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bsb10 Jun 1, 19 8:00 pm

Amans, Peninsulas, and Michelin Guides - oh my! (Asia Trip 2019)
Here I’ll be chronicling our recent Asia trip through Singapore, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo! (May 9 - 31). Sorry for slow updates; just returned home and sorting through all my notes and pictures!

These were the hotels and rooms we ended up in each:
  • 2 x Duplex Suite @ Six Senses Duxton (5 nights)
  • Grand Deluxe River Room + Deluxe Garden Room @ Peninsula Shanghai (2 nights)
  • Deluxe Village Suite + Village Suite @ Amanfayun (2 nights)
  • Beijing Suite @ Peninsula Beijing (3 nights)
  • Grand Deluxe Room + Skyline Deluxe Room @ St. Regis Osaka (2 nights)
  • Luxury Size Corner Room (Main Building) @ Hiiragiya Ryokan (3 nights)
  • 2 x Deluxe Palace Garden Rooms @ Aman Tokyo (5 nights)
I’ll also talk about our meals, mostly focusing on the Michelin guide hotspots but also discussing some of our other favorites we got to try. Here were most of the dinners:

Singapore: Shisen Hanten (2* Michelin Stars), Candlenut (1*), Violet Oon at the National Gallery

Shanghai: Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (3*), Sense 8 Xintiandi

Beijing: King’s Joy, DaDong

Osaka/Hyogo: Ca sento (3*), epaís (Bib)

Kyoto: All meals at Hiiragiya

Tokyo: Higashiazabu Amamoto (2*), Yunke (2*), L'effervescence (2*), Ishikawa (3*), Fukamachi (1*), Ushigoro S. Ginza

I’ll walk through the cities one by one, and try and upload as many pictures as I can once I can sort through our thousands of pictures!

bsb10 Jun 1, 19 8:01 pm

Pre-Arrival Interactions:

We booked all the hotels minus Hiiragiya via Team Ourisman on Virtuoso rates. Booking was flawless and easy. We went back and forth for a long while when deciding on a few hotels (Bulgari in Shanghai, Rosewood/MO in Beijing, Four Seasons/Ritz Carlton/Suiran in Kyoto, etc.) and the team was super responsive and helpful in settling our plans— thank you for bearing with the 60-something long email chain from us! :)

Booking Hiiragiya on our own was straightforward. We initiated the request via their website, they responded via email, and we finished the booking via telephone/fax. They spoke good English and overall had no difficulties or hassles in this process, very friendly on the phone and waited patiently on the line as our fax was sent to ensure all details were safely received.

As for concierge interaction, for all the hotels (minus Hiiragiya/SS Duxton) we at least booked transportation, and for all except Amanfayun/Hiiragiya/SS Duxton we booked at least 2 restaurant reservations each. We booked activities through Fayun as well, and spa treatments at Aman Tokyo.

We started working with Aman Tokyo earliest because of the notoriously difficult Japanese restaurant reservations. Aman Tokyo was above friendly and responsive in all our needs. I found they were the best to work with out of all the hotels, always super kind in every email and responding thoroughly and appropriately to each email. I frequently changed my mind about certain reservations and they were super accommodating to each changed request, and very thorough about making sure all details were captured (ordered preferences of back-ups, alternative dates, etc.). Definitely around equal to the best of the best city-hotel service I’ve received, namely at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong (which was crazy good for first time visit) and Baccarat NY (where we are regulars so they take good care of us). First impressions were very strong.

The Peninsula Beijing was very good as well (and got better as time went on), just sometimes small missing details in emails but being thorough and responsive on the whole. They also had super quick turnaround time (especially compared to their counterpart in Shanghai), and I liked the detail they put in the confirmations (detailed PDFs).

St. Regis Osaka was receptive and responsive, but fairly straightforward in tone. Standard luxury service fare, didn’t prepare PDFs of the reservations (which I find to fairly standard practice across most luxury hotels, but that’s nitpicking). Also had trouble getting most hard to book reservations — successfully got one 3 Michelin Star restaurant (Ca Sento), but had trouble getting 4+ reservations after that. However, this might have been a blessing because the restaurant we ended up at ended up being a top 3 favorite meal for us on the trip!

