A space age hotel with cutting age design promises a robot that greets you on arrival, tablets to order your meals on, robots that bring you your food, and cubicles with all the comforts of home. Will it live up to its on line hype?
When asked if I would like to review a space age hotel in Shenzhen for a newspaper in the Middle East, I check out the website and say, "YEAH!!!"
This is a commission that is hard to turn down. I mean, who wouldn't want to spend the night at a space age hotel where you're greeted at the front door by a robot, where robots serve you your meals, and robots – including a robot puppy – patrol the halls?
At least that is what I was led to believe I was going to get when I researched the hotel on line.
But first you have to find the place.
Oddly, the address on line is a bit fuzzy. There is the name of a street, and a building, and a tower, and a company. But there is no number and no cross street.
Following a LENGTHY trip from the border, I arrive at the Xixiang metro station. I emerge and ask for directions to the street. Someone points me in the right direction. When I get to the street, I ask for directions to the building. Someone points me in the right direction.
But I walk right past the building – or maybe I should say the complex of buildings – I am looking for. There is no indication that a hotel is anywhere in sight.
I decide to forget about the hotel and focus on the name of the tower. I know that sometimes small hotels are located within large buildings, with no obvious entrance to the hotel on the street.
I finally find someone that indicates that the "tower" I am looking for is down a dark alley. I venture into the alley and, yes, I see a sign indicating that this is the building I am looking for. But there is no indication that there is a hotel inside.
When I notice some deep blue lights emanating from a second storey window, I think, "Ah, hah! That's the colour of the lights I saw on the website on line! This must be the place!"
I walk inside, and a security guard asks me if I'm looking for the hotel. When I say "yes", she tells me to go to the second floor. I do, but I can't find an entrance to the hotel. I do, however, hear some music.
I follow my ears to a staircase. I open the door, and I see blue lights. I walk down the stairs and, voila!
As it turns out, the hotel's main entrance – the one with signs and the robot out front – opens on to ANOTHER street. But this other street is NOT mentioned on the hotel's website nor is it mentioned on its business card nor in its brochures.
I check in. I am given a room card and a basket with a towel, a dental kit, and a cup. I go upstairs to my cubicle. And believe me – it IS a cubicle – except that it is rectangular rather than square!!!
I wasn't expecting much, but even my modest expectations are not met! I find it getting difficult getting into the unit. I bump my head several times causing the person in the cubicle above to stick his head out to see what is going on.
Not only is the bottom of the unit just inches off the top of the floor, the ceiling is extremely low, as well. So you have to crawl and duck at the same time.
Once I'm inside, I can't figure out how to turn the lights (or anything else) on. I extricate myself from my cubicle and head back to the lobby and ask for help.
Food + Beverage
The lobby is set amid a stylishly decorated cafe, which turns into a nightclub after dark. There is loud music, sweeping lights, and a large television screen.
On the sidewalk out front is a German style beer garden serving barbecued meats and various snacks as well as German beer.
For dinner I have 2 options: I can order some 'instant meals', which just need to be heated up, or I can order something from the beer garden out front.
The little boy in me can't wait to see those robots in motion so I take the quicker option: I order one of the instant meals, which costs 18 RMB, or US$2.90.
The 3 beers I consume set me back 28 RMB each, so I end up spending more money on beer than I spent on my cubicle, which cost me 78 RMB, or about US$12.50.
When my dinner is ready, the woman that checked me in and took my order brings my meal to me. What about the robots? There are 2 of them, standing there motionless and expressionless. I guess they have gone on strike.
I think I know as much as I need to know to write my review, so I'm tempted to just write it up, submit it by email, and head back to Hong Kong. The night is still young.
For one thing, I'm afraid that I might get claustrophobic and won't be able to sleep. When I get to my cubicle, however, I am so tired I think that won't be problem. I decide to spend the night.
The mattress turns out to be VERY thin, and the cubicle is hardly sound proof. I can hear someone snoring loudly. I can hear people entering the room and getting into their cubicles. I can hear people getting out of their cubicles and leaving the room.
When morning comes, I am awakened by someone else's alarm clock. I follow my nose to the toilet. I pack up and head home, without showering or shaving. Some things can wait.
I don't understand the concept. A lot of space is wasted on the spacious hallway, and the rooms themselves have a lot of wasted space between the cubicles.
I don't understand why the lower cubicles are set right on the floor. This makes getting into and out of them extremely difficult. Surely the lower units should be at least a couple of feet off the floor.
I don't understand why both units open on the same side. Since none of the cubicles in my room face the wall, surely one should open on one side and the other on the other side, providing some semblence of privacy.
And I don't understand why the hotel's address is given for a street that it doesn't open on to. I never would have found it if I hadn't ventured down that dark alley and spotted those blue lights in the window.
It's a cute concept, but the execution needs LOTS of improvement. To start with, the address on the website and name cards should reflect the location of the main entrance not a back alley.
Since the robots don't work, I can't help but think, "What's the point?"
China has lots of inexpensive hotels and hostels. For just a few more dollars, I could have stayed in a room that I could actually stand up in.
I wouldn't mind having a couple of beers in the beer garden, but the hotel itself gets a thumb's down!
Peng Heng Space Capsules Hotel, Xixiang Avenue, Tower B, The Economy Manion, Bao Ywan Hua Feng Headquarters, Bao'an District, Shenzhen, China. Telephone: (86) 400-882-1511.
The hotel is within walking distance of the Xixiang metro station. The entrance, however, is NOT on Xixiang Avenue.
Have you ever stayed at a capsule hotel? Would you recommend them to others?
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