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In Guangzhou I booked the W Hotel, which I’ve heard great things about. While the W Guangzhou doesn’t belong to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts or Virtuoso, it does belong to the Starwood Luxury Privileges program, which offers similar benefits.
For booking through a travel agent with access to the Starwood Luxury Privileges program I received the following benefits (in addition to my SPG Platinum benefits):
- Upgrade on arrival if available
- Daily breakfast for two guests
- One 600 CNY food and beverage credit per room, per stay
- Early check-in if available
- Late check-out if available
While my rate wasn’t cheap at ~$220USD per night, it seemed worthwhile with the above benefits. I managed to use two of my SPG Platinum Suite Night Awards to confirm into a Fantastic Suite, which cleared five days out.
Let me start with my usual disclaimer regarding W Hotels. I’m probably one of the biggest critics of the brand out there when it comes to their US properties. I find they’re overpriced, cheaply decorated, and 110% style over substance. So while I thought I had written off the brand earlier this year, I’ve been nothing short of delighted by my non-US stays at W Hotels the past six months or so, including at the W Taipei and W Sentosa Cove Singapore. So I was hoping the W Guangzhou would similarly delight.
The W Guangzhou is about a 45 minute drive from the airport, and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic. Admittedly it was early morning on a Saturday which may have played into it. I arrived at the hotel shortly before 8AM, and was immediately impressed by the exterior of the hotel, which is ridiculously futuristic.
I was even more impressed when I entered the lobby, which had really high ceilings and was gorgeously decorated. I thought the lit up Chinese New Year horse was pretty cool as well.
The lobby featured plenty of seating.
To the right of the lobby was Woobar, the signature W bar found at most of their hotels.
Then to the left were the check-in and concierge desks. The travel agent that booked this stay for me emailed the hotel in advance to advise them I would be arriving early, and they said they would do what they could to accommodate it. Sure enough when I arrived my room keys were already waiting, and within minutes I was escorted to my Fantastic Suite on the 23rd floor.
In a weird way I really liked the elevator art they had. There was a massive circular screen with a mouth that kept moving. Creepy, awesome, or both? You guys tell me.
The hallways of the hotel felt much more like a St. Regis than a W Hotel.
I was assigned room 2307, which was located about halfway down the hallway to the right. It featured a double-door entrance, which I find to always be a good sign in terms of what to expect (well, perhaps except at the Westin Chicago Northwest).
Once inside the room there was a small foyer with doors on both the left and right side. The door to the left led to the bedroom, while the door to the right led to the living room.
The living room was large and beautifully decorated and furnished. Again, it felt much more like a St. Regis than a W Hotel to me. It featured a couch, two comfortable chairs, and a desk with two chairs.
There was a large flat screen TV, along with a Bose surround sound speaker system.
Right near the desk was the minibar and Nespresso coffee machine.
Also near the desk by the entrance was a half bath, which featured just a sink and a toilet. I was rather excited to see it was a “full service” Japanese toilet, which even “pops up” as soon as you enter the room — woohoo!
The bedroom was equally beautiful, with a large soft king bed, along with a chair with an ottoman. Both faced a flat screen TV.
Then off the bedroom closer to the entrance was the bathroom area. The toilet was in a separate room, featuring a Japanese toilet and sink.
Then there was a separate room which could be accessed via sliding doors with double sinks and the shower/tub area.
The shower/tub combo was damn impressive, and featured a shower with two “heads” along with a soaking tub facing a TV that’s built into the mirror.
The tub even had a control panel next to it.
Then between the bedroom and bathroom was a large closet with a door.
Admittedly Guangzhou doesn’t have the most picturesque skyline in the world, but my room did have a nice view of the Guangzhou IFC, along with a bunch of construction going on around the hotel.
I mean, the room was absolutely stunning and perfect, I was just kinda sad to have it all to myself! Internet was really fast throughout the hotel, and complimentary as an SPG Platinum member. Furthermore, I found it interesting that I had no problem accessing Facebook and Twitter. Not sure how that happened…
In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, there’s a well equipped gym on the 29th floor. It was staffed throughout the day, and they were super attentive in making sure the equipment was always clean and stocked with towels and bottled water.
