The Shadowart hotel is an interesting departure from the typical hutong hotels. It is modern, plush and discreet in its style yet tries to keep close to Chinese cultural roots in the art of shadow puppet play. The rooms were generally small but we were okay because this is a hutong hotel no matter how it is styled, and rooms do tend to be smaller than conventional chain hotels. The rooms we had overlooked the lobby through patterned Chinese window panels. A kang bed acted as a window seat. Very charming. My husband could not believe that this was a hutong hotel. It is understatedly stylish and elegant.
The hotel's theme is on the dying art of shadow puppetry and there are many framed and intricately cut pieces of popular Chinese characters - the God of War, the Monkey King, opera faces etc - on display. These are available for sale. And considering that each translucent piece is delicately hand-cut from carefully processed leather and then brushed with colour, these are works of art. The hotel puts up performances of shadow art too and my children were captivated by this ancient art and entertainment form. They were invited backstage after the show and allowed to play with the puppets which delighted them. So that was a very nice touch from the hotel.
Breakfast was adequate, enough to fuel you up for a good start. Don't expect the egg station, the cold cuts counter etc. Still, it was decent in variety and quantity.
Location-wise, this hotel is nicely placed if you like Houhai action. It's also not far from the Prince Gong mansion complex. Definitely within walking distance of the highly touristy sections of the lakes, including the bars, restaurants and shops etc. Yandai alley, which is full of souvenir shops and cafes, is not far. Also within walking distance to the Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Beihai lake and Nanluoguxiang, another trendy street chock full of shops and eateries.
The subway is 15minutes away on a brisk walk but it takes you through another interesting neighbourhood hutong, with opera star Mei Lanfang's residence, a bustling residential area with market and food stalls and the famous Huguosi small snacks shop, two stories full of Beijing's street food and snacks. The neighbourhood was interesting so the walk didn't feel far.
That was the good and now for the bad: the staff at reception were not perceptive to the needs of their customers, and could be trained better to anticipate and assist their guests. Some examples: when we first arrived, it was late at night and we were hungry. It was also cold. We were travelling with young children. The young man at the counter suggested that we walk all the way out to the Houhai area for food - easily about a 15-min to 20min walk in the cold. We tried this but it was late, the kids were tired and we really just wanted a snack, not a full (and expensive) meal. Halfway round, we turned back. En route, we met a friendly elderly Beijing resident who lived nearby. He directed us to a 24-hour convenience store nearby at the main road where we happily stocked up on some milk, cup noodles and biscuits. While the guy at reception was not wrong in suggesting what he did, he was not perceptive enough to see the situation and make appropriate suggestions. In the hospitality industry, what defines adequate service from great service is this ability, or lack of.
Finally, on our last night, we returned to the hotel at 8pm, having checked out earlier in the day and leaving our bags in their storage area. The intent was to get a taxi at 9pm to get to the airport by 10pm. At 8pm, my husband checked with the hotel reception (unfortunately manned by the same young man). He assured us it was not a problem to get a taxi in when we needed it. We were quite specific that we needed to leave at 9pm and we made sure to ask because this was a hutong and some taxis do not want to get into the lanes here. But at 9pm when we approached him to call a cab, he told us it was not possible, that we needed to call a cab one to two hours in advance! That rattled us because we had luggage and kids and now we needed to walk and haul our bags to the main road to get a cab. We were quite annoyed that he did not say so earlier. It felt a bit risky because we were not sure if we could easily get a cab at that time. Luckily we could and did in spite of that man's poor advice.
So in short, I like the Shadowart hotel, but I think they need to work a lot harder on their staff and their staff's proactiveness, service attitudes and product knowledge. This mars what would otherwise be a great little hotel worth recommending.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Shichihai Shadow Art Performance Hotel hold a cultural conviction that we believe the true cultural beauty of chinese heritage should be preserved and we found a modern way for the world to appreciate the true beauty again.Bustling lives mask us from the beauty of nature. Through travels, we refresh our senses about culture and nature. We strive to inject life and cultural forces into our tourist sites.This is the first stop of your cultural expedition; the next one is to explore nature and the Beijing old city from Shichahai for new pulses.We are situated in the dragon pulse of Beijing, the most sacred site of Fengshui.Shadow Art Performace Hotel is located in the hutong district of Houhai. Here, its design brings you to a lakeside, over the waterfront, into hutongs, and this dwelling in a city district with waterscape and nature puts us back on the path to nature and reshape our heart to value respect and tranquility that go for natural environment and culture. ... more less
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