By the time I reached Shanghai's Puli Hotel and Spa, I really hoped it would live up to its own billing as an "urban resort."
I'd taken a 7 a.m. train from Nanjing, two hours west, and arrived at Shanghai's crowded train station to find a line of about 50 people waiting for taxis. After a few wrong turns I found the metro station, which was as crowded and hectic as would be expected of a major Chinese city's subway system.
The Puli delivered. Entering the hotel is like walking into an oasis of calm, something travelers to Shanghai will appreciate.
Located away from many of the city's five-star hotels that are in the most tourist-filled areas near the Bund, the 193-room Puli is situated near Nanjing West Road, a high-end area with upscale shopping and a range of eating options. The hotel abuts the lovely Jing'an Park, an absolute must for weekend people-watching, and is around the corner from the famed Jing'an Temple.
The Puli's lobby is modern and sleek, with black, stone floors and dark, wooden furniture. But it is also cozy and inviting, with a wall of windows looking out onto a reflecting pool with the greenery of Jing'an Park behind it and Chinese art pieces and large candles thoughtfully placed throughout. The lobby's 105-foot Long Bar, offering cocktails and tea at one end and serving as the hotel's check-in desk and concierge at the other, is popular throughout the day.
A garden terrace off the lobby in front of the reflecting pool is an inviting place to unwind in lounge seating after spending a day in the bustling city outside.
The Puli hosted me for one night in one of its spacious rooms, decorated in a style similar to the lobby. A stay here has many inclusions, such as WiFi and minibars stocked with local beers and snacks and a Nespresso coffee machine.
The Puli's designers clearly thought about the rooms being places to both unwind and sleep well. Each room has a large bathtub, many in front of the windows overlooking Jing'an Park or the Shanghai skyline. When the air is clear, the 26-floor Puli offers terrific city views. The rooms come in many configurations, some quite creative, and most have separate seating areas.
Puli's main restaurant, Phenix, has a French menu, with dishes like assiette of duck and ratatouille and a lentil appetizer with salt-baked beetroots. Don't skip the olive-oil cake. The hotel's buffet breakfast is also not to be missed and has everything from vegetarian buns and congee to Western staples such as yogurt, oatmeal and lots of fresh-squeezed juices. I enjoyed the restaurant's views of Jing'an Park as much as the food.
A treatment at Puli's Anantara spa is also well worth it. The process starts with selecting the oil that is best for what you want the massage to do for you: an invigorating ginger or peppermint, or a more relaxing orange or lavender. It ends in a serene lounge with apple slices drizzled with honey, sea salt and tea powder and peach oolong, rose or chrysanthemum tea. You won't want to leave.
Active travelers will be impressed by the hotel's fully equipped fitness center and its 80-foot infinity pool.