Was I glad that we had arranged a private tour guide as there is not a chance in hell that we could have navigated ourselves off the train through Beijing central station and to our hotel.
We had taken the bullet train from Xian and as expected it was beautifully run and organised but had we not had the assistance of a guide we would not have known that the schedules had changed.
Making our way through the heat and crowds we were welcomed by our guide and driver with chilled water and air condioned car on our way to the Aman Summer palace. The roads here are massive and apparently as there are so many cars people are given certain days when they can use their cars mostly alternate days. Its really fascinating.
It was love at first site at the Aman. I love the brand they do things well but here there was something ethereal in staying right where the Imperial Summer Palace, were the imperial family would spend their summer. A large stone wall protects the hotel but then you enter this vast courtyard that houses the main reception and pavilions. The hotel is essentially made up of courtyards with pavilions and inner gardens. Its stunning and peaceful and I loved the fact that you could get a private key to wander around the imperial gardens and palace that is open to the public out of hours. It was amazing.
We had a suite with again a huge bathroom all with Chinese screens and charm. At first I thought our room dark but then I realised that with the bright sun you needed the shade.
The staff were simply wonderful. The manager Vaipanya was superb always on hand to ensure his guests were looked after and had what they needed. I spent the day after touring by the lake at the bar were it was just so so relaxing to sit hear the waters tinkling by and see the fabulous colours of the flowers and greenery. I loved the cocktails and all the bar stuff they brought out.
Every day there was something going on maybe a tea ceremony or calligraphy but everything was done in a very calm tranquil way. I needed that as outside the walls Beijing is hectic crowded choked full of traffic and I was so glad that we had decided to stay here as it way retreat of calm and indulgence. Also it was a very personalised experience. Like staying in your own Palace with none of the headache of looking after it.
One of the highlights had to be that guests in the hotel could have a key to enter the Summer Palace before it was opened to the general public. This really was an amazing place. We walked through the gardens till we got to Kunming Lake the artificial lake that had been built by the Emperors. It has three island on the lake and you can hire boats to go around. The while thing is cantered around Longevity Hill It was an incredible site and it would need days to do it justice. For us it was on our door step and we would go early morning or evening . It was great have the privilege to wander about with the crowds was fantastic. The whole experience was amazing. It’s a World Heritage site with incredible landscaping and just so different from anything we had seen before.
The Aman takes service to an exceptional level. Believe me Beijing is an intoxicating city but you need respite as its just too much of everything. Here at the Aman they make you feel relaxed and special. loved the treats we were given every night of some kind of delicious sweet whether it was macrons that were to die for or sinful chocolate cakes. Breakfasts by the lotus pool were sensational. Freshly baked croissants fresh juices . Everything was calm quiet delicious in breathtaking surroundings.
The French Japanese fusion was beyond sensational, the beef I had was memorable. In fact so much so that I went two nights running it was that good. The garlic rice hit all the taste buttons.
As we were there for a week we actually tried all the restaurants. One night we had dinner in the Ming Dynasty and on our final night the hotel gave us a truly delicious hot pot experience in a private dining room. It was sensational and we were really touched that they had arranged this for us as a goodbye complimentary dinner.
I can’t fault the hotel in its service location or food. I do think , however, the suites could do with a refurbishment and update.
It is expensive but you get the service. We had room service one evening and it was exemplary . I loved sitting in the tae room and having these amazing teas with delicate little pastries. I enjoyed the spa treatment and I swam every day at the indoor pool though I would have liked one outside. The place the settings were unique and were not your run of the mill hotels and the staff were very very good.