I just want to give a quick plug to the Magnificent Plaza Hotel, in Shanghai – which is where we stayed during our trip to China.
The hotel was absolutely brilliant – the staff were so friendly and helpful. And genuinely helpful – not because they wanted to get a tip (tipping is not common in China) – but because they wanted to help their guests have the best stay they could.
The Magnificient Plaza Hotel is what is known as a “business class hotel” – a type of hotel I’ve only really seen in Asia. Traditionally there used to be just two types of hotel in Asia: local domestic hotels (which are usually aimed at domestic travellers and are often poor quality by western standards) and the big Western chains (which charge big bucks for offering Western familiarity in foreign climes).
The “business hotel” genre (if there can be such a thing) offers a near-Western level of quality for far less per night than Western (and usually American) chain brands. These types of hotels are usually owned by domestic countries – so you also know your money is staying within the country you are visiting, not heading of to America.
The Magnificent Plaza Hotel was clean and modern to a degree that met my Western level of expectations yet still retained a local Shanghainese feel to it. The use of traditional dark woods in the rooms was particularly memorable – both modern and Chinese. They even had Internet access in the room, although of course like every other Internet connection in the country, it was piped via the Chinese government proxy.
The breakfast was simple but more than adequate: traditional Chinese food (noodles, pickled eggs, rice) plus there was fried eggs, omelettes, toast and fruit for the Westerners.
The location of the Magnificent Plaza is slightly off the beaten track – Tibet Street south of Huaihai Road is not a particularly “touristy” area although still very centrally located. It’s a slightly deprived area – which offers an excellent insight into day-to-day life for normal people although one downside we found was that eating in the immediate vicinity to the hotel was difficult. Most local Shanghainese (particularly working class) simply can’t afford to eat from restaurants so there aren’t many about. Hawker stalls are available, although the hygiene is non-existent and probably best to be avoided if remaining well is an important factor to the enjoyment of your holiday.
We found a selection of adequate eateries about 10 minutes walk away on the Huaihai Road although it wasn’t until later into our stay did we realise far better opportunities existed a short taxi ride away (and taxi rides within central Shanghai rarely cost more than 10RMB/70p each way).
So, all in all, I would definitely recommend the Magnificient Plaza Hotlel if you are ever looking for somewhere to stay in Shanghai. The hotel has far more character and offers much better value than Western chains yet is clean and modern. The eating issue can be overcome by using taxis to eat in better parts of the city.
Booking a room at the hotel can be arranged via the website or through Expedia.