Colour—that’s the first thing I notice as my plane starts its descent into Jiuzhaigou in China’s Sichuan province. Pops of colour greet me everywhere I cast my eye, from the windswept penta-coloured Tibetan prayer flags that hang from poles across lush valleys and mountains, to the eye-popping blue, green and turquoise lakes in the spectacular Unesco World Heritage Jiuzhai Valley National Park.
A quiet mountainous landscape washed in deep green also dominates the view around Banyan Tree Jiuzhaigou, my home base for a five-day sojourn in China. After a three-hour drive from Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, the resort’s facade comes into view, its minimalist modern exterior at odds with the vibrancy of its surroundings.
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The same cannot be said for its interiors, however. The decor of the hotel, which officially opened in March, reveals hints of Jiuzhaigou’s rich cultural heritage. Dark wood surfaces are enlivened with colourful tapestry bearing the traditional embroidered motifs of the Qiang minority group, who are native to Sichuan. These handwoven works are seen most prominently in the 209 guest rooms and suites, all of which also feature subtle oriental details such as hand-carved cabinets or hanging bedside lamps.
With the hotel perched atop a mountain 2,500m above sea level, temperatures vary from day to night, switching between scorching heat and chilly winds in spring. I’m particularly mesmerised by the verdant scenery and blue skies viewed from the Bai Yun restaurant, where the affable chef Jack Huang dishes hearty Sichuan and Cantonese delicacies infused with local produce such as Chinese wild spinach. On colder nights, the temptation is exceptionally strong for hotpot at Gan Hai Zi restaurant. There’s absolutely no regret as I overfeed myself, because the rich herbal soup bases and fresh ingredients are too delectable to resist.
Of course, fitness junkies will make it a point to hit the gym, which sits within the famed Banyan Tree Spa where the treatments harness the medicinal properties of traditional Chinese herbs and local ingredients such as chuan bei (yellow Himalayan fritillary) and sweet cherries. But my idea of burning calories is certainly not a gym workout. At the crack of dawn, I pull myself out of bed to explore the vast grounds of the property. Despite my slow pace, my heart still gets pumping. Whether it’s the effect of high‑altitude or the ethereal scenery before my eyes, I know I’ll be back again some day, to this colourful wonderland.