New Hotels in Asia for Art Lovers

W Shanghai – The Bund’s rooms and suites, such as this Fantastic Suite, overlook the Huangpu River.

Two new hotels in Shanghai and Guilin, China, have gone to great lengths to incorporate architectural features and artistic flourishes that reflect their physical surroundings and pay homage to the past. Meanwhile, a hotel in Saigon encourages guests to explore Vietnam’s history through its art, while a resort in Myanmar packages an important cultural festival. Here are some of the details.

Designed by the acclaimed G.A Design, the new W Shanghai – The Bund showcases the idea of Hai Pai, the art of combining the old and the new, Shanghai’s past with its avant-garde present, East and West. Both in the hotel’s location (between the Suzhou Creek and the Huangpu River in the North Bund) as well as the surrounding Art Deco locale, the hotel was designed to draw upon the colonial glamour and futuristic motifs of the city.

Guests are greeted by a neon light installation in the Living Room (W’s alternative name for “lobby”). The installation is based on the traditional scene of wet laundry being hung out to dry down narrow alleyways. The Welcome Desk includes a kaleidoscopic fixture, “echoing the constant flow of guests through the area.” Shanghai is a melting pot of cultures and “The Melting Qipao” pattern on the walls of the restrooms represents this aspect. 

Almost all of the 374 guestrooms and suites afford views of the Huangpu River due to the curved frame of the building. Each comes with a pillow in the shape of Shanghai’s famous Xiaolongbao (soup) dumpling and chopsticks as well as switchable privacy glass and Nespresso coffee machines.

Thirty-five of the rooms are suites, including the duplex Extreme WOW Suite that measures more than 4,000 square feet and has a hanging neon installation in the shape of lips blowing out dragon smoke. 

Regarding culinary art, W Shanghai 
– The Bund has five dining and bar venues. The Kitchen Table was inspired by a modern New York bistro and celebrates Shanghai’s thriving trade. For more traditional fare, Yen serves Cantonese cuisine. Before dinner, guests can “sneak off” for cocktails at Liquid at Yen, a hidden speakeasy where the onsite “Cocktail Professor” handcrafts the drinks. The design is meant to transport guests to 1920s Shanghai.

WooBar transforms from a daytime lounge to an evening cocktail bar, while WET (the hotel’s pool) and WET Bar offer views of the Shanghai skyline.

In Yangshuo, Guilin, the new Alila Yangshuo Resort overlooks the Li River. The former sugar mill was converted into a modern, retro-design resort with a style that is a mélange of 1960s architecture and contemporary elements. The Sugar House restaurant is actually set inside the historic Sugar Pressing Room, while the 1969 Bar — which houses a rum distillery — occupies the former Refining Room. 

The hotel has 117 rooms, suites and villas, plus an underground spa carved from volcanic rock, an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, a library, the Alila Living boutique, Play Alila (the kids’ club) and a private pier for dining. Guests can also go rock-climbing on the resort’s own karst hill. Opportunities for local cultural immersion include shopping in the markets and trying the traditional sugar-making process.

Alila Yangshuo Resort’s design integrates the new with the old, paying homage to the unique history of the heritage buildings.

The two-year-old The Reverie Saigon 
has a new package designed for guests to explore the history of Vietnam through its art. “Pearls of Saigon” includes a full day of exploring museums, galleries, artists’ homes and studios that provide an inside look at the country’s history. The eight-hour tour is tailored for guests and can range from general overviews to specific topics. Throughout the tour, they will discover important 20th- and 21st-century history, and how art was used during wartime as a tool of resistance, revolution and reconstruction, as well as how art is being used today.

Stops along the way include a walk through the Duc Minh private gallery, 
which has a collection of modern and postmodern works by artists from the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de L’Indochine and more, as well as a visit to Salon Saigon, a space housing a fine arts library and salon dedicated to presenting contemporary works and showcasing Vietnamese heritage and other Asian cultures through performances, screenings and educational programs. 

Guests will also eat lunch at Salon Saigon. The private, five-course meal includes traditional Vietnamese cuisine. A piano accompaniment during the prix-fixe meal or a 15-minute live performance of traditional Vietnamese dance can be requested for an added fee. 

An exclusive tour, only available to “Pearls of Saigon” guests, will then be given, showcasing the Salon’s private collection and library by its director or program coordinator. Guests may also visit the grand halls of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum.

The tour will be led by Sophie Hughes and Stu Palmer, who have lived in Vietnam since 2009 and have worked as gallery managers and film festival directors, as well as artistic collaborators. In 2011, Hughes founded Sophie’s Art Tour, which is cited as the country’s connection between international visitors and Vietnamese art.

The “Pearls of Saigon” package includes a two-night stay at The Reverie Saigon, roundtrip airport transfers, daily breakfast, private car and chauffeur, a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the tour, and lunch at Salon Saigon. Rates start at $1,422 for rooms and $1,782 for suites. 

Each year, the country of Myanmar hosts its Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, an important cultural and spiritual event held at one of the nation’s holiest sites. This year, the new Sanctum Inle Resort, which opened just last October, is taking part in the event, with a package that will introduce travelers to 800-year-old Buddha images on Inle Lake. Visitors can take a one-day sightseeing tour of the pagoda festival, a two-night stay in a Cloister Deluxe room for up to two people, breakfast and dinner for two daily with the “Splendid Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival Package.” This also includes return airport transfers, Wi-Fi access, use of the resort’s bicycles and a 10 percent discount on spa and laundry services.

The festival runs September 21 to October 8 this year at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, which houses five Buddha images “caked” in gold leaf. Pilgrims from across Myanmar are expected to descend on the lake for the festival to pay their respects. They will be towed in a gilded barge by hundreds of Intha fishermen in long canoes. 

During the festival, four of the images will be paraded around the lake in the barge along with gold and white umbrellas, flags and flowers as the procession makes its way to 14 villages on the lake. The fifth image, however, stays at the pagoda to “guard” the site during the festivities. Each of the 14 villages welcomes the four images with traditional Shan dances or martial arts on ceremonial boats. There are also rowing competitions between the villages, based on the traditional one-legged rowing style.

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