An Eco Resort in Moganshan
Despite the fact that I reside in the world's largest metropolitan area, I don't really consider myself to be a "city" person. So when we began plotting our trip to China and the megalopolises that are Shanghai (population 25 million) and Beijing (population 22 million), I knew I was going to want a breather from all the hustle and concrete. Enter Moganshan: a sanctuary of bamboo-forested mountains and smog-free air that's easily accessible by car or train from Shanghai. It's also home to Asia's first LEED Platinum-certified hotel, naked Stables.
You're probably wondering why you've never heard of Moganshan. Although it was a popular weekend getaway for the Shanghai expats of yesteryear, the area fell to disarray during the communist takeover. It began gaining traction again in recent years, as some of the existing lodges were restored - and new accommodations built. naked Stables is the brainchild of a Shanghai-based husband and wife team who desperately sought their own escape from frantic city life. A South African entrepreneur and a Hong Kong-born architect, the couple used an unexpected fusion of African and Asian design in a hotel that takes every measure possible to protect the natural beauty around it. Case in point: we were transported to our thatched-roof hilltop "earth hut," a sophisticated treehouse-like bungalow, by one of the hotel's solar-powered golf carts - cars are not permitted on property. The hut had a secluded terrace complete with an outdoor shower overlooking the forest that made me kick myself for choosing to visit during the frigid month of December. For those traveling with a family or group of friends, the resort has treetop villas with multiple bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens and decks offering sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Although Japan has no shortage of its own picturesque mountains, the concept of luxury rural resorts has yet to take off. Feeling slightly deprived of this accommodation type, I was like a kid on Christmas morning when our shuttle van pulled up at naked Stables. We were immediately handed a steaming mug of ginger tea and provided an overview of the grounds. The sprawling property has everything you could want in a resort, plus a little extra: 3 restaurants, 4 swimming pools (one which you can book exclusive use of), a spa, tea house, tea fields, horse stables and a farm. Outside of the scenic hiking trails and bike paths that weave through the neighboring hills, you have no real cause to wander off property. And with only one full day to spend in Moganshan, David and I barely scratched the surface on the long list of leisure activities made available by the resort. We kicked off our day with a complimentary morning yoga class, and while the teacher barking instructions at us in Chinese didn't make for the most serene experience, I felt energized to tackle the hills of Moganshan. After breakfast, we took off on one of the hotel's suggested hiking trails, where we stretched our legs in a striking bamboo forest. Every once in a while, the tranquil rustle of stalks swaying gently in the wind was interrupted by the startling crow of a wild rooster on its way to some unknown destination. The nearby bike paths beckoned at us as well, but we decided to spend the remainder of our day relaxing at the resort and partaking in its vast array of lawn games. I indulged David in a badminton battle that seemed to last for hours before we finally retired to our treehouse with a bottle of wine.
As with all of our hotel stays in China, breakfast was included in our daily room rate. The morning spread at naked Stables was impressive, with full buffet offerings of both Western and Chinese cuisine. I experimented with the Chinese fare on our first morning at the retreat, but as I'm not accustomed to downing plates of vegetables so soon after waking I was quick to fall back on the sugary, made-to-order french toast. All the food we ate onsite was fantastic, and we were impressed by the resort's wine list, which had a heavy South African influence. If we were residents of Shanghai, I think David and I would be at naked Stables quite often - especially in summer, when the hills of Moganshan are lusher and the resort pool scene is, well, scenier.
There are a number of ways to reach Moganshan, depending on your launch point. naked Stables details all of your options here.
On our way to the resort, we took advantage of the shuttle that operates daily between the naked Retreats headquarters in Shanghai and the hotel in Moganshan. It's a 2.5-hour drive, but the price for a seat is a mere RMB 200/USD 30 per person. For our return trip we decided to utilize the train, which took us directly to SHA (Shanghai Hongqiao Airport) for our flight out to Beijing. naked Stables coordinated for a car service to drop us off at nearby Deqing, where we took a quick 15-minute train to Hangzhou. From there, it was just an hour by high speed train to the airport. This mode of transport is a little more expensive (RMB 250/USD 40 for the car service; RMB 165/USD 25 per person for the train tickets), but it's a great option if your arrival or departure doesn't fit the hotel's shuttle schedule. If you plan to do any travel by train in China, I recommend purchasing the tickets through China Travel Guide. In addition to delivering the train tickets to your hotel, they provide you with a personal booking consultant who can answer any questions. As with everything else in China, you'll need your passport to arrange the tickets.
We were dumbfounded at the massiveness of Hangzhou East train station. After we passed through its TSA-like security clearance, I began questioning if it was actually an airport. I was able to shoot a few pictures of the expansive terminal where we waited for our train - keep scrolling for a peek!