Very different to the average Aman mostly due, I think, to the palace buildings within which it is housed. The experience of pottering around these buildings and slipping through the private entrance into the Summer Palace was really special. We ate in the Japanese restaurant at the hotel whilst there and ditched a special celebration meal to go back a second time as the food was excellent. I was concerned about the distance from some of the tourist hot spots but we didn’t struggle with the traffic at all. Highly recommend.
We came to the Aman Summer Palace for tea. We were treated to a Chinese equivalent of the traditional British cream team, but with Chinese tea and sweet treats that drew influences from East and West. The setting was exceptional. The Summer Palace with its high ceilings constructed using traditional Chinese craftsmanship and tranquil gardens was delightful. The whole experience was made all the more atmospheric by the lady playing the Guzheng as we sipped our tea and tried to hold back on too many cakes. This is somewhere I could come back to.
This extensive outdoor complex is a must-see. No interiors can be seen, but the extensive, vast complex spread over acres, with it’s intricate paintings and decorations is a Beijing must-see. It is fascinating, but also hard to take in given the crowds. When we were there every step was packed, primarily with Chinese tourists in large groups. Absolutely worth a visit but bring your patience.
Visited with my wife during the hot and humid month of August, so we were really delighted to stay at the Aman, far away from the hustle of Beijing. The room was quite spacious with plenty of ammenities, and the bed was one of the most comfortable we have encountered in any high end hotel. We also spent most of our time at the hotel's lvl2 SPA, which was quiet and not crowded, and the water temperature of the pool was great. Service was good, but as expected not all staff can comunicate in english, but was never a problem. Smily faces and allways willing to help. Will come back next time we need a break of Beijing! MR.
I feel deeply conflicted about writing this. I have previously stayed at four Aman properties in Bhutan and fell in love with the brand. Those in Bhutan were worth every penny, with amazing rooms and exquisite service, despite the very steep prices. However, this is not one of those Aman properties. And I’m sorry to say that, since the staff are delightful. A special shout-out goes to Vesper, who is the most friendly, helpful and efficient front of house manager you could possibly wish for. Also I´d like to mention Leo, whose smiling, friendly and efficient help was much appreciated. So, good points first. The location and the secret door into the Summer Palace are enviable. It's a great treat to be able to avoid the crowds at the main gates and just sneak in and out whenever you like. And the hotel is well away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Beijing, in a tranquil oasis of beautiful buildings and courtyards. Transfers were very efficiently arranged to and from the airport, with cold towels and water in a BMW X5. I also appreciated the sandwiches that were awaiting us in our room when we arrived (which was late at night, and after the restaurants had shut). Our ‘suite’ was huge and well-equipped (including a free mini bar with beer and non-alcoholic beverages), adaptor plugs, pencils and very good room/hotel guides. Oh, and a calligraphy set! I love the products in the bathroom and also the fact that they are not in disposable plastic. The shower is first class and the bed and pillows utterly luxurious. There are also plenty of easily- accessible plug points (but see below) and there are the usual Aman ‘gifts’ that are left for you each night, which are always fun, interesting and well-thought out. On Basement Level 1, there is the most incredible 25 m swimming pool (bring a bathing hat, although they do have them on sale). And the pool towels are sumptuously soft … and gigantic. Wonderful! There is also a good steam room, sauna and several jacuzzis, together with relaxation booths with plenty of water. The rain shower in the changing room is amongst the best I have ever had the pleasure to stand in. Basement Level 2 features a beautiful and extremely well-equipped spa area with good treatments and service. There are also squash courts (which I didn’t use) and there is a cinema somewhere. And then the negatives. My three star review is based on the fact that this is an incredibly expensive hotel and the location in itself is not enough to counter aspects of the hotel that fall below the standard one would expect for these prices. The room was rather tired and the cleaning was not detailed enough. Sitting on the sofa in Room 121 and looking up, you are presented with dust-encrusted air conditioning vents (see photo). The air conditioning itself was incredibly noisy and complicated, being controlled by no less than five control panels, all of which (bar the one in the main doorway) had to be turned off at night because they were so noisy. The one in the panel directly above the entrance into the bathroom was particularly loud. There were two wardrobes, which provided a good amount of storage and hanging space but they were difficult to close and keep closed (particularly the one on the left), which meant that the interior lights came on. The array of switches to operate all the lights was simply bewildering, and there is no bedside master switch to turn them all off. The last thing I want to do once I have got into bed, is to get back out of it and wander around in a desperate bid to locate the correct light switch for the lamp that I have inadvertently left on. (Or indeed closing the wardrobe door again.) Nor is there a handy bedside plug or USB socket, meaning that in order to charge up a watch or a phone overnight and have it beside you, you need to scrabble around under the bedside table to unplug the lamp and plug in a charger. The cold water in the sink taps was prone to sudden, violent spluttering. Luckily the weather was very warm and clothes soon dried. I never watch TV in hotel rooms, but those of you who do should be aware that the set is very small. (I did, though, appreciate the lack of the ubiquitous and incredibly annoying advertising video on the TV to welcome us when we arrived. Other hotel