Thursday, 29 July 2010

Shanghai's Peace Hotel reborn

Shanghai's Art Deco Peace Hotel, long famous for ts aging jazz band, has reopened under the luxury Fairmont banner.

The hotel, on the riverfront Bund, opened in 1929, before the Communist takeover. Its illustrious guests included Charlie Chaplin. George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward, who wrote Private Lives there.

But the Japanese damaged it during their wartime occupation and the city's authorities then neglected it. By the time I visited in the 1990s, mainly to hear the band play its nostalgic mix of jazz and dance swing with an oriental tinge, its art deco glories had become sadly run down.

Now it has been restored, complete with Lalique glass, Italian marble, the sprung dance floor on the eight floor and, of course, the jazz bar.

When it opened it was called the Cathay. It became known as "Number One mansion in the Far East". The hotel had been built to amaze. Original guests marvelled at its advanced plumbing and Shanghai's first electric lift. Bur how could they have foreseen that nearly hree quarters of a century later, their successors would be able to watch "bath side" LCD television screens as they soaked after a hard day?

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