Category Archives: Hotel Information

Sanya Trip: Grand Hyatt Haitang Bay

Grand Hyatt Haitang Bay

I rarely post a review of a hotel.   My views on the various hotels, restaurants, and places to go and see are mostly posted on Trip Advisor.   Having said that, the Grand Hyatt Haitang Bay deserves a posting on my blog.   Why?  Because it is a very nice hotel, and as such I want to both give you visibility to the great service and value it offers as well as give you a visual of the grounds and hotel overall. 

As you can tell from my previous postings, we decided to go to Sanya for a Christmas vacation sort of in the last minute.  Our daughter, visiting from California, was able to snatch a great deal on a 5-day stay at this wonderful hotel.

We had read some of the reviews on Trip Advisor and certainly were very intrigued.  So once we arrived in Sanya and Haitang Bay, our first order of business was to explore the hotel, the grounds, the suite we had booked and get quickly first impressions, which were great!  

Subsequently, while enjoying the great benefits of staying at the hotel we observed the following:

  • The hotel overall has a very pleasant and interesting architectural design.  The lobby, rooms / suite we stayed at, the club lounge – all were very nice, good setup and pleasant implementation
  • The hotel grounds were very nice – lush – as you can tell from the photos below
  • Service:  Well, here the hotel staff really outdid themselves.  We felt truly taken care off.   The club lounge staff, the pool grill staff, all of them were extremely attentive and more than willing to help.   Even the pool attendants were always ready and in place to provide you with cold bottled water and/or towels in order to take advantage of the great swimming pools in the hotel 
  • Rooms: There are multiple options here.   We chose the Suite as it came with club lounge access and space for our family.  There are multiple different room options.  If you go for the suite – in principle there are about 3 options:
    • Suite on the ground floor with its own swimming pool.  A cool option – but we wanted to be on a higher floor
    • large suite – 140~150mm square.  Rather nice and impressive.  Great showers 
    • Smaller suite – approximately 105 mm square.   Probably more than adequate — but we liked the bigger suite 🙂

There are some quirks that the hotel needs to work out – but overall these were minor items on the list of great things the hotel and its staff did well. 

  • The pools would have been nice to be somewhat heated.   In December the weather can be rather chilly….
  • One of the afternoons we decided to relax by the ZEN pool.  Well, we expected somewhat of a silence and tranquility…. Instead we got grand parents spoiling their grandkids and quite a bit of noise…Oh, well…

Some additional information:

  • If you desire to eat outside of the hotel – the shopping mall attached (pretty much to the hotel) offers a large number of restaurants
  • There is also a very large grocery store – fruit, candy, drinks….

Overall, the hotel was great and we will recommend it for sure to friends in the US and China.   Here are some photos from the hotel and premises – day and night views.   Enjoy!

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt
The Grand Hyatt hotel grounds with the Yan Cun Chinese restaurant

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt
Nice hotel grounds

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt
View of the Club Lounge – nice balcony
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Grand Hyatt
View of the Grand Hyatt Beach

 

Beijing Snapshots – Xin Ao Shopping Center and Around

Xin Ao Shopping Center

If you are in the area of the Beijing Olympic village you may want to visit the Xin Ao Shopping Center.  The area is a good place to go walking and get some city sightseeing exercise.  The shopping mall is actually sort of hidden under an artificial lake.  The address is No.9 Hujing East Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.

The shopping mall also includes some very good restaurants.  I ate in the Yunan Food restaurant (Yun Nan Cai) — worth the visit.

How do you get to the mall?  You can take the number 8 metro – the metro station exits right in the shopping mall – very convenient.   Parking is available on the near by surface streets. 

In the evening while walking around I took some photos and then took some from my hotel room – I stayed at the near by Intercontinental BeiChen hotel.

The area outside of the mall is very lively in the evening – you can encounter people dancing, singing…all sort of group activities.  Great people watching overall….