Across from the gym was a pool.
Down one floor from the pool and gym (though accessible via stairs that lead directly into the gym) were the spa and locker room. The locker room was massive and even had a hot tub and relaxation room.
I used the hot tub one afternoon, and there was only one other person in the locker room that decided to sit in the relaxation room, and proceeded to scream into his phone and smoke for the whole time I was in there. So much for the no smoking and no cell phone use in the relaxation room policy…
The hotel’s main restaurant, The Kitchen Table, is located on the second floor and can be accessed directly from the elevator or the lobby. It serves breakfast daily from 6:30AM till 10:30AM. The restaurant was massive, yet both mornings I ate there I was one of only a few guests. It was almost creepy.
The spread was amazing. Just freaking amazing. This is basically a video of me at a breakfast buffet in an Asian hotel:
Below are just some pictures of the spread.
I mean, seriously, how the hell am I supposed to decide what to eat? I’m not usually a huge breakfast person, except when I’m traveling, oddly. It’s probably because I tend to get up at around 3-4AM in Asia, and by the time breakfast is served I’m really hungry and it’s dinner time back in the US. But Asian breakfast buffets just kill me. They always have ridiculously good pastries, and when you combine that with delicious Chinese and Japanese food, I’m basically just done for…
One thing that makes this W Hotel unique is that it’s the only one in the world with a club lounge (which is located on the 26th floor). While breakfast is only served in the restaurant, the club lounge is open throughout the day.
It’s a beautiful physical space, with plenty of seating a nice ambiance.
Throughout the day they serve soft drinks along with some sweets.
I love club lounges when in Asia because they help me battle jetlag. The problem is that if I’m in my hotel room in Asia I almost always eventually fall asleep. I’ve learned over the years that working from bed while jetlagged is a horrible idea (well, I suppose unless you do porn for a living, in which case it seems like the best option).
If I need to get work done I love being able to go somewhere else to sit, where I don’t have the temptation to fall asleep. So I spent a couple of hours in the club lounge both afternoons working, drinking cappuccino and VOSS water. Their cappuccinos were truly phenomenal, and were also beautifully presented.
Then in the evenings from 5PM till 7PM the hotel had a happy hour with drinks and snacks. The food spread was fairly good, with a couple of hot dishes, sushi, fruit, a bunch of small plates, and some desserts.
So physically it’s a stunning property with great offerings, but what really sets this hotel apart are the employees. Let me be clear — there were huge communication barriers. I’ve spent a lot of time in Beijing and Shanghai and never had anywhere close to as many communication barriers as in Guangzhou. That’s hardly surprising, though, since I don’t think I saw a single other non-Asian guest at the property.
But that didn’t stop them from providing amazing service. There were so many examples of the employees just going above and beyond to delight:
- When I went to breakfast the second morning I was greeted by the same lovely server that asked if I wanted the same table as the day prior, and confirmed whether I once again wanted an iced coffee to drink.
- When I went to the club lounge the second afternoon and sat down to work for a bit, the attendant quickly approached me and asked if I once again wanted a cappuccino and water, as I had the previous day.
- At breakfast both mornings the restaurant manager asked me how everything was, engaged me in conversation, made food recommendations, etc.
- The concierge couldn’t have been more helpful in making recommendations about what I should do. The second day he had remembered my name and without my prompting written down some more recommendations for things for me to do.
- And most impressive of all, I checked out of the hotel at 6AM and had to wait about 10 minutes for a taxi. Proactively, without even asking, the associate approached me and said “I realize you have not had breakfast yet, so we packed you some breakfast. Please enjoy.” Amazing!
So I was simply thrilled by this property. It’s brand new and physically stunning. Not only are the rooms amazing, but the public facilities are as well, from the pool to the club lounge. But more than anything else the employees make the hotel what it is. They were all incredibly proactive and friendly, and clearly loved their jobs.
While perhaps not generally my style, I do find this video that they produced about the hiring/”casting” process last year to be pretty interesting: