Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Garden Hotel in Guangzhou

In November 2012, we spent 14 nights in a deluxe room at The Garden Hotel in Guangzhou, China, as we adopted our second daughter.  While we were preparing for the trip, I kept wanting more info about our accommodations and it just wasn’t available so I thought I’d write up an overview and post a short video for adoptive families traveling in the future. 

The Garden Hotel is a 5-star hotel. I only saw the “deluxe rooms” so I can’t speak to the quality or layout of any other rooms.  I had the impression that most, if not all, of the adopting families were in deluxe rooms. When you enter your deluxe room, you are in a living area that has a flat-screen TV, two comfortable chairs and a loveseat, a small round table with two small stools, a large desk with a leather chair, and a cabinet that holds a small refrigerator, some glassware and teacups, and a pot for boiling water.  I was very surprised that they didn’t have a microwave.  I’d been counting on being able to pop popcorn or heat up some instant oatmeal.  The fridge is stocked with drinks and chocolate bars for purchase.  We shifted some around so that we could fit in drinks that we bought at 7-Eleven or Jusco.  When you first arrive, they’ll have three apples waiting for you. 

The hotel has free Wi-Fi, though it can run a bit slow.  You can request a free Ethernet cable, which apparently enhances speeds a lot.  Interestingly, the desk has some useful office supplies in the drawer (scissors, stapler, eraser, glue stick, ruler, etc.).   By the way, in case you don’t already know it, you probably won’t be able to access websites like Facebook, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube. 

Through the next door is the bedroom.  We had two “double beds.”  The room has a flat screen TV, two nightstands, each bed has two lights for reading, and there is a closet.  No dresser, which is kind of shocking.  This meant we had to live out of our suitcases for the two weeks.  I've been told, though, that the rooms with a king bed do have a small dresser. 
The closet holds a bathrobe, an iron and ironing board, umbrella, some shoeshine supplies, a box you can leave your shoes in to have them shined for free, and a small safe you can use at no charge for your valuables. You can call the service desk to request additional bathrobes.

As for the beds, anyone who has traveled in China knows that these actually are just a little wider than a twin bed and are very firm.  The ones at the Garden aren’t rock hard, though, and the pillows and bedding are very nice.  From the standpoint of an adoptive family, if I was traveling as a couple and adopting a younger child, I’d probably opt for one king size bed rather than the two beds.  In our case, there were four of us, two adults and two 7-year-olds, and we did pretty well by having the two adults share one bed and the two kids share the other.  You can request a rollaway bed but they do charge for this.  It’s my recollection that the cost is about $45 a night but we were there at a peak travel time and they quoted me a price of $120.  I’ve heard that some people will buy an air mattress to use.  The couch in the living area is too small for an adult to sleep on it comfortably.  I think they’ll provide a crib at no charge, but I’m not sure (and it’s a really nice crib . . . they brought one to us by accident).

The most unusual feature of the room is the bathroom.  As you walk into the bedroom, to the left is a large window that looks into a large jet tub and shower.  Never fear: There is a shade that can be lowered by a remote control for privacy.  The bathroom consists of three areas, which are separated from the bedroom by a pocket door. 

One room, as I just mentioned, includes this very nice big bathtub and right next to it is a shower.  Both the tub and the shower have a shower head on a flexible hose.  With a real young child, the tub may be too big and low to conveniently bathe him or her, I suppose.  In addition, there is a large shower head in the ceiling that gives a “rain shower” experience. I thought it was nice that you didn’t have to worry at all about splashing water outside the tub and so on at bath time. 

The second room is the toilet and then there’s a nice sink area. The toilet and bath/shower each have a frosted glass door.  The bathroom comes with a good supply of little travel supplies, including toothbrushes, sewing kits, razors, Q-tips, shampoo and conditioner.  They only provide you with two sets of towels and one additional bath towel, but you can call the service desk for more towels (as we did every single day).  There is a hair dryer and a lit make-up mirror on the wall.  We learned to use the make-up mirror light as a nightlight. 

