A tale of three luxe Aman resorts —Bhutan, Beijing, Hangzhou—each with its own distinct flavor and history.
By Polina Steier
Aman Resorts is known for offering an intimate and discreet experience, while providing the highest level of service. Each resort and setting is unique, but several elements remain constant: A beautiful natural location, outstanding facilities, exceptional service and a small number of rooms to ensure exclusivity and privacy.
Since 1988, when flagship Amanpuri opened in Phuket, Thailand, Aman Resorts has established resorts in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States. And the company continually seeks out new destinations.
Aman is known worldwide for removing the lines from a luxurious resort experience and historic cultural immersion. Their guests never divide their sightseeing from their shelter experience.
This is the case with the imperial Chinese-styled Aman Summer Palace – which is housed within the walls of one of China’s greatest monuments, The UNESCO World Heritage Summer Palace, just outside bustling Beijing. It is three times larger than the Forbidden City and the largest garden in China more than a century after it was built by the Empress Dowager Cixi as the summer retreat for the imperial family.
Aman won the right to transform buildings annexed to the palace, some of which were once used as diplomatic waiting rooms, into a luxury hotel. A special perk: The Summer Palace stays open after hours for Aman guests.
The Empress would have felt very much at home at Aman, which embraces modern details, yet, still pays homage to history with its traditional peaked, beamed wood ceilings, delicate paper lanterns, and silk cushioned Ming benches. Modern, pampering touches abound with deep soaking tubs and TVs hidden in Ming armoire.
Weeping willows and cobblestone pathways lead to the guestrooms and suites, which are housed in historic buildings set around internal courtyards. Clay tile floors are highly polished and Ming armoires hide televisions. Restaurants include the Western-themed Grill, a Chinese restaurant that serves incredible Peking duck carved tableside; and Naoki, where the celebrated chef serves French Kaiseki Japanese cuisine.
Aman at the Summer Palace
AmankoraKingdom of Bhutan
by Vinati Mishra
We drove from Paro through some amazing countryside with small monasteries and arrived at one of Bhutan’s most historic and important Dzongs, the 17th century impressive Punakha Dzong and the Punakha Pelri Palace. Amankora Punakha is accessed by a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu River. The bridge is covered with wonderfully colored prayer scarves tied by thousands of visitors from different parts of the world.
Upon arriving at the courtyard we were welcomed with beverages of our choice and given a short tour of the property. We were then escorted to our suites, which were designed in the Buddhist style. Each suite included a fireplace and an inviting bathtub.
After settling in we went downstairs for dinner and traditional Bhutanese food prepared by one of the Amankora’s international chefs. The three-course meal was terrific with lots of local ingredients. The dining area was simple but tastefully designed in the local style and the staff was attentive. On returning to our suite, we found the delicate touches of evening service in our rooms with baths drawn and lit.
Next day started with water offering in the altar room to the local deities, a tradition in all Bhutanese households, followed by an enormous breakfast. We went for a walk along the riverside. After returning back for cool drinks, catching up on our work via Internet available at the main hotel followed by a light lunch.
We booked massages at the Spa, in fantastic rooms that face paddy fields. We then had a steam, showers and returned to the courtyard for the evening ritual of drinks and dinner accompanied by local music and local Bhutanese dance performance.
Kingdom of Bhutan
(975) 8 272 333
by Polina Steier
When I travel, I want to immerse in the local culture, and explore the surrounding area. I find it difficult to squeeze in downtime at the resorts I stay at, but Amanfayun, China’s newest Aman, made it easy to experience the local scene and interact with neighboring locals, while staying put.
Amanfayun is located in the charming city of Hangzhou, a short bullet train ride from Shanghai. Located in the lower Yangzte region, Hangzhou has always been renowned for its excellent green tea, and monks, intellectuals and scholars who spent their time meditating in temples and conversing in teahouses, its powerful postcard-perfect West Lake, and beautifully landscaped traditional Chinese gardens.
Amanfayun is like a traditional Chinese Zen painting: Unexpected, quietly beautiful, and completely authentic. Nestled in 35 acres of rolling green tea plantations and surrounded by mountains, the luxuriously rustic property is built on the foundations of an ancient Chinese village, called Fayun. Many of its traditional houses were painstakingly restored and the village’s original layout was kept intact. The main path that leads through the resort is one of the pilgrimage routes to Lingyin Temple, (the temple of the Soul’s Retreat) and one of China’s largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples.
The villas are like precious jewel boxes, and are traditional Chinese structures featuring custom made furniture, intricate lattice shutters and high quality heated stone floors. The villas are minimalist and serene. They offer quality soft sheets, and superior sound systems and an oversized rain shower with handcrafted bath and gels housed in ceramic bottles. Keeping in line with their monastery neighbors, you will not find excess here, but rather, elegant details such as a beautiful bowl of freshly picked deep red tomatoes on a side table.