HOTEL NOTES -- YUNNAN PROVINCE of CHINA
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Hotels reviewed on this page:
- Wangfu Hotel, Lijiang, China
- Chateau De Woody Guesthouse, Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
- Baiyunan Hotel, Baishuitai, China
- Nanka Hotel , Zhongdian [Shangri La], China
- Shi Hong Hotel, Shi Gu, China
- Cultural Center Hotel, Sha Xi, China
- Lao Mandian Hotel, Sha Xi, China
- Er Yuan Hot Spring Hotel, Xiahuoshan, China
- Landscape Hotel, Dali, China
We stayed at these hotels in October, 2008 while on a bicycle tour organized by Spice Roads.
A discussion of that Bicycle Tour [when completed and posted] can be found here.
Pictures of the hotels [when uploaded] can be found here.
Wangfu Hotel is a 4-Star advertised property in the middle of the Old City, Lijiang, China. The old city is a very large tourist oriented section of Lijiang. Lijang is the gateway city to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We understand that most of the old city district was rebuilt following fires in the 1900’s. As a result, the old city looks modern, is clean, has underground utilities [including water and sewer], and lacks traditional pockets of poverty. The hotel seemed re-built at about the same time as the rest of the old town. It is mostly a modern structure with appealing courtyards. The motif is historical Chinese done in picturesque manner and would be appealing to anyone wishing memories.
Our hotel room was elegantly decorated and had a western bathroom including modern fixtures and a tub/shower with curtain that kept water off the floor. There was a nice sitting area in the room. But only 2/3 of the lights worked [rest burned out ?] and the beds were more to Chinese custom that is very very hard compared to American or European standards.
Wireless internet in the hotel lobby. We could not find a signal in our room. Once connected, the Internet worked well. Staff either spoke English or would find someone who could speak English. There is no need for a local interpreter at the Wangfu Hotel.
Our stay at the Wangfu Hotel included a buffet breakfast which turned out to be a disappointment in quality. For instance, there was no coffee available for the 45 minutes we were in the dining room. And the eggs were cold. The variety of foods for western tastes was minimal – the majority of dishes were for the Asian pallet. We even had to search 5 minutes to find napkins. The also lacked sufficient seating in the breakfast buffet area and we had to go outside [in the drizzle] to eat. We do not understand why a hotel in many ways equivalent to 4-star in the US, would serve a 2-star breakfast and ending a guest’s experience on such a low note.
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Chateau De Woody Guesthouse,
Hu Tiao Xu, TLG, China
Oct 14, 15, 2008
We stayed at Woody’s as part of a two week bicycle tour of Yunnan.
Woody’s guest house is the first hotel one encounters when approaching Tiger Leaping Gorge from the east [as we did]. Conversely, it is the last hotel of Tiger Leaping Gorge when approaching from the west [the way most people arrive]. As we appoached from the east we saw a tidy wooden chalet style guesthouse. Given the proximity of the rugged Dragon Snow Mountain, one could imagine for a moment they were in Austria or Switzerland.
We soon learned that Woody’s Guesthouse has 3 levels of rooms [they only promote standard and delux, but there are definite differences in the available standard rooms].. The lowest standard is across the street from the Gorge in a cinder block building whose entry way is across a foul smelling walkway and up a similarly foul smelling staircase. The rooms in this building are a mixture of western and asian toilets and a mixture of single and double beds. The cleanliness, ambiance, and views also vary for rooms in this building. If choosing this building, make sure you get to see your room and that it’s up to your liking / needs.
There are three intermediate level rooms in the single story building on the Gorge side of the road. They are dark with simple furniture and simple bedding. Some might choose to call it advanced camping.
