7. 30 PM Shanghai time. I have left my home in Manhattan exactly 20 hours ago. The time difference here is 12 hours in advance, meaning in New York is now 7. 30 AM.
It is absurd, I know, but it is what it is. Our driver Xi, sent by a good friend of ours who lives in town , is waiting at the airport exit with our name on a white paper card. The traffic is dense due to the Holiday Season and the coming Western New Year but strange enough discipline is a key factor here and no annoying horns are blown like you would expect in any developing country.
We are now in the area of Pudong, ( lit "Huangpu East Bank"), located along the east side of the Huangpu River, across from the historic city center of Shanghai in Puxi. Formerly a little-developed agricultural area linked only by ferries, Pudong has grown rapidly since the 1990s and emerged as China's financial and commercial hub.
Slightly dizzy, I look through the windows and notice speechless the showcase of ultra modern skylines competing with each other like Rio de Janeiro's old Schools of Samba at the Sambodromo during Carnival time. The contest price would be for hight, lights and creative shape.
Driver Xi, who speaks some English ( a grand rarity in China) , explains that Pudong is home to the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone and the Shanghai Stock Exchange and many of Shanghai's best-known buildings, such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building, the Shanghai World Financial Center. It is also the site of the future Shanghai Tower. These modern skyscrapers face directly across from Puxi's historic Bund, the remnant of Shanghai's former concessions.
We have arrived at the future. In this future a gigantic architectural facade decorated with white metal panels , the Prada store , lies next for to the majestic entrance hallway of architect Cezar Pelli masterpiece The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, whose impressive building integrates luxury offices, residential and retail space.
At the top 18 floors of this ultra-modern 58-story, lies the hotel whose prime location overlooks the Bund, and where my friends I chose to spend the New Year transition in Peace , Health and Wealth!
The car has barely stopped, a young man opens the door quickly and says without one single pause to catch breath:"Welcome miss Joelle Maslaton! my English name is William Hua , I am the guest relation of the Ritz Carlton- come with me - you do not need to check out at the front desk, I will take care of everything for you - you must be tired- I will personally take you to your suite- that I hope you will enjoy- it's very special" He adds with enthusiasm.
I pause in disbelief, how in heaven would this man know who I am since I have never requested a hotel car, nor I ever told them at what time and which flight and from where I would arrive! " Later , Spanish Xavi Gonzalez the hotel's general manager who waited for me at the suite replied my questions with a simple answer, the one of a Conquistador : " Miss Maslaton here, we have our ways!"
I walk across the marbled hallway of the Sky Lobby at the sound of Billy Holiday and notice an exquisite ambient scent traveling directly from my nostrils and reaching the depth of my senses. Relaxed and happy I sign twice the check in papers sitting comfortably on the Aura lounge's sophisticated aquamarine velvet couch surrounded by exotic plants and heavily detailed cushions matching luxurious wall-to-wall carpets in the same tones. I notice from far ( never too comfortable with heights) that those colors blend in with the sky and the river below.
I walk through mosaics of mirrors and thick glass of the Jazz Bar, deco style wall lamps and pagoda style chandeliers into an elevator whose threatening wind noise can be felt in the space of a few seconds due to the floor 's height.
We stop at the 51st level. The Ritz Carlton Suite opens it's door to my tired soul. Bright light coming for the windows strike my eyes while I am literally blown up in awe by the 410 square meters and 5.8 ceiling height ceilings. William smiles, looking proudly almost happier than me. Renowened world designer Richard Farnell was very successful in blending sleek elegance with 1930 glamour Shanghai Art Deco touches harrmonicslly blend with the contemporary interiors.
The bathroom is a charming and luxurious knockout!. It's bath tab especially designed for the hotel group have all what one needs to soak in and get lost in translation, a remote controls for a small embedded wall TV, bath salts and Aqua di Parma toiletries, all sorts of useful amenities and delicious comfy silky embroidered bath robes you want to take home in your suitcase without telling anyone. State-of-the-art-technology, consisting in high definition LCD flat panels with dual speakers , surround blue Ray dec player, wireless internet are part of the Suite menu.
But the real piece de force in this place is the surrounding view! The Pearl of the Oriental TV tower reigns supreme against a background of hundreds of buildings which can be easily identified one after the other on an elegant long and narrow sepia print of a hand drawing. The center piece of this landscape is the Shanghai rchitectural landmark, the historic Bund.
24 hours service and a dedicated butler promise to be attentive anything I might need from this moment on.
But now, please get out everyone, I want to dream high!