I came to Suzhou for a 7 day holiday as a solo traveler. I wanted to experience a city in China on my own. I chose the Hotel Soul based on the internet reviews, which cited good location, value, and helpful staff. Hotel Soul turned out to be all those things, and much more.
I called the hotel in advance to arrange pick up at the train station, and a young man answered in English and was very warm and welcoming. He was the Chief Concierge, Ainnol Zhang, and he became my friend.
Ainnol made a big difference in my experience in Suzhou. Although it was his day off, Aninnol came to the train station to greet me and bring me back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, he helped with check-in, made sure I was satisfied with my room, set up my internet connection, and gave me suggestions about where to go for walks, where to eat, and what to see in Suzhou. He also gave me his mobile phone number so that I could call him directly.
In the next days, I often reached out to Ainnol for help. When he was not on duty he sometimes accompanied me to have a meal, or go shopping. I learned to see and appreciate Suzhou through his eyes. I felt very comfortable, as if I had known him for a long time.
There were a lot of things about the hotel that I enjoyed very much. Rather than repeat things that others have said in their reviews, I’ll focus on some things less often mentioned but which I appreciated.
First, is security. I felt really safe in and around the hotel. The lobby staff notices everyone who comes in and goes out. The room cards are keyed to specific floors, and the elevator won’t work without using the card. And, in the room there was an electronic (password protected) safe, in which I could leave cash, passport, etc.
The area around the hotel was also very safe. There is a strong yet unobtrusive police presence at all hours. Although I took long walks outside of the hotel area into local neighborhoods, I never felt scared or threatened. I felt that I was a part of the normal flow of daily life.
Each morning I ate my breakfast in a restaurant located on the first floor of the hotel. I think the restaurant is connected to the hotel but also separate. I felt welcomed, enjoyed the food, and I often lingered over a second or third cup of coffee. (I liked to observe the Chinese tourists who also ate there). I never felt rushed.
Ainnol also introduced me to local restaurants outside the tourist area. I liked going to those places a lot -- workers were friendly, and the food was terrific. One night I asked Ainnol to recommend a fancy restaurant, and when I got there they said “sorry we are getting married tonight”, but what they really meant was that most of the tables were reserved for a wedding party. When I explained I was “yi ge ren” (only one person) they found a place for me. I got to be present for the wedding party. I have the photos to prove it!
I liked my room a lot. It was big and clean, and also quiet. I slept great there. I also watched television in my room, where I could access CNN and other English-speaking channels. I felt much more on top of current events at the hotel than elsewhere in China where news from western sources is routinely censored.
Housekeeping was punctual and considerate. They came every day to clean while I was out doing tourist things. I also used the hotel laundry service several times. Pick up and return was on same day and not expensive.
The day before I left, Ainnol accompanied me to buy gifts. I am so happy with the choices I made, including a hand-made silk tapestry from a place I never could have found on my own. Like the holiday in general, I felt free to take my time and be myself. After the shopping trip, Ainnol treated me to lunch.
The next morning I was sad to leave. Hotel Soul was much more than a hotel for me. For those 7 days, it was my home. I felt very happy there.
I will definitely return.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Established in May 2010, Hotel Soul is the first contemporary boutique hotel in Suzhou, China. The 220 room hotel's design concept juxtaposes elements of modern and ancient China, celebrating the nation's remarkable swift modernisation while paying tribute to its distinguished past. Guests at Hotel Soul can enjoy a wide range of culinary delights at the continental restaurant, Brasserie 101, inspired by chic Sino-French interior design. Bar Soul brings a unique blend of retro and industrial elements. It is also the ideal place for carousing with regular live band performances and a variety of drinks and snacks. Chinese restaurant Ying Fook Court serves carefully crafted Chinese cuisine and an innovative congee hotpot. On the second floor, Ying Fook Heen boasts a bright, spacious banquet hall and three VIP rooms perfect for hosting banquet receptions and business dinners for all occasions. Hotel Soul also offers a fully equipped gym alongside premium leisure and meeting facilities, making it the perfect choice for leisure and business travelers. ... more less
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