Inspiration and careful thought seem to have gone into every detail of the design and carried out methodically throughout the complex. It is the greenest hotel in which I've stayed in China and might just be the most eco-friendly to date.
Just an hour away from Hangzhou and another 1.5 hours from Shanghai, it is an easy getaway and one you'll remember for a lifetime. It is indeed billed as a luxury getaway and at upwards of 1,500rmb per person, the experience is certainly an extravagant treat.
Hotel Location and Grounds
Rooms are spacious and light. The décor is spare but tasteful and comfortable. Natural textures and fibers reign - from the beautiful cotton bedding to the leather of the lived-in armchairs. Antique trunks and armoires are used in place of typical chest-of-drawers giving you plenty of space to unpack and hint that your stay should be longer than you originally booked.
The tile floor in the bathroom is delightfully heated when weather warrants and the rustic floors in the living and bedrooms are made from rich, reclaimed wood.
The design maximizes light and view – the first floor of our room had enormous windows on two sides that look out over the tea fields and bamboo. The second floor had a skylight and large windows that open onto the terrace. While light is important during the day, blackout curtains, outdoor shutters and a skylight cover ensure that you won't be awoken at dawn. In fact, the mornings were incredibly quiet during our stay.
Only 18 rooms were open during our stay in April 2012, but more are being planned – including a three-bedroom private villa – and finished as I write this.
As a traveler with two small children, I appreciate a hotel that welcomes families with children. But there's a subtle difference between a basic welcome and an embrace. Le Passage is utterly family friendly with all the basic amenities a family would need including luxurious cots, high chairs, plastic dinnerware and pool toys. Beyond that, in a month or two, they will have a comprehensive child-activity-center developed and open. My kids were so happy just playing in the pool and wandering around the estate, I can hardly imagine their delight should we visit again. I hardly saw them during our three-day stay when the center wasn't open…
It must be pointed out that the family touch is provided by the proprietors themselves. A charming family that includes three boys, their warmth sets the tone for guests and the crowd is certainly a smart but relaxed set.
The design of the hotel includes very eco-friendly attributes and if you care about this sort of thing, then you can feel very comfortable spending so much money here. Much of the water for the complex is sourced from a rain-water reservoir that was especially put in and the heating is managed by a state-of-the-art Japanese system that burns recycled sawdust pellets. All the wood used in the buildings is reclaimed. Even the resident tea plantation is cultivated using organic principles of farming.
Dining & Drinking
With kids so happily engaged, we did enjoy Le Passage's incredible cellar – all imports from France – and their wonderful bar. Happy to mix up any cocktail you desire, it's easy to start happy hour right after lunch.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the Robert Fortune Lounge – a casual seating area that opens onto the pool terrace and is accompanied by a seating area dominated by deep leather armchairs and coffee table books. Breakfast is a simple buffet affair with a few à la carte items that include eggs and bacon. Coffee, locally grown tea and snacks are available at the bar throughout the day.
Dinner is usually served in the formal Armand David restaurant where the courses are French/International with a few local-derived creations thrown in. However, in fine weather, poolside BBQs are served more casually. (Note, the dining room names are from noted European botanists who traveled China in the 19th century collecting specimens for study back in the UK and France. Robert Fortune is particularly famous for getting tea out of China and into British hands in India.)
For lunch and dinner there are no choices and this is relatively fine for adults but I found it problematic for my kids. Being so family friendly, I was a little surprised at how little they accommodated kids when it came to food. This is the only reason I don't give them a full five stars in my rating. I'm hoping this will change as they have more experience, perhaps with the opening of the children's center.
- The hotel itself offers daily yoga classes.
- Staff can help you navigate hikes around the complex and up into the Moganshan National Park.
- You can visit the tea plantation and go see green tea processing at the facility just below the hotel compound.
- Mountain biking enthusiasts will enjoy cycling around the mountain.
- Gardeners will want to visit between May and September to see the rose garden, with more than 12,000 bushes, in bloom.
- Relax and swim - I suppose relaxation is the antonym of activity but if you're terribly active anyway, then why not schedule relaxation into the routine? Le Passage's salt water pool is divine and even heated during cooler weather.
As I write this, the hotel (only open for a few months) is working on accepting international credit cards. As it stands, rooms are only guaranteed when paid in advance, in full. Cancellation fees apply and there are no refunds, only credits. The charges are per person and include accommodation and dining (except alcohol).