Today (May 27, 2015): Review of Amanfayun, Hangzhou (China).
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: 22 Fayun Lane, West Lake Street, West Lake Scenic Area, Hangzhou, PRC 310013
- Hotel website: Amanfayun
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Privacy, discretion, understatement, and above all absolute tastefulness in every conceivable detail: this is the stuff an Aman – the world’s most exclusive hotel brand – is made of. At Amanfayun, their Hangzhou outpost set amidst the tea fields and bamboo groves to the west of West Lake, those values translate into 42 maximally luxurious, minimally fussy suites, done in the distinctive style of traditional Chinese courtyard homes. Just a 20-minute drive from the city centre, Amanfayun is also the ideal location from which to explore the region’s ancient Buddhist temples, botanical gardens, vast wetland areas, countless pagodas and Hangzhou’s famous silk and shopping streets.
Amanfayun features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in China.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Amanfayun has an amazing fairy tale village setting. The resort is comprised of 47 stone courtyard dwellings designed in the spirit of a traditional Chinese village. Some of the building are more than 100 years old. In 2003, the Hangzhou Bureau of Landscape and Cultural Relics became involved in the restoration of the village, and in 2008 Aman was approached to manage an area zoned for resort development.
- While the ancient village setting is already spectacular on itself, it are the incredibly poetic surroundings that will truly make a lasting impression. The hills around the resort are dotted with gorgeous tea fields, thick bamboo forest, and not less than seven temples and monasteries, all within walking distance. The air is crisp, clear and fresh. This is a terrific break from the hustle, bustle and concrete of modern China.
- Amanfayun lies hidden in a valley to the west of West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Hangzhou. The 30-minute drive from the city centre is already a scenic journey on itself, taking one along densely wooded bamboo and tree-lined avenues, past the botanical gardens and inner waterways of West Lake, to the temples and village of Tianzhu.
- In true Aman style, arrival at Amanfayun is made to impress, reflecting the intimate grandeur of its natural and cultural surroundings. Access to the resort’s small reception pavilion is via a narrow roadway that is bordered by thick forest and groves of bamboo. From there a trail leads to the cobblestone Fayun Pathway, the main walkway running the full extent of the property (600 meter) and connecting guest accommodation (courtyard dwellings) to other facilities (such as restaurants and the spa).
- Lots of monks from the nearby monasteries walk around the grounds, making for some surreal yet very serene scenes. In addition, gongs from the nearby temples at dawn create a magical ambience.
- The property has 42 rooms, suites and villas, all of them beautifully decorated, in an understated elegant way. Due to the unique nature of the structures, no two rooms are identical. All accommodations are very spacious, albeit a bit dimly lit for authenticity. Without compromising the integrity of the dwellings, all rooms and suites enjoy the comforts of radiant under-floor heating and air conditioning. Fine calligraphy art pieces decorate the walls and all furniture is freestanding, including daybeds, sofas, dining suites and floor and desk lamps. Televisions and iPod or iPhone docks are available on request. Most accommodation units open to private or semi-private courtyards with informal outdoor dining and lounging areas.
- The most commanding of the village’s original structures, Fayun place, is located in the centre of the property and only accessible to guests. The lower level with its soaring ceilings and refined latticework houses the property’s guest assistants and a lounging area, where light traditional snacks and tea may be taken. The upper level contains a Cigar Room, informal sitting and reading rooms and the library, which features an extensive array of books and documentary DVDs (both in Chinese and English) focusing on the history and culture of China.
- The property has two excellent restaurants, both of them serving great food at very reasonable prices. The main restaurant serves Western cuisine, featuring a number of international dishes, in essence offering guests finely crafted comfort food. The other one is the Steam House, a casual, authentic eatery with open kitchen providing traditional fare with focus on steamed dumplings and village-style dishes.
- Besides the two hotel restaurants mentioned above, the resort also has a partnership with three, independently operated village eateries that have distinct and delicious restaurants all along the Fayun Pathway: Hangzhou House, Tea House and the Vegeterian House.
