I used some points to stay at the Sofitel in Kunming. Although they were extremely busy with a meeting between Yunnan and Taiwan, the staff went out of their way when I checked in and whenever I was in the lobby to see to it that I received good service and my questions were answered.
My room was sleek, modern and comfortable. I even had a TV in the bathroom, which seems to be a Sofitel standard on the club floors. (N.B. If you belong to the Accor loyalty program and travel regularly, you’ll soon earn Gold status which offers upgrades.)
I was on the club floor and had access to the lounge, where guests can indulge in afternoon tea and then in cocktail hour. The sweet and savory options were delectable and while there was a lot of seafood, which I don’t eat, there was no excuse for going hungry.
Since there was a big meeting between Taiwanese government officials and Yunnan provincial big wigs the club was off-limits for regular guests. The Chinese required that the Taiwanese delegation be sequestered and watched at all times. So breakfast was only offered in the main restaurant which is large and offers the biggest variety of quality cuisine that I’ve ever seen for a breakfast. In fact the breakfast deserves its own post.
As spectacular as the food was, I think the personal attention that Sofitel offers is what I liked most about my stay. At every meal or any time I asked for directions, the staff were warm and informative. They know how to show that they care.
Adjacent to Lijiang’s Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Intercontinental hotel offers style, comfort and outstanding service. All the villas are modern and comfortable with rooms and architecture based on local ethnic crafts and culture making the Intercontinental an ideal place to stay, especially if you can pay with points. I really hated to leave this sanctuary. It would be an ideal place to come to finish editing a writing project.
The service was friendly and efficient. The staff all seemed genuinely eager to help. There were always enough staff with fluent English on hand to help.
The food in the executive lounge was beautiful and ample. I was upgraded to an executive room so I could have afternoon tea, cocktails and appetizers and breakfast in the lounge. They always offered a choice of Chinese and Western fare.
Since I arrived at 10:30 pm and figured customs, immigration and claiming baggage would take an hour, I booked a night at the Novotel by the airport. The website made it sound like you could walk from the terminal to the hotel, but you can’t. When I arrived I thought there’d be a shuttle, but there wasn’t after 11 pm so I had to take a cab there. I do wish you could call or arrange a ride or that they’d reimburse for a taxi late at night.
The night staff was attentive and kind. They efficiently got me checked in quickly. As a gold status member of Le Club Accor, I was upgraded to the executive floor. It’s certainly wise to join this program.
I was surprised to find a giant stuffed panda in my room and enjoyed the whimsical touch. In addition to the fruit plate, I received some the cute cookies.
The bathroom had a shower and an ample vanity. The toiletries were the same as they offer in Europe. The desk was big enough, but it was placed right under the television, which mystifies me since someone might want to write emails or blog posts while watching TV.
The breakfast was outstanding — great service, presentation and food. I’ve got to check my phone for photos. There weren’t any on my camera.
The only problem I faced was when I went to check out. I planned to leave my bigger bag with the bell boy. It’s a typical service and I’ve done this at the Novotel in Beijing and hotels in Thailand and Europe. The clerk wouldn’t let me and wouldn’t budge no matter how I pleaded. It caused me to miss the next shuttle and was a major headache as I had to spend time figuring out what to do with the bigger bag. Another odd thing was I never received a survey from the hotel as I usually do from Accor. It could be a coincidence. I but I did want to provide feedback on what a hassle it was not to be able to store a bag.
For the long Qing Ming weekend, I’ve come to Seoul. My friend and I arrived at 9:15 pm and I figured it would take an hour to get through immigration (which turned out to take much longer) so we opted for a the Grand Hyatt Incheon which promised a 24 hour shuttle and was just a short distance from the airport.
The problem was the lines in immigration were so long and we didn’t get through till about 11:30pm. The lack of signage at Incheon airport caused a short delay in finding where the Hyatt shuttle stop was. At the Information Desk we were told that the shuttle stopped at 11 so we should use the free airport shuttle. Once we found that stop we saw that the next shuttle would be at 12:12. Ugh!
