Yep, there's no denying that my wife and I have an aversion to the pungent disgusting smell of cigarette smoke. But everyone to their own hey! Unless of course you are staying at a 5* hotel the likes of the Shangri-la. I certainly understand that in many parts of China that smoking is standard fare, that many retailers fear losing business should they deny people the privilege of smoking in public places (such as restaurants, hotel foyers, bars, waiting areas etcetera), however I have to say that if China is to a) be accepted by westerners in the 21st century, b) make an attempt to slow in some small way the unbelievable pollution encroachment throughout China and c) consider the issues that passive smoking attracts, then ultimately tourism will not be as strong as it could be.
Moving on but please excuse my self indulgence… Guilin city, for all its marvellously manicured medium strips and overtly lit ‘two rivers and four lakes’, it does not have many redeeming features – at least in this westerner’s eyes. (See my reviews on Li River and Crown (Guanyan) Cave tours for outside Guilin).
Before concentrating on the Shangri-La, I have to make comment on some other things. Firstly westerners have to ‘suck it up’ in accepting Chinese custom. Facing facts, many (not all) Chinese snort, spit, slurp, smoke, push and shove. What’s more, in a country of so many it is understandable that it is a bit of a dog eat dog environment where frankly, the only thing on many a mind is MAKING MONEY. My wife is Chinese and I actually thought she understood her own country. To the contrary she proved completely oblivious to what was going on around us.
In Guilin the taxi drivers are very nice indeed, more than accommodating in recommending places to go, where to eat, what tours to book, to the point where in our case we were offered a full day’s taxi for a mere 50 rmb! Wow you think… Until I quickly realised that at our first stop – a so called famous tour operator – we were royally ripped off (once again refer to reviews mentioned earlier). Next day – the 50 RMB ‘free’ day, our fantastic taxi tour guide takes us to the first of our ‘highly recommended’ stops. The Yaoshan Mountain cable car proved terrific, if not for the poor weather and stunted views thanks to the weather and smog.
Just why our taxi driver waited for us though had me baffled… On the way back to town the driver suggested the Guilin Tea Research Institute for some free tea tasting. It proved the case with some lovely teas and a great personalised tour – but come the end and we are coerced into buying ridiculously expensive teas (the taxi driver was finally found talking to the Tea office people – I wonder what for!) – talk about the hard sell! Next we are dropped off for lunch at what proved to be a fly ridden, overly priced disgrace of a restaurant. It all started to fall into place! Never mind, the day went on and the blatant hand greasing between taxi driver and ‘retailers’ continued.
What about the Shangri-La you ask? Its grounds, frontage, foyer and so forth are grandiose as expected and of the absolute highest calibre. Indeed this is Guilin’s best hotel by far. The staff was great, the facilities great, the breakfast great, indeed there was very little for complaint. Having arrived at around 8.30pm on the first night meant that a meal would have to be relatively quick. We considered the main restaurant, however being a buffet it is too easy to over indulge, next there was the U Bar, a western style bar with all the trimmings – well, that was until we walked in and my wife literally started choking on the smell and smoke. We quickly moved to the Shang Chinese restaurant where the meal proved okay (expensive), the tea average and only luke warm and the staff more interested in getting out that assisting. Not a great start.
What’s more, on booking in the attendant pushed like crazy for us to spend an additional 400 RMB per day to upgrade to Horizon status (something we would normally not hesitate, but my wife had unfortunately booked a bunch of all day and into the night tours), however as it was obvious to us that we would not use nor benefit from the upgrade we said no – at least 6 times!
Other than this the room although relatively small, was of a high standard with all the trimmings. The bed though was too hard making for poor sleep the 4 nights we were there. The pillows for fine though!
Overall I have to say that irrespective of the minor issues with the Shangi-La, it is a worthy facility and one I would recommend.
Stay away from taxi drivers offering to assist with tour bookings. If you are not a smoker, make sur...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.