Review: Sheraton Changsha Hotel

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Introduction: 5-Star China On The Cheap
Review: Hainan Airlines LAX Limo, Check-In, And Lounge
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Los Angeles To Changsha
Review: Sheraton Changsha Hotel
Review: Changsha Airport Lounges
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Changsha To Los Angeles


I knew nothing about Changsha before I booked my ticket and heard about Hainan’s service, so I was basically going into the planning process for this trip “blind.”

Changsha seems to be a market which is growing quickly, as Starwood has several hotels under construction in the city, including a St. Regis. However, the only SPG property open as of now is the Sheraton Changsha, which I ended up booking for my two night stay

The rate at the Sheraton was ~700CNY per night (~$107), which seemed pretty good to me. It hadn’t occurred to me until after I booked that I was traveling over Chinese New Year, so I’m guessing the hotel was cheaper than usual, given that most people spend this time with their families.

When looking at my reservation online a few days before arrival I noticed I had already been upgraded to a suite; Starwood properties in Asia are generally great about Platinum recognition.

The drive from the airport to the Sheraton took about 40 minutes, which was with virtually no traffic, presumably due to Chinese New Year. The area around Changsha Airport is pretty rural, so it wasn’t until about 25 minutes into the drive before I started seeing a skyline.

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View from Sheraton Changsha

Eventually we pulled up to the Sheraton, which is located in a larger complex with two towers (one of which is the Sheraton).

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Sheraton Changsha Hotel exterior

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Sheraton Changsha Hotel signage

As we pulled up to the hotel, the bellman immediately approached the car and grabbed my luggage, and escorted me to the front desk.

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Sheraton Changsha Hotel driveway

The hotel’s lobby was beautiful, both in terms of how airy it felt thanks to the tall ceilings, as well as the general design. There were also New Year’s decorations, which were quite nice.

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Sheraton Changsha lobby

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Sheraton Changsha lobby

There was no queue at the reception desk, so I was immediately helped. I got the sense that they don’t see very many Platinum guests at the hotel, as the recognition was excellent. I should also note that I didn’t see another western person the entire time I was in Changsha, so I’m not sure whether it’s rarer to be an SPG Platinum member or westerner at this hotel.

The staff were fantastic, and explained that I had been upgraded to a suite, and explained all the details of the club lounge, gym, spa, etc. The assistant front office manager also immediately wrote down some suggestions for “must see” things, though warned me that it would be pretty quiet due to the new year.

I paid for my stay with the Citi Prestige® Card, as I usually do at SPG properties. Otherwise the best option is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer two Starpoints per dollar spent. Keep in mind that having the SPG Business Amex will get you access to Sheraton club lounges, which is a fantastic perk. This benefit applies globally, and is a reason in and of itself to pick up the card.

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Sheraton Changsha lobby

The assistant front office manager escorted me up to my room, located on the 28th floor.

As we walked up to my room I noticed the business center on the left side of the lobby, and then the lobby bar on the opposite side of the lobby, near the elevators.

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Sheraton Changsha business center

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Sheraton Changsha lobby lounge

The elevators at this hotel were really fast, so we were on the 28th floor pretty quickly. Once we exited the elevator we turned left, where we found my room at the end of the hallway.

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Sheraton Changsha hallway

The hotel is in a triangular shape, making it one of two identical-looking buildings next to one another.

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Sheraton Changsha floorplan

I was very pleasantly surprised by the suite. Upon entering there was a closet on the left and then a half bathroom on the right.

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Sheraton Changsha suite entryway

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Sheraton Changsha suite guest bathroom

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Sheraton Changsha suite guest bathroom

The hallway led into the living room, which featured a seating area with two chairs, along with a couch with three seats.

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Sheraton Changsha suite living room

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Sheraton Changsha suite living room

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Sheraton Changsha suite living room

Waiting on the living room table was a bottle of wine and a fruit plate, which was a nice touch (though I don’t drink red wine, so it was a cost-conscious amenity on their part). 😉

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Sheraton Changsha Platinum welcome amenity — fruit plate and red wine

Across from it was a large console with a built-in desk, immediately below the wall mounted flat screen TV.

