Tuesday, 30 June 2009

5-Star hotel, 3-Star room

I will let you make your own judgment on this one, but let's just say that my personal experiences left a bit to be desired.

The Grand Hotel, in Taipei, Taiwan, is an authentic Chinese palace-styled five-star hotel originally built to accommodate visiting dignitaries. It's a nice place, although the campus itself is a bit sketchy and getting there involves a fair bit of walking up hills and watching out for poisonous snakes and stray dogs.

On the whole, I was unsatisfied with the experience I had there...I was fully expecting a five-star hotel, with all the amenities, although in all fairness I'd never actually stayed at one before.

All the other hotels we stayed at were three- and four-star hotels that provided us with a great deal of amenities and services we weren't expecting: complimentary slippers and bathrobes, inexpensive laundry services, soap, lotion, and bodywash dispensers in the showers, nice views of the city/countyside, and low-priced food and drink in the lobby shop.

The Grand Hotel had none of the above for us. There were no bathrobes, and the single pair of feminine, sandal-like leather "slippers" in the room cost NT$250 (about US$8) to use. The bathroom had no dispensers; rather, they provided us with two little bottles, one of shampoo and the other of bodywash, akin to the type you'd find in a Holiday Inn Express here in the States. There was no lotion. The paint in the bathroom was poorly applied and could not disguise the aging and cracked woodwork. Oh, and the unappealing wallpaper in the bathroom was - get this! - moldy.

The laundry service there, should I have decided to throw in all my dirty clothes at the time, would have run me a ridiculous NT$500 in total (about US$15) compared to the ¥50 I could have spent on laundry in our 3-star in Beijing (approx. US$8).

There was a mini-fridge in the room, of course (it wasn't cold), that contained cans of Coca-Cola and three types of beer, as well as mini bottles of whiskey and Johnny Walker, and a bottle of water. The Coke was the cheapest thing there, costing a mere NT$150 (US$4.50). The next cheapest was the bottle of water, with a price of NT$200 (US$6).

Paradoxically, there was a vending machine on the campus of the hotel, down near what I presumed was the maintenance shed, where one could get an identical can of Coke for NT$20 (US 60¢).

Did I mention how small the room was? There was only a single light in the ceiling (the others were above the bed and the table). Notice the two lamps in the picture of our room below? The one on the right had a broken switch so it didn't work. We ended up using the tiny spotlight in the ceiling instead. The far wall, as in most hotels, was all windows, but they didn't open as far as I could tell. And how about this view?

So much for a pleasant view of Shanghai at night, or overlooking the campus of Peking University, or a panorama of Hangzhou - this five-star hotel gives you a concrete wall and a jungle!

I was lucky to snap that picture, too, as the windows had a nasty habit of accumulating condensation to the point where we couldn't see out of them.

I didn't take a picture of the room until my roommate and I were packing in prep to check out. I am standing in front of the door, the bathroom is to my left and a desk with a light is to the right.

The beds were smaller than what we'd had at other hotels, but they were by far the most comfortable, which definitely made up for the moldy bathroom, at least a little bit.

Unfortunately, the lights were positioned in such a way that we couldn't reach them from the bed, as we could in all the other hotels. They had to be turned off before one gets in bed, which resulted in my tripping not once, but twice...

The walls had been spackled over and over in attempts to hide what upon closer inspection appeared to be dents or even holes. Tacky. Just like the conspicuous lack of décor.

Luckily, the breakfast at The Grand Hotel reminded me that we were indeed in a five-star hotel.

It wasn't all that easy to remember that little fact, though. I presume this is a side of The Grand Hotel that people rarely see or hear about. I didn't have a very satisfying experience there, let's say.

Just thought I'd share that. Again, make your own judgment.

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