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China

East China is awash with crowds, tourists, and a not inconsiderable amount of pollution. The story in South China, though, is quite different; in Guilin and Yangshuo the traffic gives way to trees and the skyscrapers to karsts. The nature and landscape luckily brought with them a few of the finer comforts of the hospitality industry in the form of luxury resorts.

Shangri-la Guilin

ABOVE: Exterior of the Shangri-La in Guilin.

From its headwaters in the Mao’er Mountains, the scenic Li River flows down through Guilin, then meanders on through Yanghshuo, slowly toward the Pearl River. Situated along the riverside in Guilin is the Shangri-La Guilin, a luxurious hotel that matches the stunning scenery with world-class comfort.

The hotel offers exceptional views of the famous Diecai Mountain, which contains hundreds of Buddhist carvings and sculptures, and is a short distance from a major pedestrian street lined with dealers of silk, crystals, and jade.

The hotel houses three restaurants and two bars – notably its signature restaurant Shang Palace, which serves a variety of authentic Cantonese, Hunan, Guilin, and Huaiyang dishes, and the tempting poolside bar.

ABOVE: Horizon River View Room at the Shangri-La in Guilin.

There are an assortment of luxurious rooms and suites fitted with traditional décor and modern amenities. While Yangshuo is touted as having the most picturesque landscapes in the region, Guilin itself has beautiful sceneries to offer as well, plus it is more easily accessible and allows tourists to experience both the region’s natural beauty and the vibrancy of a modern Chinese city.

Banyan Tree Yangshuo

ABOVE: Yangshuo Resort from Banyan Tree.

The Banyan Tree brand is known for its luxurious resorts and hotels that span the Middle East and Asia. Its Yangshuo incarnation merely strengthens this reputation. Nestled in the epicenter of Yangshuo’s scenic karst mountains, the 142 villas and suites all frame stunning views of the picturesque environment through their expansive windows and spacious balconies. Rooms feature traditional Chinese décor, bathrooms fitted with separate tubs and showers, and are appointed with either a plush king-size or two twin beds. Villas are placed adjacent the sleepy Li River.

ABOVE: Garden at Yangshuo Resort from Banyan Tree.

There are two gourmet restaurants – serving Cantonese and International dishes, respectively – and a world-class spa on the resort’s grounds. Outside the premises, bamboo raft trips down the tranquil Li River and scenic biking tours through the dreamlike landscape can be organized by staff. For tourists of Yangshuo who want the guarantee of comfort that only an established brand can provide, the Banyan Tree Yangshuo might be the right choice.

Alila Yangshuo

ABOVE: Alila Yangshuo exterior, adapted from an old sugar mill.

The newly opened Alila Yangshuo provides a slice of luxury among the beautiful karst mountains, green hills, and meandering rivers for which Yangshuo is renowned. Located in a former working sugar mill that was constructed during the Cultural Revolution, the facilities have been remodeled by renowned architect Dong Gong of Vector Architects with interiors by award-winning Ju Bin of Horizontal Space Design.

The result is an inspired blend of style and comfort with a stunning swimming pool, international restaurant, in-house rum distillery, opulent spa, fully equipped gym, and gorgeous views of the Li River.

But what really sets the Alila Yangshuo apart is its aesthetics that were formed by such painstaking tasks as repurposing a sunken plaza and industrial truss to construct the resort’s opulent pool or the former sugar stock rotunda that was renovated to house a world class spa.

ABOVE: Pool at Alila Yangshuo.

By building their resort in a former sugar mill, the Alila Yangshuo places splendor in what was once the most mundane of places, merging the region’s industrial heritage with its stunning beauty and providing guests with a unique experience in a truly unique destination.