Sunday, August 26, 2007

The White Swan Hotel

I write this on Sunday night, our third day in the White Swan Hotel. I'm a bit tired -- a certain 10-month-old woke up at midnight and 430 demanding a bottle. But I wanted to stay caught up and talk about our marvelous surroundings.

The White Swan sits on the banks of the Pearl River on Shamian Island. It's rather new -- only 25 years old -- but has the air of a generations-old Ritz, and feels like a place you came with your parents as a kid and they with their parents before them. The rooms are pleasant, spotlessly clean, and modern. It's the public spaces where the Swan sings, though. Its main wing is dominated by a five-story atrium, with five stories of restaurants and lounges overlooking it. The atrium has a pleasant waterfall and koi pond under a skylight that can be bright or dim depending on Guangzhou's mercurial skies.

Elaina is quite taken with the koi, though I couldn't say whether her interest is zoological or gourmet in nature.

The lowest floor is a warren of cool marble passageways opening onto the atrium. My Dad would love them, and I wish he were here as he was on our memorable trip to pick up Evan in Korea in 2001. The hallways of the first floor are positively choked with Asian art and antiques -- not merely shops (though there are a dozen of those), but hundreds of pieces displayed for sale along the walls and on pedestals. There are screens, sculptures, cabinets of figurines, great arcs of intricately carved ivory, and elaborate furniture. One passageway is particularly impressive -- it has a pedestal displaying a fleet of jade ships, from the size of my fist to the size of a big-screen TV, in astounding detail -- the sails furl, the masts and lines are painstakingly carved, and the prows gleam greenly. I was shocked to see the price tages on items left out in the open -- a number were in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (and credibly so). Dad has a better eye than I for Asian art after a lifetime of collecting it, and I'd love to explore these halls with him.

The other remarkable thing about the White Swan is the number of people like us. All Americans (and many other nationalities whose consulates are here) must bring their adopted daughters to Guangzhou before leaving the country, and the White Swan is the hotel of choice for the various adoption agencies. The result appears to be a convention of adoptive parents. The hotel and its staff are well-prepared -- the coffee shop where breakfast is served places high chairs at most tables as a matter of course, and it's easy to get steamed egg or congree. The parents smile at each other and admire the babies as they pass; it's an instant fellowship. There's also a playroom which Elaina enjoyed, though Katrina has now boycotted it for fear of catching the bugs going around:

We're tired of living out of suitcases. We miss our kids and our families and our house and home life. But I've never felt as much at home at a hotel.

No comments: