A Stay at Bulgari Hotel Shanghai is the Most Luxurious Way to Ease Back into Life in China

Holing up has Jeninne Lee-St. John dreaming of La Mer and Michelin stars at one of Shanghai’s most luxe recent openings.

Mar 23, 2020

As Shanghai gradually emerges from its quarantine-induced slumber, led by the re-openings of entertainment mammoth Disneyland Shanghai and cultural sites like the Shanghai Museum, I offer my small part in spurring the hospitality sector with a nod to the last place I bedded down there: the impressively lush, views-for-days Bulgari Hotel Shanghai.

The property is anchored on the Chamber of Commerce Shanghai building, a 1916 heritage building just off The Bund on the banks of the Suzhou River that still has its original Chinese floor mosaics and houses event spaces and the lovely Bao Li Xuan. Chef Fu Man Piu’s sage-silk-wallpapered Cantonese fine-diner notched a Michelin star in the 2020 guide, making it a poetic partner to Il Ristorante – Niko Romito, the classy Italian spot in Bulgari’s 47-story hotel tower just across the courtyard that has had a star since 2018, awarded just three months after opening. You could get the art-on-a-plate dim sum (sticky-rice-flour black-mushroom dumplings, please) and a multi-course contemporary-Italian dinner (praying that the potato-stuffed tortelloni topped with caviar is on the menu), and call it a stellar (sorry) day.

Bao Li Xuan. Courtesy of Bulgari Hotel Shanghai.

But we haven’t even discussed the other outlets, including (but not limited to!) the Bulgari chocolate shop, the high-flying ladies-who-lunch hotspot The Lounge, and La Terrazza, the rooftop bar that boasts front-row seats to The Bund and Pudong. All in, Bulgari Shanghai is a destination-dining mecca. It’s a gorgeous stay that’s also a lifestyle nexus. Judging by the upper-echelon clientele I saw during my stay, it’s a mod place for the coolest one-percent to meet, eat, chill and work… and work out. Much investment was made into the hotel’s wellness offerings, which encompass Workshop Gymnasium, a holistic physical and physiological personal training program founded by trainer-to-the-stars Lee Mullins; a 25-meter indoor pool lined by resort-style cabanas and sharing its steamy skylit space with an aquatherapy circuit; and the Bulgari Spa, the bait that really hooked me.

Oh, the spa. It’s a total utopia in the best of times, and one that’s become idealized in my dreams now that spas have been temporarily shut in Bangkok, where I live. How about this for covet-worthy? Bulgari Spa is the exclusive purveyor there of La Mer. The celebrity-circuit miracle cream whose secret ingredient is the trademarked Miracle Broth—a juice made of several types of seaweed that, while they ferment, are played a recording of previous broths bubbling away—might seem like over-expensive hocus-pocus. But having lived too long without rocket scientist Max Huber’s elixir slathered on my face, I’m now here to tell you that he was not messing around when he patented his Creme de la Mer back in 1983.

The Bulgari Spa. Courtesy of Bulgari Hotel Shanghai.

Let’s go ahead and christen spa director Elva my fairy godmother for the pampered-princess THREE-HOUR La Mer Protection Ritual she scheduled for me. It started with a La Mer body treatment, which is as heavenly as you’d think, constructed to hydrate and protect the skin from pollution and free radicals. After a scrub came a massage doused in oils of avocado, pomegranate seed and jasmine—a 90-minute blissfest that both loosened my muscles and tightened my skin. I was left feeling warm and cozy and crazy smooth, and that was just the beginning.

My therapist followed that up with a La Mer lifting facial, which used maybe 15 La Mer creams, serums, spritzes and masks, and involved a deep-tissue face massage, all in the hopes of stimulating circulation, sculpting my features and naturally contouring my visage. I later learned there were eye-smoothing tools that looked like a cute pair of fish involved. It was as lulling a narcotic as your mom stroking your hair when you were a kid. When she played the singing bowl to signal the end, she woke me from the sweetest slumber, and I really didn’t want to climb out of my furry-blanket cocoon. But I really did want to see what I looked like.

I wrapped myself in one of their thick double-lapel robes and looked in the mirror. My skin was glowing, like I had a golden light shining from within. My jawline and cheeks seemed higher, I could barely spot any fine lines, and the dark circles under my eyes that plague all the women in my family were gone. With my entire body contoured and shimmering as well, I was almost bummed I didn’t have a ball to attend that night. But the 3½ hours in that calming, warm-cocoa-colored room were like a tranquilizer. I kept on the robe and padded back up to my suite in slippers, ordered soup from room service, climbed under the oh-so-subtly branded Bulgari cashmere blanket, and passed out before the carnival lights of Pudong flashing out my window across the river.   

Bund views. Courtesy of Bulgari Hotel Shanghai.

The day set my new benchmark for pampering, and I still wasn’t done. I innocently inquired of Elva how long the treatment effects would last and the wonderful woman waved her wand and booked me a touch-up La Mer eye lifting treatment just before my check-out. More Miracle Broth, more hydration to fill out the lines, a few more once-overs with their silver and jade tools to cool and smooth the skin… I normally get eyelash extensions to make my eyes appear as large and bright as that facial two-step left me for a week. Whether you’ve got to just shuffle back up to your room, dash to a party in the grand ballroom next door, or jet out of town, the place leaves you looking and feeling in a way Shanghai’s incessant bustle usually doesn’t: utterly relaxed.

From My Stay

bulgarihotels.com; doubles from RMB3,100.

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