In Search of the Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree Yangshuo 1

In February of 2015, Howard had the opportunity to visit the Banyan Tree Resort in Yangshuo, near Guilin, China prior to its official opening.  Taking advantage of the fact that he was working in Hong Kong, Howard journeyed to nearby Guilin to enjoy a few days of leisure and explore a couple of luxury hotels as part of his professional research. Staying for three days at the imperial feeling Shangri-La Guilin, Howard embarked on the famous Li River expedition which winds its way through the limestone karsts which are famously illustrated on the Yuan, the official currency of China.  The river cruise concluded in Yangshuo, where Howard and friends Kyle Winters and Felix Lee spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring the town and savoring an authentic local meal (they chose their own fish from a tank, and passed on the local favorite of field rat). After securing a driver they set out in search of the “Banyan Tree Yangshuo” – which wasn’t an entirely simple exercise as the resort had not officially opened, and no one was familiar with the name (particularly as described in English).   Luck being on their side, they were greeted by a senior member of the hotel’s management who turned out to be an American who was fixated on recent Toronto mayoral news. The kind American was generous enough to offer an extensive tour of the 5-star resort.  If this sneak private peek was any indication of the experience travellers might enjoy, then the Banyan Tree Yangshuo may very well join the ranks of China’s best resort hotels.

Banyan Tree Yangshuo 2

General Manager Glen Cook describes the resort which “seemingly blends into the charms of southeast China with its stunning panorama of jade green mountains and relaxing rivers”. This is true in every sense.  Utilizing the typical Hui-style architecture, the resort features a series of private villas organized around private courtyards (some with outdoor tubs and showers).   The iconic mountain karsts, rising dramatically out of rice paddies create a watercolour backdrop which is often seen in picturesque Chinese scroll paintings. It was intriguing to see how the architects had used historic and very traditional Chinese style while incorporating the most contemporary and luxury design elements.

Howard Rideout's illustration for hotel project in China

Howard Rideout Architect (HRA) has been designing a hotel with similar challenges around incorporating historic forms into contemporary style. This work is taking place in Hefei, a small “town” of 1.6 million people, which is a 3-hour bullet train ride west from Shanghai. This project is in many ways historic in style, and yet the minimalist detailing asserts an aesthetic that is both fresh and modern.

Bamboo chicken

Bamboo chicken.

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