Where is the gal, in endless fields of another world, or dancing to eternity? In fact here we are in the gym – or fitness centre, to use alternative modern terminology – of yet another, but unique, luxury hotel in Shanghai. It can be difficult, for a work-out addict, to remember one gym from another. There are those with stupendous views, like Park Hyatt Tokyo and Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, and even The Peak club at Jumeirah Carlton Tower London. But this, at another Jumeirah, Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai, is unique in another way.
The gym winds around the extraordinary hotel’s central ‘atrium’, a metal tube, about 150 feet across, that rises vertically from the seventh floor fitness-wellness area to the sky above, at 21 floors above ground. At the seventh floor, go out into the tube’s base, where a tropical garden includes palm trees and a thatched hut. Or walk around the tube, glass-walled at this level, to various areas of Technogym equipment, with Kinesis, and a studio room, and a three-room Talise spa.
From here, it was an easy elevator straight up to the new 21st floor. There was always a concrete shell here, at the top of the 401-room hotel. Now they have filled this shell in. Corridors are oh-so-Chinese, says my butlerette, Taylor. Tall ceilings are punctuated by full-length wood columns, forming a guard of honour as you walk. I am in 2105, one of five new duplex suites, again in enviable Chinese style. I have polished wood floors, Chinese books on shelves with fretted wood fronts. Welcome fruits and snacks come in an ancient Chinese chest, next to a carafe of super-food beetroot and apple juice.
Up 19 polished wood open stairs – treads only, no risers – I find my bedroom, dark-granite bathroom, and convenient corner desk. My bed, memorably, has two scarlet neck pillows complementing the industry-norm of a sea of white fluff. All-wall windows look out over Shanghai New Exhibition Centre, largest in China (mobile telecoms will be there this coming week, but apparently textile manufacturers, when they meet, spend the most on food and drink in the hotel). I head back downstairs, and along to the new Club Lounge, also on the 21st floor. Here you look down, over a side street of crammed-tight little restaurants and shops, to a complex of two-floor private houses, the most exclusive new gated development in Shanghai.
The 21st floor also has a holy of holies, which I am extremely privileged to see. This is the Living Buddha’s suite. When he comes to stay, his followers can sit on 30 circular orange satin cushions set in military order: they sit cross-legged looking at a wall of holy objects, His Holiness, and the hotel’s owner, sitting on wood chairs at one side. The Living Buddha’s bedroom merely has a wood platform, with two fabric-covered mats, but apparently he often sleeps sitting. There is so much fascination in this hotel. Think $15 million (US) in old and modern art – take a self-guided iPod tour. In the lobby, look up past a 16th century pagoda to a ceiling with constantly-changing fibre-optic patterns of the universe.
I dined, I breakfasted, or rather I lunched (my fault, I had ordered lunch rather than breakfast, for 4.30 a.m. delivery, which arrived 4.29, exact). At 5.25, exact, another minder waited outside my door. I was escorted seamlessly out of this unique luxury hotel, into the BMW, iPad and instant WiFi connectivity, and taken to Hongqiao rail station, the size of two football fields. And there my minder left me, in the right seating area by signs, in Chinese and English, showing me exactly which coaches need to board from this gate. Opposite me a chic local lady, purple Downton Abbey hat over dyed blonde hair, matching jacket, shortest-possible denim shorts and fuchsia high-heeled clogs, sits with her man (unexciting polo, shabby jeans, rubber flipflops, Rolex). This is modern China.