Coming in from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, the drive was long and I was already exhausted. The location is deep in the city and the better part of 45 minutes from the airport, about a $25 cab ride in. As we approached the hotel I saw large shopping centers with stores like Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Coach. The neighborhood was clearly well-heeled which is always a good sign even if you don’t shop in those types of stores.
Andaz has a distinct style and that pervades the lobby. From checkin I was offered a drink. They had fresh brewed tea waiting, an espresso machine, and bottles of water. I was told that they did not have an executive lounge but that I help myself any time, day or night, to the refreshments at the counter. This is a similar experience I had to the Andaz Wall Street and seems neither like a Diamond Benefit nor sufficient. There were some cookies there in a jar, and another snack item, but I just didn’t feel like it was a substitute and also didn’t feel free to help myself, though they said I could. It just feels awkward to reach behind the desk and put together a small plate. Checkin was otherwise fine, I felt like a valued guest, and I got a corner room.
The decor in the hotel was exceptional. We have stayed in the W Bangkok which we found to be a little on the tacky side. Some would say I am just not trendy enough or fashion forward because I didn’t like the gaudy nature of the W. Perhaps that’s true, but Andaz comes across as a cool hotel, but with a little more class. Think less of a DJ with a flat brimmed hat with the stickers still on it, and more of an attendee to a gallery opening that doesn’t stay more than 30 minutes and doesn’t feel the need to clear out the booze.
There is some artwork that is not my style but there are some other surprising touches that I rather enjoyed. The swimming LED fish with a patterned overlay was beautiful and the hotel had an amazing quality finish to it.
The view from my room was good, but not great. It’s difficult to mark the Andaz high when considering the view from the other Hyatts in Shanghai. There are two shades, one black out and one sheath. The sheath allowed the city lights to glow through the night and I loved it, but my specific view was not amazing. This is an unfortunate miss compared to the other properties, but the location might be considered better so there is a trade to be made.
Walking in, the wood floor caches your eye right away. It was beautiful and wouldn’t fit my home, but I loved it anyway, it felt premium. As I walked in there was a hidden closet and luggage rack to my right with all of the standard equipment (safe, drawers, etc.). Continuing past the bathroom (that’s up next) was an excellent desk, a cordless phone and a round table. The room was smaller than expected considering other five star hotels in Asia, but it was fine for my one night stay. The bed was comfortable and the sheets were excellent. I was quite happy with the room overall.
On the right was the bathroom. It seems standard in Asia that all bathrooms are nothing short of amazing. Walking into the bathroom there are a number of lights and you can choose your “scene.” To the left is the toilet, as a separate room within the bathroom which I am a big fan of. It is a Japanese style toilet so there are about 20 buttons that will heat your seat, flush the toilet, offer a bidet option in multiple speeds with odd settings like “pulsating” and “oscillating” and even a dryer for when you have finished. That may seem like an odd thing to look forward to, but it’s fantastic and makes most experiences in the US seem substandard.
Continuing in the bathroom there is a large window that looks out on some office buildings (which is a little odd for a bathroom) but does provide lots of natural light. The shower can’t be seen from the outside, but you can still see out… if you are into that sort of thing. The robes are waiting just outside the shower which is a small, but wise placement. I can’t count how many hotels leave them in the closet where I never look and thus never use (making them quite literally useless to me based purely on their location). What’s the point in investing in expensive robes only to have them left in a closet?
The shower is like a cave. An LED lit cave. There is both a body sprayer and a rain shower head. My one complaint is that the two knobs aren’t marked and therefore, you may end up sprayed in the face while you are trying to turn on the rain shower head. Not that it happened to me… but my friend, it happened to him, yeah, and he did not love it. Why not just chisel a label into the wall that says, “above” and “going to spray you in the face” or something more Andaz than that. Again, this is for my friend, not me. I wouldn’t have been so stupid of course.
The tub is separated and LED lit but does not come off as tacky, maybe it’s the softer tones. The shower was amazing, as was the cave it was carved into (somehow in a brand new building they have caves). The shower products were excellent and this is certainly the highlight of the room.
