It’s wonderful when the Aman magic conjures up a gem. Amandayan, their new property, makes Lijiang. It does a wonderful job of interpreting the local architectural idiom to create a jewel of a 35 room hotel atop Lion Hill overlooking Lijiang old town, this destination’s most important cultural site. Whilst some guests might be disturbed in the evening by noise from the boisterous bars below until the official curfew of 11pm, the view of the old town from the hotel terrace and tea room more than compensates. The rooms are distributed between 5 two-floored courtyards built in traditional Naxi style mostly facing the old town. (The view the other way to Lijiang new town is an eyesore, so avoid rooms facing this direction.)
This is the third Aman in China. It opened only a month or so before my recent March stay (the hard opening is in May, 2015), and it is bitter sweet for me to record that the service was wonderful. Has the organization learned through the tribulations of its first two properties how best to approach a hotel opening in China, is it thanks to the efforts of genial former GM, VP (Vaipanya Kongkwanyuen), and the new GM, Nicolas Ilickovic, or is it the accidental result of a fortuitous set of circumstances? I don’t know but surely welcome the calm reassurance of the staff. We were spoiled rotten by the attentions of James Bao, by the rich cultural depth of the accommodation and the pleasing quality of Chef Steven Miao’s food. Though our coffees seemed to take an age to arrive for the morning breakfast, if anything portions were over-generous and our ravenous lion of an 8 year old found it challenging to eat his way through the Chinese breakfast set, a portion of which in the end served to feed three persons. For dinner, the best thing we ate was a local truffle used to flavor tofu with porcini mushrooms and also very much enjoyed a local steamed fish. While mother twists her mouth at praline-filled choux pastry, the kids wolfed Chef Miao’s Paris-Brest before any objection could be raised to them.
Life is sweet at Amandayan. Leaving it to explore Lijiang on this visit, I was impressed how the local government is delivering on the sustainable development of its area by insisting on local construction in the traditional style. Would I have felt so positive had I been staying at another property in this fast-developing destination? I’m not so sure. It’s definitely worth the extra expense, and I merely hope that Aman does not price itself out of most peoples’ pocketbook.