Mainland China is an interesting place, and as yet much of it is unexplored by Westerners, mainly because its Mandarin language is like the Great Wall of China, magnificent but complicated to navigate. Like space travel it has seemed perhaps a bit beyond reach. But progress is jet streaming around China, and many parts are becoming easier to reach for vacations that would match some of the most impressive destinations in the world.
The Sunrise Kempinski Hotel which is based an hour outside of Beijing, is one such location, it sits on an impressive, manmade lake in an area called Yanqi Island and it has proven a magnet for two types of customer. Firstly the domestic Chinese tourists who are wealthy, grandparents taking their grandchildren on mini breaks and the second is the corporate world with government APEC conferences taking over the lavish property for global summits. The Sunrise Kempinski Hotel has at its centre a 306 room hotel shaped as a disc standing at the foot of the lake. Arriving at night the hotel facia is awash with light streaming up and down its surface. The shape which is like a scallop represents “Fortune” in the Chinese culture and symbolizes harmony, unity and infinity. It is like Outer space meets Scotland.
The idea of visiting China for a luxury holiday may not have crossed your mind but if travelling for business to Beijing, a taxi ride can take you to Yanqi Island for around 300 yuan (depending on the time of day it could be 250-450). What welcomes you, for your stay, are large, modern rooms with views over the lake and wall to ceiling windows to make the most of it. The property is vast in scale and resembles perhaps the interior of the Four Seasons in Manhattan with its lobby gleaming with a polished marble reception and large vases of flowers but it also includes little twists like a portable stair case for children at the reception desk.
A trip around the lake to the rest of the ‘estate’ brings you to the other boutique hotels on site, which number fourteen in total and reveal modern, manor ‘houses’ fitted with grand dining and meeting rooms and quirks like a camp fire outside to toast marshmallows upon. The property which attracts global blue-chip motor companies for their annual incentive meetings includes a conference centre, a grand ballroom, eleven restaurants and bars, two spas branded by Resense, a private marina, and a newly built nine-storey pagoda which offers, as in Chinese tradition, a birds eye view of the complex.
Food is impressive at The Sunrise with breakfast showcasing many cuisines and chefs preparing dumplings, fish or eggs to guest tastes. The only thing to be wary of is the calories which quickly creep up on an unwary Westerner keen to savour the variety of produce which could be anything from a lotus root, roasted duck tongues to green, jelly eggs. As well as a gourmet breakfast, guests can revisit Europe at the German offering on the ground floor at their hostelry called Paulaner Bräuhaus, which has a microbrewery, serves freshly-brewed German beer and Bavarian dishes which include Bratwurst and sweet breads.
For those who are keen to tap their feet or have some cocktails, the bar at the top of the central hotel property called ‘The View’s Bar’ offers canapés, cocktails, whiskies, wine and a Cuban cigar selection which you are still able to enjoy at your table because smoking laws have not reached China…. yet.
For contemporary Chinese food, there are two key restaurants which are Magnolia which is Cantonese and will include a wide range of meet including offal, chicken feet, duck's tongue, snakes, and snails and the Lake Palace which has a wider variety of Chinese food including Huaiyang which will have a sweet flavour, Sichuan which is hot including hot pots for chilli lovers, Canton which will take you on a meat eating adventure and Beijing cuisine which hails from Chinese aristocrats with fermented tofu and a tapas style or small dishes .
Eating is a popular past time for the Chinese and the Sunrise Kempinski does not disappoint. In addition to the above, there are many other eateries which also include a much simpler offering in the Kempi Deli, a European bakery, with cakes and breads as well home-made sausages and meats. There is also The Lounge for Chinese tea or cocktails and champagne.
Yanqi Lake sits at the foot of the Yan Mountains, surrounded by attractions including the Mutianyu Great Wall which is twenty minutes away and the magnificent Hongluo Temple, the vast, breath taking Qinglong Gorge and Baiquan Mountain which offer a wild splendour akin to those found in Canada. Activities available nearby include water sports, golfing, horseback riding, and skiing.
The Kempinski Spa created by Resense
No great hotel these days would be great without a spa and the Sunrise Kempinski does not disappoint. There is a Kempinski Spa created by Resense on site which is part of a European brand developed to uniform the experience that guests have across global Kempinski hotels. It brings a gold standard to guests. Resense, which has offices in Geneva and Beijing is a brand from Australian, Kasha Shillington, who as CEO and shareholder, has opened twenty nine spas in eighteen different countries with thirty more to come. The most surprising of which is in the Congo with Kempinski Hotel Brazzaville.
As well as bringing gold standard uniformity to the spa offering, Shillington views the spa operation with a long term sustainability aimed at keeping the customer returning by upholding standards. It involves a high level of service so that guests feel cared for and includes simple but tailored treatments. Shillington has also been on property development and tourism infrastructure boards and involved with some of Australia’s largest property developments.
In the Sunrise Kempinski they have six treatment rooms, each with separate shower areas and bathrooms and four-specialist foot massage areas. The premise for the products used is based on the seasons in Europe and using nature to restore calm with plants, flowers and herbs. I tested a massage and which was thorough and from a skilled masseuse in a world class spa setting. The Resense spa offers treatments such as the Winter Warmer with aromatherapy which includes a therapeutic head massage that works on cranial pressure points to help you to unwind. It lasts around 80 minutes and is £80 (RMB688); or you could try a Detox Scrub which ‘clears stagnant energy’ as well as eliminating dead skin cells on the body. Around 45 minutes and £42 (RMB345).
Next to the spa there is a gym, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a twenty six meter swimming pool as well as relaxation areas including hot and cold plunge pools, saunas and steam rooms.
So if you feel like a culinary, geographical, architectural and spa luxe adventure or simply wish to seek your fortune, put China in your sights and beam yourself in, like Scottie to the magnificent scallop hotel, the Sunrise Kempinski at Yanqi Lake, Beijing.