Though it was only built in 1947, the Linden Centre is a nationally protected building – in fact, it holds the same status at the Great Wall. Built by a wealthy merchant in traditional Bai style architecture, the grounds were occupied by the army during the Cultural Revolution; the Red Guard were kept at bay, and thus the building and its paintings and artifacts remained intact.
Today, the Linden Centre functions as both boutique hotel and learning center. Meals and transport are included in the cost, and you can expect a quiet yet stimulating stay.
The alleys in Xizhou are so narrow that buses can’t squeeze through them; instead, your bus stops about a block away and you’re met by staff who carry your luggage through the unassuming gates.
Once you pass inside, you’ll enter a Bai-style courtyard, which means that one wall is a dedicated “reflecting” wall — painted white, it’s meant to reflect the sun’s rays. The other three walls are made up of guest rooms, a small bar, and offices. Though the grounds have been modernized to a very comfortable Western standard, the Linden Centre isn’t the type of place you’d stop over for business meetings; think of it more as a retreat. In fact, Gadling’s own features editor Don George will be teaching a writing workshop there in 2011!
The 14 rooms at the Linden Centre were remodeled to modern Western criterion but retain their authenticity. Original feng shui principles were kept, and the lofty ceilings, antiques, and tall, wood-shuttered windows add a touch of the grand. Mattresses are large and Western (those of you who have traveled in China know what a difference that makes) and come equipped with thick comforters.
The rooms also contain a writing desk, wireless Internet, and a walk-in closet/nook complete with fluffy terrycloth bathrobes and tea-making equipment.
The walls and floor of the bathroom are laid with dark stone, creating a spa-like ambiance. The large shower is walk-in style, with high-end toiletries on offer. A small stone sculpture protruded from one wall in my shower; just another touch of detail that makes the place special. Hot water is turned on in the mornings and evenings, and of course there is a Western toilet.
The Bar and Restaurant
The Cafe-Wine Bar straddles two courtyards, with walls opening to either side, and has a very laid-back vibe; it’s the type of place where you might go read a book over a cup of tea. Low tables and soft lighting impart not so much a lounge feeling as a coffee-house one – and I wouldn’t say that that’s a bad thing. Still, it has an admirable wine list (which they were still putting it together when I stayed there) and a range of beers and liquors.
The restaurant is amazing in that it has an entirely glass ceiling. This feature gives it the feel of a courtyard, but you don’t have to worry about the elements. Paintings in this room were left untouched. A small fish pond and fountain break the space up, making dining more intimate.
Food is locally sourced, and most meals are eaten Chinese style, in a group. A breakfast buffet offers anything the Western diner might desire, from omelets made-to-order to freshly brewed Yunnan coffee.
The Linden Centre is a sort of learning retreat, and as such has almost as many activity rooms as it does guest rooms. A spiral staircase leads to a rooftop terrace, where you can gaze across fields and the village. There’s a library and painting room, a conference room, an exercise room, a small meditation chamber, and a large kids’ activity center.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Linden Centre. The preserved architecture, antiques and art (the owners run a gallery back in the States), and the emphasis on learning make for a great environment. The owners are warm and involved; you’ll even see their kids around. Though small-group retreats and seminars are a bit more common, the independent traveler will feel very comfortable.
Read more about my travels in Yunnan here.
Though my stay at the Linden Centre was funded by WildChina, the opinions expressed here are all my own.