Pagoda-style Palace offers Western amenities

Senior editor David Cogswell spent three nights at the Palace Hotel in downtown Beijing. His report follows:

lthough the Palace is a modern hotel, managed by the Peninsula Group, that meets the highest standards of comfort and convenience for business and leisure travelers, it's not the kind of nondescript property that might appear in any major city.

Its architecture is clearly indigenous to China. With its flying eve roofline, it looks like a high-rise pagoda. It carries the chinoiserie style throughout, which I found reassuring. After traveling halfway around the world, I preferred not to end up in a hotel that is indistinguishable from one in Atlantic City, N.J.

I found the hotel to be an ideal headquarters for exploring Beijing. It's at the heart of the city, between Wangfujing and Dongdan streets, two of the main shopping areas, and within walking distance of both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It's also close to a number of major commercial and government offices.

I was installed on the 13th floor, which is the executive level for business travelers. There the rooms come with a number of perks, not the least of which is an expansive view of downtown.

The floor has its own business center, with 20 minutes of free Internet time each day. The hotel also has a main business center on the second floor that serves the entire hotel.

The room had all the expected amenities as well as extras, such as a high-tech movable bedside panel that controls the air conditioning, the television and the clock radio, and jacks for a fax and computer.

Guests on the executive floor can have breakfast at the lounge on the 13th floor -- which also serves free drinks all day -- or in one of two restaurants at the lobby level. Afternoon tea is served from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. along with various snack foods.

The two on-site restaurants are the Fortune Garden, which serves Cantonese cuisine, and Jing, which offers a Western menu with Asian overtones. Guests can call for room service 24 hours a day.

The Palace Gym on the third floor features a weight-training room, an indoor swimming pool, steam rooms and a sauna. Chinese massage, aerobics and yoga classes also are available.

Rack rates are $320 per night for a superior room, $410 for a Palace Club room and $520 for a club junior suite on the executive floor. Commission is 10%.

The Palace Hotel is part of the Peninsula Group, which is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. For details on the property, call Leading Hotels at (800) 223-6800. The hotel's Web site is located at www.fasttrack.beijing.peninsula.com.

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