Five weeks in China and Southeast Asia was a trip we had planned for more than two years. We signed up for a group land tour of China and a cruise thru Southeast Asia. We scheduled three extra days in Beijing independently to get over jet lag, visit sights not covered by the group tour, and shop at the Pearl and Silk Markets.
Normally, we avoid large American hotels in foreign countries. We prefer smaller, local hotels, B & B’s, inns - where you can mingle and meet residents of the country. However, we knew that in China, we would be at a huge disadvantage because we did not read or speak Mandarin. After careful research, we chose the Beijing Grand Hyatt Hotel. This was an excellent choice and the Grand Hyatt met all our travel needs.
First – the Grand Hyatt’s staff, (from the doormen, reception, telephone operators), all spoke excellent English. We are not ‘ugly Americans’ who expect the entire world to speak and understand English, but we found that most of Asia has not dealt with many visitors from the west. Our taxi ride from Beijing Airport was 35 minutes of uncomfortable silence. Luckily, we had printed off the name and address of the hotel in Chinese. The hotel is very helpful by providing Chinese/English business address cards and writing out in Chinese, tourist sites you want to visit. The hotel caters to western businessmen and tourists, so everyone we came in contact with had a good grasp of the English language. We spent three weeks touring China, and no other hotel (and these were all 5 star hotels) had staff members who were as fluent in English. They might have one or two members who are fluent, but if they are off-duty, a game of charades ensues. It is easier to convert currency, ask for extra towels or pillows, eat in hotel restaurants or make other common requests. The Grand Hyatt staff members are friendly, and seem to anticipate your needs. One cloudy morning, I asked a doorman if he thought it would rain later in the day. He said he would check for me. He left and returned with a weather forecast and a hotel umbrella which he said I could use for the day. No fee, no name request nor hotel room number collected. This genuine concern to make our visit pleasant occurred more than once during our stay.
Second – the rooms are very large. A very hard, king size bed, armchair and ottoman, mini bar, and refrigerator are in each room. The room is worthy of 5 stars. The hotel has 825 rooms, but the hotel does not feel immense.
Third – the hotel is on a major Beijing boulevard, but sits way back from the traffic, so you do not hear traffic noise. The location is two blocks from the Forbidden City and is close to other central Beijing tourist venues. There is a very large upscale mall beneath the hotel, and the hotel is located at one end of the Wangfujing Pedestrian Shopping Street. There are plentiful shops and restaurants around the hotel. The convenient Wangfujing subway stop is located under the hotel.
Fourth – check out the hotel web site for room specials. We were able to sign up for a “stay 2 nights and pay for 1” special that Hyatt Hotels was running at the time. We did not have an upper floor ‘Club’ room, but breakfast for two was included. The all you can eat breakfast buffet had western, as well as Asian choices. This included eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, eggs, omelets, cereal, Chinese dumplings, noodles, rice, duck, fish, chicken, congee, soup, fresh fruit, pastries, juices, coffee, and tea. This was a great deal, because the breakfast alone costs more than $40 US/person. Try to get breakfast included in your room rate. We did not care to eat in the expensive hotel restaurants.
Final comments – the Chinese government dictates the currency exchange rate. Therefore, the rates available in the hotel are the same rates available at the local banks. The hotel does not charge a fee to convert money, where the airport exchange centers do charge a fee. The hotel exchange rate was much higher than what we had gotten in the USA. If you exchange too many US dollars into Chinese currency (yuans), you need to save your receipt. The receipt is proof that you exchanged money in China. However, you cannot reconvert the yuans back into US dollars at the hotel, it has to be done @ the international airport when you leave China (and pay a fee). The Grand Hyatt currency exchange services are at the front desk and it was convenient to change money as you needed at the front desk, instead of looking for a bank (especially on the weekend or during the 8 day national holiday in October when banks were closed).
Two free bottles of water are brought to your room daily, since the tap water is not potable. You can use it to brush your teeth as long as you do not swallow. We purchased additional bottles of water from the small grocery store in the Oriental Plaza Mall underneath the hotel.
China is on a different voltage system than the USA. The Grand Hyatt offers both voltage systems. We suspect the reason is because the hotel’s clientele are mostly western visitors.
The hotel claims to have a fantastic indoor swimming pool. We never saw the pool. We were too tired from touring Beijing. We cannot comment on it.
We would highly recommend the Beijing Grand Hyatt because of their friendly staff, location, ambience, and hotel amenities. Bravo to them for a job well done!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Grand Hyatt Beijing is one of the finest hotels in Beijing and indeed China. In the prestigious Oriental Plaza in the centre of Beijing, the hotel is just minutes' walk from Tian An Men Square, the Forbidden City, the city centre and the Wang Fu Jing shopping street. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Hyatt Beijing Hotel Beijing
- Beijing Grand Hyatt
- Hyatt Beijing
- Beijing Hyatt