Located in the bamboo-filled mountains above Hangzhou, the rustic 42-room Amanfayun, Amanresorts’ second in China, is actually a conversion of an entire village whose inhabitants once harvested the tea for which the town is justly famous. Bisecting the resort’s grounds is one of the village’s original thoroughfares, a stream-lined cobblestoned path that’s today traversed by not only hotel guests but day-trippers walking to and from the temples that dot the area. The concept aside, what’s really remarkable about Amanfayun is its restraint: The landscaping is natural, even a little wild; the signage is minimal (perhaps too much so—you’ll need a flashlight for nighttime strolling); and the 42 accommodations—once houses—with their stone floors, cloth-and-wire lantern lights, and subdued palette, are stunningly spare and sophisticated. Along with jettisoning tired design clichés (you’ll see no silk fans or red lanterns here), the hotel also upends traditional notions of what a resort should be: There are no TVs, no electronic locks. In their place is silence, stillness, and, visible from some of the rooms, the breathtaking sight of thirteenth-century bodhisattvas and Buddhas carved into the nearby cliff. Amanfayun’s only shortcoming is its overly shy staff, who march around in uniforms that are unfortunately reminiscent of Mao jackets and whose English skills run the gamut from barely existent to just adequate. The resulting stilted service toward Western guests is a regrettable barrier to what is otherwise a transporting experience.
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