After being shown the standard rooms, we stayed in the deluxe rooms, which are in the newest building – the two story challet on the Gorge side of the road. The building looks very nice from the outside. Once inside décor is all wood and the bedrooms leave one with a feeling of “OK I can live with a few inconveniences, this is China after all”. The bathroom however was well below expectations. Ours had a terrible odor—probably mold – whenever the shower was used. The odor was so bad we had to keep the door closed and the bathroom fan running. The odor would persist until dry, and drying would take a long time since – in typical Chinese fashion, the shower is in the middle of the bath area and gets the entire room wet. There was a grunge of some sort where the bathroom walls met the floor. And since the floor was a bit uneven, there was shallow puddle-ing in spots. We even had a resident 2 inch long centipede living in one corner. Friends we were traveling with had no hot water in their bedroom for either of the two days/nights that they stayed.
Again in typical Chinese fashion, the beds were just box springs with thin a thin pad on top. And the interior lights were few, of low wattage, and half were burned out.
In nice weather [warm & dry] dinners are served in a courtyard below the deluxe rooms that has a splendid view of the mountains surrounding Tiger Leaping Gorge. Dinners are off a limited menu, which included some western dishes. Note however those western items are quite different than one would get in US or EU [pizza is a good example]. We were most suspicious about the quality and content of local meats.
There was no Internet at Woody’s guest house and none in the surrounding area. The staff spoke some English and one could get by without an interpreter by pointing and imaginative explaining.
Certainly the key feature of Woody’s guest house was the splendid view of Tiger Leaping Gorge. This view is best enjoyed from a courtyard dinner
Pictures are here.
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We stayed in tiny Bai Shui Tai, China for one night while
on a two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
The Bai Yunnan Hotel is a roadside motel of about 30-40 rooms in very rural China. It is the only option for 50 miles either direction. The hotel is a simple uninspiring concrete building. Hallways had no sound absorbing material so even smallest sound is heard throughout.
Our room was decorated to about motel 6 standards including the thin carpet on the floor. No decorations of any kind were on the walls, which needed a fresh coat of paint to cover the scuff marks and squashed insects. To our surprise, the bathroom had a tub and shower curtain; but the shower knob fell off its shaft requiring a pliers and screwdriver repair. The toilet was western style. There were plenty of light fixtures with low wattage bulbs, but only about half worked. The windows were single pane and there was no heater in the room. Nighttime temperatures routinely hit freezing this time of year in Baisuitai. It’s a good thing there was a heating pad on the bed.
There is no restaurant in the hotel. Instead, we had to go across the highway to a noodle shop. There is very little traffic on this particular highway so our dinner was quiet. Nevertheless, the hygiene of kitchen and of other local dinner guests created some feeling of discomfort. The restaurant was not heated so dinner was chilly.
There is no Internet at Bai Yunnan hotel [for that matter, it’s doubtful there is internet anywhere in Baisuitai town]. We did not hear a word of English spoken while there. We would guess that communication would be quite difficult without an interpreter.
In summary, the Bai Yunnan hotel is about equivalent to an older Motel 6 in construction, amenities, and furnishings. The hotel’s upkeep is about equivalent to neglected ma and pa joint along a has-been US highway.
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Oct 17, 18, 2008
We stayed in Shangri La, China for one night while on a
two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
Nanka Hotel appeared [from the outside] to be one of the finest hotels in Shangri La’s old-city. The other options we saw were predominantly hostels or hostel-like options. The hotel has a great location, convenient to all the sights, shops, and restaurants of old town including the main temple and prayer wheel. No cars are permitted in the old-city, so there is no automobile noise or distraction [bags are carried to the hotel by staff]. Nanka Hotel is far enough from the city center 200+ yards that we were not at all affected by the noises common with pedestrian activity.
The interior of the hotel features lots of culture. There are authentic tibetian rug entry doors. The front lobby is small but rich with atmosphere. There is an elegant interior atrium where plants and artifacts are intermixed with sitting nooks. The guest room doors enter from the atrium on the first and second floors [Embassy Suites style on a miniature scale]. There are some atrium tables and chairs just outside the guest rooms on the second floor. They are used for dining on busy nights, which would make it quite noisy in one’s guest room until about 9 PM or 10 PM. Fortunately we were out enjoying the old-city and not affected.
