The Tea Boutique Hotel is a small modern hotel located on busy Shuguang Road near the Dragon Sports Center and a regional bus station but on the other side of the West Lake from town. The location may or may not be an issue since the only reason to be located in town would be to be close to Hefang Street ( the prototypical walking/shopping street seen in most larger Chinese cities) and near restaurants. On the other hand, if your primary reason for visiting Hangzhou is to enjoy a West Lake experience, then the Tea Boutique Hotel will more that suffice. Although the entrance to the hotel is not really as elegant as some, the lobby and the rooms are quite modern, attractive, clean and well designed. The bathroom as well was modern, clean with all the proper amenities you would expect in an upscale hotel. On the whole the overall design is modern and somewhat minimalistic leaving a quite pleasant impression. We found the WiFi provided by the hotel functional and reliable, in contrast to other reviewers and to other hotels we have stayed in in China. Where the Tea Boutique hotel really shines is with the services provided. I am not sure about you fellow traveler, but service to me represents at least 70-80 % of a total hotel experience. We found the staff at the Tea Boutique Hotel from the front desk to the concierge cheerful, professional and extremely helpful with our travel needs. And yes , basic English is spoken my a number the staff. Of course, it does help if you have also mastered basic Mandarin. The hotel restaurant was a pleasant surprise. Generally speaking, hotel restaurants, even in China, are not where you would expect to find above average cuisine. This was not the case here at all. All of the Hangzhou dishes we sampled in the hotel restaurant excelled all those we had elsewhere in town, with the exception of the Green Tea Restaurant outside of town and Hubrin 28 at the Hyatt, which are in a class by themselves. The excellence of the cuisine was validated by the large number of locals who had chosen to eat here.Although on the map it looks like you are within easy walking distance of the lake just across a park like area, in reality the park on the map is really a rather steep mountainous area which precludes an easy walk across if in fact it is possible at all. Just take a taxi to whatever part of the lake you wish to explore and walk back if you need the exercise. One day we took a taxi to the start of the causeway that crosses Melting Snow Hanging Over a Broken Bridge and walked to the island where the highly touted Louwailou Restaurant ( avoid this tourist clip joint at all costs- see separate review) is located and then walked back to the hotel. Another day we took a ferry ride across the lake, stopping at Xiao Ying Zhou Island and ending at Leifeng Pagoda where we were stranded for quite some time trying to hail a taxi as the sun was setting. As noted by other reviewers, taxis are not all that plentiful outside of the center of town and you might have to wait a considerable time to catch one especially around the more distant areas of the lake. Since our low internet rates did not include breakfast and we had no interest in experiencing the standard Chinese hotel buffet at inflated prices, we had to look elsewhere. Luckily there is a small shopping mall with a Walmart, Micky D and Pizza Hut as well as a number of small eateries only two blocks to the south on Shuguang Rd. I would recommend Uncles, a small and clean establishment not far from Micky D, serving a really decent Chinese breakfast of congee ( rice gruel or soup ), steamed buns, and what can be described as a muffin stuffed with vegetables and meat. The latter turned out to be one of my absolute favorite breakfast foods in our stay in Hangzhou. For about 30 rmb for two, you can eat yourself silly. And shame on those of you who cling obsessively to your Western comfort foods and are unwilling to go native. Food after all should be an integral part of a total cultural experience. If you need provisions ( e.g., beer and snacks) these can be obtained in the Walmart inside the complex. If you need either train tickets or bus tickets ( depending on destination), these can also be had in the small building next to the bus terminal or the visitor center ( check with the front desk). Of course, a visit to Hangzhou is really not complete unless you make an effort to visit the tea villages a bit south west of the lake. Longjing and Meijiawu are two that should be on your list.There is no need to spend serious money on a tour especially when tea is not being picked and processed. You can readily get to Meijiawu on bus # 4 (check with the front desk) that leaves from the stop directly in front of the hotel. The trip takes about 30 minutes. In Meijiawu you can climb the trails among the tea plants that grow up the mountainsides and then stop for some tea at the numerous establishments that line the single road through town. We were lucky to catch a lone taxi that happened to be driving through town (there was very little traffic on this road) to take us to Longjing Village where we spent a relaxing and pleasant afternoon at Dragon Well sipping tea at the pavilion and having a light lunch. Dragon Well is located just a bit off the road among a really pleasant setting of bamboo and trees with man made trails which offer a great opportunity to stretch the legs. To get to our next destination ( the Tea Museum and the nearby Green Tree Restaurant) we took bus Y3 , from a stop across the street from Dragon Well, heading back to town. The trip to the museum took about 20 minutes. Ask the driver to tell you when you have arrived. The museum complex of a number of buildings spread over several acres is well worth the effort to visit. You can learn about the tea culture as well as sample some of the great teas that are produced in the region. This is also a great place to purchase the Longjing teas ( a bit pricy) with the guarantee that you are getting the real thing. After your museum visit, head down the road a few hundred meters to The Green Tea Restaurant where you will enjoy one of the best meals to be had in Hangzhou. Remember though, that the last Y3 bus that takes you back to the bus terminal by the sports complex near the hotel leaves at 5:30 PM. If you miss this one, take bus 27(?) back to town and get off anywhere by the lake where you see some activity and catch a taxi back home. All in all, I can highly recommend the Tea Boutique Hotel for your travel needs in Hangzhou. We plan to be back in Hangzhou sometime in the future and will most certainly stay there again.
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