China’s colossal size, lightning-fast development and language and signage hurdles mean it can be hard knowing where to start as a tourist. That is why after much research we have created ‘The China Edit’ to give you the skinny on China with our carefully selected Little Black Book of what to do, where to skip, and the best-of-the-best places to stay. We aim to provide the perfect introduction to China for first-timers with just the right amount of hand-holding versus self-exploration; the perfect combination of ultra luxury and off-beat culture.
We have a portfolio of just 18 cherry-picked luxury hotels in China, in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi-An, Hangzhou, Yunnan, Guilin, Sichuan and Hong Kong. Our top sales specialist, Mark Wright has recently spent 49 days in China on his bicycle ride from London to Hong Kong and our MD, James Jayasundera did an incredible 2 week research trip across China. We sat down with James as soon as he returned to give us his feedback on his experiences and his gut reactions to the hotels he stayed at. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here are his thoughts….
I think I have fallen in love! I always felt that being so attached to the Indian subcontinent meant there was no room left in my heart for other big countries, but happily this is not the case. I was really bowled over by China – its beauty, ancient history and powerful present are all intoxicating, but what I felt was most fascinating was the unexpectedly fun and agile sense of humour of its people.
Our host was amazing and looked after us incredibly well. His lecture to us on the history and politics of 20th century China on the way to the Great Wall was particularly riveting. All the different components of the trip came together in a perfect and seamless manner – and trust me, it takes great skill and effort to make this look so simple!
Aman Summer Palace, Beijing – Killer combination of old and new: trademark Aman understated cool, coupled with the unique opportunity to stay in palace pavilions dating back over a century with Ming dynasty style furniture throughout the property. I loved its sense of history and the private access to the Summer Palace through a secret and unassuming door. The food was fantastic, I was knocked out by the pool and spa, and the calligraphy class was a real highlight of my trip. Being close to the airport and 45 minutes closer to the Great Wall was a big plus.China World Summit, Beijing – I really liked this hotel as it had a great buzz and wow factor. It is slightly bling but in a good way and it is outrageously comfortable. I think it is a nice added extra to have a skyscraper experience in any itinerary of Beijing or Shanghai.
Four Seasons, Beijing – Extremely comfortable with outrageously over the top restaurants, but unfortunately no views.
Opposite House, Beijing – Absolutely loved it. It is not for everybody but for those who enjoy contemporary art and design and want to do a little exploring on foot it’s a great spot. The architect and interior decorator’s creativity and vision and ability to translate it into every single aspect of the hotel is seriously impressive. The lobby positively crackles with excitement. Hilton, Xian – Very comfortable (with the most comfortable beds and pillows on the trip) and remarkably well put together. It does feel like more of a corporate hotel due to its bland choice of colours and materials, but its good location and buzzing restaurant do somewhat compensate for this.
Amanfayun, Hangzhou – Great charm and character and very effective in providing a romantic feeling of village life in China. Walking access to the temples is a great plus. The independent outlets in the grounds were also delightful as they were filled with local life and colour, especially the Tea House. The mood lighting in the room is a little dark for my liking (trying to see what you have packed can be a challenge) but that is a very small price to pay for this wonderfully atmospheric and unique experience. Four Seasons, Hangzhou– Stunning hotel in every single way. Anybody who stays there could not fail to be impressed by it, but I still prefer the Amanfayun!
The Puli, Shanghai – Slick design and a lively lobby and restaurants. The crowd was the smartest we saw on the trip. Great property but not on the river.
Park Hyatt, Shanghai – Wow, what a property. Stunning architecture, incredibly tastefully decorated with no expense spared. And it’s fun to know you are in the tallest building in the city! The views are out of this world. The one downside is that you are not in the most interesting part of the city and Shanghai really is a city that is lovely to explore on foot. The Peninsula, Shanghai – A class act and to not stay there would be a crime. Perfect location and the iconic views of Pudong and the river are unbeatable. The interiors are exquisite and the rooms are possibly the best appointed rooms I have seen in 15 years of hotels inspections. Loved, love, loved! Possibly my new favourite hotel in the world…
It was an amazing tour and I would go as far as to say that it was a life changing trip for me. My experience of China has greatly changed the way I think about many things and for this I am greatly indebted to the people I met there. I can say without hesitation Ampersand is working with the best ground handlers that I have experienced anywhere in the world. I simply cannot wait to start selling China as a destination!
You can view more of James and Mark’s photos of China on Facebook here. Call them on +44 (0)20 7289 6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com for more information about their experience or to book your own tailor-made luxury tour of China.