Despite the lack of a main dining room, the Nanka Hotel seems to do a brisk evening food and beverage business. There are a half dozen individual dining rooms each of which seat from 8 to 18 diners. They were busy both nights of our visit. Food and Spirits was plentiful. One small room [on the ground floor in a corner furthest from the town square] serves as a late night bar and early morning breakfast room. This room can seat about a dozen guests. Our breakfasts were traditional noodle soup; they were slow in preparation. English language was a challenge in the morning and guests traveling without a guide are advised to have a staff member write down their selections the night before.
Our room had a pair of twin beds with plush comforters and was decorated in dark wood with Tibetan designs. The bathroom had very nice fixtures and thick towels. Everything was comfortable and clean. Despite a relatively low level of service [see below], we felt 4 star-ish due to the authentic and strong cultural ambiance.
We found no Internet at the hotel – wireless or wired [despite having a RJ45 jack in room that will give your computer an IP address]. Instead we sought out one of the local internet café’s. The first one we tried –nearby Lhasa Café -- said their connection was very slow and advised going somewhere different. There were several bars along the hostel street with Internet signs, but they had technical problems. We finally found The Google Café [honest, that’s the name] [from the Nanka Hotel, walk to the old-city square, then through the town square one more short block. The Google Café is on the left in a 2nd story flat]. Their connection was fast [at the time we were the only users] and reliable and inexpensive. Their staff spoke excellent English and was technically helpful. They even served good snack food.
We had a lunch and dinner at the Lhasa Café which is practically next door. The food was excellent and their staff spoke fine English. Overall, we had little problem navigating Shangri La’s sights and shops using the modest English skills of the locals and imaginative explanations. Getting food or Internet was not a problem. The Nauka Hotel staff spoke surprisingly little English for a property so appealing to the western visitor. We guess that the English language limitation at the hotel limited the customer service attention we received. There was a feeling of impersonality alongside the cultural richness.
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Shi Hong Hotel
Shi Gu, China
Oct 19, 2008
We stayed in Shi Gu, China for one night while on a two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
Shi Hong Hotel appeared to be the only motel/hotel for 50 miles either direction along National Highway 214. So plan on staying there. On the outside, Shi Hong Hotel is a pretty white colored building with notable wooden doors. There are about 40-50 rooms. But the parking area is a simple dirt lot and puddles after rain storms. Across the parking lot is an unsightly collection of abandoned machinery and other contraptions – by any other name, a junkyard. The innkeeper lives on sight and his courtyard violates dozens of EPA and FDA health rules. Outside the window of our room, one looks onto concrete walls and then onto the back yards of townspeople living near poverty.
Inside, our room had a faux wood floor, bare white walls, two light fixtures, simple motel furniture and a pair of Chinese-hard queen beds. It was at the Shi Hong Hotel that we devised a plan for dealing with the hard beds. Simply pull the inch think pad that the Chinese hotels provide on top of the box springs off from the 2nd bed and place on top of the pad on the 1st bed. There was a dearth of electrical outlets in our room so we had to pull the nightstand away from wall to find the only plug. The filth between the night stand and the wall/floor was revolting -- dust, papers, food wrappers, unmentionables. It’s a spot that has likely never been cleaned. And the primitive wiring codes now exposed generated minor discomfort about the room’s electrical system. Our room had a standard Chinese bathroom with open shower. The toilet was Western.
The hotel did not have Internet service. And it is doubtful that service exists anywhere in town. We did not engage the staff with English, but it would advisable to have a guide-translator for a stay at the Shi Hong Hotel.
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Cultural Center Hotel
Sha Xi, China
The Cultural Center Hotel in Sha Xi is the middle of the 3 hotels in ShaXi [the others are the top notch Lao Mandian and a hostel class hotel]. We wound up staying at the cultural center due to a booking misunderstanding at the Lao Mandian. The Cultural Center is owned by a professor from the US currently teaching in Kunming. There appeared to be 3-4 rooms each with bathroom. There is no restaurant. Its best to ask a local how to get to the hotel because it is on a side street a block from the main street and then down a narrow back alley that was surprisingly clean – no trash, no foul smells. The hotel too was both clean and tidy.
