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Special feature: Amanfayun, Hangzhou, China

When Marco Polo visited the ancient Chinese city and former capital of the Song dynasty of Hangzhou in the late 13th century, he christened the city: “beyond dispute the finest and noblest in the world.” Part of an old Chinese saying transliterated reads: “there is paradise in heaven, on earth there is Hangzhou,” marking Hangzhou as ‘heaven on earth’ – the nickname now bestowed upon the city. With such accolades, it is no surprise that Aman Resorts, the quintessential luxury hotel group and leading pioneer of boutique hotels, decided to open Amanfayun­­ in 2010 in Hangzhou at the site of Fayun Village. Amanfayun pathway Fayun Village, set among hilly Hangzhou, is a quaint hamlet at the outskirts of some of the city’s most important sites, the Lingyin Temple (Temple of Soul’s Retreat) and Yongfu Temple that form a ring of seven temples in the mountains. Lingyin Temple The restored village, dating back hundreds of years, is now a haven for guests to indulge in the history of the place. The main 600-metre cobblestone pathway (Fayun pathway) that cuts through the village has been left open to public, as it leads directly to the foot of Lingyin Temple – a trail still used by Buddhist monks and the general public on their way to the monasteries. With its unique architecture and atmosphere, Amanfayun offers a ‘sense of place’, surrounded by tea fields, forests with indigenous camphor, osmanthus and bamboo trees, and dotted by village-style dwellings. Monks at Fayun pathway The resort experience begins at the airport, where our chauffer picks us up and leads us to the village, a 40-minute drive through the city, new and old. Staff, including General Manager Lukasz Prendke and Monika Prendke, as well our butler Danielle, greet us personally as we alight. We are welcomed to the reception area with a refreshing tea while Lukasz and Monika generously sit us down and inquire regarding our expectations for Hangzhou. Longjing tea Our Village Room is 700 square feet of understated elegance: stone floors, a four-poster bed, an integrated living space and a bathroom that is split from the main space by wooden lattice screens. Despite the stone floorings and the temperate weather outside, the room and the floor is appropriately heated as we check-in, and throughout our stay. Village Room Amanfayun bedroom Village Room The Jaya Ibrahim-designed rooms are furnished in traditional village style: stone and wood feature prominently in natural stone vanities, a wooden sofa, chairs, cabinets and the uniquely Chinese mini-bar. The room is thankfully void of unnecessary technology, save for the out-of-place television, featuring instead calligraphy and lights encased in paper lanterns. In-room minibar at Amanfayun Due to the structure of the village, no two rooms, even in the same category, are identical. There are a total of five categories, rising up to the presidential duplex 3,000-square-foot Amanfayun Villa, which contains a private massage area. Every room also has a sizeable courtyard, ideal for outdoor sit outs or tea or supper. The stone courtyards are often given life and colour with a tree or two planted within the encasement providing shade, comfort and a verdant atmosphere. Around the resort, the buildings are split into different facilities. Two separate structures host The Restaurant (the only building not an original village structure, though you wouldn’t notice it!) and Steam House, a Western and Chinese restaurant respectively, managed by the resort itself. The Steam House provides sincere and authentic Chinese cuisine, with the dim sum and fresh flat fish fillet steamed in soy sauce a particular delight. Amanfayun Steam House Also on the grounds are three other independently managed restaurants: Hangzhou House, serving a selection of local favourites; Tea House, an experience in itself with its plethora of native teas and mini tea musuem, including the famous Longjing (Dragon Well tea or Imperial tea), served with home-cooked hearty meals; and Vegetarian House, providing alternative, simple, vegetarian cuisine. Nearby, the Aman spa is set on multiple levels across five buildings on a hilly slope, with private and couples massage rooms, bath houses featuring circular wooden soaking tubs, and an outdoor pool that is closed during winter. Fayun Place, the central point of the resort and its largest and most distinguished building, accessible only to guests, hosts a library, sunken sitting rooms and a very peaceful casual space across two-levels, where multiple activities, including calligraphy, paper cutting and more presented by local masters, are hosted to engage guests in the local cultural experience. Amanfayun Spa bath house For our independent trip to the West Lake, our butler Danielle takes the initiative in providing us with several hand-drawn maps of the area as well as a mobile phone to stay connected. Danielle’s thoughtfulness in creating a unique itinerary and ability to predict any issues and propose a solution through being proactive by taking appropriate action are a hallmark of Aman’s much vaunted service standard. West Lake Whether it is the resort’s superbly scouted location and its positive feng shui, or its proximity to the temples and its faint religious connections, there is a calm peace that pervades throughout that is best exemplified by the open stone pathway through which orange tunic-clad monks regularly traverse on their way to the temples, and the flowing water stream that continually trickles as it passes over stone obstacles. Resort stream While there are no soft sandy beaches or gentle waves in sight like at many R&R resorts, Amanfayun is arguably the most peaceful, relaxing and rejuvenating resort at which I have stayed.

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  1. Wow, looks like an amazing place to stay.
    I have always thought that if I went to China I would go on an escorted tour that covered the main places I want to see and let them take me and that would be it.
    However, this post and others like it that I have seen recently make me think I should take a trip on my own, because the experience of a hotel like this would not be matched on an escorted tour.

  2. Lee – thanks for your comment. Many people are skeptical about touring China and prefer to go via escorted tours. However, I say pick a good and unique resort (check out the other Aman in Beijing – Aman at Summer Palace) because they are destinations unto themselves. And with a good resort like that, the level of concierge service is outstanding; meaning you will still be able to visit the places you want to visit with ease without worrying about language or organisation/itinerary/timing issues.

  3. I have always wanted to stay at an Aman resort, they are all spectacular. To be able to integrate with something old and authentic but done to luxurious contemporary standards is above and beyond the ultimate of destination resorts.

  4. Stayed at this last October. Spectacular, just like the other few Aman resorts I stayed at. We also had Danielle as our butler! She was amazing!

    The only perhaps drawback is that you could occasionally hear traffic noise from the streets outside, and that the rooms are a bit dark at times…

  5. This looks absolutely magical. I love the surroundings, they are perfect. I like the fact that the monks use this path, and I adore the understated elegance of the decor.

  6. What a beautiful setting in a gorgeous part of the world. I have never been to China but have done quite a bit of research on this hidden gem that is rapidly becoming a spot in the world where we are going to see more folks wanting to visit, purely because of what you can see in this post. There is so much history, culture and beauty here.

    I have never been particularly fond of ‘escorted tours’ so if and when I am able to get to China I hope to be able to have a little freedom, with the realization that customs and expectations are very different in the East.

  7. gorgeous! it looks sooo beautiful and so relaxing. i was going to say we’d probably never leave the room with heated floors, but authentic dim sum could probably lure us out.

  8. This looks incredible – just to show that understatement goes miles further than anything else. I love Aman Resorts

  9. OK. I want to go here RIGHT NOW! Love the decor and the care that Danielle took in helping you. It’s the personal touch that makes ALL the difference I think.

  10. I feel more relaxed just from reading about your stay. I know that China can sometimes feel overwhelming but the Amanfayun really does appear to be a slice of heaven.

  11. Simplicity equals calming and relaxing, as well, I would really like a butler on any trip that I take… I will be joining you on your next trip.

  12. So beautiful! I would love to stay there, totally my type of thing. I visited Hangzhou back in 2011, I think, and really loved it. Definitely a nice respite from crazy Shanghai.

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