Few places in the world can match Asia in terms of luxury service and sumptuous hotel and resort accommodations. And while China has been a latecomer in terms of true five-star properties, they have finally arrived, and more and more are coming online in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. But surprisingly, cities outside the regular tourist routes of western travelers are also offering more than their share of five-star properties, particularly in larger cities such as Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province and an area that’s soon to be on the radar of U.S. tour operators and travelers.
jinjiang hotel One of the best five-star offerings in Chengdu, a bustling commercial city of nearly 11 million people, is the Jinjiang Hotel, conveniently located in the center of the city and alongside the Jinjiang River. It’s a large, high-rise hotel with 532 rooms that’s actually comprised of two buildings joined by a covered walkway. It’s taken the honors of being the first five-star hotel in the province and the multilingual, friendly staff are more than adept at providing fast, efficient top-notch service.
The rooms are divided into three categories—deluxe, executive and VIP. All rooms in all categories are elegantly furnished and very comfortable with rich wood accents, flat-screen TVs, and 24-hour room service. There’s also complimentary high-speed Internet and in keeping with the bulk of its clientele, extensive business services.
Dining, as in just about anywhere in Sichuan Province, is a delectable affair with a sumptuous breakfast buffet and cooking stands for special order eggs and omelets, with plenty of western fare, as well as standard Asian offerings such as rice with fish heads and a variety of grains and vegetables. And while it wasn’t possible to sample any on a recent visit, dinner menus offer a variety of Chinese meals, including both Sichuan and Cantonese items, as well as Korean and continental specialities.
Unlike most five-star hotels, the Jinjiang does not offer spa facilities, but there is a pool, fitness center, sauna and beauty parlor. Rates are reasonable for a hotel of this quality, running from about $127 for the deluxe rooms, $161 for the executive, and $217 for the VIP room.
hangzhou shan hotel There’s a completely different ambiance awaiting clients at the five-star Hangzhou Shan Hotel on Mount Emei, located about a 6-hour drive from Chengdu in the midst of an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful pastoral setting in the mountains. This is a region famous for its numerous Buddhist temples, which have been located throughout the rugged hills and along the slopes of Mount Emei for a thousand years. In fact, there’s a Buddhist monastery, the Baoguo Monastery, located just a few hundred yards from the hotel.
The hotel is comprised of several interconnected buildings, including Building No. 8, the main building, with the check-in and tourist dining facilities, as well as deluxe rooms. The rooms themselves would not be considered elegant—at least not what you would expect of a five-star rating—but they do have a sense of luxury to them if for no other reason than when you enter and open the drapes, the stark beauty of the outside environment seems to envelop you. The lush, green forested grounds seem to move right into the room through the floor-to-ceiling windows, taking your breath away with the mystical beauty of it all.
Amenities include both indoor and outdoor bars, a large swimming pool, and tennis courts, and about a quarter of a mile down the road, there’s the Hangzhou Hot Springs Center, a large, 2-story building with interior pools fed by external hot springs in the building itself, along with a large jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Outside, there are an additional three hot springs beautifully set amidst the trees—the Lilac pool, the Chair pool and the Sparrow Bridge pool. After a soak, tell clients to take advantage of a 20-minute massage—okay, more of a mugging, than a conventional massage—but for the equivalent of about five dollars, it’s worth it. On the second floor of the 2-story building is a nightclub that’s apparently very popular with the locals.
package it Kensington Tours has an FIT program to China that includes Chengdu, as well as visits to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. The company’s 11-day sample itinerary, China Pandas and Peaks, starts in Beijing with visits to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tours, the Olympics and Art District, the Temple of Heaven, the Dashanzi Art District and, of course, a trip to the Great Wall.