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Hotel recommendations rarely take up much space on this site, but if a hotel manages to create a unique and positive experience, exceptions are happily made - and JIA Hotel in Shanghai is one of those happy exceptions.
For a relatively pricey hotel, JIA Shanghai is pretty understated. In fact, there is a good chance that you will have trouble finding it, especially if you arrive by taxi. Small letters next to a front door of tinted glass simply says JIA. In a city where size tends to overshadow everything else, a subtle hotel entrance is a good sign of what to come.
JIA means "home" in Mandarin and that's what they want you to feel - at home. The atmosphere is casual and guests seem to be returning, which is another good sign. JIA is a design-led hotel, in the sense that design is not just cosmetically applied, but integrated in the hotel's DNA. Attention is paid to detail - from the architecture and interior design to the friendly service and the delicious complimentary cookies in the lounge. Luckily, in all its chicness JIA is not a place without humor. In the rooms you'll find classic board games, including Chinese checkers (!) and the lobby is decorated with quirky works by contemporary Chinese artists Liang Binbin and Caroline Cheng of the fantastic Pottery Workshop (more of this please).
Like most contemporary things, JIA is a mix of different impulses. The founder is a business woman from Singapore. Rooms are designed by the Melbourne based firm BURO and the lobby and restaurant are designed by Hong Kong architects André Fu and Darryl Goveas, respectively.
And a few Shanghai tips:
Casual places to eat
Noodle Bull - A large communal table creates the atmosphere in a room stripped of any decor. And the noodles are good!
Pho Rea - A cozy place with an eye-catching interior. Woven bamboo baskets are used as lamp shades.
Kin - Small street wear shop with a café/restaurant at the back.
Misc contemporary design
The Pottery Workshop - Ceramics and pottery from various young Chinese designers. Good stuff.
Spin Ceramics - A renowned ceramics brand. The shop will move to 360 Kangding Road in March 2011.
EMOI - A Chinese take on Muji (?)
Neocha - A creative agency and network of Chinese designers. It may give an idea of what the creative youth is up to.