You can rave about the beautiful property and lovely accommodations, but it's the attentive service that made this a stand-out experience. After a week in Beijing for business, this was the vacation part, seeing the TerraCotta Warriors and taking a tour to Hu County. The tour guide, Jun, arranged for by the hotel, was wonderful. He had excellent English and knew how to strike a balance regarding the amount of information provided. We spent 1 and 1/2 days with him, so got a good sense of his knowledge and persona. My husband was having some unexpected hip troubles, and Jun patiently pushed him a wheelchair--in freezing temperatures and terrible pollution--without complaint or any sign of tiring. The drivers were excellent too, never showing impatience with the traffic or mechanics of getting my husband in and out of the van. The hotel was festive with holiday decorations, even having youngsters singing Christmas songs (in English) in the lobby one evening. The staff made sure we had everything we needed. When we got back one afternoon and our room wasn't warm (our fault--we'd turned off the heat that morning because it'd gotten warm during the night), they adjusted the thermostat and had a space heater there within five minutes of our call.
For people who love art, sign up for the Hu County tour. We were taken to the home of Li Fenglan, whom one might call China's Grandma Moses. (One of her artworks was a gift to Nixon when he first visited China.) She's in her 80s and still charming and spry, though her memory is going. This was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. She is regularly visited by people from China, but few Westerners visit her. And to spend an hour in the home (modest by Western standards) of someone who has lived through the Cultural Revolution and given so much to her country is a remarkable experience. Kudos to the staff at the Shangri-la for facilitating such an experience!
The pollution levels were very high, so be sure to wear masks if you go to Xi'an. Take along your cough medicines and such so that you don't have to bother with finding them there. (However, I know the hotel would get you whatever you needed.) Visitors to Xi'an should consider the fall, we learned, because the rain helps clean out the air. By winter, people are burning coal, which contributes to the high pollution levels.
We had several meals in the hotel restaurants, and they were very good. My one minor complaint was that the food in the breakfast buffet wasn't as hot as I like. I know that's a challenge with buffets, but some hotels do pull it off. There was a great variety, and it's always fun to be able to sample things that we wouldn't normally have for breakfast. They provided great box lunches for our tours, and the staff wanted to send us to the airport with a boxed breakfast. (It was too early for us to take advantage of, but a gracious offer.)
We had taken the morning bullet train from Beijing to Xi'an, which was lovely (though the hazy air meant not seeing much of the countryside). For the return, we flew back to Beijing and connected for our return to San Francisco. That was a great way to see a bit of the country on the way, while being more time-efficient for our return home.
I highly recommend a stay there!