Hotel Review: Shangri-La Haikou
Time:23-05-2013 views:2188 From:http://au.totaltravel.yahoo.com
If you’re the type of person who wants to get off the beaten tourist path without sacrificing luxury and comfort in the process, Shangri-La Haikou is for you.
The capital of Hainan Island, China's smallest province, Haikou is a new tourist destination that few Western travellers have discovered. As a result, there is little infrastructure for English speaking visitors… but if you’re like me and don’t mind getting lost amongst the sights and sounds of a new city, communicating with locals through charades and broken English, you’ll be in your element.
The city has had massive investment in recent years, with many of the world’s major hotel chains setting up shop. But as far as I could tell, it’s still early days for international travellers. Given the uniqueness of Hainan Island, it won’t be long until the rest of the world catches on to this relatively untouched destination.


Hotel Lobby
Located around 45mins from Haikou Meilan International Airport, on the west coast of the city, Shangri-La Haikou was the newest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. So new, in fact, those workers were busily adding finishing touches to the upper levels. Each day the hammers would begin at 9am, but as an early riser it didn’t matter.
Our room was smartly furnished in shades of green, cream, orange and yellow. The emerald green bedhead was adorned in a delicate flower motif, with blue and red birds adding a splash of colour. Beside the bed was a cream coloured settee with embroidered silk cushions, and in front a small pastel cream ottoman.


Hotel Room
The large flat screen TV was recessed into the wall above a gorgeous lacquered sideboard, which hid the well-stocked minibar. Its delicate painted scene of huts, streams and forests gave the room a much-needed element of Chinese culture.
The balcony had two wicker chairs and a glass top table, with a fabulous view over the pool area and sea beyond. Sirena Restaurant to the left was just a construction site during our stay, but it was great seeing it go up at a rate of knots.
Heading to China, I had seriously high food expectations. I’ve been to many Chinese restaurants back home, yet they’re just a watered down version to suit Western tastes. I wanted the real deal, and Shangri-La Haikou delivered on all fronts.
Café Kool was one of the unexpected highlights of the hotel. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s honestly the best buffet I’ve found at a hotel. One side of the restaurant is dedicated to Chinese dishes, the other for Western, and a central island is covered in every decadent dessert I could possibly yearn for.


View from room
Shang Palace was a wonderful introduction to Hainanese and Cantonese cuisine. We had a private dining room with just one table. Wenchang Chicken, Donghan Mutton and Jiaji Duck were the standout dishes, combining flavours I’d never experienced before. The signature cocktails went down far too easily.
Surrounded by the expansive lawn and tropical gardens, the resort swimming pool and hot springs were beautiful. The beach was nice for a stroll, however I don’t know if I’d personally swim there. The indoor swimming pool and spa were the perfect way to unwind after a long day of exploring the region.


Indoor Swimming Pool
Each level of the hotel had very similar décor, so it was easy to take a wrong turn in the labyrinthine hallways. Aside from Café Kool and the pool area, the colour palette as a whole is quite reserved. The hotel is beautifully decked out, but it would have been nice to see them take a few risks and add bolder colours or design pieces.
Only 30 minutes from the city, Shangri-La Haikou would be ideal for a weekend or overnight stopover before heading south. Though clearly more business traveller oriented, the hotel has more than enough to keep leisure travellers entertained.
Things to do in Haikou (and things to avoid):
Do: Visit the Ban Qiao Road Seafood Market
This seafood market is the definition of fresh produce. Wander around the lively marketplace, select the live seafood that tempts your taste buds, and give it to one of the market restaurants to prepare for a small price. Charades will definitely come in handy, as will a piece of paper or calculator to determine the price.
Do: Visit the Hainan Museum
This free museum is a great place to gain an insight into the history of Hainan. Exhibits range from ancient porcelain to folk art and military history.
Do: Visit the Haikou Shishan Volcanic Cluster National Geopark
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but this volcanic park is beautiful. The site contains more than 40 volcanoes and 30 volcanic caves. We only visited the main one, which was accessed via 400 steps. The view from the top is stunning on a clear day.
Do: Go into the city for a bit of retail therapy
There are some great shopping options in Haikou. While the city itself is a bit dirty and run down, the department stores are sleek and modern. Many of the retail centres are multi-storey, with everything you could possibly want to purchase.
Don't: Visit Holiday Beach
Forget what the tourist brochures say, this isn’t the beach paradise you’ve been searching for. It may have been nice 10 years ago, but now it just looks tired.
Tips:
Brush up on your charades skills before you go. Very few people speak English, so body language and gestures are key to getting your point across.
Look both ways before crossing the road! The traffic rules here are quite lax, with every available space being used as a thoroughfare. Scooters tend to utilise the zebra crossings more than people do, so always be alert.
Haikou is an ideal stopover point for travelling to Sanya in the south. The bullet train is quick, comfortable and convenient. You can only purchase tickets online in Chinese, so ask the hotel to arrange the transport for you.
The city is great for shopping, with big name brands for sale at significantly lower prices than other many other Chinese destinations. Take the hotel car into the city, which is around 30mins away. It will cost you about the same as a taxi.
Go to the Bank of China HQ to withdraw money from the ATM. Ignore the VISA or Mastercard symbols displayed at smaller banks and ATMs, they’re just a sticker!

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