Amanfayun, Hangzhou

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am


What is it? Luxury hotel group Aman has got its hands on a village near Hangzhou and turned it into a five-star resort - in a good way. The village buildings have been cleverly transformed into the usual high-end hotel staples - a reception area, a library, guest bedrooms, several restaurants and a spa - but the result is remarkably unhotel-like. It all blends in perfectly with the bucolic surroundings of tea bushes, woodland and bamboo groves.

So is it historical or contemporary? Both. The original dark wood, shuttered-window houses and stone streets have been retained but the interiors are modern. In deference to the historical exteriors, the furnishings are simple and neutral. Traditional materials and techniques such as elm wood, latticework and rice paper have been used throughout. A few new buildings have been added but you'd be hard-pressed to guess which ones they are.

What are the bedrooms like? Each is different. They range from terraced 'village rooms' (above right) to two-storey villas with courtyards. The most exclusive come with massage treatment rooms.

What should I pack? Ladies, leave your Louboutins at home. The heels won't be able to take the cobbled streets that lead around the property and, besides, Amanfayun is all about stealth wealth. Cashmere layers and Tod's moccasins were created to be worn here. If your wardrobe is lacking in luxurious yet understated casual separates then check out the Aman boutique on the main thoroughfare, next to the spa.

Tell us more about the spa: it's been impressively designed to fit in with the original decor and the rambling countryside. Housed over several buildings, there's a reflexology room above the reception area and a number of treatment rooms scattered around a gentle hillside. Treatments are tailored to the four seasons and utilise local herbs and plants. In winter, that's wild ginger for its yang warming qualities. Even if you don't book in for a treatment don't miss the (complimentary) Bath House - a private and serene space with rain shower, steam room and large wooden tub for one or two.

What if I'm feeling a bit more active? Not a problem. On site are also yoga and pilates studios plus a decent sized gym - all incongruously but effectively housed in traditional village buildings. A good size swimming pool is set in a walled garden surrounded by trees and Chinese umbrellas.

And after I've worked up an appetite? There are several options including a Western restaurant and a vegetarian kitchen run by Buddhist monks. Try Hangzhou House for specialities such as West Lake shrimp cooked with Longjing green tea (the local brew), and Dongpo pork, braised meat served with bamboo shoots.

Is there a bar? It's part of the main restaurant and was on the quiet side when we visited, but it has an impressive cocktail list making good use of local plants and flowers.

What else is there to do? There are seven temples and monasteries within walking distance. Lingyin temple, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the mainland, is literally next door so there are no excuses for missing an 8am visit before the coach parties arrive. The romantic West Lake is only a 15-minute drive away. After the tranquillity of Amanfayun the hordes can come as quite a shock, so book the hotel's sunrise tour, which includes a boat trip and breakfast picnic.

Anything else I should know? Visitors (and monks) are free to roam around Amanfayun except in Fayun Place, which is set aside for hotel guests only. This ornate wooden building, the fanciest in the village, has a library upstairs and a teahouse on the ground flour - make sure you experience the tea ceremony.

What's the bottom line? Village rooms start at US$580 plus 15 per cent tax and service charge.

Amanfayun is at 22 Fayun Nong, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, tel: 86 571 8732 9999;