A smartly dressed bellboy helped us with the luggage into the spacious foyer, and we made our way to check-in. I was half-expecting problems here (based on our Xian experience), but the staff spoke good but hesitant English. Painlessly, we were checked in, and because we were on a tight schedule, I wanted to sort out the river trip. The tour desk was open, but I could see from the glazed look on the young woman’s face that English was not her strong point. After a few difficult moments, she reached for the phone and handed it to me – her boss agreed to come to the hotel within the next 15 minutes so that we could sort out any trips.
We went up to the third floor in the clean and efficient lift and into a pleasant but fairly standard bedroom. So what of the vista? It was uninspiring, as, although we overlooked the river, the view was obscured by tall trees and vegetation. At least we weren’t enclosed and had a very light and airy room with a comfortable bed, easy chairs, TV, and teamaking facilities. The compact bathroom came with all the usual, but there was no hair dryer (my wife was not chuffed about this).
On site was the Dixieland Bar, where we ate each night. It was never our intention to eat in the hotel, but sightseeing was getting the better of us and this was convenient and provided some very basic Chinese food. A variety of rice dishes kept us going. They were nothing special, but were served well and without fuss. It was always amusing, when we entered the bar, as the only person who could speak good English was a recently employed university student. If he was not in the bar, the manageress would scurry off to fetch him. I’m sure he relished this role, as he would approach us with a broad smile and just loved to practice his English on us.
The hotel had a Korean restaurant on the ground floor, but we didn’t find the menu attractive, so we only used it for breakfast (not included in the price, but only 25 RMB). The restaurant was a fairly dismal affair (no natural lighting), the seats were arranged as cubicles, and a long bar displaying the Chinese breakfast ran the length of the room. We ordered our "English breakfast" at the restaurant’s reception, and it took about 15 minutes to prepare. Orange juice and a strong coffee preceded the main course, which, although not overly inspiring, was sufficient: eggs, bacon, sausage, and tomato, followed by toast and jam. I have to say it was served without panache, and we felt a bit like second-class citizens.
Overall, the hotel was good enough - nothing spectacular, but above average.
April 23, 2005
From journal A few days in gorgeous Guilin