Week Six: Fergus Lyons

Monday

Today I began the second week of my work internship at the prestigious Shangri-La, Beijing. Beginning work here was very exciting for me as it is a much bigger hotel than I have ever previously worked in with over seven hundred staff and over six hundred bedrooms. As a brand, it is recognised all over the world for its high standards, excellent service and exquisite fine dining options. The department I am assigned to is the club concierge on the executive floor, a department which caters to the needs and wants of Shangri-La’s VIP guests. During work I had the opportunity to learn about the procedures for checking guests in and out as well as speaking with guests and receiving feedback from them about their stay. This evening after work we took a cycle around Houtai Nanyan, which is based in one of Beijings old residential districts. It is a hub for Chinese tourists featuring great local food and live music surrounding a lake dotted with boats and lanterns.

 

Tuesday

I began the day with the usual hectic commute across Beijing to the hotel with just enough time to grab a coffee and a baozi, a type of dumpling many Chinese people have for breakfast and I must admit they’re very good. I started out the day serving breakfast to our guests and helping the other staff where they needed me. Later on in the afternoon I was shown in great detail the different bedrooms available and how the guest relations team ensure they are prepped and ready prior to the guests arrival. I was very impressed by the attention to detail and care and consideration each room receives, ensuring that everything is right and that no expense is spared which is quite a feat in a 660-bedroom hotel. This evening we went for dinner at a restaurant located near to Beijing Normal. We had Beijings famous ‘Peking duck’ along with some sides of fried vegetables and rice. Afterwards we strolled around the area taking in the sights.

Wednesday

Today at work I had the opportunity to speak with a number of guests and talk with them about their stay, getting feedback and finding out what would have improved their time at the hotel and do they plan on coming back in the future. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive regarding all aspects of their stay and any criticisms they had I took note of and passed it onto management which would then be discussed at a daily departmental meeting. In the afternoon a staff training session took place in one of the meeting rooms. The managers were teaching the front desk trainees about the various steps of checking a guest in and how the guests should be spoken with. We did a number of role-plays where I would be the English-speaking guest and the trainees would go through the process with me while the managers would listen attentively giving feedback. It was great to be a part of the process and being able to learn more about customer service and the expectations travellers have in China.

Thursday

Today after work we met up as a group and went to Wanfujing, one of Beijing’s most famous shopping streets located in the centre of Beijing. It boasts a range of high-end retail stores as well as exotic street food stalls on the Wanfujing snack street. After walking through the packed side streets we walked down to Tiananmen Square. It is an incredible place to see, with the Forbidden City stretching along the top of the square, the China National Museum to one side and the Zhengyang Gate, a beautiful Ming Dynasty era gatehouse facing the Monument to the Peoples Heroes. We were lucky to be at the square to see the lowering of the flag ceremony that occurs every evening at sundown, a definite must see! We finished off the evening at Tiananmen street, a pedestrianized area full of bars, restaurants and interesting sights.

The Weekend

This weekend we organised with our workplaces to have Friday off so we could go and see somewhere outside of Beijing, and after hearing so many great things we decided on Shanghai. The high-speed rail service made what was a fifteen-hour journey into a five-hour one, so at nine o’clock that morning we set off. After arriving in the afternoon we got our bearings, a bite to eat and headed to our hostel. We didn’t spend too much time there, as we were all so eager to go out and see the town. We first went to the riverside promenade in the Pudong where there is a dazzling view of the Shanghai skyline. We then went to the towering financial district where almost every building is a colossal skyscraper. Later that evening we went to the Peoples Square where there is a diverse mix of bars and restaurants. On Saturday we got up early so we could make the most out of our short time in the city. Our first stop of the day was the Yu Garden. It was nice to walk around with a change of scenery from our usual setting in Beijing. Later on in the day we saw the Urban Planning Exhibition hall, which has a scale model of the city of Shanghai, and the future plans for development of the city. As it is the most populated city in the world with over twenty four million people inhabiting it and continuing to grow the exhibition gives great insight into the development of a mega-city. We enjoyed our last night in the city at a rooftop bar in the Bund with the magnificent skyline behind us. On Sunday we made our way to the train station and to make the trek back to Beijing with great memories and ready to make the most of our last two weeks in China.