The Kunlun Jing An – A Review By Punam Mohandas
To begin this review, one would have to begin with the genesis of the property. For the past thirty years since its inception, this hotel had been the erstwhile Hilton Jing An. However, the state-owned parent company now wanted a more intrinsic Chinese presence hitherto missing in Shanghai and therefore, as of the 1st January 2018, this hotel is under the management of the Kunlun brand, unarguably one of the best when it comes to imparting a sense of traditional Chinese hospitality to its guests.
The company has retained most of the senior management from the Hilton, as also other staff across departments, for who would know the property better than those who have worked there for years. The main challenge for the Kunlun of course, is to overcome the impression left by the Hilton for 30 long years and make its own mark. The Kunlun is going about this most sensibly; while signage and marketing collateral quite obviously has changed, renovations will be carried out in a phased, structured manner although there are plans a-plenty in the pipeline, which include reducing the inventory and knocking together some of the current 714-keys to make way for more suites, thus keeping pace with the trend of tomorrow; the thinking is that traveler needs are changing and people want the most comfort and attention given to bed and bathroom spaces, as that is where guests spend maximum time in their hotel rooms. For now, the immediate attention is being given over to every human being’s favourite priority – food! The Kunlun Jing An will be opening two Chinese restaurants by the end of 2018, one featuring Cantonese specialties and the other, fusion Chinese cuisine.
The hotel has a most enviable location, right across the road from the famous Jing An temple and Jing An metro station. The temple js on the six-kilometre long West Nanjing road, which is chockfull of the world’s best brands and is Shanghai’s answer to London’s Oxford Street or New York’s Fifth Avenue.
The entrance to the hotel is flanked by two stone lions. A revolving doorway that leads to the lobby has tall vases of (real) pink orchids ensconced within it. The lobby itself is a large pillared space with a more sober flower arrangement placed off-side and containing an ATM machine as also a shoe boutique and a bespoke tailor. Another shop selling eyewear will be opening soon. There is free wifi across the Kunlun Jing An; do remember that social media, including Google and therefore Gmail, is banned in China. People do get around this by downloading VPN’s – do bear in mind this is illegal. However, WeChat is allowed.
Traditional Chinese hospitality is more covert than in-your-face and lies in ensuring guest needs are met without too much fanfare. Hence, while the staff are not overly effusive, they do keep guest comfort in mind; for instance, my flight arrived rather early in the morning and I was fully prepared to wait in the lobby, armed with a book, until the room was ready. To my grateful surprise though, I was handed over the room keys by a very efficient Ms Karen, at a 10.30am check-in!
The six lifts display weather information as well and each lift on each floor has a water sprinkler above it, to safeguard against fire. Key card access is required to access floors (during ascent only.) As mentioned above, the current room inventory is 714-keys, spread over 40-floors. Categories include: Deluxe Room (33sqm); Grand Deluxe (33sqm) both are available with king and twin beds, the difference is the latter is on the higher floors; Grand Premier Panorama Room (33sqm); Panorama Suite (70sqm); Deluxe Suite (120sqm) and the Presidential Suite (2018sqm.) Since March 2017, there is a Chinese government mandate that declares all hotels in Shanghai (including the rooms) are ‘No Smoking’ zones.
Mustard and rust coloured corridor carpeting leads to the rooms. The Presidential suite has two bedrooms, a walk-in closet and a small, guest powder room.
One enters the Deluxe Suite into a living room done up in cream, with copper and red coloured cushions and bolsters. A large screen television sits atop a beautifully engraved wooden table, complemented by curtain in almost a feldgrau green. Off to one side is an eight-seater dining table, also in cream hues; a raised dais adjoining this has a single armchair with footstool, beside another large screen television set.
To the other side of the living space are two armchairs with a ceramic, urn-shaped table against the window, offset by sheer, ruffled curtains. Flanking this is a work desk in black, with gold engraving and another two low chairs with bolsters in front of it. Very traditional Chinese seating, albeit with a modern flair.
The bedroom has printed drapes in black and pistachio, with carpeting that is almost teal in colour and the bed paneling in fawn. The bathroom is long but narrow, with two wide, separate washbasins and there is a separate powder room.
I stayed in an Executive Floor Deluxe King room, with deep mustard carpeting and a large armchair with footstool. There is a work desk and a large screen television (albeit with very limited English entertainment channels.) The spacious bathroom is done up in white and brown marble.
And finally – the mock-up room. The category for this has not been decided yet. One walks into the room to find a semi-circular work desk with upright chair. There is a chaise lounge by the window. The colour combination is in olive green and khaki, with striped khaki drapes in silk offset against a fawn wall paneling and pastel streaked carpet. Behind the mirrored bed panel is the closet area, with dressing table and wardrobes painted a celadon green. A bigger bathroom obviously, as that is the direction the Kunlun intends to take, done up in grey marble streaked through with red. The bathtub overlooks a panoramic city view, while the shower area also has a small bench to sit on. The twin washbasins and well back-lit mirror, are all in a square shape and there is a towel rail as well.
All rooms have bathtubs but no jet sprays – something the new Kunlun management should look into. I must say the plumbing and engineering system is very effective, considering this is a 30-year old property. Room amenities include a welcome gesture of madeleine cakes; four complimentary bottles of water; espresso machine; tea/coffee maker; minibar; electronic safe; magnifying mirror and weighing scale. The beds are exceedingly comfortable.