Had I known, I’d have done something different. We considered getting a cab, but were tired and the idea of changing money and sorting through the touts and cheats seemed too much.
The bus appeared on time and several of us got on board. A few minutes later we were dropped a few blocks, yes a few blocks away from the hotel. The driver who spoke little English just pointed in the distance. We got out and searched for a hotel sign. It was dark and desolated. Not what we wanted upon arrival. We eventually saw what looked like might be our Hyatt. Then the bus approached and the driver, who’d just been waiting for his next run, pointed across the street. That’s the Hyatt.
We crossed and entered a building that had a dark sign that you couldn’t read from the sidewalk. Inside we determined we were in the back of the hotel amidst the restaurants. Eventually, we found the lobby without the aid of a sign.
The receptionist was graceful and apologetic but offered little to make our unpleasant feelings dissipate. She told us we could have called them and we’d have been picked up. Well, then instruct the staff at the airport Information Desk to tell your guests that. We just did what made sense — asked Information and followed their directions.
We had expected that since our booking was done by a friend with Diamond status that we’d get access to breakfast in the lounge. That’s what happened in the past. The receptionist said we didn’t and that he didn’t have Diamond status, which I know is wrong. In the end we got newer room, but it was a long unpleasant experience. It was really odd that a staff member offered to assist us with our bags and then took us to the elevator put our bags on it and left saying goodbye.
Now I do feel guilty for whinging about “First World problems” but we did pay for this hotel room and chose it based on the 24 hour shuttle promise on the website. Just change the website to state what actually is offered. 6am to 11pm is not 24 hours. Every 15 minutes is not twice an hour.
The Grand Mercure Dongchen offers beautiful rooms and good service. I actually reserved a room here by accident. I wanted to book a room at the Mercure by Beijing’s South Cathedral, but inadvertently booked this location.
I found the staff welcoming and the room, a junior suite modern and comfortable. (I’ve stayed at enough Accor hotels this year to get upgrades for each reservation.)
One nice touch was that they printed their hotel guide on scrolls to harken to Beijing’s past.
The hotel is within walking distance of the Yonghegong Tibetan Temple and the Drum and Bell Towers, but these sites are really, in my opinion, of interest for travellers who’ve already seen Beijing’s most famous sites like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace. They’re nice but not essential to see. It’s nowhere near the cathedral I wanted to get to and got lost finding. While I think it’s a lot newer
It’s not very crowded and the cocktail buffet had meagre offerings compared with busier hotels.
All in all, I’d suggest staying here if business brings you to north central Beijing but don’t bother with the Executive Lounge as you’ll probably need to eat more anyway. Room service would be the way to go.
Dragon Boat Zongzi
Since Friday the 26th is our last day of class and I’d given two tests and they needed to be graded, going out of town for the long Dragon Boat Festival weekend seemed foolish. So my colleague and I came to Jinan’s Hyatt hotel where we frequently enjoy their Thursday Ladies’ Night music and cocktails.
We booked the executive floor, which perfect for “staycationers,” who can go to local restaurants anytime. The breakfast and cocktail hour were more than enough to delight and nourish. The cocktail hour offered salad or cold vegetables, breads, cheeses, hot appetizers, drinks and desserts. What more do you need?
I really liked the mango salsa
Sausages of all sorts
Cocktail Hour: salad
How creative the chefs here are! Top notch! I particularly liked the mango pudding, scones, little cakes, fresh juices, and cheeses.
Congee and its accouterments
Grading was a breeze, if not a joy in this setting. I could take exercise breaks, had BBC, CNN or Channel News Asia to divert my attention, got three free English newspapers, and didn’t have to make my bed or tidy up. My time was so focused.
A delicious cold oatmeal with apple slivers
My first breakfast plate
It’s easy for Westerners to get obsessed with bread in China
Sunday after breakfast a friend and I walked to Five Dragons Pond where we could take in nature and the art gallery.
The Hyatt staff speaks English well and are so eager to please. They strike the perfect balance of friendliness and professionalism.
The Hyatt’s right near a night market and Wanda shopping center so bargain hunters can find new goodies to take home. (I was able to avoid temptation in this area.)