A trip to Beijing is usually defined by a trek along the Great Wall, a tour of the Forbidden City, a stroll around the Summer Palace and a Peking duck dinner or two! It’s a fantastic option for a weekend break for culture vultures and foodies alike as most things can be covered in under 48-hours. The city is a short flight from Hong Kong and flights are usually reasonable, making it a perfect place to jet off to at a moments notice. Beijing is a hustling bustling city with expansive streets and hidden hutongs, but Aman at Summer Palace is a quiet haven, offering an authentic slice of Chinese culture.
The main purpose of our trip was to experience the one of a kind Aman Summer Palace resort, where royal guests awaiting an audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi used to stay. Located 15km from the Forbidden City and 63km from the Great Wall, it’s the perfect place from which to discover Beijing. With phenomenal pavilions dating back over a century, contemporary and traditional dining venues, a state of the art pool, private cinema and daily traditional Chinese workshops, the residence is truly unique.
Our courtyard suite had a large living room with every amenity we could wish for, and the four-poster bed was fit for a princess… or empress! It wasn’t just the resort that was amazing, the staff were spectacular too. We were handed a mobile phone that had the concierge on direct dial in case we found ourselves lost or in a bit of a pickle – we used it numerous times, as taxi drivers in Beijing usually don’t speak English! In addition, a key to a secret door leading to the Summer Palace was also given to us during our stay… a genuinely special addition.
We set our bags down in our room before heading off to the Great Wall in a local cab that the concierge had booked us for the day. We then drove directly from the wall to the Forbidden City, where we spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the lush gardens and more than 890 pavilions that housed some of the most powerful leaders in Chinese history. Once the tour finished we headed across the road to Tianmen Square to some snaps of Chairman Mao in all of his glory, and went back to Aman for a well deserved rest. We were pretty tired at this point so chilled out while watching a tea ceremony held in one of the pavilions.
After having a light bite to eat we used our key to open the secret door to the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and spent the rest of the late afternoon exploring. Having this kind of exclusive access to such a wondrous place full of history was the pinnacle of our experience at Aman and something that will be hard to beat!
Exploring the Summer Palace, Great Wall and Forbidden City in less than 24-hours is do-able, but a little bit exhausting. Thankfully the indoor temperature-regulated pool and lush spa helped us to relax and unwind before dinner. I opted for the signature spa treatment that incorporates warm oils and traditional Chinese medicinal herbs with a relaxing massage method. After two hours I was definitely de-stressed (I even fell asleep during the treatment!) and very excited for the Japanese-French fusion dinner at Naoki. The meal was stunning with a special set menu full of fresh fish prepared in unusual ways, prime cuts of meat cooked exquisitely and the best plum sake I’ve ever tasted. Our chef took care of all of our dietary requirements expertly and explained each dish before we dug in… delish!
After dinner we headed down for a private screening in the enormous cinema,where we decided to watch ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ to suit the setting that surrounded us. Popcorn and beverages were served and it was a real treat having the whole place to ourselves. This was a lot of fun and something I’ve never experienced in another resort. We woke up at 9am the following day and prepped for our trip home to Honkers with a hearty breakfast at The Grill restaurant at Aman before heading to the airport. We enjoyed a huge variety of perfectly prepared eggs, pastries and anything else our hearts desired. The selection was wonderful and the staff were gracious and helpful, simply perfect.
Beijing is the perfect spot for a weekend break thanks to its convenient location and frequent inbound and outbound flights. It’s possible to see everything the city has on offer in 48 hours and if you time your flights correctly, aim for a Hong Kong airline 7.40am flight on the Saturday morning and an 8.20pm flight on the Sunday evening so you can indulge in a luxurious hotel for one night to treat yourself! If history is your thing, then you cannot beat Aman at Summer Palace thanks to its close proximity to the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Tianmen Square and the Great Wall of China.
A stay at Aman at Summer Palace for two people starts from $3,725 and includes daily breakfast for two people, private complimentary access to the Summer Palace, daily Chinese tea ceremony and one daily activity.
Aman Beijing, Gongmenqian Lu 15, Beijing, China, +86 10 5987 9999, www.amanresorts.com