Give Peace a Chance
Once known as the “Number One Mansion in the Far East,” the recently renovated and reopened Fairmont Peace Hotel (Shanghai, China) is again generating headlines for its landmark location along the Bund, fascinating history, and return to glamour. The hotel, which opened more than eight decades ago, has had many lives. The structure that stands today was completed in 1908 and was the tallest building on Nanjing Road at the time, as well as the first building in Shanghai to feature two elevators. As the Cathay Hotel, it welcomed guests from around the world, including Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, and Noel Coward, who finished his famous play “Private Lives” there. Bearing various names throughout the years, it was given the moniker the Peace Hotel in 1956. More recently, in 2007, the iconic hotel was closed for an extensive refurbishment, which sought to retain as much of the building’s original architecture as possible. Restored to the timeless grandeur for which it was known, The Fairmont Peace Hotel has one amenity its predecessors didn’t—an enticing spa.
Upon reviving the lavish hotel, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts made sure to incorporate its luxury Willow Stream spa brand. “The Art Deco design elements that grace the hotel’s interior and exterior receive a modern interpretation inside Willow Stream Spa,” says spa director Lyndell Nelis. “Hand-painted ceramics, mosaic tiles, stone carvings, and shell and mother-of-pearl inlays, all in a calming and muted palette, create a serene environment in which to undertake an energy journey.” According to Anne McCall Wilson, vice president of spas at Fairmont Raffles International, energy plays a leading role in all of the Willow Stream Spas, as they are each designed to reflect their environment. “Usually the energy is inspired by nature unique to the location,” says Wilson. “In this location though, we turned to nature of a different kind for our inspiration. Here the spa is connected to the unique nature of the Peace Hotel itself, as it is such an iconic building.”
With treatments that draw on the hotel’s illustrious past and Shanghai’s old world traditions, the spa offers guests a taste of the far east. A couple of the spa’s signature treatments even incorporate Art Deco symbols that serve as part of the historical decor of the hotel. For example, the Mystic Peace ($180, 90 minutes), which is designed to inspire guests, is based on Feng Shui principles. It involves a massage that traces a continuous pattern of figure eights on the body that resembles the mystic knot that appears throughout the hotel’s ceiling panels and is a symbol of protection, prosperity, and longevity. The Spiral Aura ($180, 90 minutes), designed to release tension, features a spiral massage technique that is based on a dominant motif found in the hotel’s Art Deco design.
Because guests come from near and far, the menu was designed to address a variety of needs. The Time Zone-Out ($150, 90 minutes), helps weary travelers overcome jetlag. The Pollution Solution ($150, 90 minutes), a nourishing facial, helps locals and visitors alike recover from Shanghai’s less-than-pristine air.
Able to accommodate more than 80 treatments a day, the spa features a variety of spaces in which guests can mingle, such as a co-ed social lounge, private men’s and women’s lounges, a dedicated pool, and a girlfriends’ area for additional spa-ing. “A girlfriends’ spa within a spa is a feature that we have in all of our new properties and all of our spas in China,” says Wilson. Although the country presents a promising area in which to expand, it is not without its challenges. “The Fairmont Peace Hotel in China is a very exotic, international location,” says Wilson. “The variety of people, their expectations, and their language can be a great challenge, but it can also be one of the most interesting aspects of what we do. Initially, any new market has its challenges as we learn about the place, the people, and the culture. Once those few things are understood, I am always amazed how fundamentally similar we are—both as guests and colleagues. Such compatibility makes for a peaceful experience. Clearly, the iconic property is living up to its name.