[updated to include information about the First Class Lounge, scroll down]
i really do not like this airport. it looks nice, but it’s blech for transit passengers. on the bright side, it’s dead today. i wasn’t planning on taking a shower here but i missed my connection by a matter of minutes so i have 5 hours to spare before my rebooked flight. i might have made it if they didn’t hardstand us (a 777 from BKK!), but oh well. i’m grateful there’s another PEK-ULN flight today and i don’t have to wait until tomorrow.
BUT THE SHOWER. i’m so glad i did have the chance to stick around, though, because this shower review is going to be a doozy. here’s a hint at what’s to come:
yep. at Air China’s hub. though, i have to admit, my expectations were swinging like a pendulum — maybe i’d be wowed because it’s an newish Asian airport, or well, maybe it’d be what i have come to expect of things in China, which is “don’t have any expectations”. (i mean, i can say that, right? since they’re technically my people?)
ease of access and location: i asked if there was a shower at the reception desk, and the lady tried to describe how to get there (it’s not hard, it’s right by the bathrooms in the little building thingy to the left), but when she failed, she yelled out at an employee across the lounge in Chinese — something probably to the effect of “HEY! THIS POOR SOUL LOOKS CHINESE BUT CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT. COULD YOU BE A DEAR AND SHOW HIM TO THE SHOWERS? I SAID HE NEEDS TO SHOWER. YES SHOWER. FOR THIS GENTLEMAN HERE.” –________–
there are two shower rooms (as far as i can tell). i got put in the one towards the end of the hallway. i can only hope the other one is better.
sidebar: some protips
there’s a wifi kiosk on the left when you enter the lounge. scan your passport (Chinese law!) to get a username and password to access the internet. the great firewall is in full effect — foursquare and instagram work (as well as posting to social media networks via them), but nothing else. can’t even google certain things like “twitter proxy” (or even “twitter”). i’m only on twitter because i’m remote-controlling my home computer via an application called TeamViewer. i cannot Cisco VPN into work (though i’m on vacation, i could have used that to break through the firewall).
there’s an automated wall of lockers as well. press either the SMALL or LARGE button depending on the size of locker you want and one will pop open. put your stuff in and close the door. a receipt will print out; to reopen, scan the receipt (so don’t throw it away!).
so the room is TINY. and you know how i don’t like small shower rooms. no toilet, nothing. just a sink (well, no, let’s be more precise, just a basin, since when you think sink, you think faucet as well) and a shower. the end. that’s the door at the top of the picture below; the sink/basin is just out of frame.
the goods: this is the one area where they got it right. you got your toothbrush and shaving kit, as well as a hair dryer and other amenities (the black compact-looking thing is a shoe-shine sponge).
but you know, what good is a toothbrush kit when you have NO WATER AT THE SINK?!?! i had to, after my shower, brush my teeth out in the open in the men’s room down the hall like some sort of animal (very #firstworldproblems, i know). you may also have noticed the bar of soap sitting in the soap dish in the first picture. i will give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s for people who don’t like body wash, since clearly it can’t be for your hands SINCE THERE IS NO FAUCET.
you get two towels, one large and one medium-sized. (which i was worried i didn’t get, since my bag was blocking the shelf because the room is so small.) i put the medium-sized one on the floor.
what’s this? a pair of slippers? well, that’s mighty nice. EXCEPT YOU HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. the non-shower floor space is maybe 1 square yard. i don’t know the ins and outs of Chinese tradition, but really, where are you going to traipse? not around the lounge, i hope! if you unfold the medium-sized towel, it will likely cover the entire floor. that said, i’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. they went right in my backpack. heh. you never know when you’re going to need a pair!
in terms of soap and shampoo, there are small bottles (which are not disposable, even though they sort of look it) of jasmine-scented body wash, shampoo, and conditioner (as well as lotion, which i guess if Thai can put their bottles outside the shower, why not put everything inside the shower?). i actually really liked these products. mini-score.
shower: it’s a monstrosity of a thing, made even more so by the small size of the room.
there are four knobs on the right side of the box which took me a bit to figure out. from top to bottom: temperature, water flow for the rainfall shower head, water flow for the chest-level sprays, and water level for the hose. yes, a hose. there is no handheld shower attachment at the end of that thing. A HOSE!
needless to say, i just used the regular ol’ shower head.
water pressure was good, but temperature? forget it. it’s either too hot or too cold, and sometimes you turn the knob all the way to the right for hot and it’s lukewarm only to get to very very hot on a whim. i gave up and just rinsed off in cold water after fighting with it the entire time.
cleanliness and state of facilities: have i mentioned THE SINK IS UNUSABLE? not the cleanest but it will do in a pinch, and there are deposits on the showerhead, which is odd since the water seemed to be quite soft (i stood there, in the hot/cold water for a while trying to rinse off).
THERE IS NO FAUCET.
overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars. i’d have given it a 1 but because of the amenities i’m upping it to a 2. this reminds me of something my mom said the first time we ever went to China, my senior year of high school (uhh, 1995). something to the effect of, yeah, they build stuff so it looks nice, but they’ll never maintain it and it’ll look horrible in a couple years. ding ding ding! *finger on nose*. (i mean, i can only assume it was built with a complete sink?)
good luck trying to maneuver in and out of the shower if you have a rollaboard. one of the attendants saw me trying to squeeze me and all my belongings out and couldn’t help but giggle. sigh. a shower of last resort (but go in and get your free pair of slippers!).
First Class Lounge
i discovered that the first class lounge is available to Priority Pass members, but when i offered my PP card and my UA Platinum card to the lady, she ended up using my Star Gold card despite the fact that it’s not listed as a Star Gold lounge. anyways, yes, i did just take another shower just to see what the showers were like on this side. other than a less-complicated shower setup with much better temperature control (you’d think first class would have the snazzier setup, right?) and a faucet(!!!!), it’s still the same small room, same amenities. oh, i did get a full set of towels this time, too, so there was a bath towel, a medium-sized one, a mat, and a washcloth.
for what it’s worth, as far as i can tell both lounges are exactly the same. same furnishings and look. not sure about the food, but i wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar as well.
First Class Lounge gets 3 stars; it’d be 4 if the room were bigger and had a toilet!
p.s. guess who has a second pair of slippers and a backup toothbrush set now?