Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, is one of the poster children for this metamorphosis. Located a short distance up the Pearl River from Hong Kong, this city of 8.5 million is the thrusting capital of one of China’s most dynamic provinces. But is it a destination for the luxury traveller, I hear you ask. It certainly is, for reasons I’m about to explain.
For a start, Guangzhou is perfectly located for a leisurely stopover on your next trip to or from Europe. China Southern operates shiny new Boeing 787s on direct flights from Auckland to Guangzhou with easy connections to major European hubs such as London and Paris. And you won’t incur the hassle and expense of a Chinese visa if your stopover is less than 72 hours.
The second big reason to schedule a Guangzhou break is simple. It gives you an opportunity to spend a luxurious few nights in one of Asia’s very finest hotels – the Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou.
The location is certainly a winner – in the centre of the business district, adjacent to the best shopping malls and just 15 minutes’ walk from Guangzhou’s most popular shopping district. There are many good restaurants in the vicinity too.
However, we weren’t here just for the shopping and dining. Our first priority was to test the luxury factor of the hotel’s suites.
The first thing that struck us was the sheer size of our accommodation. Our suite was a capacious 120sqm – well up to the standards of top-class international suites. In passing I should note that even the hotel’s standard rooms come in at 60sqm, which is by far the biggest in Guangzhou. You may be visiting a populous city but you’ll never feel crowded in this class of accommodation.
The fit-out was a tasteful blend of classic and contemporary, with dark parquet floors and floor to ceiling glass that let in plenty of light as well as affording stunning views of the city. It gave us the feeling of being lords of all we surveyed. At the touch of a button we could control the drapes, adjust the lighting and turn off the entertainment system – all without budging from our super-soft
The marble and granite bathroom was another highlight, split into His and Hers areas, with a freestanding tub, wet and dry areas, and a massive ‘rainforest shower.’ Once again we felt the benefit of staying in a large suite, with no suggestion of cramped quarters. With bathroom accessories and silk bathrobes on request, it would be tempting to spend several hours simply luxuriating in a state of déshabillé.
With some of the Mandarin’s suites you receive a bonus – access to the Club Oriental. This is the hotel’s executive club, open for breakfast and also hors d’oeuvres in the early evening. Better still, these treats are complimentary if you’re staying in a suite. We soon factored an evening visit to the Oriental Club into our evening schedule.
But that was only one of the temptations on offer. The Mandarin Cake Shop has the most delicious sweet treats, sandwiches, coffee and tea for those times when you need a quick bite. At the other end of the scale is the Dom Perignon lounge – the first such lounge in China. We also visited the Grill for a superb Sunday lunch that featured freshly shucked oysters, a pyramid of prawns and Alaskan crab, multiple roast meat options, and the most mouth-watering Beef Wellington I have ever tasted. The meal was capped with a lavish selection of desserts, pastries and macaroons to rival the best in Paris.
Thankfully the hotel’s gym is also extremely well appointed. I booked myself in for an hour-long workout the following day, followed by a visit to the elegant spa. (I can recommend the Tian Quan therapy – a thoroughly restorative traditional Chinese bathing treatment.)
Another form of exercise is visiting the adjacent malls – although you won’t raise too much of a sweat, as the shopping facilities are practically integrated into the hotel. Over 500 shops are within 10-minutes’ walk of the hotel, with every luxury brand you can imagine on offer. Note to self: bring a larger suitcase
I have taken up a lot of space in this review writing about things – i.e. facilities and products – but at the end of the day, these are not what make the Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou such an outstanding property. The real magic is delivered by the people. Review after review on Trip Advisor bestows praise on named staff members, and I can confirm that they really do deserve all the plaudits. A high guest-to-staff ratio is one reason for this, but perhaps the true secret lies in the Mandarin Oriental ethos. Every staff member is trained to an exceptionally high standard, and everyone seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to anticipating your next request.
I guess that’s what it takes to stay No.1 in a city of 2,800 hotels. Having enjoyed a wonderful Asian stopover, I’m a devoted fan.
Category: Luxury City Hotel.
Suite Reviewed: Executive Suite.
What’s great: Like all Mandarin Oriental properties, the architecture and interior design although Asian inspired has a uniqueness to it, refreshing in an age where some hotel brands have the tendency to all look the same. The service is as you would expect, faultless. The rooms and suites very spacious and beautifully appointed, special mention to the ultra-cool bathrooms.
What’s not so great: Nothing really to complain about here, ticks all the boxes.
Editor’s tip: For some real decadence, book a treatment in one of their very luxe Private Spa Suites, followed by a pre-dinner glass of Champagne at the in-house Dom Perignon Lounge, the first in China. Finish the evening with a reservation at Jiang helmed by master chef Fei, the hottest table in town serving the most incredible Cantonese cuisine.
Rate: From NZ$390 per room per night. From NZ$830 per night for an Executive Suite (includes access to the exclusive Oriental Club Lounge).