Well, not on assignment or anything – silly me, did the title confuse you? But I’ve gotta hit it up Rachel Zoe style when I’m traveling, at least a little bit – you know this isn’t the blog of just any backpacker (am I a glackpacker? the first of its kind? I’m still too afraid to try glamping). So a few months ago when I read about American designer Derek Lam‘s trip to China, which he documented for Vogue.com, I figured I could try to get me a piece of that action before homeboy here runs out of money and is living like Trina circa 1994. Just my luck, one of his stops was newly opened Amanfayun, a traditional village converted into a luxury resort in the (gooooooorgeous) countryside around Hangzhou. On my third day in town I decided I could use a break from all the walking, running, stepping and schlepping so I called ’em up and booked myself a foot massage.
I decided to bike there as the receptionist said finding a taxi in and out of the place was a hassle and that traffic would be bad around the time my appointment would finish. After consulting a map with one of the employees at my hostel I found that the ride should take about 40 minutes and was no longer than a ride around the perimeter of West Lake. Easy!
Not easy. I got started all right, headed out with a map and plenty of time. The plan was to get my feet did and then climb Lingyinsi, a Buddhist temple right next door. I got to the temple entrance and found that the road sort of stopped there. I could see on my map that there was life beyond the temple and presumably a land mass to sustain it, but I couldn’t find a road to lead me there. The spa called me half an hour before the appointment so I declared how lost I was and they were kind enough to offer some directions that didn’t help me at all. They called back and said “Tony” would wait for me at the temple entrance on his motorbike. To collect me? How nice! I was really excited to ride on the back of a motorbike for a few minutes before Tony actually got there and asked, “Where’s your bike?” Oh, I’d be following him. Did I mention the resort was up a mountain? Oh, and that also my bike was little more than a tricycle. Fun!
It wasn’t so bad as all that – for a half second I thought it would be, but I don’t think Tony fully understood my question, “is it all the way up the mountain?” There was actually only one super bad hill and I think the ride there (on a mountain bike) would actually make for a really scenic and enjoyable excursion. Was I the first person who’d ridden a bike to the resort? “The first customer,” came the reply.
Tony led me into the resort through the employee entrance (behind the scenes, you know how I do it) and as we passed through the grounds I was struck by the beauty of the area. The feel of it is very different from anywhere else I’ve been in China. There isn’t a skyscraper in sight. You are surrounded by mountains and trees and the buildings have all been well-preserved.
Or they’re brand-new, like the spa. Here I am, following Tony inside. Right as the doors opened! How drahmatic.
The view from my corner of the spa. In his write-up Lam declares the place “paradise” and notes that his attendant calls it “very peaceful” – and granted, it was very nice and my “refloxologist” (the receipt deigned him), Jacky, was amiable. But the soundtrack was a uniquely Chinese blend of the expected spa chants, a Korean businessman who wouldn’t stop taking calls, and the chorus of instruments constructing the pool next door. Not exactly peaceful the entire time, but much more relaxing than what happened afterwards. While I was getting my massage a massive thunderstorm rolled in and not only scared the crap out of me – wooden buildings burst into flame when struck by lightning, right? That’s how science works? – but ruined any plans I had for touring Lingyinsi.
This is the view from the side of the road during the light rain, right before God unleashed the tears of 10,000 angels on Hangzhou.
After the massage Tony put my bike into the back of his golfcart (I told you, tricycle) and drove me back down to the temple entrance where he suggested I get a cab before the storm started in full again. I assumed I wouldn’t be able to get a cab that could fit the bike in its trunk and also that I’d be able to make it back to my hostel before the rain really started up again. No such luck. I got drenched, soaked, completely wet. Looking back on it it was fun – but my pampered feet were little more than prunes when I got them back to the hostel for a hot shower. C’est la vie!
Amanfayun, 86 (0)571 8732 9999. Foot massage, one hour, roughly 50USD plus 15% service charge.