Published on January 12, 2008
Zhongdian County, a Tibetan district which was renamed Shangri-La, has been drawing travellers to this frontier destination in search of James Hilton's "Shangri-La". Situated at a high altitude, oxygen is harder to come by. The place is far away from the rest of the world. To get there and get around in the area, you negotiate a ribbon of high roads, which meander through the windswept Tibetan Plateau and past undulating grasslands, lonely pagodas and dusty yak skulls. So it comes somewhat as a surprise that at the end of the road there is a luxury resort where you can be wined, dined and can retire to a fragrant bath.
Looking like a forlorn mirage popping up over the edge of sand dune, the Banyan Tree Ringha resort is a charming blend of Tibetan hospitality and Banyan Tree's high standards for luxury.
The hotel is roughly a 40-minute drive from Shangri-La County.
Perched 3,200 metres on the mountain slope, overlooking the Tibetan settlement in the valley of Shudugang River, Banyan Tree Ringha is perfect for those in search of serenity.
The small luxury resort houses together 32 suites varying from different types of accommodation: Tibetan Lodge, Tibetan Suite, Tibetan Spa Suite - for example. They're designed all so well to follow the Tibetan charms.
My villa, a Tibetan Suite, blends the cosy setting of a Tibetan cottage in the countryside with contemporary colours and furnishings. Like the others, this two-storey villa is procured from two-storey authentic Tibetan mud-brick houses and reconstructed by Tibetan craftsmen.
The second floor includes two bedrooms and much adorned by Tibetan-oriented interior - woodcarvings, authentic panels and traditional applique displaying landscapes and deities. The spacious rooms also boast a fireplace.
The amenities - like IDD phone, TV with international channels, mini bar with selection of fine wine - will throw you back to the outside world. Then, within a few paces away to the private terrace, you're again world apart from the modernity. The whitewashed Tibetan pagodas, crystal-clear stream and rolling barley fields make a scenic view.
The bathrooms are some of the best in China. After hovering up and down over Chinese squat toilets on the roads from Lijiang, you can find a paradise here with standard toilet, standing shower, bathtub and collections of pleasant toiletries. You can indulge in a rejuvenating bath in the handcrafted wooden hot tub of the bathroom. Unfortunately, I prefer a dry cleaning to dripping a toe into the bathtub since the temperature outside is -5 degrees in December.
However, there are two other places to get warmer and much comfortable in Banyan Tree Ringha.
Your first choice is the award- winning Banyan Tree Spa.
The resort provides several signature treatments with Himalayan techniques, such as Gui Shi Hot Stones treatment and the relaxing Ringha massage. The therapists are also good on helping guests ease their muscle arches after trekking.
The second choice is at Chang-Sa, where they serve you hot pots and steamboats of sliced meat, mushrooms, tofu and noodles. To get even warmer, you might head to Jahang Lobby Lounge for a wide choice of cup of traditional Chinese brew. The resort serves breakfast, with selection of fusion food of Tibetan, Chinese and European, at Llamo Restaurant.
For a high-end experience at one of the world's most remote district, Banyan Tree Ringha is the best place to lay your head. It reinvents James Hilton's fictional beauty, serves your fantasy of escaping to the hinterland.
Banyan Tree Ringha at a glance
High point: It's your dream hotel, making a perfect escape amid the magical beauty of Tibetan Plaque.
Low point: The resort is located 3,200 metres above sea level, and breathing nay be found difficult. Two of my friends experience the altitude sickness, causing painful headache vomiting from the middle of the night 'til dawn. Consult the doctors if you're heading to Shangri-La.
Find it: Hong Po Village, Jian Tang Town, Shangri-La County, Yunnan Province.
Phone it: 86 887 828 8822
Fax it: 86 887 828 8911
Browse it: BanyanTree.com, email@example.com
Northern Yunnan, China