The Linden Centre occupies a niche in the lodgings sector. When I first learned about it, I wondered why this boutique hotel wasn't calling itself just that. Everyone in the industry seems a little obsessed with "boutique"
properties, and the Linden Centre, on first impression, completely fits the definition. It is a small property with only 14 rooms. It is housed in a compound of local Bai cultural architecture that was once owned by a wealthy merchant before it was "donated" to the local government after 1949. But after I visited, I have come to understand that the Centre is much more than a hotel.
The Linden Centre Defined
The Centre aims to offer guests cultural immersion – to the level that a few days in the area can give. From the moment you step through the gate, visitors find themselves surrounded by the presence of the painstakingly renovated historical building which grounds them into the place and setting. The town itself, removed from the main tourist track, adds another layer to the immersion since it is impossible to run out for a quick-hit of your home culture. What I'm trying to say is that just being there is step one in the immersion program. If you don't do anything but chat with the staff, take a walk in the town, sit on the terrace and watch the rice grow, you will have had an unparalleled China experience (but it's doubtful the enthusiastic staff would let you get away with that).
Programs range (see below) from educational to active, culinary to sensory. The team is educated and ready to help you tailor an itinerary to your needs and what they don't know or can't do, they'll do their darndest to sort out.
Lodgings & Amenities
Comfortable double occupancy room in the Linden Centre.© 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
The founders worked with local carpenters & artisans to renovate the property meticulously to preserve the buildings and add modern amenities. Beautifully restored, the Lindens then poured their personal collection of Chinese art, statuary, paintings and antiques into the Centre to decorate it so that you feel you are staying in a very cozy museum.
Sleeping: There is a small range in size of rooms but most are double occupancy (2 single-size beds), but there is also a family room. Each room has a private bathroom with the proper amenities. There are no TVs or phones in the rooms. Note: the only reason the Centre doesn't get five full stars from me is that they turn off the hot water at certain times.
Eating: There is a private dining room for special activities and a main dining room where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. The food is all locally sourced and cooked on site. The staff is very open to special requests and when I mentioned to a staff member that there wasn't time for me to run out to the market to buy persimmons, they appeared on the breakfast buffet the next morning.
Playing: There are a number of places to hang out and either enjoy each other’s company or chat with staff and other guests (which is highly encouraged). The Centre has a well-stocked library of local historical interest as well as some good fiction. It also has a music room, a game room, a TV/movie room, two terraces (one is the only place smoking is allowed), a meditation room, three open courtyards and a lovely little bar. The whole compound has free wireless internet service.
Programs and Activities
When I visited the Linden Centre, we were there on a trip designed to learn about tea, among other things. So our itinerary included a day at a local pu'er tea plantation learning all about the production of that variety of tea from picking the leaves to drinking the brew. But the Centre has a whole range of activities and programs that are not limited to the below. One needs only to tell them what your party is interested in doing and let the staff of "travel curators" come up with options for your stay.
- Trace the steps of the Flying Tigers in Xizhou village
- Traditional Bai music and dancing performances in our courtyards
- Antique hunting in village homes and attics
- Participate in a local meal inside a family's home
- Morning Tai Chi led by a local master
- Introduction to calligraphy and Chinese characters
- Traditional Chinese medicine overview and practice
- Source local produce and cook with our head chef
- English Corner: teach basic English to local villagers
- Heritage of China: help clean and restore a local temple
Linden Centre Details & Booking Information:
Looking back at the Centre from the terrace.© 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.