The luxury Shangri La hotel in Guilin

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The luxury Shangri La hotel in Guilin

The luxury Shangri La Hotel in Guilin ChinaAfter our busy 10 days of sightseeing we had planned on a little luxury for the last 3 days to relax. The Shangri La hotel was certainly luxurious. The Shangri La hotels are a chain of luxury hotels, mainly in Asia and judging from their website they are planning to expand significantly in China. Apart from our previous experiences at Shangri La hotels in Kuala Lumpa (Traders) and Borneo (The Rasa Ria), we also selected this hotel because it was deceived as a ‘resort hotel’ with multiple swimming pools to keep the family happy.

The atmosphere in the hotel is quiet and luxurious. The staff where either smart Chinese dresses or suits depending on their role or perhaps seniority. There is a large air conditioned lounge in the reception area with two main restaurants on either side; the Li Cafe serving buffet meals of all descriptions and the Shang Palace serving Chinese food only. There is also a ‘bar’ which serves food and has darts, pool and a tv screen.

Outside there is a shallow ‘paddling pool’ (which I presume is regarded as the children’s pool) and a small but attractive main pool (1.3m deep everywhere) with a pool bar and loungers and tables with chairs surrounding it.

Outside there is also direct access onto the river bank (across a fairly busy road and down onto a shallow and pebble river ‘beach’. There is also a children’s park which is a playground for children under about 6 years of age.

There is an inside health club which includes a much more formal swimming pool (with lanes) and we also paid 150 Yuan (£15 GBP) – the heat, even under the floodlights at 8pm was stifling and we were the only people to brave it!

Overall it was a nice pleasant three days at the Shangri La hotel but there was something slightly odd about it too. May be it is a Chinese thing or perhaps it was because it is quite new but the hotel had a bit of a unreal aspect to it. Unlike other resort hotels we have stayed at, few people seemed to use the hotel as a resort, most were out for much of the day sightseeing. We had done all the sightseeing we could manage by this time so often we appeared to have the whole hotel to ourselves. Lots of activity was going on at all times – cleaning, gardening, manning the bars and restaurants (which were full again by nighttime) and guarding the swimming pool (there was a lifeguard chair by the pool which was sometimes used but often someone would stand, half hidden in the bushes and watch). I half imagined a quasi-commune from the early days of communism with ‘the work’ being carried out as prescribed whether it is required or not.

The staff were generally pleasant. By the pool, the waitress practically skipped (possibly because we were her main customers for the 3 days we were there!) when she saw us and offered us cold towels half way through the day. However no one ever came round to offer or serve drinks.

In the lounge we also got a shock. We ordered a light dinner of food to share and got out our playing cards for a game – a bit of a family tradition when we are on holiday – but were quickly informed that playing cards was not allowed in ‘the public areas’ but we could go to the bar! We were practically the only ones in the lounge (we had about 5 waitresses serving us). I enquired whether Majong was allowed or perhaps Chinese chess (which we also had with us). After quite a bit if discussion these were both also rule out of order. We finished our food and moved outside – I decided not to ask about electronic Boggle!

The only other criticism I have of the hotel were the prices. It was an expensive hotel and we expected premium prices but while the breakfast, lunch and dinners were generous portions, the hotel managed to provide extortionate prices and minuscule portions of extras like drinks (28 Yuan for a small 330m can of local beer which to add insult to injury was served in a glass that could have taken twice the amount) and ice creams (26 Yuan for 2 scoops, which seemed reasonable until you saw the size of the scoops!). The pricing was also inconsistent. In the bar, a coke was 20 Yuan, by the pool it was 15 and in the lounge it was more expensive.

Despite these niggles our few days at the Shangri La were fun relaxing and it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye, not least because it signalled the end of our holiday and the start if our return to normality…