The rest of the room was luxurious, but not pompous. The lights and controls next to the bed were extensive. I could control the lights in the bathroom from my bed. My only complaint is that the writing of which switch controls what function are impossible to see unless all the lights are on. It seems to defeat the purpose a little bit, if you don’t want to disturb another person as you get up early for a meeting or to go to the bathroom. Small complaints I know, but at a five star hotel, you come to expect these sorts of things.
Breakfast was amazing by US (cereal and a bag of microwaved eggs) and European standards (sliced lukewarm deli meat and un-toasted bread), but just average for Asia. For those domestic based travelers in the US, there was a full buffet with made to order omelettes or eggs of any kind and even pancakes made per request. But the rest of the choices were pretty limited. It was half geared towards British/Aussie travelers with all the accouterments for a full English breakfast and some American options too. There was, however, a really limited selection of Asian options. While I found some noodles to add to my plate, and there was dragon fruit, this was pretty much the extent of it which was disappointing to me. I can have dry hash browns and a half-assed omelette at home, do something you are really good at instead. Breakfast was held in their Chinese restaurant but featured virtually no Chinese food outside of the noodles and congee.
Asian standards for hotels like this one are far superior to US counterparts. Typically there will be dumplings and fresh noodles or rice. A line where you can drop ingredients and someone throws them into a wok and makes them amazing. Also, the apple juice was that terrible clear amber colored stuff that I was not impressed by. No orange juice, no water. A little insufficient.
For my American readers who spend their weeks traveling between small to medium sized cities in the states, it seems I might be spoiled. What do I expect for an included breakfast benefit at a $200/night hotel? More. Lots more. This is Asia, not Indianapolis, and the competition is fierce. Even in massive cities like Shanghai and Bangkok you just get so much more for your money in Asia. I would never accept a hotel room in Asia that has a shower over tub with one of those gropey shower curtains, in Manassas, Virginia it’s a different story. In Asia you don’t have to. This was a substandard breakfast for an otherwise excellent hotel.
Not far from Nanjing Road
If you are looking to do some shopping, some dining or some people watching – Nanjing Rd is not far. In fact, using the “People’s Uber” which is merely a selector like Black Car or Uber X on the app, it cost me just $3 to get there. It was probably walkable but Apple maps and Google maps couldn’t decide where things were, kept leading me down alleyways and side streets, and I just felt better about having a driver. Beware that Nanjing road is also home to massive tourist traps. Westerners were being tugged at from every angle by pushy touts willing to sell seemingly anything. If they pitched you a set of luggage and you responded with anything at all, like, “Just getting a bite to eat” then they instantly also owned a restaurant. It’s insulting and annoying, but if you just walk as though you can’t hear anything it is a nice way to spend an evening.
I would be back to this hotel if I had not stayed in the Park Hyatt or Hyatt on the Bund. Given those two choices, however, I would say that this one was not for me. In any other city, it would be the star attraction, but here the competition is too great, even just within the Hyatt brand.
You Don’t Know What You’ve Got, ‘Til It’s Gone
I had read a great deal about the French Concession, but upon arriving I couldn’t find someone who could tell me quite where to find it. This was for good reason. It was all around me. The hotel is right there, and because I spent time going to Nanjing Road instead of just walking around the hotel, I missed out on one of the greatest subdistricts of a city I have ever seen. It was only on a subsequent visit to Shanghai where I went into a hotel where I have status but was not staying (Hilton) where they were able to write down directions for me to hand to a cab driver. Upon following the directions we pulled up to an older party of the city covered with shady trees and, as we parked I noticed we were a block away from the Andaz. It would be unfair to leave the French Concession, it’s beautiful architecture, restaurants, and culture out of this review simply because I was too short sighted to walk around the hotel when I actually stayed there. I didn’t know what I had when I checked out of the hotel and originally penned this review. In retrospect, the proximity to the French Concession would move this hotel back up the list for me (though not to the top) simply because of the time it saved me from driving there from Pudong.
If your “thing” is food, culture, architecture – this might be the best hotel in the city for you.