chains please take note.) A relaxing breakfast was foiled by the lack of English amongst the staff. Only the very pleasant restaurant manager had a good standard of the language, and while I appreciate that we are in China and not in an English-speaking country, it is somewhat frustrating when you ask for salt and pepper (in English and what I had hoped was internationally recognisable sign-language for salt and pepper) to be presented a few minutes later with a beautifully arranged silver tray of paper serviettes. The breakfast selection of food was rather small, but of good quality. There is, though, no toaster (which I suspect may be something to do with fire regulations). So again there was an issue with explaining what I was wanting to do to the bread. And when the reply is a monotonal “alright” you are left wondering whether another tray of paper serviettes might be on its way instead of the desired British breakfast staple. I would also add that it would have been nice to have been offered the choice of seating area when we arrived in the breakfast room, rather than to simply be shown to a table. On our second morning, we guided ourselves to a table outside (which was lovely). We had lunch one afternoon in the Chinese restaurant and dinner in the Japanese restaurant. The former had excellent food (unctuous, succulent dumplings and heavenly sweet and sour) and great service from a maitre-d’ who was passionate about her restaurant, the food and our complete satisfaction. She was first class. The latter was fine but rather over-priced for what you got. (Saying that, I often find some aspects of Japanese food a bit of a challenge). Service was good and we were welcomed by the chef and another good maitre-d’. The main frustration with both restaurants was the wine list, which was organised in the most bizarrely haphazard fashion - although it did include wines from ‘Frence’ (sic). Sadly, many of these had run out. Generally, I expect restaurants to put a neat line through wines that have run out, so that the server doesn’t have to come back to the table multiple times. Particularly poor was the fact that of seven or so red wines by the glass, there were only two that were actually available. (It has to be said that our maitre-d´ in the Chinese restaurant did offer to make a plan for the evening to open another bottle of something to add to the list of wines-by-the-glass.) The bar area is rather lovely, and the seating outside by the tranquil koi pond and shimmering willow trees is particularly charming. However, the service was very slow and trying to get a dry martini was impossible (what arrived was decidedly green and full of vermouth). This was despite the server professing to know exactly what I meant by ‘dry’. We had a guided tour of the Summer palace one morning. Our Aman-organised guide was delightful but seemed to have things that she would prefer to be doing. In the end, she didn’t really provide any more information about the palace than we gleaned from the signs and the helpful map provided by the Aman. So, my advice would be to go into the complex armed with the map, stroll around and take your time to drink in this fantastic complex without a guide. (If you go to the palace in the early morning, walk across the big arched bridge to the central, main island; the views are terrific and it’s a good way to orientate yourself. There’s also a chance to watch people flying kites against the rising sun. Be aware that there is an extra charge to go into some of the buildings, including the Buddha Incense Tower – which is worth it.) On our last morning, we decided to have an hour in the Summer Palace before breakfasting and getting ourselves organised for a return to the UK. We got to the reception at about 06:20 and were given a phone to use in order to call for the secret gate to be opened on our way back. However, although the secret gate was meant to be opened at 06:30 it was still locked at 06:40 – something that Aman can do nothing about because the unlocking is in the control of the palace gatekeepers. In saying that, our Aman person who’d taken us to the gate did absolutely nothing to try to rectify the situation and stood next to the door simply staring at it. I would have thought a phone call back to reception would have been the way forward. And he was rather taken-aback (after a 15 minute wait) when we told him that we’d rather not waste any more time, and we’d prefer to walk around to the public gate. The man at the front desk was most apologetic and made an instant plan to guide us around to the gate and buy tickets … and we finally got into the complex for a reduced stroll. The secret gate issue had been resolved when it was time to return, and we were greeted by our favourite bespectacled member of the Aman team (the charming Leo) with a tray of cold, wet face cloths. On Basement Level 1, there were no hand towels by the sinks in the changing room; the black baskets (which I assumed were there to hold the towels were all empty). And the absence of robes to go to and from the pool area was very odd. Being of a more self-conscious disposition, I ended up putting my T-shirt back on for the walk. There was a set of three jacuzzis, two of which are cool (for post-sauna/steam room soaking) and one was vast, and nice and hot. The latter had good jets and was great. The cool ones had bubble outlets in their bases, but these did not appear to be working. I would not, I’m afraid to say, stay at this Aman again. A much better bet is the Rosewood, which has immaculate service and is two-thirds the price for a similar sized room. Yes, it will take you an hour to get to the Summer Palace from there and you won’t have the fun of the secret door or the tranquillity of the beautiful setting. But there are too many frustrations at the Aman, and it needs to raise its game here if it’s going to justify these prices. Sorry to Vesper and the others to whom I bid a cheery farewell. And apologies for giving the typically British ‘Oh yes we had a lovely stay’ to the question about our time at the hotel; I´m unable to shake that Britishness. However, I hope that the issues I have raised here are useful to both the hotel and those who are looking to stay here. I do not write criticism light-heartedly and my comments are (hopefully) seen in the way that they are intended – constructive criticism.…