Skiing: Room Service

GRAND HYATT, SHANGHAI

VISITING SHANGHAI is fascinating but exhausting. You feel particularly pathetic when, after a long day, you instruct your taxi driver to take you to your hotel and find he is unable to understand a single syllable of what you say, despite your patiently practised Mandarin. In which case, the new Grand Hyatt hotel in Shanghai is a godsend. Wherever you are in this seething city of 14 million people, just turn around and point. For the hotel comprises the top half of the Jin Mao tower, which is the tallest building in China and the third-tallest in the world.

Opened earlier this year, the 430m edifice towers over a city that is undergoing a concerted attempt to emulate New York's skyline. On a steamy day it is wonderfully refreshing to step into the high-speed lift (the world's second fastest) in the downstairs marbled hall and be blasted up to reception on the 54th floor. The Huangpu river winds far below you - the city's bustle reduced to a silent dreamscape of cranes, towers and art-deco mansions - and there are 33 more floors of rooms above you, arranged in a circle around a towering foyer (the world's tallest).

It is a bizarre sight looking down the inside of the building from the 87th floor to see the jazz band distantly tinkling on Floor 56. The futuristic cocktail bar on the top floor is one of the very best places in the world to sip Martinis and contemplate the vista beneath you. It's so high above the city, the view of streaks and splashes of lights at night seems to be from the window of a plane, and on a windy day, the whole room sways.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

The Grand Hyatt Shanghai is at the Jin Mao Tower, Pudong, Shanghai (00 86 21 5047 1234). Virgin Atlantic (01293 747747) now operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Shanghai four times a week, from where a taxi takes 45 minutes and costs pounds 10. The old city centre is 10-minutes away by taxi or 30 minutes by foot and ferry.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

My room was on the 85th floor with a sheer drop from the (non-opening) plate glass window, a vertigo-sufferer's nightmare. Above the bed was a beautiful Chinese mural and the bed itself was huge and board-hard, yet somehow delightfully comfortable, designed with millennia of Chinese massage know-how.

Feng-shui advisors had been consulted on everything from furniture layout to cupboard shape, and Chinese influence was evident in the powerful massage shower and in-room shiatzu massage service (which involved a woman standing on my back, miraculously curing my aches). More massages, jacuzzis and a lovely pool, were on offer in the panoramic 59th floor health-club, a good counterpoint to the city's buzz.

Room service drew on the hotel's six restaurants, with a cappellini alle vongole pasta that would do Rome's Hotel Eden proud, and a delicious, if bizarre, snake-and-shark soup from the local selection. And, a jacket I sent for pressing came back with missing buttons sewn back on - now that really is service.

Freebies: A metal amenities box is yours to take away, filled with hairbrush, razors, toothbrush and so on, and there was a basket of fruit and unlimited green tea.

Staying in touch: Free, if erratic, Internet access through the TV, which also told you when you had phone messages.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Prices start at US$148 per room per night (pounds 95) though for the full vertiginous experience, it's worth paying 25 per cent more to stay on a higher, "executive" floor.

I'm not paying that: The public rooms in The Peace Hotel (00 86 632 42210), on the city-centre waterfront, are masterpieces of art-deco chic that cost from pounds 75 per night. Rooms are adequate, and there is a renowned jazz bar downstairs.

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