After experiencing the powerhouses of Beijing and Shanghai, my third and final Mainland China destination offered up a warm, welcome respite. Only an hour from Shanghai via train, many locals and foreigners venture to Hangzhou for some peace, quiet and privacy. Although 2 1/2 million people live in the surrounding area, Hangzhou is known for its ancient tea plantations, lush vegetation and close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of West Lake. It’s big city in many regards, sure, but head outside the popular center for a fairytale village setting that surrounds its inhabitants with bamboo jungles and verdant valleys.
Understated luxury, serenity and tastefulness – this is the stuff of Aman Resorts, specifically Amanfayun where 42 rooms are rooted in the green landscapes with a focus on authenticity more than anything else.
Opening its doors in 2010, Amanfayun is set in a restored village dating back hundreds of years. The village incorporates many different complexes where no two rooms are the same. Minimally decorated yet incorporating both traditional and contemporary pieces, rooms are furnished with wood and stone accents and void of many tech gadgets, with the exception of an out-of-place TV.
Many come equipped with courtyards and abundant vegetation, perfect during spring and fall as winter gets chilly and summer turns into monsoon season. Believe me, I experienced it! What was mind-blowing was that the heavy rain didn’t seem to put a damper on anyone – not the staff, not the guests, and certainly not the tourists utilizing the Fayun Path to arrive at the Temple trail. Umbrellas are just as much of an accessory as a wallet in Hangzhou. If you forget it at home, it’s likely that your day will be a wash, literally.
Here, five separate buildings include a gym as well as reflexology & treatment rooms where guests can achieve pure zen if they weren’t already there after check-in. The shining star, however, would be the bath house, as the rooms on property are only equipped with showers. Normally this would be a cringing moment for me as my love for tubs runs deep. The bath house completely makes up for the missing piece to my villa puzzle, however, with circular wooden soaking tub enhanced by a rain shower, steam room and seated showers.
Fayun Place is the central point of the resort where cultural activities take center stage. Calligraphy and paper making classes are offered among other affairs, and I just so happened to catch the local master quietly bragging about his many talents.
Tea and snacks are offered in the library and sunken seating areas across two-levels. I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a better office in all of my travels. Aside from the scrumptious afternoon delights, no distractions exist, and the space is a quiet, shaded sanctuary where creativity flows freely.
At Amanfayun, there’s something for everyone whether it be tea houses, traditional fare, western or vegetarian dishes. During my last night at the resort, I celebrated with the some of the best chefs in the region who made the most delectable meal consisting of chef’s boxed surprises (presentation is on point, right?), polenta, truffles, and creme brulée. Mmmmmmm.
As I came back to my villa from dinner each night, I found little treasures on my pillow undoubtedly put there during turn-down service. Goodnight treats consisted of beaded bracelets, chopsticks and a festive spread of macarons. Sadly, the macarons were demolished upon first sight, however I still retain both the bracelet and chopsticks for a lovely souvenir from my very first Aman resort.
The main pathway running the full extent of the property connects guest rooms to other facilities at Amanfayun. Whether it’s the resort’s magical location or proximity to the many temples (including popular Lingyin), there exists a calmness that sweeps throughout the grounds that’s best exemplified by the open stone walkway where orange tunic-clad monks regularly traverse on their way to the temples. The flowing stream that continually trickles over stones only aids in providing the serenity that is ubiquitous at Amanfayun.
To be able to stick with tradition and authenticity while staying true to luxurious contemporary standards is a feat in and of itself, and I commend Amanfayun for successfully straddling the line. I love venturing off-the-beaten-path to experience unique hotels such as this as they end up being destinations in themselves, allowing visitors to keep a curious and adventurous spirit.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site enjoys abundant greenery, gardens and temples with an area totaling 2 1/2 square miles. Hangzhou is a big city with a population of 2.5 million people, but the beauty of West Lake not only lies in its flora and fauna. It acts as a water wonderland retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city center. Visitors can bike, walk, or take a pleasure cruise on the water, and I’d suggest going at dusk to photograph the sunset.
You live and you learn, and I ventured here around mid-day during an on-and-off rainstorm. Lucky me! The heavy drops turned into sprinkles just long enough so that I could snap a few photos. Rainstorm or not, Hangzhou, you’re a true gem!
The Road Les Traveled was welcomed to the resort as a guest, however my opinions are, as always, my own.