F&B options include the 84-covers, multi-cuisine, all-day dining Atrium Café that also serves evening high tea. Homemade Corner is the patisserie beside Atrium Cafe and also stocks some souveniers. The range of eat-on-the-go such as sandwiches and fresh fruits will be increased here. This outlet offers no seating, however, there is an extremely cosy space between this and the Reception counter, with a long, narrow table with armchairs on either side and very good, bright overhead lighting. The 60-covers Italian outlet, Leonardo, has a sophisticated look with black and grey; it currently offers only dinner service but will be open for lunch service as well, shortly. The 25-covers Lobby Lounge done up in red leather and dark grey is offset by white marble tables and has a bar as well, with a pianist in attendance every evening. As mentioned earlier, two new Chinese restaurants will open by end 2018; Xian Yan on lower lobby level and Jin Yan on the 39th floor.
One cannot overlook the 110-covers Executive Floor Lounge whilst enumerating the F&B options. There is an absolute multitude of eating choices here through the day, from breakfast, to the afternoon tea from 2.30-5pm, to the cocktail hour which is for a mindbogglingly welcome three hours, from 5.30-8.30pm! (Available to executive floor guests only.)
Convention facilities, consisting of a total of 18-rooms, are mostly are on the 40th floor, offering natural light and city views. The Gallery, is suitable for small gatherings such as weddings and has a circular pre-function area and spiral staircase leading down to the Jin Yan restaurant. The Penthouse is a 20-seater boardroom for VIP meetings. The Executive Lounge also offers a lot of intimate sofa spaces for informal meetings, while an eight-seater boardroom can be used for more formal ones, for which executive floor guests have a two hour complimentary use. The Lounge also offers two computers for complimentary use, discreetly enclosed within individual circular cabins for additional privacy. There is also a Business Centre downstairs with computer stations on a payable basis. The Grand Ballroom can be partitioned into three smaller halls, A, B and C and can seat 350-pax in a banquet set-up. This room has beautiful wall paintings of Chinese scenes depicting a famous political officer of yesteryears and banquet scenes of olden times. The pre-function area runs the entire length above Atrium Cafe and Leonardo. There are an additional five smaller halls on this level. All told, the rooms (apart from the ballroom) can accommodate between 21-80pax, classroom style.
Relaxation facilities include the gym – and what a gym! It is as humungous as any city fitness centre, with a dazzling array of equipment in plenty. Local memberships are accepted here as well. The swimming pool is indoor and heated, since Shanghai is usually rainy; an extremely large, hexagonal shape, with an atrium roof for natural light, there are also two lifeguards in attendance. Apart from this, there are separate steam/sauna/Jacuzzi facilities for men and women and an indoor squash as well as tennis courts. The gym also offers Zumba, Tai Chi and yoga classes (free for resident guests.) The Escape Spa and barber shop are not in-house; they are run by outside operators, originally Hilton tenants which the Kunlun has continued with.
The front of the house staff speak excellent English. The F&B team are efficient and smiling, while Front Office is courteous and extremely competent. My vote, though, would go to the Housekeeping team; although they don’t speak English, they try so hard to please using a combination of sign language and easy words like, ‘shampoo’, ‘tea’; moreover, once they know what a guest favours, they never forget to replenish the same duly. Pest control is of an exemplary standard.
It is hard to find any faults at the moment with this hotel; given that is it still in a stage of transition, I’d say the transitioning has been fairly seamless and there is no guest discomfort whatsoever, with the German General Manager Gerd Knaust at the helm since the Hilton days. I would be following the progress of the Kunlun Jing An most keenly and would be very interested indeed to know how things shape up with this fine hotel.
The Kunlun Jing An is ideally suited for shopping as well as sightseeing. It is across the road from Jing An Temple which is one of the most famous temples in Shanghai, with the biggest, pure jade portrait of Sakya Muni (Buddha) in Mainland China. Beside the temple is the Jing An metro stop; take Line 2 to get to the People’s Square and People’s Park, other sites of tourist interest. The Jing An temple itself is on west Nanjing road, which is the most popular shopping avenue for brands and malls. If you are looking at cheap, local shopping, then most metro stations are lined with small shops; Line 2 again will take you to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum station, with its AP Xinyang market – a huge, bustling fake goods market within the station premises. From Jing An metro stop, take Line 2 and change at east Nanjing station to Line 10 for Yuyuan Gardens. The gardens itself are wellknown with some temples, moreover, there is another huge market here mainly for souveniers, frequented by domestic as well as foreign tourists. Be warned that there is plenty of walking to be done here, so wear sensible footwear. A short ten minutes away from Yuyuan Gardens is the Bund on the Huang Pu river, possibly the most popular area in Shanghai even among the locals, with its monument to the People’s Heroes and with magnificent skyscrapers such as the delicate Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower – the tallest in China and second tallest building in the world! You can also do river cruises from the Bund. Just below it is the Bund tunnel (you need to buy tickets) and beside it are popular eateries such as Subway, Starbucks and suchlike. For any more information, please consult the Kunlun’s affable concierge Jame, who has been here more than 20-years and is a holder of the coveted Golden Keys; these are the elite, the crème de la crème among concierges and part of the Les Clefs d’Or association.
Most major airlines fly into Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, while a few fly into Hongqiao Airport. Don’t be alarmed by what you read regarding distances; Pudong is certainly not unmanageable. You can take the Pudong Airport Shuttle Bus into the city, to Jing An stop (70-minutes, fare, RMB22 per person) however, my sincere recommendation would be to take the Maglev. The Maglev is billed as the fastest train in the world, going at a speed of 431kms per hour! It takes only eight minutes to get to Longyang road, from which you connect to Line 2 for the Kunlun Jing An. The ticket is not expensive either – remember, you get a 20% discount if you can show your air ticket for the same date. With this discount, the Maglev ticket is only RMB 40 per person, however, if you take the combination Maglev + one day Metro pass, it is only RMB 55 per person (The one day pass itself is usually RMB 18.)
KUNLUN JING AN
TEL: +86 21 6248 0000
FAX: +86 21 6248 3868
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.