We had a long thin room with plank wooden floor, decorative wooden and burlap walls,. And handmade plywood and 1x2 doors. The room was dark and in typical Chinese fashion ws not well lit by electricity. The room smelled woody [be cautious if allergic] The windows opened to a small interior courtyard, and therefore dit not permit much light to enter. There was a pair of single beds – made with nice linens and extra firm mattress, as is the Chinese style – with significant sag in the middle. To our surprise there were prophylactics in a nice little stand in the room. Were it not for decorative throw pillows and pictures on the walls, we would have guessed that the room was patterned after dorm rooms at Kunming University. The bathroom had western toilet and the shower was not enclosed [as usual for rural China].
There is no internet at the Cultural Center Hotel. If one needs internet, simply walk back towards the main street where there is an Internet café. [Café down street]. We did not have a chance to converse with the hotel staff to determine their English skills.
In summary, the Cultural Center was minimal on amenities, average on cultural charm, and rather high for orderliness and cleanliness. Overall, the cultural center would be in the upper half of hotels we patronized in rural china. Only the larger tourist cities had better accommodations.
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Lao Mandian Hotel
Sha Xi, China
Oct 21, 2008
We stayed in Sha Xi, China for two nights while on a two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
The Lao Mandian Hotel is the top of the 3 hotels in ShaXi [the others are the middle tier Cultural Center and a hostel class hotel]. The Lao Mandian is a charming hotel in a renovated old style Chinese extended famlily set of buildings. It is in the center of ShaXI town convenient to the restoration and cultural activity. ShaXi, which has preserved the Chinese heritage in an old-city downtown just like LiJiang, Dali, and Shangra La, was the most authentic. There were few tourist shops and ShaXi residents seemed more intent on their every day farming lives than on tourism. It was a treat to see rural Chinese life in the center of the village.
Our room at the Lao Mandian Hotel was a wonderful, nobility-class, traditional Chinese room. There was a grand bed, a sitting area, and a place to write or work on computers.. The building seemed constructed of massive wood beams supported by equally huge posts. Outside walls were at least a foot thick. The generous sized windows cut into these thick walls had a tunnel like feeling and were covered with decorative wooden shutters. The interior was finished in traditional dark wood, and there were oriental accessories throughout. The room was exceptionally clean. And the bed was pleasantly soft.
The bathroom had nice upgraded fixtures throughout. There was even a hair dryer and an enclosed shower. It was exceptionally clean.
Our room was reached by an experience enhancing narrow stairway off one of the many interior courtyards. The courtyards were all decorated in a charming way with antiques from Chinese rural life. Dinners were served in another of the courtyards. Breakfast was taken in still another. [At times it was a bit challenging to navigate the courtyard labyrinth.]. Both the Tibetan specialties for dinner and the western menu for breakfast were excellent.
The Lao Mandian Hotel had Wireless Internet service. It was somewhat erratic but they had a technical person on staff who would immediately troubleshoot. Sometimes it was the provider, other times it was wiring or hardware on the hotel property. We interfaced with a number of the staff who had excellent English. One does not need a Chinese speaking guide/interpreter to stay at Lao Mandian.
The only negative we would point out is that there is no soundproofing between walls. One has to be considerate of other guests, and vice versa.
Summary: The Lao Mandian Hotel was like staying in a top tier German castle hotel or other ethnically authentic building. We felt like traveling prince/princess at an elegant stop. Everything was clean; and no sewer smells so prevalent in China.
Pictures are here.
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Er Yuan Hot Spring Hotel
Oct 22, 2008
We stayed near Er Yuan, China for one night while on a two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
Er Yuan Hot Spring Hotel is right off the Chinese highway 214. The hotel features two large pools filled with hot spring heated water. The largest pool – about the size of a typical 50 metre pool -- is the public facility and is used by those purchasing a day pass. The smaller pool – about 50 feet – is for hotel guests only. The large pool had a water temp of just above 90F/32C while the smaller pool measured 115F/47C and was to hot to use. Upon inquiry we learned that the smaller pool had just been filled the afternoon before our arrival, and upon inspection we could see that there was no water recirculation system so we assume tht the pool temperature is a function of when the last re-fill occurred. There was no sulphur smell typical of hot springs and there was no chlorine smell as the water is not chlorinated. The Er Yuan Hot Spring Hotel had well cleaned and well swept grounds which provided for a pleasant ambiance.