China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area

 

 

 

Voss Water – Crazy Expensive

Voss Water

I thought I had seen it all – not really – but an interesting saying nevertheless… Voss water shocked me.  A couple of weeks ago my family and I traveled to the Bay area.  We stayed in a Marriott hotel, downtown San Jose.  This was all uneventful until I came across a bottle of water, for sale, in the hotel suite we stayed in.

What is special about this water?  Nothing, based on what I understand….except for the PRICE!  Please see the picture below

Voss Water

So, what is on the photo – the PRICE of $4.00.  Yes, the water is transported from Norway.  But still…!  $4 for 500ml 




Now, what does this translate to – well, to a humongous price.  Let’s compare it to price of gasoline.  In the US, the price of gas is about $2.5 per gallon.  OK, in California it is $3.5 per gallon.

So, do the math…. This 500ml bottle of water is approximately 1/8 of a gallon.  Therefore 7-8x the price of the bottle of Voss will be the volume of a gallon of gasoline.  7-8x $4 is $28~$32 per gallon!  –> so the price of VOSS is about 8-times higher than that of gasoline!

What a great deal….NOT!

Well, I am not buying it.  But then, that is the beauty of market pricing.  There must be enough folks who are willing to pay….Good luck!

Business Travel and European Hotels

I believe I have always paid attention to cultural differences in various parts of the world.  My career and the nature of my job have been very important factor in allowing me to see various countries (many of them on multiple occasions) and interact and experience their subtle or major differences.  Admittedly, I am not exactly someone with a fixed and stable origins and background – my own life has developed over the years across three continents and in several countries – you can say – major identity crisis – but one thing I have had as a common experience – that has been my last 20+ years in hi-tech companies in the US with occasional long term or short term stints overseas (besides just business trips)

Long introduction to my posting – but I thought it will be important to establish a point of reference.

In my travels, I have stayed in many hotels – many of them chains (Hilton, IHG, Sheraton, Marriott, Hyatt, Shangri-La, La’Meridien….) and many boutique ones.

My latest trip which included hotel stays in both major chains – Hilton (at CDG-Paris) and JW Marriott (Bucharest) – and boutique ones: Auberge Du Pecheur (in Ghent, Belgium),Germany-Boutique-HotelLandaus Am See (in Garbsen, Germany), and Prinzregent (Munich, Germany).

I was very surprised to conclude that while on business the European traveller does not care to conduct business in their respective hotel rooms.   Why do I say that?  Well, empirical evidence from multiple hotels across multiple European countries !   All the hotels that I listed above with the exception of the JW Marriott in Bucharest, Romania, had one MAJOR flaw where business travel is concerned – the only telephone that one could find in the rooms was right next to the bed and with a short cord on top of that.

So here is the scenario – in my multi-year experience – when you are traveling on business there are two things that ALWAY happen:

  1. You have plenty of business related meetings during the day
  2. When you return to your hotel room you inevitably have to check tons of emails (that have accumulated while you were at the business events) and in most days you would have a conference call with the home office or another office of the most likely global company you work with.

Now, what do you do if you have a business related conference call?   Well usually, you would like to

a) have a good work area / desk for your laptop and a comfortable seating – hm….how about the hotel desk and chair…

b) have a phone to use as most likely using your own mobile phone while roaming internationally for a hour or longer conference call could be expensive.

If you agree with the above setup – then guess how many hotels in my recent business trip in Europe offered those simple business related amenities …?   Well, I sort of already stated that – only ONE !!!

