REBIRTH OF A LANDMARK
Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center has undergone an extensive revamp to match the needs of the new- age traveler.
KEMPINSKI’S 480 ROOMS AND SUITES HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY OVERHAULED, REINTERPRETING ITS DUAL CHINESE AND EUROPEAN HERITAGE. For more information, visit kempinski.com/ beijing @ kempinskibeijing
When it first opened in 1992, Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center broke new ground – it held the distinction of being the first European- run hotel in modern China. Today, the iconic property debuts a stunning new look after completing the first phase of the most substantial renovation in its 26- year history. Kempinski’s 480 rooms and suites have been completely overhauled to the tune of US$ 30 million, reinterpreting its dual Chinese and European heritage while expressing impeccable personal service and the best of both Asian and Western hospitality. The new portfolio of rooms and suites displays a decor that aims to convey the contemporary elegance of China and its cultural influence. European sandy, classical beige colors and hues adorn the walls and furniture, while art pieces, antique decorations, and colorful vases add breathtaking brushstrokes of Asian identity. Those staying in Deluxe rooms and above will find Shanghai Tang amenities, while Presidential Suite guests will enjoy Hermès amenities, giveaways, and Stenders bath salts. Rewards and benefits for top-tier guests are always evolving just as the list keeps growing... Business travelers should opt for the executive floor rooms, which come with 24- hour butler service and access to the brand- new Lounge 15. Here, breakfast buffets, afternoon tea, happy hour drinks, and dinners are served in a private and tranquil setting with a view of Beijing’s ever- changing skyline. Taken in tandem with its hospitality standards and massive pillar-free ballroom, all these upgrades befit Kempinski’s status as a preferred MICE destination for high- level diplomatic and embassy events, official government summits, and state visits. The hotel remains a prominent venue on the Beijing social scene, hosting some of the capital’s biggest National Day celebrations, galas, and Vienna Ball – held in partnership with the City of Vienna and the Ambassador of Austria to China.
morning pickup in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The western New Territories may not figure on the radar of most visitors, but there are plenty of hidden gems and laidback locales to discover. Easily accessible by bus, the Mediterranean-inspired seaside development of Gold Coast is centered on a namesake hotel and marina beside an inviting stretch of golden sand. Hiking is also possible here with Stage 10 of the 100-kilometer-long MacLehose Trail close by, leading eastward to scenic Tai Lam Chung Reservoir in Tai Lam
Country Park. If you’re hiking in a group, do like the locals and descend to the neighborhood of ShamTseng for a hearty post-workout meal at Yue Kee Roast
Goose Restaurant, a family-run business that has been in the area since 1958. Yue Kee has a longstanding reputation for serving up some of the best roast goose in Hong Kong; birds are sourced from the restaurant’s own farm in neighboring Guangdong, marinated overnight, and air-dried for several hours before being roasted in charcoal-fired ovens. Farther north inYuen Long, the Ping
Shan Heritage Trail begins just outside the MTR station serving the new town of Tin Shui Wai. Soaring apartment blocks create an unusual backdrop for the squat, three-story pagoda of Tsui Shing Lau, which dates from 1486. Just down the road lies a walled village, a pair of ancestral halls that sport ornately carved wooden beams, and two adjacent 1870s structures distinguished by their exquisite craftsmanship: Kun Ting Study Hall and the onetime guesthouse of Ching Shu Hin. At the trail’s endpoint stands a well designed visitor center housed in a colonial-era hilltop police station, built just two years before its counterpart in Tai O. The September opening of the last phase of the Guangzhou– Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which connects Hong Kong’s new West Kowloon Station (where Chinese immigration procedures are handled) with its counterpart south of central Guangzhou, has cut the travel time by train between the two cities to about 50 minutes—though you’re still looking at spending about the same amount of time by subway or taxi to get to downtown. There, you’ll find that China’s great southern gateway has its share of modern architectural marvels, not least the pebble-like Guangzhou Opera House by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, and the 604-meter-high Canton Tower, which briefly became the world’s tallest tower when it opened in 2010. The latter is unusual for its tapered hourglass shape and a rooftop observation deck circled by transparent passenger cars, in a setup akin to a horizontal Ferris wheel.
Jaw-dropping views of the city are also a major draw at the Four Seasons Guangzhou’s 99th-floor Tian Bar on the opposite bank of the Pearl River. For a more down-to-earth experience, there’s
Hope & Sesame ( hopeandsesamegz.com), a 30-seat speakeasy in the tranquil, bohemian neighborhood of Dongshankou. Tucked away inside a make-believe Cantonese diner, the venue beckons with live jazz and inventive signature cocktails like Char Siu, a heady blend of baconwashed Chivas whisky, huadiao rice wine, rose liquor, and ginger extract.
It would be a shame not to have Cantonese fare while in town, and the Ritz-Carlton hotel’s one-Michelin-starred
Lai Heen hits the spot. Seasonal produce
and foraged ingredients are used to great effect by executive chef Gordon Guo in crowd-pleasers such as steamed crab custard, flambéed Yunnan mushrooms, and poached sunflower chicken.
