Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - Goodview Hotel

Goodview is a huge integrated resort which consists of a golf course, 2 main resorts under the same management, a huge entertainment complex, and 2 gigantic spas. It is located between Shenzhen and Dongguang, for the convenience of the business crowd based in the 2 cities. The main resort is a 4-storey building built next to a lake. All the facilities are housed under one roof, including the spas which are in the lower levels of the main building.

I have never seen anything like this in Asia - perhaps only in Bali at the Nusa Dua area. This is the type of hotel/resort I would normally avoid. But it is interesting to see how a gigantic establishment like this is managed. Everything seems to run like clockwork - the Chinese have perfected the art of hotel management rather quickly and this is evident in most of the majors hotels you visit.

The resort is so huge, they use buggies to move the guests around the compound.

They even have 2 doormen - in this case 2 young girls whose duty was to stand and open the doors whole day round. What a crummy job ! But I guess somebody has to do it.

The view from my room.

The pool and leisure complex. You could be in Bali - except for the weather.

Another wing of the resort which has a huge pool lagoon among the buildings.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - Dinner at Capri Restaurant

Being managed by an International chain, Sheraton Dameisha is decidedly International in outlook. The all-day-dining cafe serves International food. There is a large Chinese restaurant, and a huge Italian Restaurant called Capri, occupying almost an entire mezzanine floor. The Chef is imported, and the menu looked interesting - so we decided to give it a try. It was completely empty except for our table.

We opted for the Set Dinner Menu which was listed as their special, but was told that one of the ingredients was not available and they could not serve the Set. After some quibble they finally agreed to serve the Dinner Set with a replacement for the missing ingredient. We had insisted on this as the Set Menu looked more interesting then what was on offer in the a la carte.

As it turned out, we didn’t even miss the missing ingredient and I can't even remember what it was that caused such a commotion. I secretly suspect that perhaps it was not the missing ingredient that was the problem, but maybe somebody in the kitchen wasn’t feeling up to the task ? Having said that, all the courses were very enjoyable.

Tomato bread was served before the dinner. It was good.

Then an amuse bouche - a polenta with tomato sauce and topped with a quartered hard-boiled egg. Very tasty.

Next came the Antipasto platter - prosciutto with melon, coppa, deep-fried calamari, tomato with mozzarella, olives, sauteed mushrooms, and big chunks of Parmesan cheese. This is Italian dining heaven ! And we are in China !

The lobster bisque was a bit watery and didn't have much taste.

Next came the classic Spaghetti a Fruti di Mare. Also another disappointment as the seafood was a bit lacklustre. The sauce was not bad.

The next course - Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli, was much better.

The main course - Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce, was as it should be. Tender and flavourful.

The meal was finished with a nice selection of desserts. Unfortunately they looked better then they tasted. As far as Western desserts are concern, they still have a way to go.

Unless you stick to the local roadside stalls or hole-in-the-wall eateries, eating well in China is no longer cheap. Prices have caught up with International standards, especially in the hotels - and sometimes surpass KL or Singapore. Our dinner for 5 persons came up to about RMB 1,500 including a bottle of wine - around RM 150 per person, which is about KL standards

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - Vanke Headquarters at Dameisha

Vanke is the largest property developer in China, and in the past few years they have developed a number of cutting edge projects all over China. It is not surprising that for their headquarters, they chose to build a building which is an architectural showpiece. The lucky architect was Steven Holl.

Holl calls this a Horizontal Skyscraper. Basically the normal functions of a highrise building are all linked together in a horizontal building which straddles the landscape. The building is also floating from the ground like a bridge to create mostly public open spaces on the ground.

Quite a lot of money must have been thrown at the project. The entire ground level is a public open space with lots of landscape features. Though the gesture of providing this huge open space is very generous, it is difficult to see how it actually integrates into the surrounding fabric as this is essentially a resort town with very little local population. A city location would probably benefit a lot more from this development.

The owner of the project - super Chinese developer Vanke.

Amid all this seemingly high-tech utopia, it is easy to forget that most buildings in China are still being put together by the simple human sweat and tear.

Besides housing the Vanke offices, this complex will also eventually accommodate a hotel and apartments. However like another Steven Holl project in Beijing - the Hybrid, it is difficult to see how the various disparate functions come together to make the building work as intended.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - Interlaken at Ecoventure Valley

One of the themed areas of the Ecoventure Valley Theme Park is Interlaken - a recreation of the Interlaken tourist town in Switzerland. On a cursory glance, the architecture is quite evocative of the mood it is trying to recreate. But on closer inspection the illusion inevitably falls apart - the details are not quite right, and the finishing is only skin-deep. Anyway - this is a theme park and one shouldn't complain too much.

Interlaken is anchored by a main hotel and spa. It is designed to look like a castle - but can't quite decide whether it is Swiss, German or Italian.

The rest of the areas are mainly shopping streets designed to evoke a village atmosphere. It should be quite pleasant to spend half a day walking through the streets, or drink a cup of coffee at the many European-style cafes.

For me, this is not a place I want to spend too much time in, but I'm sure the kids would love it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - OCT East Ecoventure Valley Theme Park

When Disney decided to build a Disneyland in Hong Kong, their specific target was the China market. With a population of 2 billion literally next door, its success should be a no-brainer. While it is by no measure a failure - the visitor numbers haven’t exactly set anyone’s hair on fire. What gives ?

Some critics have complained that the Park is too small, others say the entrance charge is too high, and some say that there are not enough attractions. I think the main problem is China is building its own Theme Park attractions, and some of these dwarf the Disneyland Hong Kong in terms of size. There is Window of the World (105 acres) and Happy Valley (86 acres) in Shenzhen. In comparison, Hong Kong Disneyland is only 55 acres.

Then there is the Dameisha Seashore Park (admission free, pay for attractions), and the gigantic OCT East Development in Dameisha (9 square kilometres) called Ecoventure Valley which defy categorization. Built over an entire mountain range and the valleys, the enormity of this theme park/ resort is truly mind-blowing. There are 4 main zones - Wind Valley, Knight Valley, Tea Stream Valley and Interlaken - a Disneyesque recreation of the Interlaken Town of Switzerland. The quality of the development is quite good and I could imagine the kids having a great time for a few days without getting bored.

A map showing the different zones of the Theme Park.

Mixture of different architectural styles to "trick" you into believing that you are actually somewhere else.

A Buddhist temple complex is one of the attractions.

Some of the whimsical buildings are quite interesting.

Knight Valley is one of the theme park zones at the foot of the mountains. There is a hotel under the waterfall that you can see in the distance.