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No.5 Valley Inn
Where do I begin?
The No.5 Valley Inn is more than just a hidden gem in Zhangjiajie, China. It was
This was my refuge while visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park during my eight-day trip to China. Above all, proximity to the park was the main reason I chose it, in addition to all the rave reviews I read online.
Because this was my first visit to Zhangjiajie, and because I didn’t know what to expect, I asked the hotel to arrange my pickup from the airport. The ride took about 90 minutes, and I paid 200¥ ($30 US).
Hotel check-in process
Upon arrival, Amber greeted me at the main hotel entrance. She was assigned as my butler – I will tell you more about this title later – and we walked to the reception building. Overall, the check-in process was simple. To my surprise, Amber offered me an upgrade; while I had booked a regular room, she asked me to choose between two different suites. I chose the loft-style suite, in which the sitting room and TV are downstairs while the bedroom and bathroom are upstairs.
Amber spoke good English, so her instructions to visit the park were clear and helpful. She handed me a map covering two days of hiking and explained every route and option. In addition, she armed me with a small wireless communication device that would allow me to stay connected with her, noting that I should use it if I ever became lost or in need of help.
Before leaving the reception desk, Amber pointed out that the hotel is only about five minutes from the west entrance to the park and that they offered a complimentary shuttle to and from the park on a set schedule, every 30 minutes until 2:00 PM.
My loft room
This boutique hotel is built on a mountainside overlooking a valley. The architecturally striking buildings resemble log cabins; they fit nicely within the surrounding natural environment.
The room interior, furniture
Homemade Chinese food
On my first day, I ordered lunch and dinner from the hotel because I wasn’t familiar with the area and I had no idea what other options would be available. The food was home cooked by the “sisters,” and it tasted amazing. I was offered both modern and traditional Chinese dishes.
As a result of my first delicious meal, I ordered dinner for the remaining nights at 100¥ ($15 US) each. Amber used to come every evening at dinner to ensure I was doing well and the food was up to my expectations. Occasionally, she would encourage me to ask for more if it wasn’t enough – you can see from the photos the quantity and variety were plenty enough. Breakfast was included in the room rate; it was always fresh and offered many choices including made-to-order eggs.
My favorite: It was incredibly satisfying to enjoy afternoon tea and snacks by the infinity pool overlooking the valley; sipping freshly brewed green tea while listening to Chinese music is a heavenly indulgence.
Check-out and departure
The check-out process was painless; I received an itemized bill, which was detailed and easy to read. No.5 Valley Inn accepted my US issued credit card, which is another reason to love this place. This allowed me to preserve my cash to pay for the park entry fees.
On my departure day, Amber arranged for a van and driver to take me to a hotel in Zhangjiajie city for 200¥ ($30 US). The following day, even after I had left the hotel, she followed with a text message on WeChat that gave me instructions to Tianmen Mountain because she knew I was headed there next. I thought this was a nice touch and showed that she cared about her customers.
Opportunities for i
This hotel is poised to be a real sanctuary with just a few tweaks. My improvement suggestions:
- I have no idea where the title “butler” came from, but I am not a fan – it sounds colonial to me. “Personal Host” or something similar would be better
- Shut down the karaoke and music at the bar a little earlier. Perhaps installing double-pane windows in the rooms would improve sound insulation.
- Provide a wardrobe or cupboard in the room instead of the open-hanger style. In addition, a luggage rack would have been handy.
- The hotel can’t do anything about this one, but the drive to the property is bumpy due to road construction. I was told the new road should be done soon (I visited in October 2018).
Final thoughts on No.5 Valley Inn
The No.5 Valley Inn pleasantly surprised me and delivered on all counts. The hospitality and attention to customer service are rare. It is a unique and special place in many ways. For instance, they refer to the cooks and housekeepers as “sisters,” which makes me think they really treat them like family.
Upon my return to the US, I posted a review on TripAdvisor and received a reply from the management team. They have committed to closing the bar and karaoke early, and changed the “butler” title to “personal host.” I think they get it!