The NYT reports on the phenomenal building boom that is transforming Shanghai at a feverish pace. My recent memory of Shanghai (2004)-- a landscape ravaged by industry, blanketed by pollution, and marked by strangely toxic sunsets over the Bund but also steeped in fascinating history and culture-- is barreling towards an unrecognizable future. The biggest city on Earth is about to get a whole lot bigger: host to the biggest ports, one of the biggest automobile factories, the biggest shipyard, Asia's largest shopping mall, and mammoth, futuristic skyscrapers dominating the Pudong riverfront. Shanghai's got its eye on surpassing New York in magnitude, size, and industrial infrastructure. And the trends I noticed a few years ago-- skyscrapers shooting up as quickly as bamboo stalks, the neon hovering and enormous in the smog, the transformation of the cosmopolitan face of modern China-- will continue at breakneck speed. As reported by the NYT, conservationists and critics bemoan the city's cultural losses: the architecture and personality of a city that has such a storied history, including its 19th century imperial division into autonomous colonial possessions, each ruled by the Brits, French and Americans. Historical neighborhoods of winding alleyways, open air markets and rich, authentic street life are set to be demolished.
Like China's capital, which is undergoing a crash rebuilding program in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Shanghai is using its role as host of the World Expo to shift what had already been a hugely ambitious remake into high gear. By the standards of recent urban development projects in the West — the so-called Big Dig in Boston, say — the scale of what the city is undertaking is astounding.
Along the western banks of the Huangpu River, site of the historic Bund thoroughfare, a 2,000-plus-yard-long stretch of the waterfront is being razed and redeveloped. The essence of the Bund, a virtual museum of Western architecture, flush with classical, Gothic and Art Deco landmarks, will be preserved, but densely inhabited neighborhoods at its edge are already being demolished.
Talk about ambition. As the city "aims for the top as it ascends the hierarchy of world cities, with one eye on longtime champions like New York, and another on its fraternal rival, Beijing," its rich heritage will perhaps be lost forever. Best to get there fast before a new breed of skyscrapers (already twice as many as New York's) paves China's quintessential urban cityscape.
We recently noted that Loews Hotels assumed management of the Washington, D.C. landmark-- The Madison Hotel. But what we didn't note is the hotel's Special Introductory Rate, to celebrate Loews return to the nation's capital during the springtime season of perfect temperatures and beautiful cherry blossoms. Check into Washington's traditional establishment (and check out Loews's signature style)-- for as low as $179 a night. Offer is valid for Friday and Saturday evenings through June 24, 2006.
After three years of construction and $350 million spent on resort redevelopment, Georgia's exclusive Sea Island hot spot is ready to dazzle. The elegant 1928 hotel-- regularly hosting royalty and international dignitaries through the 20th century-- was ready for some work, and the new Mediterranean style main building (with the meticulous restoration of the legendary Spanish Lounge) is absolutely stunning. Guests are already shelling out the dough for coveted guest rooms, the summer season promising to be booked solid. And who can blame them? The epitome of Old World elegance, these rooms feature wood beamed ceilings, 500-thread count Italian sheets, Turkish stone baths, Bulgari White Tea toiletries, antiques and original art, and are draped in custom-designed hand-loomed Turkish rugs. Of course, there's also the appeal of the attentive private butler service and impeccable Southern hospitality. Additional developments are in store for this award-winning resort: the construction of a new Spa at Sea Island is slated to open in October, and the Beach Club is expected in Summer 2007.
The Cloister at Sea Island, Five Star Alliance
In a week, Westin is opening the doors to luxury in its first property in the South Pacific. Say hello to the new Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa, Fiji. A five-star oasis surrounded by tropical gardens and long, palm-graced sandy beaches. The old Sheraton got a $15 million makeover and morphed into a brand-spanking-new Westin, its style and architecture designed to reflect Fiji's cultural heritage. The resort's new Heavenly Spa is the largest in Fiji. Set within a 1,350-square meter meditation garden, the Spa features eight Fijian-style treatment bures and two suites, a Vichy shower treatment room, a hydrotherapy room, a wet-edge lap pool, and Jacuzzi. Hit the gym (Westin's WORKOUT Powered by Reebok fitness center is packed with state-of-the-art equipment), soak up the rays by the three-tier swimming pool, enjoy the beach and extensive water sports program, or play some tennis or golf. The introductory rate of $183 a night is almost too good to be true. The special promotional offer includes luxurious accommodations, full breakfast, a spa credit, complimentary dinner for two, and complimentary champagne in room upon arrival. Available through June 30, 2006. But keep in mind that from April 20-October 2006, the resort is still undergoing minor construction, refurbishing the remaining guestrooms.
