The summer palace is a place like no other in China, or indeed the world. With the Kunming lake, its stunning bridges, temples and parks it attracts millions of visitors every year. However, most of them don’t stay for long, as you can hardly expect anyone to be able to live here… until recently this was the case. However, in 2008 things changed, Aman was granted the permission to open a hotel on the premises of the palace itself. As you can imagine with a group such as this, it is no standard luxury hotel that has come to life here, rather a place so beautiful, pure and perfect that it makes you forget everything outside of it.
But let’s start from the beginning, as this Aman is first and foremost a hotel that could not be more luxurious. It has a magnificent spa, fantastic pool, fitness centre and restaurants. With its 52 rooms and suites it can really be called a boutique hotel, but is in fact much more. Whereas many other luxury hotels in Beijing are very close to what is the standard anywhere in the world, this is a place that is Chinese and reflects its location with more style and taste than you could possibly imagine.
When entering your room, or indeed pretty much any of the public spaces of the hotel, don’t expect gold, marble or anything of the kind. Rather, you will find beautiful wood, some of it from the original structures, various stones and warm earthy colours. The rooms are decorated simply, but don’t give you a feeling of being either empty or too busy. They are as beautiful as it gets. With plenty of space, they allow you to breathe and forget about your troubles. What’s more, this place manages to make due without pretty much all of the luxury furnishings that adorn 99% of the world’s hotels: Marble, gold, classicist paintings are hard to spot as everything here comes from the Summer palace or its surroundings.
It is a kind of luxury that not everyone will understand, but that is in some ways so much more powerful and attractive to those with a bit of taste. It is a place made for those who don’t need to show what they have, but want to come back to perfectly measured simplicity and balance. Sitting by the library, watching the calligrapher go about his craft somehow transports you back in time, to the places you see in Zhang Yimou’s films, places that were pure, and of such inherent beauty that not much was needed for them blossom.
Whilst this hotel might be expensive, it will give you a feeling of serenity that shuts the outside world totally out. You will realise that you are in one of the busiest towns of the world, only when you step through the inconspicuous red door, into the summer palace. At that moment that you will hear the sound of another China that of the 21st century.