Controversial as its politics may be, China is undeniably a hot topic; an ancient civilization changing both creatively and commercially on a dizzying pace – and the boom shows no signs of stopping where tourism is concerned. Look at any list of newly-opened hotels (like Zaha Hadid's mesmerising project in Macau) or those in construction and it’s clear there’s an surge in demand for high end, design-conscious hotels that unite Eastern and Western concepts. China’s the fourth largest country on earth and holds a fifth of the world’s population, so it’s only natural Westerners have been increasingly drawn to it as the country has started to open up to external tourism and business. But the Great Wall aside, where else should we be heading? As China’s most prosperous city, Shanghai has both cosmopolitan old school charm in its French Concession and a futuristic, sci-fi edge. Guangzhou, formerly Canton, has long been the point at which China meets the rest of the world and is famed for two things: business and cuisine. Or Hong Kong, the original East-meets-West city thanks to its unique history. Let these three cities be a launch pad to discover more of this unique and complex culture. To quote a Chinese proverb; the journey is the reward.
The lowdown: A quirky and opulent hideaway where two cultures meet.
Best for: Being in the thick of the action in Hong Kong’s exciting Wan Chai neighbourhood.
With a theme based on the ancient Chinese myth that tells the story of a moon goddess who sips a forbidden elixir of immortality, Mira Moon is everything you’d imagine from such a story; vibrant, sexy and dramatic, but it has a thoroughly modern twist.
The interiors are conceived by Wanders & Yoo, a partnership between two Europe’s biggest design stars, Marcel Wanders and Phillipe Stark (Yoo is Stark’s international design and development firm).
The hotel has Wanders’ handwriting all over it with its touches of baroque, Tulip armchairs and lighting and furniture by his brand Moooi.
Lacquered white surfaces, dark wood carved paneling and rich reds set the tone for the hotel’s colour scheme, and an entire wall in the hotel’s Chinese-Spanish tapas restaurant is covered by lush green foliage.
Rooms are whimsically named full moon, half moon, and moonshine (the latter is the penthouse suite which occupies the whole top floor). There’s even a secret garden for added mystery – Wan Chai’s best kept secret.
Book it:From around £300 for a double.
The lowdown: A dilapidated 1930s shell transformed into a sanctuary of minimalist luxury.
Best for: A rooftop cocktail with a view of the magnificent Pudong skyline.
From its vantage point across the Huangpu in the historic Shiliupu dockyards, The Waterhouse is the antidote to Shanghai’s flashy high rises, but it certainly makes the most of its spectacular views of them.
A former factory, warehouse and Japanese army HQ, the 19 room hotel was designed by award-winning architecture and design studio Neri & Hu, one of the most interesting names in contemporary Chinese design.
Exposed concrete walls, oxidized metal and cobble stone flooring may sound industrial and severe, but these raw materials, like the original structure of the building, have been handled so sensitively that the space feels lofty, inviting and serene – especially when combined with warm woods and soft linens in bedrooms.
Sitting in a quaint and historic part of town, the hotel has remained integrated with the neighbourhood by adhering to its low-rise buildings, an important part of the design concept.
Head to the hotel’s rooftop bar (The Roof) for a sundowner and watch Shanghai’s illuminations from this rare port of calm.
Book it:From around £135 for a double.
THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL
The lowdown: Slick and sophisticated with service to match.
Best for: Foodies searching for authentic Cantonese cuisine in the lap of luxury.
Standing like a vision of the future, Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou’s opening in 2013 was hotly anticipated. With 233 rooms, 30 suites and 24 serviced apartments, the real talking point is it location and concept - above TaiKoo Hui, a new development of luxury shopping, offices, entertainment venues and gardens in the Tianhe Central business district.
The hotel is also directly connected to Shipaiqiao station on the city’s metro network, meaning the high-speed train to Hong Kong (taking two hours) is just five minutes away. Designed by long-time Mandarin Oriental collaborator,Tony Chi, the hotel’s striking lobby is a contemporary take on a Chinese Zen garden, and the use of traditional oriental elements but in a modern way continues into the rooms, with rich fabrics and sleek wood finishes.
The hotel is geared up for business and ticks every corporate need, but is undeniably luxurious, in keeping with Mandarin Oriental’s high standards. There’s nothing you could wish for that this hotel doesn’t have - five dining venues including traditional Cantonese restaurant Jiang, a state-of-the-art wellness centre and spa, 25 metre outdoor pool – it’s in a world of its own.
Book it:Rooms from £400.