Guangzhou has also taken steps to preserve its built heritage while adapting those buildings to the 21st century. The red-brick godowns at Taikoo Wharf
(Taigucang), the city’s busiest wharf in the 1920s and ’30s, is now a popular dining and drinking venue for the young and hip. A similar transformation has played out at the Redtory Art & Design
Factory ( redtory.com.cn), a former canned food facility in Tianhe district that has morphed into a contemporary artists’ village, drawing creative-minded visitors with a changing roster of exhibitions and cultural events. Nine-hundred and seventy kilometers up the tracks from Guangzhou is Wuhan, which the high-speed train reaches in just over four hours. Straddling the confluence of the Han River and the mightyYangtze, the city serves as the provincial capital of Hubei as well as China’s biggest inland port. As in Shanghai, the later Qing dynasty years saw a series of foreign concessions set up along the river; that history is evident in the stately 1920s buildings along Hankou Bund. Crowned with a clock tower, the old Customs House in the erstwhile British concession is now the Jianghan Customs Museum.
If you’re up early, head across the Yangtze to Wuchang for the sesame- infused noodles re gan mian and other breakfast specialties on atmospheric
Hubu Xiang. Make a beeline for nearby Snake Hill to soak up the panoramic views from the top floor of the Yellow Crane Tower, an iconic 1980s reincarnation of a local landmark destroyed in the late 19th century. Chinese history buffs may recall that Wuchang was the setting of an armed uprising that set off the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, which toppled the Qing dynasty and ushered in a new republic led by Sun Yat-Sen. Just down the hill, the Wuchang Uprising Memorial Hall ( 1911museum.com) is centered on a handsome red-brick pile that once served as the Qing-era provincial assembly.
Wuchang also happens to have the largest inner-city lake in the country. An afternoon spent strolling the shores of East Lake or exploring by bike is a must, as is a visit to the lakeside Hubei
Provincial Museum, which holds an enormous collection of artifacts excavated from ancient tombs. Among its most prized exhibits is a full ensemble of bianzhong, or bronze bells, dating back almost two and a half millennia.
After dark, go for some modern entertainment at the retro-inspired quarter of Chuhe Hanjie (literally “Chu River and Han Street”), where a lanternshaped theater hosts The Han Show ( dragone.com) by Franco Dragone, the artistic director behind Macau’s acclaimed spectacle The House of Dancing Water. Showing five nights a week, it’s an extravaganza of aquatics and acrobatics featuring giant LED screens manipulated by robotic arms.
From Wuhan, it’s another 700 kilometers by high-speed rail (the trip takes about four and a half hours) north to the Chinese capital, which juggles its imperial past and cosmopolitan present with aplomb. Just south of Tiananmen Square, the hutongs of the 600-year-old Dashilar neighborhood have witnessed the emergence of hip locales like Berry Beans, a third-wave coffee roaster set inside a former Qing dynasty brothel. Sweet-toothed patrons can pair a black sugar cinnamon latte with homemade cakes like matcha, chocolate, or passion fruit mille-feuille. For something stronger, Jing-A
Brewpub Xingfucun ( jingabrewing.com) in the heart of buzzing Sanlitun has more than a dozen locally brewed craft beers on tap, a variety of seasonal and experimental offerings, and inventive cocktails at its attached bar. Sanlitun is also a magnet for Beijing’s literati, thanks to the presence of 16-year-old institution
The Bookworm ( beijingbookworm.com), a bookshop, library, bar, and restaurant that hosts lectures by local and international authors. A five-minute walk away, 1949 - The Hidden City ( elite
concepts.com) is a low-slung dining and nightlife complex in a former factory run by the Beijing Machinery and Electric Institute. Here, Duck de Chine specializes in Beijing and Cantonese cuisine with a French touch. Try the succulent Peking duck roasted over a jujube wood–fueled fire, lauded for its aromatic flavor, caramelized skin, and the chef’s own hoisin sauce. Calling ahead to reserve a duck is a must. At the northern end of Wangfujing, the city’s premier shopping street, Guardian Art Center opened in May as both the headquarters for major auction house China Guardian and a new cultural venue, with exhibition galleries complemented by restaurants and an upstairs hotel. Designed by German architect Ole Scheeren, the cutting-edge structure takes its cues from the surrounding hutong alleyways, whereas the circular apertures on its
lower levels represent the 14th-century landscape painting Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.
While an excursion to the Great Wall is highly recommended, it’s worth spending some extra time on the road to avoid the more heavily restored sections closer to town, like Badaling, and the resultant crowds. A three-hour drive to the northeast of Beijing, the Simatai section beckons with ruined watchtowers and a magnificent wall that coils along dramatic ridgelines; its partially restored state means tourist numbers here are strictly controlled and entry is not guaranteed without a reservation. At its foot lies the idyllic resort village of Gubei Water Town ( wtown.com), built in recent years as the Northern Chinese answer to postcardperfect Wuzhen. Tickets for both the wall and village can be booked on the Gubei Water Town website.
Clockwise from this picture: Inside Lounge 15; an Executive Deluxe King room; the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center in daylight.
Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House. Below: Preparing a signature cocktail at Hope & Sesame.
A sunset view of Wuhan from the Yellow Crane Tower. Bottom right: Acrobats in motion at The Han Show.
Outside the Guardian Art Center. Top left: Dusk at Gubei Water Town.