Since the business meetings I was traveling for were mainly held at the hotel we were staying in – The Regent Beijing – I spent quite a bit of time here. Fortunately, it was a really nice hotel – one of the nicest I’ve probably ever stayed at, despite the relatively reasonable rate which worked out to around $180/night or so including taxes and fees. The hotel was conveniently located downtown, about a 15-20 minute walk east of the Forbidden City.
A few random notes about the hotel and area:
- For just a little more than the price of taking a taxi from Toronto Pearson airport back to my home in North York (500 RMB), the hotel arranges limo pickup service for guests. Not only did a young lady stand at the exit from the airport for over an hour holding up a sign with my name on it (my flight was a little late), she said this really wasn’t too bad compared to how long it sometimes takes. I have to say, the good thing about smartphones and the like is that hopefully it will give people stuck with these kinds of jobs the ability to keep their minds occupied instead of just standing there – though prices still need to fall a lot to reach this demographic. Separately, the driver waited with the car – a very nice Audi A6 (or perhaps it was an A8, I don’t really remember) – for that entire duration. It does highlight what for me felt like a pitfall of capitalism; the amount of human capital expended (two people for several hours) for a marginal increase in my convenience doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy that the fee I paid can support their income and likely their families (a topic I discussed with colleagues later in the trip), but with an education it’s possible that either could be smarter and more accomplished than I am.
- While I didn’t check out the supposedly amazing health spa, the room itself was top notch, and unlike most hotels that try and ding you $5 if you dare to drink the water they put in the room, that wasn’t the approach here – free water, free apples, and even free shoe shining. You just leave your shoes in a bag, let reception know, and within hours (even on a Sunday evening), someone came to your room, picked up your shoes, shined them nicely, and returned them. The included breakfast buffet was also amazing and would have easily cost $25-30 in a North American or European hotel (making the $180 inclusive price that much better).
- The level of service provided around our meeting facilities was similarly excellent. Not only were there ample power bars, but the electrical outlets (including in the room) were all universal outlets that required no adapters regardless of what country we were coming from. Staff monitored the room at all times, set up various snacks/beverages outside the room in a non-intrusive way (and we likely missed some, because every time we’d take a break, something different was there – most of which we did not completely eat), and they aligned all servicing of the room with our natural breaks – so things were always in great shape but it didn’t disrupt even a minute of our meeting. Such was the attention to detail that you pretty much couldn’t open the door back to the meeting room after taking a break – someone was always a step ahead of you with their hand on the door to open it for you.
- Despite the very high level of service, in stark contrast to somewhere like India there was no expectation of tipping – much less a system designed around extracting tips. Indeed, the experience seemed design to even remove any ambiguity about whether a tip would be appropriate (e.g. they pick up and return the shoes while you’re out, and they know you are out due to some kind of sensor in the room – rather than presenting them to you in person so you can wonder whether to tip or not).
- I was quite surprised, given that prostitution is illegal in China and that I’ve always though of breaking the law as being a particular bad idea in a country like China, with the propensity with which I was approach in the immediate neighborhood of the hotel. I suppose that my obviously non-Chinese appearance greatly facilitates their targeting, and to be fair, some of the people approaching me seemed like more mild attempts to separate me from cash – like having a drink together that I’m sure would result in the bartender presenting a bill for hundreds of dollars (I’ve heard this is a common practice/scam in Hong Kong). Others were more definitively working girls, even though from their outward appearance you couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else on the street. This was a little disconcerting, but I eventually found that if you don’t acknowledge their presence in any way, they ignore you back very quickly.
- Nothing quite accentuated the juxtaposition between rich and poor like the car dealership and the vehicles that pass by it:
That dealership is literally in the hotel. Why buy an expensive watch or a diamond ring as a gift for the family – when you could bring home a Rolls Royce! By contrast, directly in front of the dealership, these sort of vehicles pass by:
There was a whole class of vehicles like the above – essentially, motorbike conversions in which a light frame is constructed and sits on top of a small scooter or motorbike as the underlying platform. It’s quite funny – sometimes you see what looks like a small car, only to realize it’s a shell around a scooter. I’m surprised this hasn’t caught on in other Asian countries like Taiwan and Malaysia that are heavy on scooter use!
Although I have no idea how my hotel compares to others in Beijing, as it’s the only one I’ve stayed, it was definitely an excellent experience; if you’re staying in Beijing and OK with a hotel in the $180 price range, I’d certainly recommend considering it!