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Seriously, I have promised myself that I will finish this white paper I am working on before I do anything else.  Except breathe.  And drink a lot of water which is good for you.  And then of course, pee.  And I have been working really hard, until I had to search for a research paper online and I came across this picture, completely by accident, of Le Meridien Bora Bora…

le-meridien-Bora Bora

It, how did you say it, oh yeah,

Simply. Took. My. Breath. Away.

I couldn’t go back to do whatever I was doing until I spent some time daydreaming about it…

I love hotels.  I think my love for travelling, my Wanderlust, stemmed from my very basic fascination with hotels from a very young age.  (Ok, the clean, fancy kind.  Or at least, the not spooky gross-out kind.  Not the ones looking like they are from the movie Barton Fink, oh no…)  My mom worked as a hotel maid and she sneaked me into the hotel when she couldn’t find or afford a babysitter.  Sometimes, after I begged her to smuggle me in.  Literally.  Many times I rode on the bottom of the service cart, camouflaged by a bed linen.  I was always excited.  Hotels to me are where dreams are made of.  Clean, fluffy linens and pillows.  Nicely made beds.

(Of course I understand the hard work put in by the hotel cleaning staff.  Until this day, I clean up after myself as much as I can whenever I stay in a hotel…)

I don’t even care about Bora Bora.  No offence to people who are Bora Bora-nese? Bora Bora-en?  I am sure it is a gorgeous tropical paradise, Kodak moment everywhere you turn.  What I am trying to say is: I just want to go there so I can stay in one of these bungalows, over the lagoon, before I die.

That’s all I’ve got to say.

Le Meridian Bora Bora inside

Le Meridian Bora Bora view

le-meridien-Bora Bora units

Edited to add, now that I have 5 minutes to regroup from my initial shock: Preferably without kids. Thank you.

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The Westin in Beijing (on Financial Street between Changan Avenue West & Wudinghou Street) looks just like any other Westin in big cities, completely with a upper scale shopping mall right across the street (the kind with a super market and a food court in the basement even!) The only thing that reminded us that we are no longer in Kansas is the fact that a Quart tub of Ben & Jerry costs over $10!!

Note to self: Eat a lot of ice cream once we get home!

I am a sucker for great bathrooms so I am very happy with this Westin. I believe the bathroom is as big as an average-sized dorm room, at least the one I had in grad school…

This shows how much a country bumpkin we are: we thought the blinds for the glass between the bathroom and the room are broken, and I was quite puzzled by this single neglect by this great hotel. Turns out, it is motorized! The kids had too much fun with it before I yelled at them.
Now we need to go out and find our first McDonald’s in Beijing. Sigh.
Maybe we will wind our way to Tian An Men Square & the Forbidden City which is only 2 or 3 stops away from this Westin.

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This has just come to my attention that the number 1 rated hotel in Beijing is… Drum roll please…

A frigging Holiday Inn!

Yes, they do have true 5 star hotels in Beijing.

Granted Holiday Inns do get a worse rep in the U.S. than in many other places around the world. Don’t think it is because we are more pampered here: it is true that Holiday Inns outside of the U.S. seem to be a bit more than meeting your daily bare necessities. But, Number 1 out of 1,168 hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor??!!

Apparently, it is also the Winner of Traveler’s Choice for Best Bargain/Best In Top 25 Cities.

Morevoer, the spread of the ratings are quite convincing: of 165 reviews, 127 rated the hotel as a 5 overall, 28 – 4, 5 – 3, and 5 – 2. Not too shabby. So there does not seem to be any major argument against this hotel’s #1 standing.

But still, a Holiday Inn? So naturally, I am intrigued. Wouldn’t you? Especially since many, and I mean MANY, of the reviews specifically mentioned the one employee, Storm, in their titles. This Storm is the most famous in Beijing next to Sand Storm, as far as Western tourists are concerned, it seems. And he is much much much beloved. Some choice examples of the review titles: “Loved Storm”, “One word: Storm”, “Storm makes it great”, “Wonderful Hotel, Wonderful Storm”… You get the idea. Even some travel blogs gave Storm honorable mentions. This one employee basically single-handedly made the Holiday Inn Central Plaza in Beijing a gem, stand out amongst all the other similar surrounding hotels. (Sort of like how HoJo Annheim has become a legend and best-kept secret amongst all the Disneyland aficionados…) Storm has taken on almost a legendary status judging by the reviews I had time to go through. It is amazing what this guy would go through in the name of Customer Service.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of him online. Is he even real? Maybe this is one of the biggest Internet hoaxes: that Storm is actually a fictional character? Maybe Holiday Inn Beijing has employed many Customer Service “handlers of white people” and they all call themselves Storm? Somebody needs to profile this man named Storm! I need to know that he has been recognized and appreciated for all those extra steps (literally in many stories) that he took for the guests staying at the hotel. Somebody needs to call InterContinental Hotels Group and confirm that they do take notice of the employee who was cited as THE best feature of the hotel.

Barring the not-yet-written profile/interview, I wonder whether I need to travel to Beijing so I can confirm that Storm is not a high-tech robot designed to carry out the most mind-boggling, highest standard, Customer Service, ever experienced by Western tourists.

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