You get two bottles of water every day because, of course, you cannot drink the tap water.  If you save your empty bottles for a couple of days, you can refill them using boiled water.  You can also walk down the street about three blocks to the Jusco store where you can buy some larger bottles of water. 

You can call the service center to ask for ice and, as far as we could tell, the ice was safe to use in drinks.  Oddly, they’ll first come to your door to get your ice bucket . . . but you don’t have one.  So they will then leave and bring you back a bucket full of ice.  When you call again, you’ll have an ice bucket they can take and use. 

Electrical:  There are electrical outlets that work for Western appliances, but not very many.  If you have a converter already, you might want to bring it with you just so you have one more place to plug things in.  Note that we found that none of the outlets would accommodate a curling iron, strangely enough. 

There are three phones: one in the living room, one in the bedroom and one by the toilet.  We unplugged the one by the beds so that it wouldn’t wake the kids up if someone called at an off hour. 

The options for television viewing are quite international, in addition to several Chinese state CCTV channels.  There are probably about a dozen English language channels, though they are not US networks. 

The room is actually very quiet.  We didn’t hear any noise from our neighbors, though when you went out in the hallway you could easily hear noises through the doors of other rooms.  The only noise we ever heard from another room was from above us when occasionally we might hear someone (a kid?) running or jumping, but even this was rare. 

You get a breakfast buffet each morning.  Technically, as we understand it, each room comes with two adult breakfasts and kids under 12 eat for free.  This is important because hotel policy is that additional breakfasts must be paid for and I think the regular price is almost $25.  At peak travel times, they raise the price to something like $45, if you can believe that!  In our experience, though, they don’t really check on this.  We would walk in as a group and show the greeter one of our room keys and they’d just seat us all.  After a day or two, we generally didn’t show anything when we arrived. 

The greeter will seat you upon your arrival at the restaurant.  If you are an adoptive family, they will seat you—almost without exception—in a back area of the restaurant, off the beaten path.  I’m not sure why they do this, whether it’s to hide the special needs children from other guests, or to control noise or because they think the families want to sit together.  On this last point, while it felt strange, maybe even insulting, to be shunted off to a special section, it actually was a very nice way to meet other families.  There's also some outdoor seating and you can ask for one of those tables.  (Smoking is allowed outdoors.)

The breakfast buffet is amazing.  Let me try to just spell out the different “areas” of the serving area:

·         Whole fruit (e.g., apples, oranges, bananas)
·         Juices (e.g., orange, tomato, apple, watermelon) and soy milk
·         Cut fruit – there was watermelon, dragon fruit and cantaloupe every day
·         A make-to-order omelet bar where they also serve up easy-over eggs
·         A buffet area where some items were there every day and some rotated out – bacon, scrambled eggs, hash brown patties, sausage, vegetables, rice noodles, dumplings, porridge
·         Waffles (not the best) and toppings
·         Noodle bar
·         Japanese bar with rice and pork
·         Breads and pastries
·         Four or five dry cereals and milk.

They also will serve you tea and coffee at your table. 

Our kids were waking up very early in the morning (think 5:30) so we often went to breakfast shortly after 6:00 and then went back again before the buffet closed at 10:00!  I tended to have a western breakfast first and then have more of an Asian meal the second time, with noodles or rice.
Just outside the restaurant is a large pond stocked with huge koi.  The girls loved to take two slices of bread out and feed the fish after breakfast every day. 

On the fourth floor, there is a fitness center and a pool.  The main pool is quite large and there is a smaller wading pool.  Beware:  They’re not heated!  There’s also a very small outdoor play set next to the pool area (it’s separated from the pools but you enter the same way) that should be a good diversion for children around four to five years of age.  On the sixth floor of the office tower, there is a small room (Room 654) with a very limited number of toys that might interest toddlers. 

If you stop by the concierge desk, they will loan you a very nice collapsible stroller that you can keep for the duration of your stay. 

There are a number of dining choices close by. If you leave the hotel and go left (west), you'll see Starbucks.  To the left of Starbucks and down the street a block or so (on Jiang She Liu Road) there is also a McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  In the same little mall, just past those restaurants, there is a Malyasian and an Italian restaurant on the third floor.  If you keep walking down the street, you'll see Telekla, a pretty good Mexican restaurant, and go a little further to find another pizza place. 

