In this week’s armchair travel, Anji Connell takes us on a journey through China’s most exquisite city, Guilin and two otherworldly accommodations in the region.

Feast for the Senses: Living in Art, Surrounded by Nature
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Guilin’s dramatic karst landscape is famous for its exquisite mountains, limpid rivers, caverns, caves and beautiful rocks, as well as the Li River that winds its way past bamboo groves and ancient villages, where locals still fish with tethered cormorants. 

Some hotels in the locale display art within them and often around them, and for some, the structure itself is the artwork set within its surrounding landscape. Two highlighted hotels showcase both these scenarios, both of them resembling part of a surreal art installation. 

Alila Yangshuo, although possessing a brutal, industrial aesthetic, appears at one with its sublime natural surroundings. Positioned on the curve of the Li River,  the restored 1960s sugar mill has been converted into a series of lofty public spaces and heritage suites.

Adjacent, an understated new-build that houses the rooms and villas, slots seamlessly into its surroundings. The buildings are anchored by dark pools of water that reflect both the buildings and the nature, and soften the concrete. The perforated concrete facade casts dappled light onto its low-key neutral interiors with cleverly lit original wooden beams that are decorated in a mix of contemporary furnishings mostly by Chinese designers.

The tactile recycled timbers, low-slung leather benches, and rice-paper and beech bucket chairs are a considered and pleasing curation. Tranquility and a subtle sense of place pervade throughout, encouraging quiet contemplation and renewed spirit.

The Other Place Guilin Litopia, on the other hand, is the personification of M. C. Escher's magical and mathematical lithographs - namely Relativity, Ascending and Descending and Convex and Concave that were never meant to exist. Yet here, you will find them in their ascending and descending glory - mind-boggling stairways to nowhere! The owner, Feifei Yi, is a Harvard alumna with a former life in finance from Hong Kong, who left to focus on this boutique hospitality project with transportive interiors. Her vision allows one to escape (albeit for a short while) from the typical hectic lifestyle and its associated problems.

Ten guest rooms have been designed by five creative individuals, each one with an appropriate book to read to better understand the rooms and the feelings they may invoke: 

Shadow has no unnecessary decorative elements, leaving the space with only the essentials for reflection on materialism, and our desires and obsessions in our daily life. Dream allows you to inhabit Escher's surreal optically illusional elements in serene pale pink and white, removing you mentally from the chaos of everyday life. Maze is an exercise in optical illusion elements in a fresh forest. Light lets you explore the relationship between living spaces and void through the application of materials, light, and shadow. Cloud is furnished with local vintage pieces in a neutral palette to creates a rustic, calm atmosphere. Ripple is a re-imagining of the Li River's landscape from the underwater world during the fishing season. Peace has minimal forms and design elements taken from the natural world to gently create a light and fluid space free from external distractions.

Structure's steps and pebbles separate areas to reduce any oppressive feelings caused by partitioning. Leaving a sense of tranquility and elegance, Secret is a safe harbour from the bustling city. Innocence possesses an unadorned intimate design with wooden furniture that give the room rustic traces of local life. The icing on the cake is the rooftop of the hotel - a perfect place to see the magical stars and the galaxy over the incredible, surreal landscape. 


Anji Connell is an interior architect, garden designer and self-proclaimed nomad who regularly writes about art, design, lifestyle and travel from her globe-trotting adventures. Known for her bubbly persona and even more exuberant sense of style, Anji's portfolio spans everything from interior styling to furniture and landscape design for some of the world's most beautiful spaces. For now, you will find her @anjiconnell_acidplus and bingeing on future travel plans from her designer chair.

Tags: traveldesignarchitecturenatureartAlilaYangshuoTheOtherPlaceLitopiaGuilinChina
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