Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Luxury hotels, guesthouses and boutique hotels embody a city's design level, aesthetics and cultural environment and also provide a first impression of a city to guests.
Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Ya Gu Quan

The owner of Ru Yi, a boutique hotel, visited dozens of hamlets in Zhejiang Province in order to look for a traditional stone stove before commissioning a craftsman to manufacture one, which took more than three months of cutting, shaping and polishing the stone. This just goes to show how far Hangzhou hoteliers, business people and entrepreneurs, will go to capture the authenticity and nature of boutique hotels to ensure the best for their customers.

A book has been published on Hangzhou boutique hotels, called "Homes Away From Home," which offers a panoramic view of Hangzhou’s boutique hotel industry. There are 30 hotels listed in the publication and it details aspects of design, environment and features, among other things.

The book is divided into five segments, which are related to Hangzhou’s several different scenic areas, namely: Southern West Lake, Northern West Lake, the Grand Canal, Xixi Wetland and Zhijiang. Each section includes five to eight boutique hotels with poetic ambience and enchanting design.

Shanghai Daily had a leisurely flick through the book and highlights three boutique hotels popular with travelers.

Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Hotels not only offer accommodation, but also provide the first impression and life experience of a city to guests. Different from budget inns, luxury hotels and family-run guesthouses and boutique hotels embody the city’s design level, aesthetics and cultural environment.

As a scenic city, which boasts an abundance of scenic attractions, Hangzhou always allures tourists in droves, which in return boosts the development of boutique hotels. Hidden in secluded alleys, located along bustling thoroughfares or nestled in picturesque landscape, it does not matter where they are, they always attract a stream of visitors by virtue of their unique vibe and décor.

Some designers stick to using natural materials and craftsmanship to build houses and recreate a classical facility, with the aim of bringing people back to a time when life was a bit more slow-paced, and away from the frenetic nature of the modern world.

Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Aman Fayun

Aman Fayun 法云安缦

If you let industry insiders pick a boutique hotel that symbolizes Hangzhou’s character, most of them would select Aman Fayun, which is surrounded by tea plantations and bamboo groves. Visitors will find themselves transported to an ancient village dating back centuries as designers rejuvenated the place into a traditional 18th-century style Chinese village. The outside appearance has a wooden structure, with stone-paved roads, clay walls and black tiles.

The hotel’s location was once the center of Buddhism in southeastern China. Today, a couple of prestigious places of worship still surround it, including the well-known Lingyin Temple. These spiritual sanctuaries endow the hotel with religious culture and help distinguish it from its rivals.

Aman Fayun has 46 rooms and, both suites and villas are in unique designs echoing its long history. It offers a diverse array of restaurants, and teahouses specialize in traditional delicacies, as well as Western and vegetarian dishes.

Meanwhile, the hotel embraces hectares of tea gardens and turns the environment into a haven of peaceful tranquility. And with cleaner, fresher air, the Aman Fayun is a perfect place to escape from the urban jungle.

Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Chaptel Hangzhou

Chaptel Hangzhou 湖边邨

Chaptel Hangzhou might be a good option to experience a bit of luxury and linger over the traditional shikumen (stone-gate) buildings, which features high brick walls and stone arch entrances, designed by Zhang Yichun, a famous architect of the Republic of China (1912-1949).

Before being transferred into a boutique hotel, it originally went through a series of events in history. In the 1940s, Kim Gu (1876-1949), a Korean nationalist politician, moved in from his Shanghai hideout, during the occupation of Korea by Japan, and set up the provisional Korean government there. He had stayed for five years.

The building then evolved into a public dormitory for municipal officials in the 1950s. In 2010, the building was redesigned into Chaptel Hangzhou, where a part of it was restored as a memorial hall to Kim.

The hotel is just three-minute walk from West Lake and this ideal location makes it popular with out-of-town travelers who want to get closer to the lake and experience life in the 1930s.

There are 17 luxurious suites at the Chaptel. Most suites have two spatial floors, as originally constructed, with high ceilings and spacious rooms. The interior décor is recreated in the vibe of the 1930s, integrating Western culture and art with traditional Chinese styles.

Recreating a comforting cultural haven to a bygone era

Wu Shan Xiao Yuan

Wu Shan Xiao Yuan 吴山小院

If you are attracted to a style typical of the southern reaches of the Yangtze River (Jiangnan), then the Wu Shan Xiao Yuan is the place for you.

This boutique hotel is nestled on the slope of Wushan Hill and only a seven-minute walk from the famous Wushan night fair and Hefang Street. Juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of popular spots, the hotel remains a serene haven covering lush vegetation.

The original houses belonged to a centuries-old garden, featuring white walls and black-tiled roofs. Such a classical garden is more than just a pretty facade outside of a mansion. It is a statement about an inhabitant’s social status and reflected their aesthetics in ancient times.

Modern-day designers have managed to inherit the spirit and aesthetics of that by gone age. They have retained their tranquil and unassuming qualities, which matches well with the hill. They appear in black and white shades, as in a traditional Chinese ink-wash painting.

Well-preserved items from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) add historical light to it, while the patio in the courtyard highlights the Jiangnan style. The interior décor is characterized by a minimalist wooden style. The simple, plain arrangement echoes with the Taoist name of every room.

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