Located up some escalators just off manic Yaowarat Road, the hotel exterior is nothing to write home about, and aside from free wireless throughout there's little in the way of frills. However, as you can see from these pictures I took (all except the bottom right one in the collage above) the interiors are a decorative riot.
Left to right, back to front, top to bottom, everywhere you look you're confronted, and in turn charmed, by dreamy Oriental kitsch: rooms are like the set of a romantic Beijing Opera, or tacky Shaw Brothers martial arts movie; red lanterns are elegantly strung out long palatial corridors; while gorgeous coloured parasols float midair in the lobby's central atrium as if by some age-old spell.
In a city teeming with Thai-motif obsessed hotels its great to find one infatuated with the Far East. Me being a shameless fantacist, I kept hoping Gong Li in full ceremonial dress would bound around a corner looking lustful, or that a wall-climbing, sword-wielding Zhang Ziyi would storm into my room and lunge at me in my Imperial antique four-poster bed....
Where was I? Ahhhh yes, the rooms.. The're not especially big or bright (the absence of a reading lamp irked me), and, with the ornamentation not feeling quite as good as it looks, I'm not sure I'd recommend a long stay, but guys, if your looking for a place to ravish or romance your current concubine or ruling Empress, this is it!
Shanghai Inn: 479-481 Yaowarat Road, Chinatown
On a loose thematic tangent, for equally lavish Chinese period drama, only on screen, seek these out:
Raise the Red Lantern - Gong Li at her demure best.
Ju Dou - Gong Li falls for a peasant. Trouble at the hands of a pre-teen tearaway with a daft haircut ensues.
A Touch of Zen - the definitive supernatural swordplay flick from master King Hu. 3 hours long but worth it for the bamboo forest scene alone.
Come Drink with Me - King Hu/Shaw Brothers classic about a feisty sword wielding chick. Crouching Tiger owes much to this movie, not least the brilliant teahouse scene.
Dragon Gate Inn - I love this movie! Not the remake, but the original from 1966. Sadly, very hard to find but I'm not lying when I say its seminal.
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan - Cult Shaw Brothers film about sexy sword-fighting hookers with overt lesbian tendencies (shameless screen shot below).
I mention these because many are available at the many DVD/VCD shops around the corner from Shanghai Inn, including a vast, wondrous array of Shaw Brothers re-releases. I know, cos I got carried away and bought a stack of them. The DVDs cost 150 baht and come with Thai or Mandarin audio, plus Thai and English subtitles. For tie-in snacks instead of the usual boring popcorn, pick up some roasted chesnuts from one of the many vendors on Yaowarat Road. Concubines I can't help you with.