The room too looked clean. The beds were typical Chinese style – a box-springs with a thin comforter on top. The room was simple: tile floor, minimal furniture, small TV. The bathroom was less appealing. The bathroom fixtures showed signs of age – pitted and rusted – and the mirror silvering was peeling in places. The bathtub was a large eclipse shaped oaken tub about 3 feet tall. There was a step stool to get inside. This bathing/showering appliance had a euro style hand washer but no place to hook the hand washer on the wall. Water sprayed everywhere. We guessed the proper procedure was to bathe by filling the tub with spring water, but we were pressed for time. The view our room’s window was of a patch of weeds, a barbed wire fence, piles of broken glass, and a half dozen old toilets.
There were no dining rooms at the hotel, but since we were on the state highway 214, there were plenty of noodle shops up and down the street. None seemed very clean and we settled for a dinner and breakfast in an establishment with flies, roaming pets, and guests who littered, spit, and dumped food they didn’t want on the floor. We even saw them adding unused rice from the tables back into the kitchen’s rice supply. Yuck. Further distracting from our comfort, the route we waked to this restaurant passed a cage with the hotel’s menacing guard dogs.
There was no Internet at the hotel. We had no interaction with any of the hotel staff so we have no idea if there was any English spoken, but I would not think so.
Our guide mentioned that there were some very nice resort-style hotels nearby. It would be worth learning more about these alternatives before staying at Er Yuan Hot Springs Hotel.
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Oct 24, 2008
We stayed in Dali, China for one night while on a two-week bike tour of Yunnan.
Our stay in old-city Dali was at the Landscape Hotel. Judging by attendance during our visit, old-city Dali may get nearly a million visitor days a year. Together two main streets provide for nearly a mile of tourist shops. And there is a ‘foreigner’ street where bars and restaurants cater to Western tastes and language. Such a large number of visitor days requires substantial lodging capacity. With over 200 rooms, the Landscape Hotel does its share.
The first thing one notices about the Landscape Hotel is its business class lobby. Numerous front desk assistants in pleasant looking local dress handle registration. There is bell staff and concierge, a business center, and several small meeting nooks. Everything is clean and crisp. There is an interior courtyard for minibus and taxi arrivals where the bell staff grabbed our luggage. Then we didn’t see our luggage again until 30 seconds after we were shown our room. Our small van used the underground parking facility of the Landscape Hotel. The hotel has a large restaurant capable of seating at least 200.
Throughout the hotel there are numerous accents all in Chinese style. Examples include gardens, statues, shutter work on the restaurant windows, and archways between courtyards. The courtyards are numerous and we passed through 3 before reaching the courtyard outside our cluster of rooms. Each courtyard has its own lush garden.
The room was pleasant albeit simple. The beds were comfortable. The room felt clean and bright and was illuminated well in the evening. The walls were simple white without any pictures or decoration. The dresser and closet were fancier than most. The bathroom was ultra modern with an actual shower stall [very unusual for China]. But the water pressure was very low and there was no hot for us during our stay. Our room was on an outside wall of the hotel and was adjacent to a pedestrian street that usually was quiet except for when school began or ended at which time hundreds of noisy students walked by.
Internet is available by the hour on two computers in the business center. We pulled the RJ45 jack from the back of one of the machines and plugged into our laptops [make sure you run a firewall on your laptop]. A hotel of the caliber of the Landmark should have Internet –wired or wireless -- available to the rooms. While in the Landmark hotel we communicated satisfactorily in English.
In our opinion, the Landmark Hotel had an external veneer that exceeded the quality it delivered.
Pictures are here.
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