Shanghai hotel makes glorious return

Scott Tong Mar 22, 2010

Shanghai hotel makes glorious return

Scott Tong Mar 22, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: China hosts the World Expo in a few weeks. Hotel rooms in Shanghai will be at a premium. There’s a new lodging option there with a familiar name: the Peninsula Hotel had its grand opening late last week, and Marketplace’s Scott Tong was there.

Scott Tong: Traditional Chinese drummers kick off this spectacle of a night. Complete with a red carpet entrance for movie stars, bankers, gawkers:

Guy 1: It’s a bit like being at the Oscars.

Guy 2: Yes! It was a little, yeah. I was looking for Joan Rivers.

It’s part high society, part performance, part Chinese acrobats.

Guy 1: What we just saw here was these guys dressed in bellhop uniforms come over the side of a building, and walk down the side of the building . . .

Suspended by cables 100-feet high. The hotel is a new building, though its parent company has old Shanghai roots.

In the 1920s and 30s, it ran Asia’s finest hotels, says historian Peter Hibbard. They hosted afternoon teas for guests like Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.

Peter Hibbard: On offer were cream cakes, real cream cakes amongst a whole mesh of beautiful cocktails and debutantes there looking for new partners in life.

But in the 1940s, the communist party took over China. Out went the Western companies like this hotel group.

Chairman Michael Kadoorie, whose family made its early fortune in Shanghai, says the company waited 60 years to return.

Michael Kadoorie: That day has now arrived.

The new Peninsula has an old-school look. Ballroom singers wear 1920s flapper dresses. Hotel’s marble floors sport Art Deco geometry. Shanghai native Wang Yanping:

Wang Yanping (voice of interpreter): Compared to other five-star hotels, this one is elegant and classic. The crown molding is from the 1920s and 30s. It’s old Shanghai taste.

One thing that has changed since the 20s is the price. The basic room starts at $470. And the Peninsula Suite, overlooking the Shanghai riverfront, sets you back $1,200.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

Chiotakis: Staff researcher Cecilia Chen contributed to this report.

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