Following the train of thought then, what can one conclude – the usual traveller staying in these hotels is either (a) not a business traveller;   or (b) business travelers in Europe enjoy the stay in their hotel room for other purposes and not conducting business calls …

My experience from the stays in these hotels was definitely different – picture this – a person hunched over a telephone (due to its short cord) on a bed by a bedside table trying to balance a laptop with reference material… What an experience…..!   I would help you – not a pleasant one…

On the positive note – JW Marriott obviously cares…..!   Thank you JW Marriott staff…

Brussels-Hannover-plane Interesting-Hotel-Lille Paris-France  Lille-France-Hotel

Hilton Hotel in Paris Resorts to Duct Tape

Have you seen the (I believe) famous Canadian comedy show The Red Green Show?  I liked it a lot (10-15 years ago) – it was shown on PBS…The main character Red (Steve Smith) is the leader of Possum Lodge and a self-proclaimed handyman who is constantly extolling the virtues of duct tape (“the handyman’s secret weapon”).

Well, on my recent business trip to Paris I relived my happy memories of watching Mr. Red….but I also had the bad experience with the Hilton at CDG-Paris.

I arrived late (around 10pm) and checked in quickly into a nice room – exec room on the hotel’s 2nd floor.

In the morning though I had rather unpleasant experience when I tried to take a shower – the hotel shower = a handheld shower with a grip bar – turned out to be broken and fixed with….yes! you guessed it DUCT TAPE  (Mr. Red would haven been proud!)

There were two problems with that

a) the shower was broken and fixed by a questionable housekeeping handy person

b) with Duct Tape that would not hold the handshower in place as the water started flowing through it, the grip would release and the shower would fall to the floor….

Hilton -Charles De Gaulle   The Duct Taped Shower You can see the shower setup on these two photos I took with my iPhone – pretty interesting usage of duct tape after all…

I took a shower eventually – gasp! – by holding the handheld shower in one hand…not convenient but, hey, it is only a Hilton!!!  Not..!

Then, later that morning, the second surprise came about – I wanted to get to the airport.  The helpful front desk staff told me “Yes, of course – which airline?”  I told them “British Airways”.   The response was “Sure – terminal 2….please wait for the shuttle”.  I waited for about 20-minutes and finally the shuttle was there.  Well we boarded, and made it to the airport, but to Terminal 2E!!! We were told here you are for your flights….I asked them “Is British airways here?” the response was “yes”

Come to find out – indeed – BA was in Terminal 2 – but Terminal 2A…. A helpful airport employee smiled and said – “you better hurry…you have a bit of a walk ahead of you”

I guess I needed it – indeed, it took quite the walk to make it from 2E to 2A…. But my frustration was with the Hilton staff.   I bet there are plenty of guests who fly BA

Why not drive to the proper terminal to start with?   Hopefully someone from Hilton will see my gripe and do something about it.

The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo, Autograph Collection

The Prince Sakura Tower: Renovated Hotel, but Value for Money is Average

Prince Sakura TowerI have stayed in this hotel quite a few times since 2005. The hotel was renovated recently – in the last year or so, my last stay was actually in the Prince Takanawa hotel near by as this property was being redesigned.
The new furnishings and overall setup is definitely nicer. But there are some issues that I wish were resolved – and to be honest make me wonder was the redesign just cosmetic…?
My biggest issue – the shower in the bathroom. Take this
* the rooms are large
* clean, new carpets
* comfortable bed

But the bathrooms are small and the showers tiny!!! More about the showers:
* In a upscale / expensive hotel – why would you put a shower that is really 1980s?
* There is hardly a spot / shelf to put more than a bar of soap — Why? I had to put the small bottles of shampoo over the frame of the shower door as the small shelf was occupied by a soap and a razor…that’s it…

Additionally, I was very surprised not to find electrical outlets that can work with US plugs. In most hotels I have stayed, at least at the desk you will find power outlets that accomdate multiple standards including US ones for electrical outlets – but not in this hotel.
So, if it is a hotel accomodating business travellers – why not put at least a couple of outlets with more than just Japanese standard???? Very strange and inconsiderate
Further on the fit for a business hotel – the hotel room has a desk area (rudimentary I may add, but it is what it is), but no phone at the desk…! Another strange configuration I must say…What do you think? Would you want to have a phone on the desk? If you are like me – you have multiple business related conference calls and those usually require you to reference material from your laptop. So in the Price Sakura Tower hotel your option for a business conference call is the bed!!! Why? The phone is on the bed side table, NOT on the desk.

