By Nick Hofstadter
As my travel history has been relegated to the western world, I was immensely excited when Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts invited me to experience China. Four Seasons has eight properties in China, and as I wanted to experience the rush of big city life while also visiting some of China’s most famous historic sites, I decided to spread ten days among Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
China’s capital city was a terrific starting point so I could see some of the country’s most significant historic monuments, while also receiving an introduction to China’s urban life. Four Seasons Beijing is located in a commercial part of town adjacent to many foreign embassies. Rooms are centered around a soaring atrium that features an eye-catching butterfly installation that leads down to a serene tea lounge.
I stayed in a “Four Seasons room”, a junior suite with an extended living room great for relaxing after a busy day of sightseeing…as was the bathtub, which afforded an expansive view of the city.
The hotel arranged tours through Abercrombie and Kent, who supplied a phenomenal guide. On my first day in town, I visited the city’s most famous sites: Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the colorful Lama Temple.
A visit to Beijing would be incomplete without a day trip to the Great Wall of China, about an hour and a half from the city. I did this on my second day, which was one of the most exciting travel experiences I have ever had; standing on this famed centuries-old fortress high above the mountainous countryside was a magical moment everyone should experience.
I returned to the hotel in the midst of Sunday buffet brunch, which includes an impressive spread of Eastern and Western dishes, and is not to be missed if you are in Beijing on a Sunday!
China’s largest city teems with vibrant energy and boasts a unique cityscape comprised of architecture from many different time periods. I stayed at Four Seasons Pudong, the district that is home to the city’s financial center and most stunning buildings. With a location atop a skyscraper, the hotel has phenomenal views. My Pearl View Junior Suite felt like my very own contemporary urban apartment that I never wanted to leave! With nearly 800 square feet of space and sofa beds in some of these rooms, junior suites are a great option for families.
Shanghai’s Old City lies across the Huang Po River from Pudong, and consists of traditional Chinese buildings housing a variety of shops, eateries and lily ponds.
Across town you’ll find the French Concession, where French officials took residence during the Opium Wars. This is perhaps Shanghai’s most charming neighborhood, filled with tree-lined streets and plazas surrounding low-rise apartment buildings dating from the 19th century. Not too far away lay the bustling arcades of Xiantiandi, where there is a maze of food stands and fun boutiques selling everything from inexpensive street fashions to Chinese antiques.
The Shanghai Museum houses an extraordinary collection of ancient Chinese sculpture, jade, furniture, ceramics and wardrobe.
And then there’s The Bund, possibly Shanghai’s most famous attraction, a glorious riverfront promenade whose Art Deco facades recall Shanghai’s prosperous era during the 1920s and 1930s. Indulging in an evening cocktail from one of the many establishments on the Bund is a must, as these locales provide a fantastic view of the Pudong skyscrapers lighting up after sunset.
As I visited in the height of summer, I made sure to take advantage of the hotel pool, with which I became completely enamored; the Zen environs not only provide a cool and quiet escape, but feature dramatic views of Pudong – which you can enjoy from your own fixated lounge chair in the jacuzzi!
My first view of Hong Kong was from the plane, and my jaw literally dropped when I first viewed the vast metropolis towering skyward out of the mountainous island on which it sits. Hong Kong is a sophisticated, bustling city not unlike New York: It’s a shopper’s paradise, a culinary temple and one of the world’s financial powerhouses. Views of the impressive skyline can be had from many vantage points, namely Victoria Peak and the Tsim Tsui Chui Promenade in Kowloon.
Four Seasons Hong Kong is connected to the International Financial Center (IFC), which as the second tallest tower in the city, is one of the most prominent structures of this impressive skyline. This complex is located in Central, Hong Kong’s main business district, just on the edge of Victoria Harbour. Hence, my Deluxe Room provided panoramic views of the harbour, Kowloon and beyond.
The hotel is footsteps away from the famous Star Ferry, which provides speedy transport across the harbour between Central and Kowloon, where there are a variety of fine shops; jewelers; Cantonese restaurants; and markets selling local crafts, souvenirs and street food. The IFC also houses one of Hong Kong’s most luxurious shopping centers.
While I only broke the surface of this magnificent country by visiting its three biggest cities, I cannot wait to go back and explore its many other treasures.