25 August 2013

Roughing it

Whenever I travel, domestic or international, I always keep an eye on costs.  Being in purchasing, we are always looking for the best value and the lowest cost.  I have a budget to maintain, expenses to keep under control.  Rule of thumb is we normally travel coach (except on long haul flights over 12 hours) and go for the lowest fare possible.  I tend to book my trips with an eye on the shortest distance/least amount of travel time, if possible.  Sure I can get a flight to Los Angles with two stops, but if I can find a non-stop for close to the same price, I prefer not to burn those few extra hours of my life waiting in some airport terminal for my next flight.  

As for hotels, we tend to go for the mid-range hotels, not the 5 star resorts.  I have a price point that I typically shoot for with an eye for a hotel nearby the place we will be visiting.  Also like to find a chain that throws in some "freebies" along with the room rate (WiFi, breakfast, parking, airport shuttle, manager's happy hour, etc.).  Eating a continental breakfast at the hotel will typically save I found a great La Quinta in Paso Robles that had its own wine store in the lobby and every afternoon they would have wine tastings from local vineyards.

Normally, when I plan these road trips, I am the one making the travel arrangements. Flights, hotels, cars, etc.  That way I have an idea on the total costs of these road shows.  This trek to China was run by the Engineering Director who is in charge of the new program.  Since he has been over to Hong Kong/China before, I left all the details up to him.  Of course, being in the R&D group, they have a bigger budget, so their idea of "comfortable accomodations" is a bit different from mine.  

We stayed at three hotels while in China last week.  The first one was the Hyatt Regency in Hong Kong located near the University.  Very nice hotel.  Rooms were exceptional, food great, excellent work out room, great pool.  As I mentioned earlier, it was a bit on the upper end for our normal digs, but given the location and convenience to the company we were auditing, it was well worth it.  Usually I take pictures of the rooms so I can post comments/observations on TripAdvisor later(regular contributor).  I find that site is a pretty good source to get an honest, unvarnished assessment on a place to stay.   

The restaurants in the hotel were great, just a wee bit pricey.  Ate the breakfast buffet twice and dinner once at the hotel.  I normally don't go for buffets (always eat too much) but we weren't near any McDonald's and I didn't discover the pastry shop until the last day. 285 HKD ($27.50) for breakfast is a bit more than I normally expect.   

With that level of accommodations, I felt we had pretty much hit the pinnacle for our trip.  Au contraire.  We caught a company car to take us across the border into China for our next round of audits.  Very interesting crossing into China - the whole border security is tight coming and going.  We headed to our company for the audit first before heading to our new hotel.  This one was a bit further up the scale from the HR in Hong Kong.  This was a Grand Hyatt in Shenzhen.  It is located in the downtown section of Shenzhen attached to the upscale shopping mall.  We thought of this as the "Galleria" style area after the local high end shopping mall in Houston.  You know that things might get a wee bit pricey when the first stores you see next to the hotel are Prada, Versace, Cartier, Hugo Boss, Georgio Armani, just to name a few.  Stepped out of the van to be met by two doormen and escorted to the express elevator to whisk us to the 33 floor where the check in desk is located.  Stunning views from the receptionist desk.  My room was on the 10th floor and you had to take a second bank of elevators just to get to the hotel rooms.  

The room itself was, simply put, amazing.  You enter from the hallway directly through the bathroom.  The bathroom splits to the left and right to enter into the room.  To the left is the vanity/sink/closet/shower area, to the right is the toilet and back side of the shower and the room.  The shower/tub area is a six foot glass box with a wall mounted shower head and another monsoon shower head in the ceiling along with a fixed tub.  The rest of the room was very nice as well.  Decorations and fixtures just smelled expensive. 

Imagine showering or taking a bath in a six foot glass box
Great place to get ready 
Now, one of the really amazing things about this room was the bathroom.  At first, I found it unnerving to shower or take a bath or even change in the wide open.  It wasn't until my co-worker mentioned the partition glass next to the tub.  When I first came into the room, I noticed it was translucent, see through straight into the room.  Kinda "open" in my mind.  However, if you slide the room dividers open just slightly, the glass next to the tub goes opaque.  It is called Smart Glass or Magic Glass.  It has suspended particle within the glass and when activated with a current, the glass goes opaque or translucent.  In this case, when you close the room dividers, the glass "fogs" over giving you some privacy to the room and you don't feel like you are showering in the middle of the room.     
Now you see me
Now you don't  
Monsoon shower head
Even with the smart glass, it still felt weird showering in a six foot glass box.     

The view from my window overlooked part of the city and the Hong Kong countryside across the river.  Electronic window shades would cover the window at night.  I thought it was a bit over the top until nighttime.  On one of the downtown buildings there is one of those obscenely large electronic billboards that is 10 stories tall.  That thing would light up the sky until well past 10 pm.  My room faced away from that sign, but it lit up all the adjacent buildings and area at night like Vegas.  

Looking out over Shenzhen
Even 10 stories up, I could hear the traffic
night lite
Well, I think I have rambled on long enough for one day.  
I'll save the food report and our last hotel next.  


Abby said...

Nice Digs!! Interesting to have the reception desk on the 33rd floor, I wonder why that is. Chinese thing? Grand Hyatt thing? Just want to be different thing?

Either way, that room is stunning - and that magic glass - so cool! As much as I enjoy camping, I wouldn't mind camping out there. Seems like the R&D department has some deep pockets!

terri said...

Wow! Impressive accommodations! I was wondering about the privacy of that bathroom until you described being able to make the glass opaque. Very cool!

agg79 said...

Abby - yeah, I guess the digs were ok. It's not like I was staying at the Four Seasons Maui (even if it cost as much). Not sure about the 33rd floor deal but I found it intriguing.

Terri - it did take a bit of getting used to. Especially since I did not learn the sliding door trick until the 3rd day.

lotta joy said...

I don't think I would have ventured farther than the bathroom! Five showers a day aren't too many, right?

ShadowRun300 said...

I woulda been nervous showering there too - even if staying by myself.
But what an awesome hotel room! Maybe some day I'll be lucky enough to WORK in a place like that. It may be the closest I'll get to staying in one.
Looking at that traffic, are you sure you weren't in Austin?

meleah rebeccah said...

I totally get staying on budget - but if I have to fly - which is almost never - I have to fly first class. I can't handle being squished in coach. And also, they are much nicer in 1st class to people with crazy flying anxiety! And yes, direct flights are way better than stopping and switching! Chain hotels with freebies rule. Totally.

"You know that things might get a wee bit pricey when the first stores you see next to the hotel are Prada, Versace, Cartier, Hugo Boss, Georgio Armani, just to name a few." - Oh boy! My mother would have LOVED that!

I cannot get over the accommodations at the Grand Hyatt in Shenzhen. HOLY AMAZING.