So good luck hunching over your laptop as you talk on a short cord telephone…
(I wish there was at least a cordless phone…)

So, my overall assessment – if you are a business traveler and if you have options, look for another hotel…!

Narita to Shinagawa – When Your Plane Arrives Late at Night

If you are traveling to Japan and Narita specifically, you will need to consider options for how to get to your hotel or other destination into Tokyo.  Most often used methods of getting from the airport to many destinations in town are

  • the Airport Limousine (bus shuttle service)
  • the Narita Express (NEX) train – from Narita to Shinagawa for example;

On a recent trip, I flew in from Taipei into Narita.  My flight was supposed to arrive at Narita around 8:30pm;  However, the flight was delayed and I actually arrived around 9:30pm and as a result once I walked out into the international arrivals hall and got to the Airport Limousine bus to buy a ticket – I was told “no more busses…”

Turns out the busses that go to the hotels around the Shinagawa station left at 8:35pm as the last service.  So I was more than an hour late.

Next, I tried to get on the Narita Express — turns out – the situation was the same:  No train beyond 8:30 or so;

Now, you (like me) may ask “Why?  Who stops service so early in the evening?” etc.   But at the end of the day – it is what it is…. What do you do then?

I was able to get alternate route – which requres transfers but it worked well.  Here it is:

  • From Narita, buy ticket at the JR train booth/office for the SKYLINER express train. You will ride this train to the Nippori station;
  • At Nippori you need to look for the JR Yamanote line; Before you get to it you will need to get a fare adjustment; Nippori to Shinagawa should be around 200 Yen;   Then the train will be most likely on platform 10 (headed to Ueno);

In case you need to look for characters on the signs – for Shinagawa, those are 品川駅 (meaning Shinagawa Station) or just 品川 (Shinagawa);

Japan-Tokyo-Shinagawa-Train
Shinagawa Station at Night

Once you make it to the station, several hotels are within walking distance – for example, the Prince Sakura Tower;

Bulgarian Beaches – Sunny Beach

Bulgaria is a country that offers great resorts and activities both in the winter and in the summer.  I will spend some time over the next few days to provide updates on the beaches my family and I have traveled to.   Several of those beaches were covered recently in an article / guide from Lonely Planet, and while that guide does usually a good job to capture the specifics of the place being reviewed I thought to add some more insight from having visited many of the beaches on multiple occasions over the last 15 years or so.

So here we go – starting with what most guide books refer to as the most popular and my family calls the least pleasant beach — SUNNY BEACH

Sunny Beach is probably one of the oldest and most traveled to resorts in Bulgaria, dating all the way back to the 1960s and 1970s.  The place was developed to the effect of 800 hotels today – a mind boggling number given the small space it occupies.  The result is that many of the hotels are really not that nice and location wise not even close to the beach.  So be very careful in your selection and travel plans.

Sunny Beach is located about 35-km north-northeast of Burgas (one of the main cities on the Bulgaria Black sea coast).  There are regular buses traversing the distance and you should be able to get to the resort very quickly upon arriving in Burgas either by plane, train or other means.

In terms of nightlife there are the usual places to go – i.e. discos and restaurants.  Sunny Beach certainly has its overabundant share of those.  Here are a few that have been recommended by various folks over several years

  • Discos:
    • Disco Orange
    • Beach Disco (near hotel Burgas)
    • ClubXL (operated and owned by hotel Kuban)
  • Restaurants
    • Khan’s Tent – located on the way to Varna, to the right of the highway
    • Morris – located opposite of hotel Neptune
    • Lapa Lapa – its address is Kv. Kamelija No36, Sunny Beach 8240

Here is a great map of Sunny Beach complete with a legend – courtesy of carhirebourgasairport.com/

Near Sunny Beach is located probably one of the most interesting towns along the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria – the town’s name is Nessebar / Несебър in Bulgarian.

