A gateway to China's tropics

China's not generally thought of as a tropical holiday location, but luxury hotel chain Anantara has opened up a slice of paradise in Yunnan province.

Australia’s favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliot, goes out of her way to experience Anantara luxury in China's tropics.

You don’t just happen upon Xishuangbanna (Zissh-wung-banna). It took one plane from Sydney and two planes from Guangzhou and an hour long ride to get here but then again many people couldn’t even fathom that China would have a tropical rainforest area. I also think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that wouldn’t wholeheartedly agree that it was worth every trembling, travelling mile to get here.

The enormous property by Thai luxury hotel chain Anantara is just six months old. We drive from the airport past verdant fields, banana trees with rippled shades of greenery. Situated in Mengla County among a forest in the Yunnan province it is just a few hours away from its neighbour Thailand and it shares many of the weather conditions. Anantara is the first and currently only resort in this area and it is a popular destination attracting the wealthy Chinese market that want a tropical destination without leaving China.

All Anantara resorts share a heart stopping grand entrance designed to make the heart skip a beat. Luosuo River borders the resort which has just over 100 rooms and suites-this is a small resort by China’s vast standards. Check in is made easy and we hop on a golf cart which stops at the various villas where you are personally checked into the villa and shown the features. My villa is #315, a Garden Villa.

We open the external wooden doors which can be latched for further privacy. The door swings open and the living area is large and stunningly appointed with a welcome fruit basket, pastries and a large flat screen television opposite the lounge.

There’s a chair and ottoman to the side and this looks onto the pool outside. The mini bar is well stocked with none other than the very addictive Biscoff cookies by Lotus (I squealed, yes I did) and tea and a Nespresso coffee machine sits on top of another credenza. There’s no milk for my tea but I call for it and within ten minutes a smiling face is holding a litre of either skim or full cream milk. “Fat or non fat?” he asks and I sheepishly say “Fat, thank you.”

It’s hard to know where to go next - the pool or the bedroom but I’m curious to see what the bed is like. There is a king sized bed in the spacious bedroom with another flat screen television, DVD player, work desk, ipod dock, free wifi and a very tempting day bed and reclining nook that also looks out onto the pool. My eyes are drawn to the blue of the pool but I’m shown further into the villa, which seems to go on and on. My greeter and shower turns to me and says “I think you’re a man” while smiling widely. “Oh errm thanks” I answer figuring that “a man” perhaps sounds like something else…

Graph for A gateway to China's tropics

Then we stop at the walk-in robe, which holds two types of robes, slippers, iron, ironing board, safe, umbrella and wooden hangers and a marble topped area for luggage. My next stop is the bathroom - the most important room for me apart from the bedroom because I’m always hopeful for a soaking tub. The first thing I see are the twin sinks and the amenity kit which includes a vanity kit, dental it, razor kit, soap and lotion. There’s also a shaving mirror to the right and a scale on the floor.

In centre of the bathroom is a large round ottoman to rest on and on the other side of this is a wooden dressing table.

And then there’s the bath. It’s a beauty and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wanted to abandon all plans for the afternoon and soak in it. The shower has a monsoon head and a cavity holds the shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soap while there is also a marble ledge on which to sit down. The shower opens out onto an outside shower area where you can shower by moonlight and there is also a barbecue there. The grass was a little overgrown in areas on the outside and needed a bit of a trim and tidy.

I wander out to the pool outside where there is a peacock motif. The pool is 1.4 metres deep and clear as crystal. There are two sun lounges and two lounge chairs as well as an inviting looking day bed which could seat about four quite happily. You’d think that the idea is to relax here wouldn’t you with all of that lounging space available!

If there are any downsides, it’s that because it is tropical there are quite a few interesting looking bugs. They can get into the rooms quite easily as the doors have a small gap underneath them. I personally didn’t experience any creepy crawlies but the journalist next to me had a very large cockroach and spider in her room - it’s the tropics so it’s almost expected. Also while the iPod dock is easy to use, the villa is so spacious that you can only really hear the music in the main bedroom. The master switch for all lights is also located across from the bed whereas putting it by the bed is more convenient and the pool area is the only area where there isn’t a lot of privacy as you can see into the pool area of the villa next door.

Graph for A gateway to China's tropics

There’s a quick bite of lunch at the Luosuo restaurant in the main building, which is a fairly close walk from the villas. Walking around the property, it’s actually incredibly easy to forget that you are in China, and about the restrictions on internet - I go to tweet something and realise that I can’t.

Lunch is a light salad and pizza from the pizza oven. There are three pizzas on offer, a Xishuangbanna pizza with a local specialty which is dried beef called “ganba” and local mushrooms. This particularly good and the dried beef isn’t too desiccated and it has a strong flavour without being tough.

The Yunnan pizza features ham and local mixed mushrooms with a slightly spicy sauce to it. The pizza bases are thin and there’s quite a bit of sauce and cheese on them too.

The Luosuo pizza is an interesting one with a topping a mix of tilapia fish and river snails and a sprinkling of dried seaweed which gives it a distinctly seafoody flavour. I don’t really taste much of the river snail with the dominant flavours being the tilapia fish and the local seaweed.

After eating, we make our way to the spa. Anantara hotels are known for their spas and this one is quite new. Indeed there are a limited amount of treatments available and they’re all massage based, and facials are said to come. We’re having the Anantara Signature Massage, a 90 minute massage that is available across all Anantara hotels.

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