Hotel Review: Banyan Tree Hangzhou

Hangzhou

The charms of the Banyan Tree Hangzhou cannot be underestimated for either the vacation or business traveler and it is no surprise this was a prize location as a welcome respite as world leaders met to try to solve the world’s problems during September’s G20 Summit.

This article is a guest contribution by Kathryn Creedy (some photos are also by Simone Anne Lang)

The Banyan Tree Hangzhou’s 72 suites and villas are nestled in the midst of the Xixi National Wetlands where romantic lights reflect on the water below graceful bridges. While many want the familiarity of western hotel brands, staying at a Chinese resort allows you to be imbedded in the culture.

Activities in Hangzhou

One of the seven ancient capitals of China, Hangzhou has been a center for technology, economic development and education since the sixth century. It rests on the Qiantang River and is the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, which, at 1,200 miles bests both the Panama and Suez canals. Built 2,000 years ago, it ensured the economic vitality of the country by connecting Beijing to Hangzhou and five of its most vital rivers. Hangzhou is, on the one hand, a bustling and harried tech mecca, and, on the other, a resort city peppered with luxury hotels surrounding the Xixi National Wetland Park and West Lake where the Chinese version of the gondoliers ply the shallow waters. The city welcomes 1.3 annual visitors annually making it a must stop on any traveler’s map.

Hangzhou

Since Marco Polo’s time the city has become known as the Silicon Valley in Paradise. It is home to Alibaba, which Wired described as “every tech giant rolled into one,” and Baidu, Google’s counterpart in the Middle Kingdom as well as an important manufacturing and logistics base for coastal China. The capital of Zeijiang province, Hangzhou’s population numbers nine million and, beyond its tech identity, is renowned for silk and tea, making a trip to the China National Silk Museum and nearby tea plantations a must.

Hangzhou

Perhaps the top destination in the city is West Lake, the beauty of which has captivated five dynasties of emperors, painters, poets and now me. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 8,200 acres of lake and shoreline is surrounded by picturesque mountains on three sides and dotted with temples including the famous Leifeng and Baochu pagodas. West Lake has numerous walkways and causeways for strolling and includes temples and gardens. Visitors can hire boats to drift by small islands curtained by weeping willow trees trailing gently in the flowing water. On the islands, tiny houses and temple-like structures peak through their willow veils and seem to float on the surface. I call Hangzhou the Lotus City for the delicate pink and white blossoms are everywhere along the West Lake shoreline, in gardens throughout the city as well as in Xixi, a rare urban environment, the first and only such park in the country. The wetlands park, which is at once an ecological gem and scientific laboratory, includes quaint, village-like destinations nestled among the many canals.

Hangzhou

Tea is one of the most important parts of the Hangzhou economy and the area is known for originating Longjing or Dragon Well green tea. A unique experience is a trip to the nearby Meijiawu Village, one of the areas for growing the best Dragon Well tea and a quintessential tea destination. The village is nestled in a valley surrounded by hills stripped with regimented rows of hardy tea plants. One of the fun parts of the visit is the performance by tea sellers who make any late-night infomercial host look like a piker as they charm you with the intricacies of green tea. You will not only learn about the benefits of green tea but can have a lunch served by a local tea farmer at his own house. These are well-to-do plantation owners who harvest the delicate leaf buds and roast them to perfection to capture the Vitamin C, amino acids and powerful antioxidants and, with their families, serve meals to adventurous visitors.

Hangzhou

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport serves the city but the traditional gateway is Shanghai a two-hour drive or 55-minute bullet train ride away. Because of its business and tourist ties, Hangzhou is increasingly attracting direct service from European and, at least one US, gateways. As part of its strategy to look to Asia for growth, United Airlines, recently inaugurated thrice weekly US-Hangzhou service connecting China’s tech paradise with its counterpart in Silicon Valley.  Similarly, United connects its expanding San Francisco gateway to China’s top business and tourist attractions such as Hangzhou, Xi’an (home to the Terracotta Warriors) and Chengdu (home to the Chengdu Panda Center).

Rooms at Banyan Tree Hangzhou

The luxury offered by Banyan Tree includes generous accommodations with numerous sitting areas for relaxing, watching television or working. My suite had five separate sitting areas as well as a desk area. It’s bath area with both a tub and a rain forest shower is so large it rivals an entire New York City apartment. My stay at the Banyan Tree Hangzhou was a working trip made all the more pleasant for my surroundings. As I hunched over my computer before dawn and late into the evening, I was lulled by delicate music provided by a fantastic sound system nestled on a nearby credenza. Despite my deadlines, the music definitely lifted my mood and reminded me to appreciate my surroundings that were more spa than suite.

Banyan Tree Hangzhou Suite

Suite at Banyan Tree Hangzhou

The spa offers what the hotel calls a sanctuary for the senses and sanctuary is definitely the term I’d use for the entire property. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly. I was definitely outside my comfort zone with the language but they seemed to go out of their way to make me feel at home and helping navigate both the wetlands and Hangzhou, renowned for a beauty that has attracted millennia of travelers, including, of course, Marco Polo who called it “Paradise on Earth.” For those interested in a different luxury experience you can’t go wrong at the Banyan Tree from the delicate, welcoming music, the venue within a national park and the friendly service and accommodations all designed to ensure your comfort.

Tip: Hangzhou part of a relaxed visa program in which visitors spending no more than six days (144 hours) can visit Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces without a visa.

While Hangzhou is a bustling city of nine million people, the most captivating part has little to do with business but everything to do with wafting along in the gentle currents of West Lake. One of the luxury hotels within the unique Xixi National Wetlands Park, the Banyan Tree Hangzhou, a top destination for upscale Chinese visitors, offers something different. A Chinese tradition is to offer a gift, a tiny panda bear. In addition to sumptuous terry robes, the suite offers a lounging robe and slippers for maximum comfort. Accommodations include luxurious beds and artwork linked to the wonderful lotus flowers that pepper the city.

The bathroom is so large it puts some New York City apartments to shame. The huge accommodations include no fewer than five different seating aeras including a balcony overlooking the property nestled in the Xixi National Wetlands Park. I spent a lot of time hunched over the desk while listening to the sweetest music to work by. Islands within West Lake seemed to float behind their willow veils. Visitors can punt around West Lake in boats powered by the Chinese version of gondoliers. Hangzhou, to me, will be forever associated with the delicate pink and white lotus flower, which dot the landscape throughout the city.

Hangzhou is famous for originating the regal Dragon Well tea and a visit at tea village is a must. Local tea plantation owners offer a unique treat by hosting home made, copious and delicious meals. This one is surrounded by regimented lines of tea plants marching across the gently rolling hills.  Hangzhou is also a center of the silk trade and delicate fans provide an ideal remembrance of a wonderful trip.

This article is a guest contribution by Kathryn Creedy (some photos are also by Simone Anne Lang)

Book your stay at Banyan Tree Hangzhou now:

 

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One Comment on “Hotel Review: Banyan Tree Hangzhou

  1. Pingback: Looking Back | travelux

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