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Sheraton Changsha suite living room

To the left of the desk was a fax machine, which is a must-have amenity for any decent hotel in 2016. I assume the Sheraton got their inspiration from Aerolineas Argentinas. 😉

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Sheraton Changsha suite fax machine

The room looked out over sprawling Changsha. The skyline was interesting, in that all of the “average” buildings were well past their prime, while there were also a bunch of high rises being built. It’s clear the city is growing quickly, and I’m curious how the vibe will transform over time.

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Sheraton Changsha suite living room view

The living room was separated from the bedroom by a door. The bedroom was also large (probably almost as large as a standard room), and featured a king size bed, along with a desk and flat screen TV. It’s worth noting that this bed was most definitely not a Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed.

I was under the impression all Sheraton properties have them, though the quality seems to vary significantly, which seems to sort of ruin the point of having a “brand standard” bed. The mattress was quite firm, and the pillows seemed fairly flat. Still, as far as beds in China go, it was one of the better ones I’ve experienced.

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Sheraton Changsha suite bedroom

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Sheraton Changsha suite bedroom

It was really cute that the hotel left a Chinese New Year monkey on my bed, which I could take home with me. Adorable!

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Sheraton Changsha Chinese New Year monkey

Sitting on the nightstand were some discount vouchers for the hotel’s spa and laundry services.

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Sheraton Changsha discount vouchers

The bedroom also faced the city, though in the other direction, which didn’t seem to be expanding as rapidly.

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Sheraton Changsha suite bedroom view

Attached to the bedroom was the master bathroom, which featured a single sink, a walk-in shower with both a rainforest showerhead and a handheld one, a tub, and a toilet with bidet in the corner.

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Sheraton Changsha suite bathroom

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Sheraton Changsha suite shower

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Sheraton Changsha suite bathtub

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Sheraton Changsha suite toilet

I was delighted to see that the hotel offers L’Occitane amenities in the suites, rather than the brand standard Sheraton toiletries, which we’re not fans of here at OMAAT.

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Sheraton Changsha suite L’Occitane toiletries

Overall I was very pleased with the room. This isn’t the most updated or luxurious hotel in the world, but given how little I knew about Changsha, it exceeded my expectations.

There are two other things I should note about the room. The wifi was fairly good, at least when you account for the great firewall. With my VPN I was able to access the internet without too much trouble.

My one complaint about the room is that the air conditioning didn’t work too well. Maybe it wasn’t turned on since it was winter, but I could never get the room cold. It wasn’t a major issue since it wasn’t too hot outside, and we’re talking about the difference between the room being maybe 72, and my preferred nighttime temperature of 65-68. So it wasn’t a big deal, but I certainly wouldn’t have minded if it were possible to make the room a few degrees cooler.

As a Platinum member I also had access to the hotel’s club lounge, located on the 31st floor.

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge entrance

There was a reception desk in the lounge which was staffed most hours of the day, and the staff there were super nice.

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge reception

The club lounge was huge, which I found puzzling. It’s possibly the biggest club lounge I’ve seen at a Sheraton. I realize I was there over Chinese New Year, so it’s probably not indicative of how full it usually is, but I can’t imagine this club ever fills up.

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge

The club lounge was separated into several zones, including a dining area, lounging area, and then there were some booths towards the back. Each section had wall mounted TVs as well.

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge

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Sheraton Changsha club lounge

Breakfast was served in the club lounge starting at 6:30AM. In addition to the buffet, cooked to order eggs were also available upon request.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

The buffet was extensive, though some of the options cracked me up. For example, the donuts were garnished with those little fiber cereal things, as well as corn flakes.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

They also had a selection of bread, salmon, sushi, and fruit.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

There was also an extensive hot spread, including unique items like corn on the cob.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge breakfast spread

The lounge had an espresso machine, and the associates working in the lounge were great about proactively offering drinks and clearing plates.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge espresso machine

In the evening there was a cocktail reception from 5:30PM until 7:30PM, which consisted of salad, sushi, cheese, dim sum, pizza, several types of dessert, etc.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

I believe they had allocated one personal pizza to the club lounge for the night, since it wasn’t replaced once consumed. Which is sort of a shame, since it was tasty.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge evening spread

There was also a good self serve alcohol selection. I quite enjoyed the sauvignon blanc they had on offer.