I found the Peninsula Shanghai to be a league below the above because they almost took the longest time to respond from any concierge (minus Amanfayun, which is below), alongside not really reading any of my emails thoroughly. It felt very robotic— for example, I asked them for opinions on 2 restaurants, and they just responded with a generic recommendation (long) list of restaurants, not even acknowledging the restaurants I mentioned. Good hotels should give some sort of opinion when asked— Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong last year was amazing about giving honest feedback for example. We also tried to book two Rolls-Royces for transportation for the four of us, and instead they just replied rates on getting a minivan, not even mentioning the Royce (even though I explicitly asked for its rates with no mention of the minivan from my end). To top it off, two different concierges responded to my initial reservation request at different times, even though I had already settled our restaurant reservation with the first one— definite lack of communication/coordination there. Somewhat disappointing interactions as compared to the other hotels, especially after reading wondrous reviews of it. Luckily this was not a bad omen for the rest of our stay there!

And finally, Amanfayun. This was tough. A lot of unanswered emails, a lot of pressing from multiple people (myself, agent, Aman corporate contacts) and finally got a response. After linking in almost every China exec to our email chain we finally got some responses, but I was so worried about the level of service that I wanted to cancel and change to AmanYY. We persevered because we really wanted to see Hangzhou, and really did not like the look of the Four Seasons so we were left with no other options. Responses vastly improved once they finally acknowledged our emails and it was effortless to book the transportation and activities. However, no apology from anybody at the resort which I found odd (in person or via email). Luckily, our stay was magical here so I don’t regret coming despite the lackluster response time at the beginning.

Next: Brief Singapore Overview

moondog Jun 1, 19 8:35 pm

Peninsula started managing the Palace Hotel in Beijing ~10 years ago. While they improved it on the service front, the hard product hasn't changed a great deal.

The Pen SH is a different beast because it was basically built from scratch, but the Bund honestly isn't especially cool.

As for Hangzhou, I always stay on the lake, especially during the peak season.

bsb10 Jun 1, 19 10:26 pm

Originally Posted by moondog (Post 31161537)
Peninsula started managing the Palace Hotel in Beijing ~10 years ago. While they improved it on the service front, the hard product hasn't changed a great deal.

The Pen SH is a different beast because it was basically built from scratch, but the Bund honestly isn't especially cool.

As for Hangzhou, I always stay on the lake, especially during the peak season.

Interesting.. The Pen Beijing, as far as I know, did a massive renovation just a few years back (2 or 3?) and I thought the hard product was absolutely stunning and felt nearly brand new everywhere (especially the room which was near immaculate, especially compared to the Pen Shanghai which is showing a little age around the edges).I believe it has changed a lot because they halved the number of rooms from the old hotel, no?

I found the Bund architecturally very interesting. I don't think it was peak season yet when I was just in Hangzhou 3 weeks ago because the lake wasn't overly crowded, but I enjoyed staying away from it at Amanfayun. Virtually no traffic to get back and forth and it was nice to get out of the crowds that were there. We ate at the Four Seasons and were happy with our decision not to stay there based on the vibe alone. To each their own I guess! I'll leave more detailed comments on these hotels in the reviews once I get a chance to write them (I just got back home a few hours ago).

moondog Jun 2, 19 12:04 am

1. One limiting factor in hotel renovations is that it's not easy to change the size/layout of the rooms themselves; this is big issue for hotels like the Portman (SH) that were built during the small room era

2. I advise people against staying on the Bund because the restaurants are overpriced/overrated, and subway access is terrible

3. My mom and I visited Hangzhou during, what is possibly, the busiest time all year -- the first weekend during the spring tea harvest
-but, we made the most of it because our hotel was on the lake (I can't recall the name off hand, but it was pretty swank), and we hired a small private boat to bring us around the lake (even to the uncrowded west part)

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