If you haven't heard of Singapore-based Aman Resorts, there's a good reason.
It's widely touted as the world's chicest hotel brand, frequented by European aristocracy and pop stars looking for vacation glamour where the resort is the destination. In certain circles, the mere reference of Aman conjures up the image of far-off locations in one-of-a-kind resorts that humble the ordinary Ritz travelers into jealous silence.
Not just run-of-the-mill five-star luxury, Aman combines the seclusion of a private villa with the resort amenities of a full-service hotel. With openings coming in Montenegro, Brazil and India set for December, its newest property is also one of its most historic, the Summer Palace Beijing, a few miles from the Chinese capital.
How to get there
With new routes coming almost monthly from U.S. and Canadian gateways, China has never been more accessible. Beijing is a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles and around 14 hours from JFK in New York, with nonstop service by a growing list of carriers that include United and Air China. U.S. visitors are required to obtain a 30-day visa from the Chinese Embassy for around $130. Once you arrive in Beijing, you're greeted by the pampering hands of Aman Resorts, which arranges private transfer to the hotel in chauffeured sedans or shuttle.First impressions
Away from the gridlock and congestion of central Beijing, the Aman at Summer Palace is a spiritual escape that combines old-world elegance with decadent modern luxury. The resort is accessed via the East Gate of the Summer Palace, which is open to the public. The hotel is contained within a series of Ming-red structures and ornate one-story villas. Built in 1750, the palace is a series of immaculate, interconnecting structures surrounding Kunming Lake that was once the summertime escape of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. The palace was completely destroyed by air raids in 1860, after which his wife passionately oversaw every detail of reconstruction that created the series of buildings and gardens found today.