Truly the first of its kind, Shangri-La's newest venture in the Middle East is three-hotels-in-one, and it single-handedly ups Oman's luxury hotel rooms by 60 percent. Set within 124 acres of landscaped gardens, overlooking the mountains and gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Oman, the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is just 20 minutes from downtown Muscat. The destination resort is comprised of three hotels (Al Waha, Al Bandar, and Al Husn), 19 restaurants and bars, three private beaches, 6,000 sq meters of swimming pools, and a CHI spa. And don't fret; this oasis hideaway isn't without its own nightclub. With the third hotel (Al Husn) now opened, the resort counts 680 sea-facing rooms with private balconies, terraces or patios. The separate Chi Spa Village will be fully operational in May, consisting of private villas for rejuvenating treatments, three freshwater swimming pools, 19 (count 'em!) food and beverage outlets, meeting rooms and an open-air amphitheater. Did I mention the Oman Dive Center, Kids Club, Dolphin and Whale-watching trips, and marina? O- Man!
April 11, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Forbes.com has the skinny on Luxury Plastic: those select, mythical cards issued to an elite few who spend a mere $250,000 a year and put it all on plastic. Unbeknownst to the masses, invitation-only cards like the American Express Centurion card (aka "the Black AmEx") and the even rarer Coutts & Co. purple card (try 100 card-holders) offer truly luxurious rewards programs. According to Forbes, the purple card is the most prestigious of them all (after all, this is the bank to the Queen we're talking about):
World Card is offered only to Coutts clients, and you have to have millions to qualify for that status to begin with. Aside from all the typical travel upgrades and luxury services, the card comes in handy when you need to go shopping at your favorite department store in the middle of the night. A quick call to a World Card service representative will arrange a private after-hours shopping session anywhere your little heart desires.Ahhh, the perks of (purple) plastic.
Set sail on the world's largest oceanliner-- Cunard's Queen Mary 2-- and bring Fido along for the pampering and indulgence. The "Pets on Deck" program provides a host of services and amenities, including freshly-baked doggie biscuits at turn-down, a choice of beds and fleece blankets, oodles of toys, a premium selection of pet food, and even a QM2 logo coat. Beloved beasts get gift packs with Frisbee, food dish and a complimentary portrait with pet owners. In addition, there is a Kennel Master who reigns over the ship's kennel program, taking care of feeding and walking its pampered pooches. The kennel fees range from $300 to $500.
Imagine large private rooms with queen beds and luxe bathrooms with showers. No, this isn't your honeymoon nuptial suite we're talking about, but the private luxury airline that will jet your private party to your destination wedding. Instead of flying commercially, think VIP plane. Private Jet Services Group offers full-sized carriers redesigned and reconfigured for your wedding party, ranging in size from two to 109 people. These are first-class only aircraft, packed with luxurious services and amenities. And rest assured-- Private Jet Services Group oversees all the trip details (transportation to the airport, luggage transfers, special gourmet catering requests), with its exclusive Concierge Service, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the party.
Could Atlantis get any more mammoth? The kitschy celebration of the Lost Continent of Atlantis has these stats: 2,300 guest accommodations (the Royal Towers, Coral Towers and Beach Tower), 35 restaurants, a goliath casino, the largest ballroom in the Caribbean, and a marina that can hold the biggest and baddest of the private luxury yachts. Not to mention the 11 million gallons of swimming pools with water slides and cascades, and marine exhibits with a whopping 50,000 live animals. Kids go gaga over the replica Atocha (the Spanish galleon with oodles of sunken treasure that a Florida treasure-seeker uncovered) at the Kids Club, and apparently guests consume over 1 ton of lobster tails per week. Just what doesn't this resort have? Enough space (!), of course. Atlantis continues to undergo a massive development, which will include the Residences at Atlantis, an exclusive condominium-hotel for lucky owners to enjoy the casino and water activities galore, all year round. Additional features of the $1 billion development project include 1,450 rooms by next spring (including a luxury all-suite hotel), an expansion to the water park, a new dolphin facility, 100,000 sq ft of additional meeting facilities, and the new Nobu restaurant from world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Another luxury ship with permanent ocean residences is a good thing, as rumor has it that the Four Seasons Cruise Ship is almost sold out. The Magellan-- to be completed by the summer of 2008-- will be limited to 200 private homes, including 16 penthouses. The exclusive $650 million ship claims it will "redefine luxury for the discerning traveler":
The facilities and services of the world's finest resorts are part of everyday life aboard the Magellan. On-call housekeeping staff, a world-class spa and marketplace, a 24-hour concierge staff, indoor and outdoor pools, six restaurants, a 450-seat theatre featuring Broadway-quality entertainment, a casino worthy of Monte Carlo and a 8,000 sq.ft greenhouse with onsite horticulturists are just a few of the conveniences that make living aboard the Magellan a unique experience.
Add to that the luxury of visiting 300 unique ports of call as you circumnavigate the globe. Now that ain't too shabby.