New York, New York – Reported by Mary Gostelow for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine
The PuLi Hotel and Spa, part of central Shanghai’s Park Place development, instantly appealed to global connoisseurs, and discerning Chinese business leaders, when it opened three years ago. Some views look out at Jing’An Park, and all rooms have pull-back screens and walls of gray clay blocks. Public areas feature incredibly high ceilings, and black Forbidden City-tiled or distressed wood flooring. The 90-foot bar in the lobby dispenses drinks and checks you in. A sense of calm pervades everything.
No wonder PuLi’s developers, Urban Resorts, led by Markus Engel and John Laing, are using PuLi’s designer, Johannes Harfuss, for their next project, the 329-room PuYu opening in Wuhan this December. They have already announced one more: PuSen, in Shaoxing, 35 minutes by high-speed train from Hangzhou, will be a 100-room luxury resort in a collection of 60 historic houses relocated by its owner, Qing Sen.
The idea of historic houses turned into luxury resorts is epitomized at Amanfayun in Hangzhou. There, an entire village of tea plantation homes is now 47 freestanding villas, plus restaurants, some rented out. While there, try the Vegetarian House, run by Buddhist monks. In Thailand, car dealer Suchet Suwanmongkol created his own historic “village.” After spending years buying adjacent plots of land totaling 60 acres, he built what is now the village-like Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, boasting 123 accommodations and embellished with what he says is only 20 percent of his total collection of antiques.
Exotic places give elite travelers a sense of fulfillment. This, says Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman of Shanghai-based Hurun Report, is what China’s millionaires and billionaires desperately seek. He recently surveyed 150 of them, and found that they average 3.2 overseas trips a year, with France the current top destination. Next they’ll be heading for Spain’s Mediterranean coast. In late June, Bart Raaphorst, director of Villa Padierna Hotels & Resorts, was in Shanghai to co-host a dinner at the sensational House of Roosevelt—it boasts the largest wine cellar in China, and its chairman, Tweed Roosevelt, nephew of FDR, is also chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Raaphorst introduced Marbella’s Villa Padierna Palace Hotel, where Michelle Obama famously stayed in August 2010, to 65 members of the invitation-only Roosevelt Club. They all received membership cards for Villa Padierna Golf Resort with lots of added benefits.
Ultra-high net worth Chinese want to give back, says Rupert Hoogewerf. They are looking for good causes, and they are into self-education, health and organic living. Recently Hoogewerf was with a small party climbing a mountain. One billionaire liked it so much he bought it—to set up tea plantations. Perhaps another Amanfayun is in the making.