Amandayan, the latest arrival from Aman Resorts, opened its doors this March in the beautiful city of Lijiang in Yunnan, China. In many ways it is the perfect setting for an Aman hotel, renowned for their ability to create architecture and design that blend seamlessly into a historical background, yet maintain just the right touch of modernity along with impeccable service, all whilst shrouded in an air of otherworldly romance.
The Amandayan is situated on a hillside overlooking the historical Dayan old town of Lijiang, a UNESCO world heritage site, with snowcapped mountains looming in the distance. Rather than converting an old building, architect Ed Tuttle started from scratch, creating a magnificent compound comprising of traditional Chinese courtyard houses with elegantly sloping tiled rooftops and landscaped gardens. The interiors consisted of intricate latticed doors, embroideries and artwork inspired by the local Naxi people, an ethnic minority that descended from Tibetan nomads. This is how I imagine the noble to have lived in ancient times, without the luxury of heated floors and rain showers of course.
I had heard many great things about Lijiang before my trip, and this is one of those times when expectations do match the reality. Many call it the Venice of the East, and rightly so, as the old town is very much built with the flow of the river and waterways in mind, with cobblestone paved roads that are only accessible by foot, connected by small bridges with willows and flowers overhanging, and lined with small shops and eateries still housed in buildings from centuries past. As night fell we headed back to the Amandayan spa for a hot bamboo massage, followed by one of the most delectable and interesting Chinese meals I’ve had in a while at Heng Yu Gong, the best preserved residential courtyard in Lijiang for a traditional Naxi meal cooked by the family that has lived there for 10 generations.
At an altitude of over 2000 meters, Lijiang is surrounded by breathtaking natural wonders. We visited the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a glacier that is part of the Himalayas’ Yungling mountains that is reachable by cable car and a scenic hike. We carried our portable oxygen cans in hand as we marveled over the surreal surroundings and then descended to the Blue Moon Valley, where waterfalls from the glaciers above fell into a bright turquoise blue lake, made naturally brilliant by copper deposits and flanked by trees that were just turning shades of yellow and red.
Waking up in our courtyard house feels like a step back into ancient times
Ornate room inspired by traditional Naxi architecture.
The poetically named Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 5596 meters above sea level.
View from the top. Looks exactly like a Chinese water colour painting.
The absolutely breathtaking Blue Moon Valley with crystal clear aquamarine waters from the glaciers above.
Waterfalls and Autumn leaves.
Exploring the picturesque Dayan Old Town of Lijiang.
The Venice of the East.
Untouched by the passage of time.
We had a sublime dinner of traditional Naxi food at Heng Yu Gong.
Back at Amandayan’s serene pool.
The entire experience felt like a wondrous step back in time. Picturesque, peaceful, and an utterly unique weekend getaway.