Let me begin with the good: As with all Aman resorts, the property itself is beautiful and flawlessly incorporated to its surroundings. It is a very peaceful space, especially when you can hear people singing or practicing an instrument on the other side of the wall. The property has its own door directly into the Summer Palace, which gives guests slightly longer access to the Summer Palace than the public, from sunup until sundown. As the Palace does become really packed with tourists, this is a very nice perk. We hired Jane, an Aman guide, to guide us through the Summer Palace starting at 7am, and it was already crowded. Jane was interesting and spoke excellent English - a lovely guide entirely. All staff members with whom I interacted were very nice and polite. Our suite was spacious, comfortable, and nicely styled. Also, they have a fantastic gym and pool. A good breakfast was included in the room rate.
Now for the downsides: Most of these comments may sound silly, and they are things that probably wouldn't bother me if this weren't an Aman resort, but I have come to expect absolutely flawless service at Amans. First, room cleaning occurred mid-afternoon every day, as it does at most hotels, regardless of my activities. As I said, this is usually fine, but at other Amans, I always loved that they always knew where we were and would take advantage of that. If we went to breakfast at 9, for example, housekeeping would be alerted, and by the time we got back to the room, our room would have been made up. Several times, I would come back from some activity expecting the room to have been done and it hadn't been. Not a big deal, but I expect more. Also, along the same lines, we never got turndown service because they never coordinated to do it while we were at dinner, and by the time we came back from dinner, we wanted to relax and put on do not disturb.
Speaking of dinner, we ate at the Chinese restaurants 2 nights. The menu is extensive, but hohum in my opinion. It's not my favorite cuisine though, so that is perhaps not a downside for everyone. The service is extraordinarily attentive, which is good, but it is almost too attentive. I actually wondered if it is a difference in service style between fine dining in the East and in the West. In New York, for example, if I ordered a nice bottle of wine to start my meal, I would want to relax and enjoy the wine a bit before the first course came out. Here, there seemed to be a great rush to get the drink order and get the food order and get everything out and everyone on their way. We ordered a bottle of wine and then food, and the first course actually came out before the wine. I almost didn't want the wine by the time it came out. Dishes were cleared while I was still chewing the last bite. Everything was extremely efficient, but I prefer a little more of a relaxed feeling with a nice dinner unless I have indicated that I need to rush. On a positive note, they were very accommodating to my partner's vegetarianism, as far as pointing out vegetarian items on the menu, as well as adjusting dishes that normally include meat.
Also on the dining side, I had lunch one day by the reflection pond. The setting was perfect, and my server was charming and friendly and provided great service. I ordered spinach salad and a burger. The spinach salad and all the sides that came with the burger were delicious. The burger itself though was so rare that I only ate the outside bits. I had ordered it medium. I hesitate to mention this because I know I could have always sent it back, and it is better to undercook a burger than overcook it I suppose, but it just would have been nice if they had gotten it right the first time. And I would have been fine even with medium rare, but this was so rare that I suspect it was actually uncooked in the middle. Like I said though, everything else about that meal was great, and burgers are difficult to gauge.
All in all, I was still pleased with my stay, especially with the unparalleled access to the Summer Palace. Now that I have taken advantage of that though, I think I will not splurge on this property on my next trip to Beijing. I still believe in the Aman brand and will not hesitate to continue exploring other Aman resorts though. I feel like small tweaks to ASP would bring it up to the level I expected.
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