Jason Wilson is a food and travel writer, and contributor to The Washington Post.
Trump has been written about in every other genre of journalism: political, entertainment, financial, fashion, sports. Why not look at Trump, promiser of luxury experiences, through the eyes of a travel writer?
My plan was to sleep in the various Trump hotels, experience the Trump amenities, wear the Trump robe and shower cap, eat in the Trump restaurants, drink in the Trump bars — no differently than when I anonymously visit and review any other establishment in the course of a travel or food article. Given the state of things, this might have been naive, but that’s what I ended up doing.

Trump International Hotel Tower – Vancouver
It’s just after dark in Vancouver’s downtown financial district, on a chilly autumn evening, and I’m gazing up at the twisting, triangular, neo-futurist Trump International Hotel & Tower, rising 63 stories and 616 feet into the air. If you’re impressed by tall things, the Trump tower is pretty tall. But then I glance across West Georgia Street, at the Living Shangri-La tower, rising 62 stories but standing 659 feet tall. Which means that the Living Shangri-La is the tallest building here. For someone like Donald Trump who is obsessed with superlatives, it must be tough to have your name emblazoned on the second-tallest building in Vancouver.

From where I stand, the Trump International Hotel & Tower is not particularly welcoming. It’s 7:30 p.m., but I see very few lights on the higher floors, and I wonder who lives in the darkened condominiums in the upper parts of the tower. Below the condos, the hotel occupies the first 15 floors. All over the outside of the property, there are large white bloblike sculptures, as if a giant sneezed.

I’m paying nearly $300 per night to stay in one of the 147 five-star hotel rooms in the tower. When I arrived to check in, I gawked at the two Lamborghini Diablos parked in front of the hotel entrance. After I got to my room, I tried on the robe embroidered with “TRUMP,” along with the “TRUMP”-branded shower cap, in my marble-tiled bathroom. At the Trump Champagne Lounge, I ate a “delectable playful bite” — a trio of not-all-that-delectable toothpicked sliders — and ended up only ordering a cheap by-the-glass sparkling wine, since bottles on the Trump Champagne Lounge’s list range from $150 to $1,350. Throughout the lounge, which is interspersed with pillars that look like huge, gold-plated Jenga stacks, everyone else seemed to be speaking Chinese. …
On my second night in Vancouver — my final stop on this journey — I’m planning to eat at Mott 32, the “luxury Chinese” spot on the ground floor of the Trump hotel. Just as I’m about to walk back inside for dinner, a black SUV drives past with its passenger window lowered. A young woman leans out, waving two middle fingers and screaming at the top of her lungs: “F— you, Trump! F— you! F— you! F— you, Trump!” It’s like the primal shriek of a banshee. I am one of only two people standing outside the entrance, so it feels like much of her hate is being directed at me. Since I am a paying customer here, perhaps that’s her point.
After the SUV cruises on, the street is quiet again. A Trump employee standing nearby shrugs and opens the lobby door for me. His body language is similar to that of the bartender I chatted with at the Trump Champagne Lounge earlier, who grimaced when the name “Donald Trump” was uttered. “The property is actually owned by TA Global,” the bartender said, making clear that the Trump brand is licensed. “It’s like a franchise.” …

At Mott 32, the dining room is completely full and I’m seated at the bar. Mott 32 is the North American outpost of a famous Hong Kong restaurant, which has another location forthcoming in Bangkok. A critic for the Globe and Mail newspaper called it “the most noteworthy restaurant to open in Vancouver for many years.” The Filipino bartender explains that the majority of the clientele in Mott 32 speaks Mandarin and is wealthy. Scanning the full dining room, I can believe it.

At the table in front of me, a waiter carves the $95 Peking duck for a Chinese family, with several children playing on their iPads. That Peking duck is not even close to the most expensive dish on the menu: A whole suckling pig costs $495; braised whole dried fish maw, in abalone sauce, is listed at $580. (Canadian dollars, but still.) I order a few of the more affordable small dishes from the “Evening Dim Sum” menu: an unexceptional duck spring roll, some hot-and-sour Shanghai-style soup dumplings, which are surprisingly tasty, and a black truffle siu mai with Iberico pork and a soft quail egg, served at room temperature, that is just too ambitious to be anything but disappointing. The bartender makes a little joke when he serves the siu mai: “Be careful about the egg inside. It’s a soft yolk and you don’t want it all over your shirt.” …
As a jaded travel writer, someone who has stayed in many soulless hotels and eaten in many overpriced restaurants in many disappointing places, I’m completely at ease with a certain exquisite idleness and ennui. But there’s something profoundly unsettling about the sort of boredom that I’ve been feeling in the Trump properties over the past many weeks. …

I think about the woman earlier this evening who screamed from her SUV, yelling at those of us who happened to be standing in front of the silent, cold, glistening tower. It was a little over-the-top. I suspect that this type of white-hot outrage and hysteria will eventually cool. I also suspect that the era of Trump will pass soon enough. When that happens, what terrifies me is not that Trump’s presidency will have ended up as an exploding, burning disaster — but rather that it will have become something dangerously lukewarm, seeping into our identity. Kind of like that black truffle siu mai with the quail egg inside, served room temperature, with the soft yolk that threatens to ooze down the shirt of the person who ordered it.

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