Although it has now been mostly forgotten by foreigners, Ruijin Guest house and it’s difficult to pronounce Chinese name was once a compulsory piece of expat vocabulary in Shanghai. Host of the famous Face bar, the former Morris estate was built in the 1910’s by Shanghai business man Henry Morris, mostly known for his passion of horse racing. He also owned the “North China Daily News”, i.e. the most read English newspaper at the time with it headquarters on the Bund. After about 4 years of work, the Ruijin guest house park has opened again, now hosting the Intercontinental Ruijin Hotel. The original buildings have not been touched by the renovation apart from outside cleaning. This side of the property was still open during the work.
The new hotel buildings occupying the park are of the “old Shanghai revisited” style that is now in vogue. Trying to copy and adopt the style of the original Morris house, the outside of both buildings somewhat fits into the old Shanghai model. Old timers like me will regret the original space and opening of the park, but the whole compound still has a lot of charm. I was expecting much worth few years ago when I saw the first images of the project. The hotel also has now a large underground parking that is well hidden. The inside is supposed to be old style inspired with a lot of wood, although I was not so impressed by the design. One of the nice touch is the Old Shanghai theme foyer, with a few period artifacts. With it’s location in the city and welcoming garden, the hotel is sure to become one of the places to stay in Shanghai.
Besides from visiting the new hotels, the aim of the trip was also to go and see what happened to the former Face Bar. Running from 1999 to 2009, it was the main gathering place of the foreign community at that time. Having carefully renovated the former Mitsui building, they kept as much as possible of the old interior, along with using period objects to recreate a very special Old Shanghai atmosphere. Although the bar closed down about 5 years ago, it is still fondly remembered by its former clientele and has somehow never been replaced. I knew going back to the this former legend would be a disappointing experience, but I somehow had to do it.
The outside of the building has been preserved and (over) cleaned making it look brand new as for most renovations in Shanghai. The park still looks the same (including the mosquitoes), and is still a fantastic place to have a drink outside. In a perfect example of Shanghai style ruinovation, every single item of the old inside has been gutted away. Good bye to the former glory and special feeling of this Grande Dame of Old Shanghai. Instead of this unique atmosphere, the interior is now plain and modern, having lost anything that made it special. Coming back to this place made me feel nostalgic in a way I had not been seen since going to the former Lounge 18 (see post Massacre at Bund 18) or the Paramount building (See post Paramount Suicide).
Enjoying the garden is still very nice but if you have known the former Face Bar, just don’t get into the building itself.