The Regalia Hotel, Xinghan Road, Hantai District, Hanzhong, Shaanxi, China, is somewhat of an enigma to this Western visitor — even after a stay there. Although enough of the staff speaks sufficient “tourist English”, it’s true that most of the guests are Chinese. It’s curious, for example, that there’s no hotel website. And, every customer review I found online after my visit was written in Chinese.
I had arrived in Hanzhong by train, and the railway station is just a “seven-minute drive” from the hotel. Opened in 2013, it was redecorated last year. There are 208 guestrooms in the Regalia, generally rated at either four- or five-star status (although, personally, I think that’s generous because despite the recent renovations, the water from the bathroom taps still is not potable.)
The hotel has a business center, a spa, and two distinctly Chinese amenities: a mahjong/chess/poker room and a teahouse. Public areas are elegantly appointed. There was a white grand piano in the lobby, and, as often as not, someone was playing Western show tunes. The floral display — alas! — was faux.
Hanzhong with a population of 3.7 million is located at the headwaters of the Han River, the largest tributary of the Yangtze River. It maintained its importance through the ages as an administrative node in a mountainous frontier district between Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces.
“Zhong” has the core meaning of “middle”, and the city is acknowledged as the center of the storied Han dynasty — and thus the “heart” of the dominant Han ethnic group (which includes some 92% of all Chinese).
Non-Chinese visitors are drawn here not only by the history (the Hanzhong Museum, centered on the royal residence of Liu Bang, founder of Han Dynasty, is not far from the hotel) but also for the bird life. The Crested Ibis Nature Reserve just outside the city is the only rescue and care center in China for this rare bird.
Breakfast is included in the hotel room rate. WiFi is available free in the hotel’s public areas — and I had free WiFi in my guest room, where I found a coffee machine, flat-screen television, bathrobes, slippers, a hairdryer, and complementary bottled water.
Unlike the typical Western hotel, the Regalia lets guests smoke in their rooms — and provides both matches and ashtrays.
(Photos by Susan McKee, who stayed at the Regalia Hotel as a guest of the Shaanxi Provincial Tourism Development Commission)