investment Group and Shanghai Century Holdings.
He founded Shanghai’s annual International Film Festival, and the Dai Zhi Kang Education Foundation and he has written books. He personally will supervise the changing exhibitions in the museum, and the shows in his theatre (the BBC National Orchestra of Wales is scheduled for a July 12th, 2012, concert).
Driving up to the hotel, you think you have arrived at a blown-up kids’ play area, as Hobbit-like concrete ‘trees’ form one facet of the whole complex. The hotel’s front door’s entrance is reached via a red arch.
In front of the arch animal sculptures play, or rather paddle in a pond. Turn through 180 degrees and you feel playful too. There is our old friend Mr Bean, or Rowan Atkinson in Chinese disguise.
Inside the hotel’s main door you are confronted by a ten-foot rosewood dragon boat dating back about four centuries, apparently. You are surrounded by precious art, some $10 million worth, apparently.
This is part of Dai’s private collection, his finishing touch in a hotel that is built to maximum feng shui – the Chinese system of geomancy that uses laws of heaven and earth to improve life by giving positive qi.
But he has also invested in latest ideas. Look to the ceiling of the 40-foot high lobby and it shows a non-stop LED movie of sensual moving flowers and butterflies and unrecognisable shapes.
Below that, coming down the walls, at 15 foot height are yard-high characters, a thousand of them, back lit, telling the story of life. Below THAT are jutting out tiles, as if from housing. And below that again is some of the priceless art. Jumeirah, after all, says ‘stay different’.
There are lots of trees around, all real (nothing fake). Trees exert powerful influences on feng shui by promoting growth and good health. There are tree shapes on the smoked glass walls of elevator cabins.
Up in corner room 1717, the gauze curtains have a tree pattern, and the scatter rugs on the (recycled) wood floor have a bamboo pattern. The room flows, in a feng shui way.
Go from foyer clockwise through powder room, open bathroom, bedroom, living room, back to foyer. The walls of the bathroom slide back out of sight. The windows open, which surely must be good feng shui. Dinner is also, surely, good feng shui.
It is Italian, with three guys (two Australians, one Malay) and a German chef. The mushroom risotto is very more-ish, but we progress to cheesecake slices emblazoned with GirlAhead. We drink New Zealand, a Pinot Noir from Kim and Erica Crawford’s Kim Crawford winery in Marlborough, 2010.
Breakfast is in Café Arté, set off the main lobby to give feng shui flow to the garden beyond. At breakfast, where well over 300 eat on a busy weekday (the hotel is just across from Shanghai New International Expo Center), set tables flow right into the lobby.
The German chef stands proudly by the dedicated breads table, pointing out his favourite, with potato and onion. His homemade yoghurt is sensational (his deep-fried mackerel is probably the same, but not for me).
There are lots of locals here at all times – they picked up 3,000 followers in three months simply by posting their location on Sino Weibo. Really, these Chinese are amazing when it comes to online.
Need some Coca-Cola for the family, or Red Bull for the office? Order it online. Online is the buzzword at International Luxury Travel Market ILTM here in Shanghai this week.
They congregate in the lobby later in the day, for drinks. When the time is right, they come here for weddings and special occasions. A full-size rosewood pagoda in the middle of the lobby acts as stage for musicians.
Around you are four pillars, standing for the seasons (Spring is represented by wood, Summer is fire, Autumn is metal and Winter is water). More feng shui. It could get to you…
Akram Touma, who runs the hotel, has absorbed its owner’s culture and intent. He too understands the need for feng shui and the art that is all around to be shared, with whomever.
Thanks to a partnership with Apple, I am loaned a miniature iPod for a maximum-experience self-guided art tour of the hotel. Multi-skilling, I have started the tour while still breakfasting.
I learn about lucky cloud shapes, and how gourd (wulu) shapes supposedly hold magic nectar, for good luck. Have a round painting in your room, as I did in 1717, and you need a square (would my rectangular table suffice), yang to go with yin.
Do not have a mirror facing your bed (I did not) as it depletes energy (fortunately no shortage of that, here). Fascinating, learn a lot and live a lot..