Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Strolling through acres of gardens and lounging beside the meandering outdoor swimming pool just steps from the lush riverbank, it is hard to believe you are in the midst of one of China's most chaotic cities and walking distance from one of the biggest convention centers in the world. But that is the case for fortunate guests at the Shangri-La in China's third largest city, Guangzhou.
Twice a year during the mammoth Canton Fair, the hotel teems with activity as the most convenient location for businesspeople who come from all over the world to buy and sell wares. Tourists are best to avoid those April and October events. But the rest of the year this urban resort stretched out along the picturesque Pearl River is an ideal urban retreat for visitors seeking relief from the chaotic bustle of the central city and the skyscraper global chain hotels that dominate the newly emerging business district.
Giant crystal chandeliers overhang the spacious central lobby which houses reception desks and the cozy plush club chairs of the Lobby Bar. From the efficient reception desk, guests are ushered upstairs to rooms with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river and gardens below. Facing the king size bed, is a wall with ledges for storage and desk space. There are facilities for ironing and for making coffee and tea, a fully stocked mini-bar and refrigerator, electronic safe, comfortable robe and slippers. Wi-fi is complimentary, there are 40 channels on the 15" flat screen TV.
Totally done up in marble the bathroom has a separate shower and tub, a spacious console, and amenities which thoughtfully include a handy elastic hair band. Women's amenities are attractively presented in a folding white satin case.
Horizon Club guests on the 31-36 floors are granted private check in and out and complimentary buffet breakfast, tea, and evening cocktails in the extensive lounge where efficient staff members provide secretarial, concierge, and translating services. Additionally Horizon Club guests are entitled to free international newspapers and fruits delivered to their rooms. Shoeshine and one suit pressing is also free of charge. pix: view from Horizon Club
Outdoors in the garden, guests swim in the landscaped outdoor pool, jog along the riverside, or try the two rooftop outdoor tennis courts. Indoors there is a 100-foot swimming pool, its glass ceiling enabling swimmers to watch the sun and clouds drifting by.
World class facilities in the Health Club include the 24-hour gym with 18 types of Life Fitness equipment. Yoga, balance, and pilates group sessions are scheduled, and private trainers are available. Locker rooms are fully outfitted with sauna and steam rooms and a jacuzzi that works at the push of a button. In special spray showers, guests can chose between warm orange or chilled mint splashes.
Based on restoring the essential life force chi, Shangri-La's signature Chi spas balance aesthetics and harmony with beauty treatments based on traditional Asian healing philosophies. Guests are escorted to treatment rooms on a path over a serene pool. Single and double spa suites each include herbal steam and shower, relaxation lounge, and changing/vanity areas. Derived from a method said to have been used by Qing Empress Ci'xi the spa's exclusive Oriental Pearl Radiance Facial incorporates the therapeutic qualities of actual powdered pearl.
In-room dining is available 24 hours, but guests are tempted to try out the hotel's many options: Japanese cuisine in Nadaman, fusion seafood in S.E.Asia Kitchen & Bar, traditional Chinese specialties in the elegant Summer Palace which includes 18 luxurious private dining rooms. Daily meals are served in theatrical WOK TOO on the main floor with the sumptuous breakfast buffet, all day service, and a final candy "bar" where departing guests fill a little bag of with M&M's, marshmallows, and gummy bears to take along.
Homesick Westerners can treat Asian guests to a "down home" meal at RIBS where the menu features classic North Carolina Baby Back Ribs, bacon bourbon cocktails, and Peking Duck pizza, which is delicious! Piece de resistance is the dessert Bomb, a hollow globe of chocolate which melts revealing a brownie and ice cream inside.
On occasional weekends, guest can mingle with locals at special hotel events -- music concerts -- classical, jazz, the Vienna Boys Choir -- are held in the garden and at Easter there's a mammoth hunt for eggs. Across the street, every 15 minutes a tidy tram charges about 35 cents to take guests along the Pearl River bank In one direction the destination is a traditional fishing wharf with food shacks and local color, the other way leads to the clubs and cafes of the Party Pier and on to terminate at the iconic Canton Tower which can be climbed for views out over the city -- and a look back at the Shangri-La, named for "paradise" and in this case offering not only that but the best of both worlds -- business and pleasure.
© July 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.