I have arrived in Beijing train station. I completely forgot to let the concierge know at the Opposite House at what time of the day I am arriving from Shanghai. Stubborn, I made it a point to travel in the 220.9 billion Yuan ($32M) High Speed Railway that brought me to the legendary capital of the People Republic of China in only 5 hours, half of the usual time.
And now , having more than one suitcase , I realize how ignorant I have been about the taxi drivers discrimination in the city.
At the station I have gone through a series of more than 10 angry refusals , each followed by humiliating laughters from other passengers on my same queue. I have learned later at the hotel, that from April 1/ 12, taxi drivers who, without justification, refuse to take passengers or deliberately take longer routes to increase fares could face fines up to 200 yuan ($32), according to a new regulation by the transportation authority.
At last, I jump on a taxi that has graciously agreed to take us for double the price. He also seems to know very well our destination. Looks like it's our lucky day.
Among the impressive view of ultra modern glass buildings , in my opinion among the most captivating in China, I realize we are almost at destination. A huge building facade with a large panel that says MIU MIU is one of the superb stores at the the Sanlitum district , one of diversity and opposites -old and new ; east and west, bohemian and chic. Our hotel, the Opposite House, the first hospitality initiative of the prestigious Swire group, clearly highlights this concept also through it's name.
The Opposite House name, is derived from a translation of a Chinese word, which historically described the building located opposite the main house in a courtyard where esteemed guests would stay. It also reflects the hotel’s southern location within the courtyard design of The Village at Sanlitun, the new retail and entertainment complex which will raise the bar for international luxury brand shopping and innovative places to eat and drink in Beijing.
As I step into the large lofty architectural space I am vividly greeted by a wide selection of various and stunning art pieces , it is clear to me that the hotel aim is to provide a new luxury experience for travellers who seek individuality, style and personalised service.
The reception has no desks just a few sofas. The striking emerald glass exterior and the interior colours and textures vibrant mix of modern and traditional come alive when struck by the natural light in the hotel’s abundant space. A wide sculptural centerpiece made of glass mosaics serves as a display for antique Chinese miniature slippers on one side while on the other courteous staff is now working on our check- in through iPads offering us to sit and refresh with Voss bottles of water . Our luggage is taken to our suite in a split of a second.
Uniquely designed by world renowned and esteemed Japanese architects Kengo Kuma, whose work includes some of the most innovative retail and commercial spaces in Japan , the hotel lobby brings a feeling of an enlightened island , an urban forest in the middle of an unpaired luxurious shopping mall. Maybe a kibbutz, a Swedish Summer vacation camp, or a conceptual museum of the future . Definitely the Opposite House alters the definition of hotel space by minimising conventional boundaries so creating seamless flowing space that allows light to flood in.
It is getting late, and as I did not let them know at what time I would arrive and my suite is not ready yet.
" In the meantime mrs Maslaton, says the pretty and sleek Pr Elaine Liu - May I suggest a calming massage at our spa and a plunge in our wonderful 22-metre stainless steel indoor swimming pool at the basement, trust me , I am sure it will do you the most of good after your stressing experience . It was a your long day and you certainly woke up very early to stay with us. "
Pretty Elaine is right, I am completely exhausted so I decide to follow her noble suggestion.
On the glass elevator ring one floor down I can already sense what's coming. I walk through a few restaurants connected by a glass bridge , from where I can see at the bottom someone swimming in a sensual atmosphere of red and orange lights and bright golden columns . On this same bridge, we pass through a rain of hundreds and hundreds of minute lighting fixtures, sparkling from above and all around us like bright stars in the darkest night.
Quick, let's get undressed, wear just a tiny bikini , drink a Jasmine Pearl flowers tea at the spa and jump, jump into the overwhelming long array of turquoise water.
Taxi driver belonging to the past, this is my Beijing now,and the power is now.