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Where five stars shine brighter
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Chang'an Avenue ends at Dongdan and Xidan - technically, that is.

In actuality, it extends on both ends into the suburbs, with different street names for different sections.

Sofitel Wanda Beijing sits just outside the East 3rd Ring Road, in the Central Business District (CBD). Some of its rooms offer a view so elevated that it gives the sense you're right above China's No 1 boulevard.

And you'll be surprised to find that the street is not as straight as you thought. The view is also panoramic enough to take in both the new towers of China Central Television and Beijing Television.

The hotel, on the west wing of the mammoth Wanda complex, is the 20th Sofitel in China.

The interior design is a fusion of French extravagance and bold strokes of trendy savoir-faire.

Giant chandeliers not only adorn the grand ballroom, but one is featured as a centerpiece of the M Bar and is hung so low, you may feel you're in the middle of Phantom of the Opera.

This exclusive French design bar is "magnificent", "marvelous" and "mesmerizing", which are collectively what the "M" stands for. Secluded alcoves and luscious champagne combine to transport one to Monmartre, or a 21st century version of it, making it the "it" watering hole for the city's "in" crowd.

The 27-story Sofitel does not have any facilities underground but a parking vlot. That means its conference rooms, gym, spa and restaurants are all above ground, from levels 5 through 7, taking in as much natural light as they can.

The 1,368-sq-m ballroom and nine additional function rooms have such a wide and long corridor that red-carpet events are often held here, complete with cordons and paparazzi. It is also a favorite venue for movie stars to hold weddings.

The Sofitel has a total of 417 rooms and suites. The Imperial Suite on the top floor is one of the largest of its kind in the city. Many rooms come with electrochromic windows for the bathroom. Press one switch and you can make it either transparent or opaque. From Sept 26 to Oct 8, a special promotional rate of 888 yuan ($130) plus 15 percent is available.

The Sofitel rooms have a special menu - that is, the pillow menu.

You can order from six choices. In addition to the traditional feather pillow with goose down and feathers, there are the non-allergenic foam pillow; the orthopedic pillow filled with memory foams, which will put your neck at ease; the buckwheat pillow, which is hard enough for the head and neck to rest on; the chrysanthemum pillow, which reduces body heat and stress; and the green tea pillow, which will help alleviate your fatigue.

A highlight of the Sofitel experience is Le Pre Lenotre, one of the city's finest French restaurants. A "sister" of the Michelin 3-star rated Le Pre Catelan, it has brought an exclusive Parisian touch to Beijing's dining scene. Yannick Ehrsam as the new Chef de Cuisine ensures authenticity. The unique dcor - a black chandelier and half-black, half-white (panda?) chairs - add to the mystique.

"We provide services beyond expectations," says Maggie Chen, director of sales and marketing with Sofitel. She cites the example of preparing cakes in the form of corporate logos.

"And we attract more French guests than other hotels in Beijing," she adds, as a faint aroma of guava and cucumber wafts through the glittering lobby.

(China Daily September 23, 2009)

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