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge liquor selection

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Sheraton Changsha executive lounge liquor selection

The Sheraton had a gym and indoor pool, located on the sixth floor. The gym was well stocked and empty both times I visited it, and was also open 24 hours a day, which I appreciate.

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Sheraton Changsha gym

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Sheraton Changsha gym

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Sheraton Changsha gym

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Sheraton Changsha gym

Across from the gym is an outdoor terrace of sorts, though it didn’t seem to be utilized much in winter (though it was uncharacteristically warm the two days I was there — it had been below freezing just a few days prior).

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Sheraton Changsha terrace

Then across from the gym was an indoor pool. I just once took a peek at it, and as I walked in a few adorable young Chinese kids tried to practice their English on me. The second I walked in they screamed “HELLO HOW ARE YOU?” Too cute!

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Sheraton Changsha pool

The hotel also had a spa on the seventh floor, though I didn’t have a chance to use it.

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Sheraton Changsha spa

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Sheraton Changsha spa

As far as my time in Changsha itself goes, I’m not sure I really got an accurate impression. It was more or less dead due to the Chinese New Year celebrations. I walked around near the hotel, but was just about the only person on the streets. I then took a taxi at night to one of the streets which was recommended to me when I checked in, but even it was dead.

So I have to be honest, I didn’t really get much of an impression of Changsha, because after walking around long enough without seeing anyone else I called it a day, and instead got caught up on work.

Maybe I’ll return at some point once Changsha is more developed, but I can’t say I saw anything in the city itself which was especially interesting. I have heard, however, that the landscape around Changsha is beautiful. If you drive several hours outside of Changsha you’ll be in the Pixar mountains, which look cool in theory. But my stay wasn’t long enough to experience that.

The food in Changsha was excellent, though. It’s known to be among the best food cities in China, and for the one meal I had in a restaurant, it didn’t disappoint.

Sheraton Changsha bottom line

All things considered the Sheraton Changsha exceeded my expectations. The staff were friendly, the facilities beautiful, and my suite was spacious and well appointed. Changsha itself was a bit of a bust, though that may in part be because of Chinese New Year. It’ll be interesting to see what the market looks like when all the new Starwood properties open in a few years. But based on what I saw I’m not dying to return.

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Comments

  1. Very interesting review, Ben, especially your brief comments at the end about the city. We’re actually looking forward to visiting a “second tier” city, as we greatly enjoyed our time wandering around Hangzhou last year. It’s fun not seeing a lot of other western tourists, and the local folks were very friendly and hospitable, despite language barriers.

    We sadly relinquished our SPG Plat status, and retain Hilton Diamond and IHG Platinum Ambassador. We first booked the IC, but read cautions that it’s lovely but quite a ways from everything. We’ve moved to the Crowne Plaza and bought our way up to a Club Executive room. We still have our SPG account and some points, so we could probably do the same at the Sheraton if there were compelling reasons. All three properties get good reviews on TA and elsewhere.

    If anybody can offer comments or comparisons on the IC and Crowne Plaza I’d appreciate it.

  2. Glad to hear you liked the food. Not many people will have heard of Changsha but most have probably heard of Hunan, the province of which Changsha is the capital, from some Chinese restaurant or other. Hunanese cuisine is definitely one of the great ones in China – many dishes have a lot of heat, but there’s also a great variety of flavors.

  3. Hi there Ben,

    Typically in the colder areas (in the winter) in China. The government provides the central heating facilities to all the buildings in the city. Changing the thermostat to cold is next to impossible during those months. Best tip is to ask the hotel if they can open the window if thats possible.

  4. Hey Lucky,

    Great review! It should be interesting to see why Starwood are building so many properties there and if this is a sign of future huge investments to the city.

    One small question, I know it may seem slightly irrelevant, but what is a Hilton Garden Inn, and what are the main differences between a Hilton Garden Inn and a normal Hilton?

    My family and I are staying in one in a couple of weeks and would love to know how it’s like.

    Thanks!

