Dates: October 24th — 26th, 2017
Who Stayed: Sabrina & Her Mom
Tucked into an unassuming alley in Lijiang's quieter and less popular ancient town, Shuhe, is a tranquil, homey, and harmonious little guest house with the most adorable name: My Love Inn.
Blink and you might miss the entrance as I did. The wooden entryway frames a large potted plant against a white backdrop, almost like a piece of art. In addition to starting our stay with a little bit of ambiance, the obscured entrance also provides a sense of privacy. Stepping across the threshold, we found ourselves in an open air courtyard surrounded by wooden slats, ceramic pots, and a shallow pool of water that's home to a handful of tranquil koi.
Upon check in we were treated to a tea ceremony inside the lobby— which is less like a traditional hotel lobby and more like a minimalist dining room fit with a long wooden table for entertaining. The tea break was a much appreciated opportunity to catch our breath after pulling our luggage through Shuhe's cobblestone streets (where cars are not permitted). We learned that My Love Inn is, like most guest houses in Lijiang, a family run affair. The dream and vision of a matriarch whose son is now responsible for daily operations.
We were offered a free upgrade to the "superior twin room". The main difference between that and our originally booked twin room is that it's slightly bigger and has an divider between the seating area and the beds. The divider between the two areas was actually very useful because the entrance to our room opened up into the courtyard. If we wanted to enjoy the daylight and a fresh breeze we could keep the door to our room open while still maintaing privacy behind the divider.
The beds were super comfortable and came with electric blankets, which was sooo nice since Shuhe is near a mountainous area and tends to get cold at night. The rooms also come with fluffy robes and free cozy slippers with "My Love" embroidered on them in Chinese (which I took with me and still use at home). I'm pretty sure even without an upgrade we would have enjoyed our original room (the cheapest option at the inn), although if I were ever back in Lijiang I would go ahead and splurge for the Deluxe Family Room on the second floor which looks like the best suite in the joint with its huge glass windows.
The bathrooms were quite modern in contrast to all the wooden furniture and interiors. The fixtures and appliances were all by Moen or Kohler so, ya know, they got those quality American bathroom products. The bathrooms also have heated tile floors and our room had an enclosed standing shower (some rooms have tubs).
The only room for improvement here is that the bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a sliding wooden door (like all the doors at the inn). Our door didn't really slide to a snug close which gave me a little bit of anxiety, and it wasn't really soundproof. I would probably for-go the aesthetically consistent choice for a normal hinged door that locks. That said, the sliding door was still an improvement over the other hotel we stayed at in Lijiang where the bathroom was separated by a hanging piece of fabric!
I can't speak highly enough about the service at My Love Inn. The staff go above and beyond to make you feel at home. During our stay my mom got a headache and asked the staff if they had any pain relievers she could buy. They didn't, but a member of the staff personally escorted us to the nearest pharmacy so that she could help my mom translate and pick out the right medication, as well as pay for it. Likewise they were also very hands on in helping us coordinate excursions we had booked outside of the hotel. For context, I speak ~zero~ Chinese and my mom's is very limited from her early childhood growing up in China. The staff were so helpful in coordinating w/ local tour agencies on our behalf and also escorting us to the right pick up areas since vehicles are not allowed in the immediate area around the hotel.
Upon check out they gave us each a parting gift— a box of black sugar, a local specialty which we had seen in various shops around Lijiang. I'm a sucker for foodie gifts— I mean these are the type of things it's hard to justify buying for yourself but make such good presents. I can't say if this is a normal occurrence though or if they just really liked my mom who managed to endear herself to everyone on staff. Either way, it was a great way to end our stay at both the inn and in Lijiang.
Free breakfast is included daily at My Love Inn and it does not disappoint. The atmosphere and offerings are less continental-breakfast-buffet and more like eating breakfast at a cute cafe, which is actually a cozy sun-dappled room in the inn's entryway. The first night we had heart-shaped fried eggs (adorable!) and congee. The second day they offered us breakfast noodles in a fresh, tomato-y broth that was surprisingly light and clean to the taste. Breakfast also comes with warm soy milk or tea/coffee.
Shuhe is like the Brooklyn to Lijiang's Manhattan. While both are distinguished as "ancient towns", Shuhe is a little smaller and slower in pace— with wider streets that are far less packed than Lijiang Ancient Town. Instead of chain boutique pastry stores you'll find independent owned fruit carts lining the streets. On the flip side, the dining options are so much more varied in Lijiang Ancient Town. For dinner the majority of restaurants in Shuhe do Hot Pot (which is great! Just maybe not for every meal). Muzi restaurant, located on the edge of town, was a welcome way to change it up with a more diverse menu focused around vegetables. The fare is literal farm-to-table as the restaurant is located across the street from their farm.
For this trip I spent half my time in Lijiang Ancient Town and half in Shuhe Ancient Town, though it's more common to stay in one of the ancient towns and do a day trip to the other. Based on the quality of My Love Inn compared to the hotels in Lijiang Ancient Town and Shuhe's relative chill factor, I'd recommend staying there and then day-tripping to Lijiang Ancient Town.
While most of the rooms are located on the ground floor, access to My Love Inn requires walking and carrying luggage across a few unpaved streets, with many wooden thresholds, which may be inconvenient for wheelchair users or anyone with difficulty walking.
I highly recommend staying at the My Love Inn if you ever find yourself in Lijiang. It's been one of the best hotel experiences I've had, at such a humble little place for such a reasonable price.
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