Friday, August 13, 2010

Amanfayun, Hangzhou

Hidden deep in 飛來峰 (Feilai Peak, the Peak from Afar) are seven ancient temples. The most famous of which is 靈隱寺, Lingyin Temple (meaning: "Temple of the Soul's Retreat"), first built some 1,700 years ago during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, around the time when Constantine summonsed the Council of Nicaea. To the West of Lingyin Temple there lies a historic village called 法雲古村 (Fayun Historic Village). From its name, 法雲 (Fayun), one can readily guess that the village formed part of the seven ancient temples. According to some publications, the village was established by the monks and nuns of the nearby temples who had chosen to return to civilian life but wished to live close to the temples. A few of the farm houses in the village have been turned into AmanFayun 法雲安縵, a resort run by Aman Resorts. The farm houses have been kept in their original state. From the outside, the Aman villas look exactly like the other farm houses.  Unless you already know, you cannot possibly tell that farm houses are now Aman villas.

Although the village is open to public, it is very little known. Chances are that you will not come across more than a few visitors in a day. The place is extremely well preserved. I can imagine that it looked exactly the same hundreds of years ago. There is an old Chinese story about a man who walked into a mountain and stayed in a hut for a night, only to find out the other day when he walked out of the mountain that the outside world had changed beyond recognition. I cannot help thinking that the story actually happened here. Time seems to have frozen at Fayun Village and there seems to be a spirit in every tree and every piece of stone. It is kind of surreal, almost dream-like. If someone tells me that the little spider on the twig, having listened to the monks' morning and evening prayers for over a hundred years, can recite a script from a Buddha text, I will believe it.   

AmanFayun does not offer facilities common to other resorts.  There are two small restaurants, a tea house, a library and a spa but there are no gym, swimming pool, karaoke or the like. To keep the ambience of the place, things are TVs and bath tubs are not to be found in the rooms and villas.  Our villa is some two or three hundred metres away from the restaurants and spa area.  Not very conveniently located one may think, but we love walking on the stone path.

This is our first Aman experience and we are Aman Junkies already. True that Aman is twice as expensive as other resorts like Banyan Tree but Aman is a hundred times better than others. If I have to choose between a paid night at AmanFayun and a free week at Banyan Hangzhou (which comes with meals in any restaurants in Hangzhou of my choice and a limo with driver), I will go for a night at AmanFayun, definitely. There are five more temples that I need to visit.

My next blog will be about another great find in China - a cheap one.


3 comments:

W said...

P.S. I am told by a kind soul that 永福寺 (Yong Fu Temple), one of the seven ancient temples, offers accommodations to visitors. Must try later.

gweipo said...

sounds wonderful! How long did you stay there?

W said...

We spent no more than two days at Amanfayun. Another day there would be better as there are a few hikes that I'd love to explore.

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