  5. I think you just went at the wrong time. During Chinese New Year, almost nothing is opened.

    You should have spent more time using more of the hotel’s facilities. lol.

  6. Re: Citi Prestige card–Ben have you checked your retention offers on the card recently? They bumped my earning to 4 additional TYP on airfare, car rental agencies, travel agencies, and hotels upto 35k additional points for six months after a call last week. Seven TYP for hotels and flights would be nice given how much you use the card!

  7. I don’t think you should underestimate the number of Western business people to a place like Changsha. I wasn’t there for business either but I was coincidentally another Platinum 100 member there during the New Year week. And I wasn’t upgraded to a suite (which yes was unusual relative to my experiences in other second and third tier cities).

  8. I spent three nights (almost literally because I slept during the day and roamed the city after sunset) in Changsha for my 2013 Year-end Asian Escapade(TM) . I also stayed at Sheraton Changsha on points as a SPG Gold, which I rode get a large corner room.

    My impression of the Sheraton was that it was nice enough but “dated”. What I would like to rectify, and I do take into account @Lucky’s caveat that he was there over the “Spring Festival” (commonly known as the Chinese New Year), is the impression that Changsha is not a “happening” city. I was there in December and as stated, I slept days and roamed the city at night. What was notable about the nightlife in Changsha was the large number of nightclubs (YUGE inside and packed almost every night), regular and karaoke bars, electronic games arcades, movie theaters and restaurants that remained open quite late, with streets that were filled with people until dawn (population of the city is > 5M). This Wikipedia entry explains the night scene:

    “In recent years, Changsha has become an important creative center for TV and entertainment arts, with its many TV stations producing some of the most popular programs in China, including Super Girl. These programs have also brought a new entertainment industry, including singing bars, dance clubs, theater shows, as well as related businesses like hair salons, fashion stores, and hot spicy snacks at night(esp. in the summer time). While Changsha has developed into an entertainment hub the city has also become increasingly westernized and attracted a growing number of foreigners”

    Going to Changsha? Do not plan it around the “Spring Festival” and be sure to turn into a night owl for the most fun. And make sure you savor the world-famous hot and spicy Hunan Cuisine, the center of which is Changsha, the Provincial Capital of Hunan…yum!

  9. I love Changsha (in fact, it is my favorite place in the PRC to visit), and it will be nice to stay in the Sheraton next time I am in town. Thanks for the review!

  10. Lucky, if you like your room to be cold, have you been to the Conrad Hong Kong? We had to switch rooms because it never cooled down with the thermostat as low as it would go. And the second room still was only marginally better. This was in July, and that building has nothing between it and the sun for most rooms.

  11. @Fredd
    I’m also booked in a club-level room at the Crowne Plaza. It appears to be the best-located hotel in town for tourism/eating/shopping. (But not nearly as nice as the IC or Kempinsky.). I found this site; worth a look: http://www.wnichangsha.com

  12. I chose the Crowne Plaza as well 4/1 – 4/4 due to its proximity of public transit. Now lets just hope the flight is not early or late so my driver is easy to find.

  13. Hello Ben
    Very interesting and informative report about your trip and stay in Changsha
    Bringing back memories during my stay there in 2011 apparently you arrived during spring holiday and the city will be deserted for sure.
    There’s a lot to see and do around and not so far away, like Jianjenshi for instance but requires time,more closely to the city there is West lake with the biggest Chinese restaurant in the world, the pedestrian street, the bar street, etc,etc, very safe everywhere at all hours,I lived there for one month and since I have family there ( my Nephew ) I really enjoyed going out all day, every day exploring.
    My nephew has been living and working in China for about ten years
    and he created the first in Changsha information engine for expats, visitors and netizens as well, perhaps mentioning his Web page will help other foreigners visiting Changsha bring a better experience of their travel.
    Check WNIC ( what’s new in Changsha ) and this is their 3rd year in business ,it’s worth look at.
    I flew Hainan Airlines from Changsha to Urumqui,Changsha to Xi An, Changsha to Shanghai and the service was excellent, nothing to compare or even expect from the US carriers.
    Let me know if this is helpful.
    Have a safe travels. !

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