While the famed west lake in Hangzhou, China, lures the tourist coaches by the score, Xixi National Wetland Park 15 minutes out of town in good traffic is blissfully tranquil, with just a trickle of nature lovers. That makes it a plum location for the new Banyan Tree resort an elegantly styled property of 72 suites and villas that sits at the edge of the reserve and seems to seamlessly merge with it.
The well-considered design is the work of regular Banyan Tree architect Ho KwonCjan founder Ho Kwon Ping's younger brother who drew inspiration from the almost monastic elegance of a nearby temple. "We rejected the more extravagant examples [of local architecture]," says Ho KwonCjan, "because the cumulative effect on so many villas would be overwhelming." The buildings' muted appearance places the focus where it should be: on the reserve itself and on the Banyan Tree's immaculate grounds, which feature a graceful Chinese garden.
Villas come with mei ren kao balconies, traditional balconies that lean over the water and bear the quaint description of "beautiful woman leaning," presumably because they help a lady admire her own reflection. They also help you take in the superb views, which, at several of the villas, consist of sweeping, unobstructed vistas of the bird-rich wetland (binoculars are provided). If you're enjoying communing with nature too much to head indoors and dine at one of the resort's two restaurants the all-day Waterlight Court and the fine-dining Bai Yun no matter. Staff will set up a tent and serve you right there in the reserve.
Rates at the Banyan Tree start from $368 a night. See banyantree.com for more.