The first room I was offered was a smoking room. I had specifically requested non-smoking, so I was moved to room 5404 in the main building. It was very quiet, spacious and well appointed, spotlessly clean, with excellent bed linen and towels. However, the bed was rock hard.
There was a deep bath and a separate shower recess. Hanging space was OK but drawer space was limited. The overhead bed lights were excellent, the free wifi was fast, and there were ample power points. The a/c was cold and quiet, with individual controls.
I did find the darkness in the bathroom a little off-putting, the bedroom carpet was badly stained, and I could only locate Chinese channels on the TV. The wall between the bathroom and bedroom was of clear glass - quite odd - but there was a curtain which could be pulled across.
The buffet breakfast was very disappointing compared to the offerings in my hotels in Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau.
I checked out the menus for room service (awful western food), a restaurant in the main building (the same menu) and a Chinese restaurant in Building 2, which I chose for dinner. The food was modest and extremely bland – a dish of button mushrooms sautéed with whole garlic cloves, a “defatted” pork with greens, and steamed rice. I asked for chillies but couldn’t make myself understood. They brought me a can of coke!
The front desk and concierge staff, with a few exceptions, have very little comprehension of English, but were all warm and friendly.
Be warned! If you intend visiting Tongli, the hotel will order a taxi for you (80Y). Getting back from Tongli (20 km) is another matter. I showed a number of taxi drivers the Garden Hotel card and they would not take me back to Suzhou. I ended up trusting a young man who offered me a lift back in his car for 120Y. The car was spotless, had much better air-conditioning than the taxis, and the driver was slow and careful. OK, I took a risk, but I didn’t know how to get back any other way except by shuttle bus (which I couldn’t find) to a major bus station and then a taxi. The staff in the Tourist Information Office at Tongli were gruff and unhelpful.
The best part of my stay was the close proximity of the hotel to the Master of the Nets Garden - just across the road and down a lane.
I was catching the bullet train back to Shanghai, and the concierge told me to allow an hour for the taxi ride because of heavy early morning traffic, so to leave at 6.30am for my 8.13am train. The taxi ride took 10 minutes, and I was stuck in their soulless station for one and a half hours! Again, a difficulty caused, I think, by the low level of English comprehension by most staff.
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- Also Known As:
- Garden Hotel Suzhou