Last fall, after we got engaged and decided on doing a wedding in Beijing, we immediately began researching hotels. Tian spent hours online, and together we literally spent weekends out walking the streets and alleys of Beijing asking anyone and everyone along the way.
After seeing a few conventional hotels, we knew we really wanted to find a courtyard hotel (Si He Yuan) for the week. Here’s why:
- Courtyard hotels are traditionally decorated and are the most historically authentic Chinese living arrangement out there. It is a very fun way to stay in Beijing, especially on a first trip.
- Courtyard hotels are usually in neighborhoods that are not as “westernized,” so you can still experience life in the traditional “hutong” (alleyways) of Beijing.
- In most cases, Courtyard hotels were originally family homes. There usually are 10-15 rooms all situated around a small central square courtyard. This layout provided a special intimacy and dynamic perfect for our family wedding.
- Courtyard hotels often have additional living spaces open to guests such as dining room, kitchen, living room, balcony, and bar. We had a lot of ideas for how to use these spaces for group activities.
- Courtyard hotels are often family owned, which means that it is easier to develop a relationship with the locals. It also meant that we could negotiate group rates a bit more easily than with hotel chains.
Here are pictures of some of the Si He Yuan we visited:
Early on, one hotel quickly caught our fancy. We serendipitously met the owner walking by the hotel one day, and he invited us inside. It was nearly everything we envisioned, and he even was giving us a rate far below what we had budgeted. We were ecstatic when he brought us into his office, exchanged contact information, and blocked out the dates on his calendar. It felt too good to be true!
Unfortunately, it was. That was the last positive interaction we had with this hotel. In January the owner told us that the government needed to construct a box to house electric equipment outside their place. Additionally, the hotel wanted to move forward with some small renovations inside. They said things should move quickly, but by March no real progress had been made. Furthermore, as the owner started delegating authority to another person, communication with the hotel got worse and worse, until eventually they never answered or returned our calls.
In March, we reluctantly decided we couldn’t hold out for that hotel, and so we went out looking yet again. We started wondering if we would have to give up on our vision of a courtyard hotel.