- Amanfayun has a wonderful Spa, a peaceful sanctuary consisting of five separate areas. Surrounded by bamboo groves and magnolia trees with courtyards in between, the five structures include the Reception and Reflexology House, the Bath House, the Fitness Centre (offering a fully-equipped gym, Pilates and yoga), the Finishing Salon, and the Treatment House.
- Located within the grounds of the Aman Spa, there is a 20-meter heated outdoor pool, which provides the perfect place to relax and enjoy the surrounding nature on a warm day.
- Amanfayun has complimentary broadband internet access throughout its facilities and accommodations. Internet is very fast and you can access all sites, including Google, Youtube, and Facebook. This is pretty remarkable as the Chinese government restricts internet access and blocks many sites (such as the ones mentioned above), as I experienced in all other Chinese hotels that I have visited before. Not sure how Amanfayun bypasses the internet controls but it is a very welcome surprise.
- Outside the sprawling grounds of the resort itself, Hangzhou’s famous West Lake is a short drive away (another benefit, in addition to the tranquil atmosphere, of Amanfayun’s out-of-town location). Closer still are seven of the historic sites on Hangzhou’s Temple Trail. From Amanfayun, it’s a 5 minute walk to one of China’s most important and beautifully ornamented Buddhist temples, the sixteen-hundred-year-old Lingyin Si.
- The best thing about the resort is the warm, welcoming and helpful staff. Service is impeccable and top-notch, as you would expect from a resort managed by the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. Both management and staff excel in providing the best service possible, and try their very best to please and ensure you have a great stay. The staff level of English is decent and one can certainly communicate well enough (which is often a problem in China).
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Amanfayun is a world-class resort and our favorite in China, because of its authentic village setting and poetic surroundings. The hotel is so close to being absolutely perfect. There are no real cons, just some minor thing that you may want to know:
- Fayun Pathway, the main walkway running the full extent of the property, is open to the public, and large numbers of people pass through it during the day to visit the Buddhist temples in the area. However, there are multiple security guards on service along Fayun Pathway to keep unwanted visitors out from the hotel’s courtyard dwellings. It did not bother me, as you can always retreat to the tranquility of the private dwellings if you want privacy.
- Rooms are dimly lit, which can make it a little challenging to find stuff in your luggage. But the dark atmosphere adds to the charm of the place. And you can inform the staff if you would like the room to be brighter: they can change the voltage of the bulbs in your room and also bring in more lamps.
- Bathrooms in the rooms and suites have no bath tub, only a shower.
- Be prepared to become an Aman junkie as this will raise the bar for your future trips.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS AND SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Amanfayun (and/or receive many free perks). You will never find lower rates for Amanfayun, and Aman resorts in general, than those listed on the official hotel page.
- Save money: I recommend to book through a Virtuoso travel agent, which will cost you the same as compared to booking via the official Aman website, but has the benefit of complimentary perks (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one lunch for 2).
- Read my tips for prepare your trip in time.
- Book the Aman hotel car to meet you at the airport or train station. You don’t want to wait in the taxi line and then deal with a taxi driver who can’t understand you.
- Wander the grounds outside of the ‘village’ – there are beautiful trails along the hills that connect the various temples. Try to visit them just after sunrise or before sunset when you will have the place all to yourself, a pure and magic experience.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
There are four distinct seasons in Hangzhou. Summers tend to be hot and humid, while winters are cool to cold, cloudy and mostly dry with occasional snowfall. Spring and autumn enjoy mild and mostly warm weather, and are the best time to visit the area. Temperatures range from 2°C to 8°C in January, from 12°C to 20°C in April, from 25°C to 33°C in July and from 15°C to 23°C in October.
HOW TO GET THERE
Amanfayun is approximately a 50-minute drive north of Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport. The airport is serviced by both domestic and international flights. There are direct domestic flights to most major cities in China. International flights operate daily between Hangzhou and Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Seoul and Singapore. There are also regular flights from Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, New Delhi, Tokyo, Bangkok, as well as direct flights between Hangzhou and Amsterdam with KLM Airlines three times a week. Check the Wikipedia page of Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport for for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Hangzhou. Access from Shanghai is either by car (approximately three hours) or by fast train (45 minutes).