My son returns to school this week, so we headed out-of-town for a four-day weekend to Shenzhen. This city of 10 million people hugs to border of Hong Kong. Where our parks and greenery ends, their inner city starts. It’s a fast-paced place that had 50,000 inhabitants just 30 years ago. Today it bubbles.
We selected The Westin Shenzhen Nanshan both for its luxury and location. Westin are premier properties within Starwood Hotels – a hotel specialist firm with brands as diverse as Sheraton and W Hotels. (Imagine a corporation that only thought of new ways to make your travel more enjoyable – that’s Starwood!) Any Westin Hotel is bound to be a five-star retreat for corporate executives. Depending on location it may also suit families. This one is adjacent to several theme parks.
The Westin Shenzhen is a great escape for harried Hong Kongers. We booked a few weeks in advance and paid ¥1,366 per night (US$214 or HK$1,665) for a Deluxe King Room with breakfast for two. If traveling from Hong Kong the hotel is on the Red Line of the Shenzhen Metro – you board at Louhu Train Station at the border and never change trains. Fares cost ¥5 (US$0.78 or HK$6).
On the up side it was exactly as expected. The hotel was impressive, serene, modern and well planned. It also had the best food of any hotel I’ve been to, far exceeding the taste and quality of in-hotel restaurants here in Hong Kong. Yet the place emptied on the weekend as executives fled home. This clearly is a business hotel.
That was driven home the first day when we went en masse to use the enormous swimming pool. Staff wouldn’t allow us entry without the purchase of a swimming cap (An edict I went to the front desk to confirm – seems it is ‘recommended’ not mandated). Later we ordered room service for a poolside meal. That took just under two hours to arrive. Our request for cold water took 45 minutes.
Thankfully the hotel worked quickly to fix the problem. My discussion with Ana at the front desk led to a speedy resolution and a charming, hand-written note to the room (with a fruit plate). It’s amazing how a really bad encounter can turn you into a fan of the brand when they resolve the issue professionally. While the so-called manager who ran the pool area wasn’t helpful, our front desk friend Ana quickly stepped into action and helped us feed hungry and impatient kids (not to mention the adults).
Near the Westin are several theme parks. Happy Valley has rides and a water park – but don’t show up until after all the rides open at 1:00 pm. Windows of the World has a collection of miniature monuments from the Eiffel Tower to the Colosseum. We just couldn’t figure out why giant beer bottles were in front of the columns of The Acropolis. China World features the architectural monuments of China all in one place. And China Cultural Village has ethnic crafts and performers from all parts of China.
For all theme parks in China, think Disney meets Carney – tacky, grubby and fun. Each of these is a short walk from The Westin Shenzhen. They are also inter-connected by a 3 mile tram that loops around the area.
Of course Shenzhen has a myriad of other sites, from a restored Russian aircraft carrier turned restaurant to Dafen Oil Painting Village – home to thousands of painters and art sellers (see the video below).
For a weekend away, you can’t beat the convenience and luxury of The Westin Shenzhen. If you go, say hello to my friend Ana!