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.

One of the newest hotels to open is the exquisite Shangri-La Hotel Haikou. 

The hotel’s glamorous lobby. Photo: Shangri-La Hotel Haikou
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, that 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.

Our spacious guest room. Photo: Shangri-La Hotel Haikou   
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.

 The view from our room. Photo: Chris Ashton
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.

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.

Cafe Kool – home to the world’s best buffet. Photo: Chris Ashton
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.

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.

Chi, The Spa and the Horizon Club Lounge were not yet open for my stay.

Find out more about the Shangri-La Haikou: http://www.shangri-la.com

SOURCE: yahoo.com
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