Our favorite meal near The Garden Hotel was probably the Japanese Casual Restaurant on the 5th floor of the Jusco store, near a Subway and a donut shop.  Communicating in English at the restaurant was a little challenging but it was so worth it when the food came. To get there, from the Starbucks just west of the hotel, turn right and then left on Huan Shi East Road, the big boulevard that runs in front of the hotel.  Go down about three blocks to the Jusco, which is a grocery store with a large variety of small shops that, at first glance, seem to be just one big department store. The grocery has some small containers of ice cream that taste like home at a reasonable price and is a good place to get bottled water and soft drinks.

There’s a metro (subway) station by the hotel.  The concierge desk has maps of the city and the metro system.  My point in mentioning the metro is that you can get to the other side of Huan Shi East Road by going down into the station and following the signs to the exit.  This takes you under the street and leads you to the other side.  Near the other station is the Friendship Store.  We found the Jusco to be more reasonably priced (less upscale) and much more convenient.  There are also some more restaurant choices over there, including a Burger King.  We tried the Häagen-Dazs (very good, but $5-$6 per scoop) and there’s also a Starbucks.  A little further away, there’s a KFC, but don’t be thinking that you’ll be able to get a bucket of original recipe . . . when I stopped in there, they had only three pieces of chicken in the place!  But they did have a lot of wings and sandwiches.  Next to the KFC is Trust Mart, which is sort of like Wal-Mart. 

The only truly bad meal we had was at Choi Kee Chinese Fast Food, to the east of the hotel on Teo Jin Road.

Behind the hotel, down Hua Le Road, there are some more restaurants and shops.  There is a pharmacy a block or two down that street as well.  You can also get some over the counter meds at Watson's, which is on the street in the same mall as McDonald's or next to the grocery on the fourth floor of the Friendship Store.

I’ve stayed at just two hotels in Guangzhou: The Garden Hotel and, six years ago, The China Hotel, a Marriott property.  Both are very nice.  There were probably four things that I liked better about The China Hotel. 

·         First, I felt like the front desk staff had a little better mastery of English, though Garden staff did a fine job generally. 

·         Second, it was located just a short distance from Yuexiu Park, the largest park in downtown Guangzhou.  This was a huge bonus for us as a family traveling with children, since it gave us lots to explore and do very conveniently.  The closest park to The Garden Hotel is Martyr’s Park, which is a fairly challenging walk with young ones, perhaps a mile, and isn’t as nice as Yuexiu. 

·         Third, as I recall, the dining options in the hotel itself were a little more economical.  It seemed that the restaurants in The Garden Hotel were very expensive.

·         Fourth, the lobby had an array of couches and tables, making it a very comfortable place to sit while you worked online or waited for others in your group to arrive.  The Garden Hotel’s lobby is beautiful but it’s just a huge granite room with almost no place to sit down. 
It also seemed to me that there was more "touristy" types of shopping--souvenir types of things that you can dicker over--near The China Hotel than near The Garden, but that may have changed in the last six years. 

If you have to stay in any hotel for a week or two, The Garden Hotel is probably as comfortable a choice as any and, except for the small beds, the deluxe rooms are a good setting as you adjust to a new family member, because there’s just a little more floor space that gives you room to spread out.  In fact, the small, hard beds are the only thing that (by Western standards) keep this from being an ultimate lodging experience. 


Fannie said...

Thank you for the information!! I've printed it out to help us when it is finally time to make our trip plans!! :)

ourchinagirls said...

We had a room with a king bed. Also received a crib, but my daughter wanted to sleep in it. I liked the panda bear she also received with the basket of goodies in the crib. I was told that you could ask for a pillow top for the mattresses there. I personally like the hard bed! I agree with you...really no where to do some serious adoption shopping except to take a cab to Shamian Island.

St George Hotel Rooms said...

Thanks you so much for sharing on this very nice and wonderful info with us, I am sure majority of all reader really like this too.

St George Hotel Rooms