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Old Nov 11, 11, 5:09 pm
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Asheville, NC
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The Luxury Hotels of China

Part One - Beijing

Some notes about my site inspections in Beijing (and elsewhere in China).

(1) Beijing is a very large city (13 million) with terrible traffic, especially at rush hour. Unless you want to cope with the crowded subway system, LOCATION is the number one criterion in choosing a hotel in Beijing. If you're traveling on business, the best hotel will be one that is very close to where you're business meetings will be.

(2) I'm on a FAM trip with Imperial Tours, and with the exception of the Peninsula Beijing, Ritz-Carlton Pudong, and PuLi, the rest of these hotel site inspections were planned for by Imperial Tours.

(3) As with my other postings, these are my personal, subjective opinions. Others may and should come to different conclusions!

Downtown hotels (walkable to the major tourist sites)

The Peninsula Beijing

I spent my first night in Beijing at The Peninsula before moving to Raffles the next day where our FAM trip began.

The Peninsula is the former Palace Hotel. It was completely renovated 20 years ago with a very elegant contemporary design. We stayed in a Duplex Suite on the top floor of the hotel. Our suite looked out over the city of Beijing through large windows on both levels. While the suite is spacious, it does not make the best use of the available space. A large living room is on the lower level and provides a large wall-mounted flat screen television, minibar, and a powder room - but we were hardly ever in this space.

A staircase in front of the window-wall leads up to the bedroom on the second floor where space was a bit cramped. The King bed is in the middle of the wall, with a large glass desk to its left and built-in closets to its right. There is only enough space between desk and bed for the desk chair, so when it is not pushed under the desk (i.e., someone is working at the desk), there is not enough space for someone to get into (or out of) the bed without getting out of the chair. It would be a great improvement if the desk and internet connections were moved downstairs to the living room area. Internet access is complementary, by the way, with both ethernet and wireless connections available, and both 110 and 220 power sockets.

The bathroom features dark granite floors and vanities with white marble walls dual vanities, large soaking tub with TV, step-in shower (a tiny bit cramped), and a WC. With just a few more inches of shower space, the bathroom would be perfect.

There is a Virtuoso upgrade-at-booking at the Peninsula. Thus, Virtuoso guests should never have to stay in a lead-in Deluxe room (which lacks a step-in shower). We were shown a Grand Deluxe room. At about 35 sqm, this room feels like a Superior room. There is just a single vanity in the bathroom, but there is a separate soaking tub, shower, and WC.

The room of choice at the Peninsula is the Beijing Suite (which is an automatic upgrade from a Duplex Suite). This is a very nice suite with a warmer color scheme. Brown granite and tan marble in the bathrooms, silk wall paper in the MBR, and a larger shower. The living area has a large living room, separate dining area, and desk/work area.

Raffles Beijing

A traditional Colonial-era hotel located on the 16-lane east-west highway running through the middle of Beijing, Raffles offers a central location convenient to the Forbidden City. Guest rooms are very large and reasonably priced, but they do have significant problems. Our Landmark Room was a bit on the dark side and felt dowdy - furnishings were drab and really could use significant updating. The single window didn't provide enough natural light, and street noise could be heard in our sixth floor room. Mattresses and pillows were overly hard. Along with other members of our group, we experienced some temperature control issues - rooms were either too cold or too hot. On the positive side, the marble and limestone bathrooms provided everything you would expect - dual vanities, step in shower, soaking tub.

Suite categories were significantly more satisfactory, The lead-in Landmark Suite is a 700 sq. ft. junior suite with attractive, traditional interior styling, and the Personality Suite we were shown (at 850 sq. ft) is even nicer.

Central business district hotels

China World Summit Wing

China World Summit Wing is operated by Shangri-La. This contemporary hotel opened in August, 2010 atop Beijing's tallest building, 81 stories and 330 meters high. It is built on top of a 400 store shopping mall, and a major subway station.

Guests enter a large reception area on the ground floor and are escorted directly to their rooms for in-room check-in (as long as the hotel knows your ETA). The Residence Foyer is located on the 64th Floor. It is essentially a Club lounge available to all hotel guests, providing complimentary coffee, tea, and juices 24 hours a day as well as food presentations of fruit, sandwiches, and scones but no free alcohol. The hotel has 278 rooms, and free internet is provided throughout the property.

Virtuoso guests receive an upgrade-at-booking, and the Virtuoso rates are loaded into the GDS to ensure that the upgrade is reflected in pricing. Lead-in Executive rooms (55 sqm) have a single vanity - but upgrade at booking to a Premier room (65 sqm).

We were shown a Grand Premier (75 sqm), a spacious accommodation with great views of Beijing from the bedroom, sitting area, and also from the bathtub! Bathrooms have rain showers, separate WC, and dual vanities with TV in the mirror.

The Premier Suite is huge, 110 sqm, located at the corners of the hotel for great views.

The hotel's gym is the largest in Beijing with outstanding 78th floor views from each exercise machine, and the infinity pool likewise looks out over the city.

Park Hyatt

Located across the main road from China World, and you can walk between the two through the subway station that both hotels are atop. The Park Hyatt is three years old having opened for the 2008 Olympics. The lobby is atop the hotel on the 63rd floor. The 246 rooms and 25 suites are typical Park Hyatt accommodations with clean contemporary styling and a lot of emphasis on the bathrooms. Rooms are quite striking in the evening, with the light interiors contrasting with the city views outside your windows. The clean, elegant design is by the same designer who created the Landmark MO in Hong Kong.

Lead-in Park King rooms are 400 sq. ft. Floors are wood and marble, and furnishings are blond wood. Bathrooms feature limestone tubs, rain showers, and a single vanity. The glass-walled bathrooms are right inside the entrance and open to the room. Although a sliding panel can close them off, they will not be to everyone's liking.

Park Deluxe rooms are 500 sq ft. These rooms are the same width as Park Rooms, but the room is longer with the additional space being devoted to a sitting area between the bathroom and sleeping areas. Located at each of the four corners of the building, these rooms have incredible views, especially at night when the city is lit up.

The Park Suite, 850 sq ft, is quite spacious with a HUGE bathroom and perhaps the largest soaking tub I've ever seen.

The Park Hyatt offers a gym with a view, and the swimming pool and hot tub also have great city views.

Summer Palace area

Aman at Summer Palace

This is a WOW resort. Located about an hour outside the center of the city (the distance is not that far, but see my notes above about traffic in Beijing). The facilities are nothing short of amazing. One of the best equipped gyms I have ever seen, a spa, an indoor infinity edge pool, and three restaurants. Nightly films are shown in the private cinema with extremely comfortable reclining leather seats, and popcorn is provided!

The best feature of the hotel is its private entrance into the Summer Palace. Aman guest can bypass queues and the need to purchase tickets, but even more significant is the opportunity to wander through the Palace grounds before and after the crowds have come and gone.

Lead-in Guestrooms are quite small, but these are the least expensive Aman rooms in the world!

We were not able to see a Courtyard Guestroom (as all were occupied at the time of our site inspection), but one member of our group had previously stayed in one and had very positive reviews of the room; this would be the recommended room category to book.

We were also shown a spacious Suite.

My recommendation for leisure guests to Beijing would be to spend your first two nights at the Peninsula and visit the Temple of Heaven, Tianamen Square, and the Forbidden City while staying downtown. Then, move to Aman at Summer Palace and while there visit the Summer Palace, the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China, and a day at leisure before moving on.

Last edited by DavidO; Nov 13, 11 at 4:27 pm
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