Whenever I go on a trip, whether for business or leisure, I am probably most nervous right before I ‘discover’ my hotel, the place where I would be doing some of life’s greatest necessities – cleaning myself and sleeping – for several days in a row.
You would think, why, surely I would have had some expectations of the hotel before I booked. Of course. But never completely trust a marketer who knows how to manipulate photos and make the product appears far better than it is in reality. What about user generated content sites, like TripAdvisor? Well, I’ve seen some poorly taken photos of hotels that I personally love, as well as beautiful photos of properties that turn out to be pretty bland in real life.
In short, I can only trust my eyes.
On my recent trip to the capital city of Sichuan, I had a delightful moment of truth when I stepped through the doors of InterContinental Century City Chengdu. Thank goodness!
The fragrance of the hotel was the first to hit me, a light floral note that was most soothing.
Then, it was the lobby. Coming from land scarce Singapore, space is a luxury and the hotel’s lobby is simply extravagant. Imagine this: an ‘ancient’ two-storey grey brick house, an architecture style of old China, is built into the lobby. One part of this structure functions as the check-in/check-out area, while the other forms part of a sprawling garden courtyard-style restaurant.
Can’t imagine? Here is a wide-angle shot of the lobby from the hotel’s website:
Marketer’s shot, I know. But it is very close to the real thing indeed.
If I had balls, they would have dropped to the floor in awe.
Minutes later, I discovered that the software was just as good as the hardware. The staff at the check-in desk could speak almost perfect English. A rare attribute even in some of the five-star hotels in Shanghai. I got checked in quickly and zipped up to discover my room.
Again, another delightful moment of truth.
The room met my essential criteria: fresh, clean scent; smooth, clean bedsheets; a comfortable mattress and plentiful pillows; sufficient lights; large bathroom with a generous sized vanity for all my toiletries; and easy-to-reach electric outlets at the work desk (no more squirming under the table to get my devices charged up!).
And it scored further points by having pretty little decorations such as brightly painted, Chinese-style porcelain bathroom accessories and ashtray, and a set of L’Occitane toiletries.
When one’s environment is this lovely, restful sleep is almost guaranteed. And indeed, I was very well rested throughout my five nights in the city.
I slept so well the first night that I found it surprisingly easy to rise early next morning for breakfast. And I hardly take breakfast on trips.
I was glad I made an exception on this trip because the hotel puts up a brief taichi demonstration along with the soothing melody of a guqin – a seven-string zither – in the lobby every morning.
How fascinating to watch!
The breakfast area was such a delight too. It was served in the sprawling garden courtyard-style restaurant I saw the night before when I first arrived at the hotel, and it looked far more spectacular in daylight!
Here’s the marketer’s shot of the courtyard restaurant, which does the venue far greater justice than the shot I took with my smartphone.
And oh! Little cages with twittering birds were placed around guests, mimicking the traditional Chinese man’s habit of bringing their feathered friends to breakfast. How lovely!
Like most international branded, five-star hotels, the breakfast spread was mind-boggling. It is that mind-boggling variety that keeps me away from hotel breakfasts. My brain cannot function well in the morning and I find it quite a chore to have to choose what I eat, especially when most of the items are catered for Westerners. Fortunately, being in a hotel in a Chinese city meant that there was something traditional in the selection. My stomach leapt with joy at the sight of a bustling noodle soup station, where a cheerful lady chef tossed handfuls of egg noodles into a pit of boiling water then pulled them out within minutes and into large bowls.
With Sichuan being the Chinese capital of spice, diners get to choose from a variety of local chilli pastes and oils to flavour their noodle soup. Yummy!
I dressed my bowl with a generous amount of sesame oil and chilli oil, plopped in several plump boiled meat dumplings and braised beef, and topped it all off with a handful of fresh cilantro.
It was one of the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time! :)
I truly enjoyed this hotel, and in a way, it was one of the reasons why I grew to love Chengdu so much. I’ll tell you more about the city in my next posts! For now, it is time to go to bed.