China: The Banyan Tree Lijiang

Has anyone even heard of Lijiang? I hadn't, but it has nearly 1.3 million people living in this Chinese city in the west.  When we flew from Shanghai to Lijiang, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Usually, I have some sort of frame of reference for where I'm going. Not with the Yunnan province.   This was the view as we flew down into the valley of the mountains. Sold already right? How absolutely gorgeous.

I was now 8,000 feet above sea level and feeling the change in elevation, gulping down bottles of water to avoid any type of altitude sickness, because the next few days would bring even higher elevations.

Gerald Hatherly, my trusted and beloved Abercrombie & Kent guide, had planned a special itinerary in Lijiang. Most people here are Naxi, a minority group in China but one that is large and believed to have come from Tibet hundreds of years ago.

Exterior of VillaThe Banyan Tree Lijiang blends effortlessly into the landscape of the rural areas of Lijiang and was my home for two nights.  There so many uniquely Chinese design elements from the walkways and villas to the restaurant and spa.  I live for moments on the road that take your breath away.  Seeing this stunning pagoda on the property with a backdrop of green and snow-capped mountains was one of them.  I was someplace so foreign, so unexpected, so beautiful, and so completely unknown to every single friend and family member I have.  I felt enormous responsiblity to bring back these images and adequately explain what I had seen. This is my favorite photo of the entire trip.

My garden villa had three separate areas, the bathroom, bedroom, and office/mini-bar area. 

The bed will remain one of my favorites I've ever slept in, because it had a personal sheet warmer, where I could dial up the heat during the cold night.

In the morning, I walked outside and saw this view.

I loved the stone walkways throughout the resort.

The spa had that same soothing Chinese design, with red, black and gold elements.