When we booked our tour from the Singapore tour agency, in the itinerary, it specified that we would be staying in the only Avatar-themed 5-star hotel called Qinghe Jinjiang International Hotel (青和锦江国际酒店). Finally, after 3 nights, we checked-into this hotel, awarded the official 5-star rating from China Tourism Board since 2012.
Well, the hotel does look more impressive from the minute we arrived compared to the last 3 hotels that we went, but I thought Zhangjiajie Mellow Crystal Hotel (张家界梅洛水晶酒店) was quite similar too, and maybe a bit more modern and tastefully done in terms of decor. At least they didn’t splash so much gold colour everywhere haha. Check out my other photos below and I think you will get what I mean on the “gold colour overload” comment. 😛
OK, glittering gold aside, I think the room here was so far the most spacious and made us feel very comfortable. Too bad we only stayed on level 3, if not we might have a great unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains. When we looked out from the window, it was just an empty open space for guests to walk about but we could see the mountain in the background.
The furnishings in the room are pretty standard for a 5-star hotel, but I was quite surprised to see a big chunky TV set lying on top of the cabinet! Gosh! Remember the days before we had LCD/ LED flat-screen TVs? I thought that era of TVs are no longer existent, especially in a top-rated hotel like Qinghe Jinjiang? However, the numerous channels for viewing saved the dinosaur TV. 😛 This was the only hotel that has international channels other than their local Chinese channels! Well, specifically only 2 international channels – BBC and KBS World, but having the latter was like a precious gift to me lol. We even managed to watch 2 episodes of a new Korean drama which I am now following back home.
Supposedly, free wifi is available in the hotel rooms and lobby. However the wifi signal was really quite weak in the rooms and only at certain spots of the room then could receive some connection, but loading of webpages and images was super slow till I gave up. The wifi signal at the hotel lobby was better but intermittent at times. Fortunately the sofa seats at the lobby were very comfortable, so loading of webpages were slow but still bearable haha. No other major issues at this hotel, except I feel the bed and pillows were a bit too soft for my comfort.
Oh, 1 thing I must mention is the free breakfast for the 2 days we stayed there. It was wonderful! Why did I say that? Because it was the one and only hotel buffet breakfast that really has a wide spread of scrumptious food and beverages. At least I could finally have my morning toast and tea! 🙂 You could also have your egg done in different methods, not just sunny side-up, but you could also request for scrambled egg, omelette etc. The service was also prompt and great. So I must compliment the hotel for this, at least I had 2 days of happy breakfast and we even made ourselves wake up before the morning call so as to enjoy breakfast at a leisurely pace the next day hehe.
Lastly, the hotel location is also in close proximity to the shops and supermarket, although they also have a convenience store on the ground floor. Once you exit from the hotel main entrance, just turn right and walk through the side gate and down the street (think it is called Baiyang Street). Within 5 minutes you would be seeing small eateries and shops along the street. It is also just 300m away from Zhangjiajie National Park and within 10 minutes’ drive from Baofeng Lake and Yellow Dragon Cave.
On the first night, we also went to the commercial pedestrian street in Wulingyuan district – Xibu Alley (溪布街) as recommended by the hotel staff. It is about 5 minutes’ taxi ride from the hotel and cost only RMB 10 (about S$2), fixed price not by metre charge.
As we walked down the steps from the entrance of Xibu Alley, we could see a lot of people, but not as many as we thought given it was a Friday night. There was a big group of locals dancing to some local folk song in the open space, reminded us of the senior citizens who often exercise or dance together at the void decks or open spaces in our residential area in Singapore. As we walked further down the street, the crowd dwindled and many of the shops did not have any customers. Most of the shops sold local food products such as black tea, dried fruits and beef, candies etc as well as clothing, accessories and souvenirs. I realised that for clothing, accessories and souvenirs, you could bargain and slash the price down by more than 50% of their original quoted prices, whereas for food products it was usually fixed price.
Towards the end of the street, there was a sign pointing to the pubs/ bar street by the riverbank but we didn’t go there. The area was also very quiet in this part of the street where there were mostly the local specialty restaurants and creative galleries. Read that the company that developed this area invested a total of RMB 300 million, equivalent to S$60.8 million, wow! Great initiative trying to incorporate the “floating” bar street, China delicacies street, Xiangxi (湘西) souvenir shopping street, leisure inn and creative galleries into this area that is surrounded by the magnificent natural beauty of Zhangjiajie. However for some strange reasons, the Xibu Alley is not as bustling as expected. Hope the management would review and work harder to make it a top leisure attraction for visitors to Wulingyuan in the future.
Anyway, enough of sidetracking, overall, Qinghe Jinjiang International Hotel is a great hotel to stay in, despite some of the negative points mentioned above. Everyone in our tour group felt it was the best so far too, although I think Zhangjiajie Mellow Crystal Hotel isn’t too far behind. Service was great, not just in the restaurant, but all the staff I encountered were approachable and helpful. They could speak good and proper English too. No wonder the Avatar film crew stayed here when they were filming in Zhangjiajie, or perhaps the staff’s English standard improved because of Avatar? 😛