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A five-star autumn

By Liu Mingtai and Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2011-09-19 10:27

A five-star autumn

Through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the lobby lounge of Shangri-La Hotel, Changchun, guests can enjoy bustling city center scenes. Liu Mingtai / China Daily

Hotel profile | Changchun

The Shangri-La Hotel, Changchun, reflects the beauty of nearby Changbai Mountain and naturally provides great service, meals and accommodation. Liu Mingtai and Raymond Zhou report.

Autumn in Changbai Mountain is intoxicating as the leaves turn red, yellow and golden. That warmth is subtly mirrored in the decor of Shangri-La Hotel, Changchun.

It is only natural that Jilin province's first five-star hotel should retain the golden hues of its highest mountain. If you stop here on your way to the mountain in the coming months, the hotel will get you into the right mood; and if Shangri-La is your stopover after your visit to the mountain that's topped with a heavenly lake, it'll help prolong the lingering glow of nature's opulence.

After a recent 30-million-yuan ($4.7m) upgrade, the lobby of the 15-year-old hotel has added to the four giant pillars a motif of "rose gold" pine tree leaves. Some say these are four girls waving their scarves to greet visitors from afar. But you can make your own interpretation.

The white marble floor is a reminder of a snow-capped winter or the "Ever-White Mountain", which is the literal meaning of Changbai. As you step toward the reception desk, a multi-panel painting of the mountaintop lake looms into sight, slightly abstract and distilling the beauty of nature to its essence. It was hand painted by a contemporary artist, and its subject is complimented by floral patterns on the otherwise unadorned glass screen.

The hotel is a favorite with the business crowd. The 1,392-square-meter grand ballroom, which just went through a 14 million yuan refurbishment, is the venue for many product launches and corporate parties.

Since Changchun is China's Motown, local automakers stage many of their high-end ceremonies here. Other movers and shakers have also made it their preferred hangout - both for its stellar service and for its central location.

You can customize your events with the help of the hotel's events management and banqueting team. There are two selections, of a 1920s Shanghai night, and Red China; and six choices of themed coffee breaks, which include fashion, gym, tea, spa, jewelry and authentic Dongbei (Northeast) flavors.

If you are a food connoisseur, you could segue from a fun tea party to a formal meal at Shen Cafe on Level 1, where you can pick what you fancy, like a butterfly, from as many as eight cooking "theaters". It is so named because the Asian cuisine and barbecue, Western cuisine and grill, Japanese sushi and sashimi, Indian tandoori and curry, Italian pastas and traditional Chinese noodles, Cantonese dim sum, ginseng herbal soup, teppanyaki, ice cream and dessert are prepared right in front of you, and you can blend your own fusion cuisine by sampling the world in 80 bites.

"Local people have a yen for smoked salmon, lamb chops, pate, escargot and seafood," reveals Christophe Durliat, executive chef of the hotel. "They generally prefer French food and wine to Italian."

Ever since he moved to the capital of Jilin province, Durliat - whose career in hospitality has included stints at various luxurious hotels, resorts and Michelin-star restaurants in Europe, Asia and Guam - he has had plenty of chances to observe East-West disparities. However, he has noticed that local cuisine has something in common with his hometown fare of France in that both offer abundant green leaves in their food offerings, which is healthy, he adds.

Besides the dizzying array of buffet items, Shen Caf, open from 6 am till midnight, also serves la carte menus. Shang Palace on the second floor, on the other hand, is known for its authentic Cantonese and Dongbei food. The floor-to-ceiling windows of the lobby lounge make it easy to look out on the bustling city center while you sip coffee and wait for - or chat with - your friend. It is perfect for people watching. You'll find people in Northeastern China have a charm unique to their local culture.

Of course, the higher you go on this 25-story building, first opened in 1996, the more panoramic the urban view. Many of its 458 deluxe guest rooms and 98 serviced apartments offer breathtaking downtown sceneries that epitomize the allure of this vibrant city - mushrooming high rises and swathes of trees and parks. If you look closely, you'll be able to spot some who have just returned from Changbai Mountain.

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