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First Look: White Swan Hotel

20 Jul 2015 by ahmarshah
After a serious three-year renovation project ­– the longest time-out since the hotel opened in 1983 – White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou is again open for business. Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to attend the opening ceremony and stay to offer readers a first glimpse of the hotel after all the work. Lobby A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, White Swan is located on historic Shamian Island, which it acquired as a foreign concession in 1859. The hotel has hosted over 40 international leaders including Queen Elizabeth II, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and former US president Richard Nixon. For connectivity, Guangzhou East railway station is around a 35-minute drive away, while the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is 50 minutes away. Following the RMB800 million (US$130 million) renovation, the hotel has reduced the number of rooms from 843 to 520. As a result the rooms are much more spacious than before, ranging from 30 sqm for a standard room to 90 sqm for the Club Premier Suite. Club rooms are located on levels 23 to 26. I stayed in a Deluxe room, and “high-tech” is definitely the catchphrase for the new offering. Upon opening the door into a dark room and inserting the room card, the window shades quickly roll up, the ambient temperature drops 1 degree Celsius and the television turns itself on and plays a mini movie about the hotel. The custom-made HITV provides 61 channels, recommends 57 restaurants and provides information about travelling in the city. The room comes with a mini iPad, which is the console for controlling functions including on/off lighting of the bedroom and bathroom, and air conditioning to cool or warm the room. In addition to hotel information and services, the Apple product provides useful information about local destinations, and includes newspaper and weather reports, a city map, local transport details, and even MTR details for those travelling to nearby Hong Kong. In-room iPad The bathroom is very spacious with a marble finish crowned by modern chrome fittings and a splendid large wall mirror. With such a big space, perhaps the bathtub could have been larger. Nevertheless the standard-sized tub features an LCD TV to watch as you soak. A separate shower room is completed with Molton Brown bath kits. At the front is a separate toilet. The bedroom adjoins the bathroom via a sliding door, and can also be accessed by a door towards the main entrance from the other end of the bathroom. Bathroom The bedroom is large and features a panoramic city view of Shamian Island. The cozy and comfortable king-size bed is placed at the centre, while a sofa, tea table and armchair are to one side, and at the other end of the room is a workdesk that is adequate for a laptop and the room’s mini iPad. Full connectivity is provided on the wall in front of the table via a panel for plugging into internet, HDMI, PC, video and audio. There are also two international power sockets. Deluxe room Workdesk With the revamp there are less F&B choices, down from 13 restaurants to seven. The offers include Jade River for Cantonese cuisine, Flavours of China specialising in provincial dishes, River Café presenting international buffets, and Silk Road Grill featuring Mediterranean and Western cuisines. I wished to try the breakfast buffet at the Flavours of China on my second day, but on its first day open to the public, the restaurant was already full by early morning, so I asked staff for a take-away portion, which was a fair meal but not a standout. The hotel also has over 2,500 sqm of meeting and conference facilities, including two ballrooms for up to 500 people. All meeting rooms are equipped with video and audio facilities, wifi access and live broadcast facilities, and are suitable for events such as company dinners, product launches and board meetings. Another highlight is the hotel’s pier. As it’s located on the riverbank, the hotel has received approval for a ferry from Huangsha Pier, stopping at the hotel and then departing for Pazhou, the venue for the Canton Fair every spring and autumn. Business guests can choose to eat breakfast on the 30- to 40-minute ferry journey. The hotel has plans to develop the pier for yacht and cruise liner parking. The hotel’s leisure facilities include a spa, outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness centre which consists of a yoga room, spa bath, sauna and steam room. Not all of the hotel’s original design has been changed, and there are still elements retained in their original form. The impressive three-storey-high garden water feature (Gu Xiang Shui) is still there, including the waterfall and arbour (Zhuo Yue Ting) atop. And the Koi fish are all still alive and well in the pond. President of White Swan Hotel Group and General Manager of White Swan Hotel, Jeff Huang, told us the fish were so excited about the hotel’s re-opening that they all spawned for the occasion! Gu Xiang Shui and Zhuo Yue Ting There are also 2,000 art pieces in the property, including “The 18 Disciples of the Buddha”, and the jade Ci Yun Tower and Dragon Boat. Long Eyebrow Monk of the 18 Diciples of the Buddha For more information, visit whiteswanhotel.com Valerian Ho  
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