Shangri-La Vancouver lobby

Shangri-La Vancouver
Vancouver, Canada


Vancouver is a place with a soul. Whether experiencing it by air or sea the city forces you to slow down and smell the trees, taste the crisp air and acknowledge its heritage. We guarantee that you’ll quickly fall under this British Columbian charm. Its urban sanctuary, Shangri-La Vancouver, is a homage to the city’s natural and cultural heritage.

Walking around Vancouver’s Chinatown long before it stirs awake, with its deserted streets, dilapidated grandeur and flickering traffic lights above its empty thoroughfares, brought a somewhat cinematic feel to our visit. The area is an important part of Vancouver’s story, a heritage destination, with a history which spans well over a century. As Chinatown woke up, we began to notice deep pockets of daily life: New Town Restaurant where it was standing room only at breakfast, Treasure Green Tea shop with its tiny teapots on display, The Boss Bakery with freshly baked glazed rolls behind its counter, Chinatown BBQ where rows of roasted duck hung in the window, and the now regenerated Chinatown Plaza at the corner of Keefer Street, a 1990s shopping mall that took the local Chinese Merchant’s Association 20 years to build. Then, there is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden; the first full-scale Chinese garden to ever be built outside China. The storied history of the Chinese diaspora here in Vancouver is, after all, tied deeply to the city’s DNA… something we were reminded of as we headed back to our hotel, the Shangri-La Vancouver.

The property opened to fanfare and firecrackers on the eve of Chinese New Year in 2009. But it remains a contemporary fixture on the Vancouver hotel scene. Throughout the building, British Columbia’s West Coast style is blended with Shangri-La’s Asian heritage. It is designed by Vancouver-based Chinese-Canadian architect, James Cheng, whose signature contemporary touches ensured that the space flowed seamlessly between light and airy, to dark and dramatic and back again. As such, the Shangri-La Vancouver exudes a voguish style, but also substance… in a world first for sustainability in hotel construction, the building is heated and cooled using a geothermal system, backed up by steam and electricity.

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While you’re Out There
Head out and about to discover Vancouver’s Chinese history with Robert Sung, a third-generation Chinese Canadian from Vancouver and owner of Robert Sung Tours. Beyond the city, nature abounds. Our recommendation? Take a trip to Granville Island and kayak around the harbour. The concierge at the Shangri-La will gladly assist, but we will vouch for the team at Vancouver Water Adventures. The company’s guides – contrary to what one might expect of a typical city tour operator – taught us all about the indigenous history of Granville Island and its surrounding waters. We learnt the name of each mountain, as given by the First Nations people and understood how the land and sea were first used for fishing, hunting and foraging. It’s a perspective of the world that has long been missing from travel that Vancouver, as a destination, mindfully and respectfully has chosen to embrace.

Altogether, there are 80 rooms and 39 suites at Shangri-La Vancouver. (The hotel occupies the first 15 floors of a 61-storey building that stretches high into the city’s eclectic skyline… convenient, as we never had problems finding our way home). Our Executive Balcony room with a private terrace came complete with a walk-in shower and deep-soaking bathtub. Soft, plush fabrics glistened under the bright sunlight which filled our room.

We found it rather fitting that in this health-conscious city, the Shangri-La Vancouver prides itself on providing a raft of top-notch facilities and amenities, geared towards balancing body and mind. Their famous wellness space, Chi, The Spa with its palatial treatment suites, focused – as the name suggests –on getting our ‘chi’ flowing freely, or at least we can testify to their wonderful massages. Continuing their commitment to guest wellbeing, the gym (which also doubled up as a yoga studio) is open 24 hours.

The hotel is ideally located for luxury shopping on Robson Street and nightlife on Granville Street. The streets around it have several great coffee shops and boutiques. It’s a beautiful and uncrowded area for exploring on foot.

Carlino is the primary hotel’s dining option and where we grazed on a fabulous breakfast each morning. It has a gorgeous bar too. Despite the hotel’s contemporary oriental theming, Carlino actually offers Italian cuisine for lunch and dinner… so expect veal-stuffed pasta, prune gnocchi and apperitivo-style cocktails to feature on the menu. We loved the peach rye whisky and yuzu sake blend… a drink that sounds too good to be true, but that’s because it is.

As nice as the Shangri-La Vancouver is, we had to constantly remind ourselves that no trip to the city is complete without at least one excursion into the rich natural surroundings of the province of British Columbia. Luckily, the hotel’s expert concierge team is always on hand to help organise a range of activities from city tours, to seaplane flights and whale spotting.

Photography courtesy of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

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