As a family of two adults and one 5 year old child, we stayed here for 3+ nights in early December. All communications prior to turning up were with some called Mei. The website indicates that the place is run by Mei and her NZ born husband, Todd. However, we were met on arrival at Xian train station by someone called "Sandy" who is a "friend" of Mei's. She turned out to be our landlady, "fixer", and tourguide throughout our stay. It turns out Mei and Todd live in Australia, and "Sandy" and Mei's mother "Aunty" (who speaks no English but is an amiable presence) run the operation. We had a 1 bedroom apartment which is conveniently located in a residential building for 400 RMB. It is pretty okay, and if you're used to backpacker places furnished with stuff found on street corners, you'll love this place. If you're used to more lavishly furnished places, you probably won't. "Sandy" was our guide for a tour of the Terracotta Warriors and she was very friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the site.
Problems arose when we asked "Sandy" to buy us soft sleeper train tickets in the same compartment (we are a family and understably wanted to sleep together) from Xian to Datong (at 50 RMB commission per ticket). Instead she bought us hard sleep not train tickets not in the same compartment from Xian to Pingyao (yeah, she stuffed up). Luckily we were amenable to the change in itinerary and agreed to accept them, and in turn "Sandy" agreed to come to the train station as she said she had contacts on the train (her brother in law) that could get us in the same compartment. On arrival at the train station, "Sandy" revealed she had no such contacts, and that she was happy to "write us a note" in Mandarin that we could show to fellow compartment dwellers in the hope of getting someone to switch. Understandably we were pretty annoyed at this point (she had got us the wrong tickets, promised us she could fix it, and then changed her story at the last minute and wanted to dump us) and on confronting her, "Sandy" changed her mind. On boarding the train again luckily "Sandy" found someone to switch compartments, and so ended our involve with HQ Guesthouse. Did we enjoy Xian and the Terracotta Warriors? Sure. Is HQ Guesthouse acceptable accommodation? Sure, if you're not fussy. Is the whole operation really dodgy? You betcha!
Don't treat the word of "Sandy" as gospel.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
January 17, 2012
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While we certainly appreciate your candid review I do think you are a bit off the mark here with some of your comments. There is certainly no subterfuge here… Particularly this comment I found a little strange
“All communications prior to turning up were with some called Mei. The website indicates that the place is run by Mei and her NZ born husband, Todd. “
Sorry what is the problem here? Yes we are currently in Australia though we return to Xian regularly throughout the year (next trip will be in April, May and June 2012). Mei organises all bookings and arranges everything even when we are not in Xian. Lets be clear, we are the owners and we do run the place, even if this is done remotely at times. We established the business and worked 100% onsite for the last 5 years and now feel we are entitled to some travel ourselves.
When we are away the operations are over seen by 2 people – Mei’s mum (who doesn’t speak English but is incredibly welcoming and a fantastic cook. I would go so far to say you couldn’t find a better host) and Sandy who is the manager. You state here that Sandy is “friend” of Mei and calls Mei’s mum Aunty. I would just like to explain that Sandy is too modest to call herself manager and in Chinese everyone is a friend and all elderly people are referred to as aunty as a form of respect. Your review makes a great travel story but could we please try to stick to the facts…
Sandy is the interface when Mei and I are not around. All guests are given free use of a mobile phone to call Sandy or Mei 24 hours a day if there are any problems. We have set the phone number so anyone can call Mei at no cost if they need to talk to someone other than Sandy. We believe it is an incredibly convenient service we offer to be frank. How many other places do you get met for free at the train station (and dropped off at 10.00pm), taken to the accommodation, given a free cup of coffee or tea and provided with a mobile phone for free to use anytime day or night if you have the slightest problem?
Now personally I found this part rather insulting “ if you're used to backpacker places furnished with stuff found on street corners, you'll love this place – a bit harsh surely? For example do you get a brand new computer with super fast broadband at your local backpackers with 70 – 100 m apartments? None that I am aware of… and nor are they found on street corners as rule
About the train ticket debacle I am not going to try to defend that. You are right we did “stuff up” and I do apologise. Getting train tickets in China can be an absolute nightmare and offering this service has bought us more problems than any other aspect of the business to be completely honest. In fact for 3 years we refused to offer the service for precisely the reason you state here – it is actually impossible to guarantee that we can get the exact tickets you require, particularly when trying to organise one whole compartment. However as a courtesy to our guests we have decided to try our best with it. Generally speaking train tickets are a lottery and Sandy should have spelled this out more clearly. Again I apologise for that, though I do believe the $7/ ticket commission we charge is fairly reasonable for the service.
I hope this clears things up and as I am sure you will now see our operation is in fact a model of transparency. Not sure what you mean by “Don’t treat the word Sandy as gospel? “ What are you implying here? Sandy has been working for us more than 3 years and you will see from the other reviews here she has done an outstanding job. Her only mistake being not being able to get you the tickets you wanted. For a third time, I sincerely apologise for that.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.