The town has survived through the centuries and as a result inherited a large number of historic buildings and consequently has been included in the list of World Heritage sites in 1983.

IHG Rewards – fails on a survey

Not sure if any of you out there have had my experience with survey taking at IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) – but I just had a frustrating experience.

I am sitting in the Admirals Club on my way from a very long trip in Asia and saw the email from IHG Rewards.  The email asked me to take a 15-minute survey and provide feedback on loyalty programs….So I decided to help and answer the survey.

Being tired after the long flight – the experience that followed me taking the survey, caused me to write the email below back to IHG…

What a dissapointment…!  And when you think about it – a survey is such a simple and effective tool…Except in this case it certainly will backfire on IHG – at least in my case…

======= My response to IHG Rewards is below =====

Dear IHG

 

In the future please FIX your survey process — So you wanted me to take a survey…. Fine!  And I did …!  But then you told me at the end of the survey – after I took the time to provide you with the information that “Sorry our quota has been filled..”

 

REALLY???!!!   You did not know that at the point I entered the Survey Web Page??!!!???

 

This is really a very bad practice!

=========================================

Turned out – my attempt to reply back to IHG Rewards did not happen easily – the “Reply” action did not reach an email address.  I need to figure out how to email them.  In the mean time – my rant is on my blog…and will be on Social media…

I hope someone in IHG actually reads my rant…and decides that better treatment of your members is a good idea…!

Comments?

 

Hotel Safe – Comments on an Article On-line

I came across an article from an otherwise good travel blog "Perrin Post" which highlighted some things about the hotel room safes that I believe are both clearly stated by most hotels and should be known to us travelers.

Just how safe is a hotel safe? That’s the question on my mind after inadvertently leaving my travel jewelry case (fashion jewelry—not fine jewelry) behind in the in-room safe of room 215 at the Crowne Plaza in Hollywood, Florida, a couple of weeks ago. I was in a rush to pack up and check out of the hotel, and I simply forgot to retrieve my stuff from the safe. The next morning, when I realized my mistake and phoned the hotel to see what they could do, I was told that another guest was now inhabiting room 215 and that the hotel could not send an employee to access the safe until after the guest had checked out. I was assured that, once the guest left, the hotel would open the safe and see if my jewelry was still in it.

Interestingly, I was never asked for the four-digit passcode that I had programmed into the safe.

A couple of hours later I heard from the hotel again: They had opened the safe (no passcode necessary) and found the jewelry there, and they would ship it to me. A couple of days later I received a FedEx package with everything in it and intact. The FedEx bill? $116. I’m not complaining—I was thrilled to have my belongings back—but I did learn three lessons from this episode

(from Perrin Post blog)

The three lessons the article highlights are the things that made me write here 

  • Remind yourself to check the safe before you check-out —- Of course!!! The same applies for making sure you did not leave items on the bed side table or on the hotel room office table or bathroom counter….or phone charger plugged into a hotel electrical outlet in the room…!  I have done all of the above and never forgotten stuff in the safe — so that tells you…!
  • The second claim is that you need to realize that the safe is not really that safe — again, another truism! Of course it is not!  Every safe is possible to break into…And in some hotels, management even posts a sign near the safe to clarify that to you – i.e. the safe is not a perfect deterent…However, the safe is still better than leaving things out in the open
  • The advice to carry a combination lock to store items under lock in our suitcase is also not perfect — that lock even invites attention and guess what if someone wanted to get into your suitcase — they can!

The more secure way to handle your valuable items is to ask the hotel for a safekeeping with them…..And the second option (the one I like) is not to travel with your most precious posetions.  Enjoy the travel – and do not cause yourself stress by thinking about how to protect your valuables.