During longer holidays my family tries to go deeper and travel farther when we have time on our side. Exploring the Park Hyatt brand (they always impress) we found a property in a Chinese city we had not been to before, Ningbo, China. Traditional, quiet, and service-focused – we found one of our favorite hotels in the world just a two-hour train from Shanghai.
While other Park Hyatt hotels have been a little easier to get to, this one, like Sanya, was a journey. My wife discusses the incredible two-hour train journey from Shanghai to Ningbo with a brief stop in Hangzhou along the way. Go read her post, the train ride was incredible.
Once we arrived in Ningbo, we grabbed a taxi from the rank. As is our custom in China, we called the hotel (because T-Mobile is great abroad and terrible in the US) and had them speak to the driver directly in Mandarin. This is one of the reasons we have our daughter learning Mandarin and are trying ourselves – it just makes life easier.
The ride to the property led us out of town and past a lake that we would later become familiar with. It was evening and the sights were hard to see at night, but we were able to get a better look on the way back and a subsequent trip into the city of Ningbo. From the train station to the lobby, the journey took about 45 minutes and cost less than $30.
(Google maps will not work without a VPN in China and even those may not work in the near future so download the map before you head there)
The main building feels like a hotel, but for the most part, that’s where the hotel experience ends. At the banks of a placid lake set amongst rolling hills is a Chinese village marketed as a five-star luxury resort. Traditional tile roofs, bridges and waterways meander through the property beset with beautiful stone work that feels like the Orient of the 1800s while the inside is modern and new.
The property is premium in every way, from the main building with large, cavernous hallways and slate stone doors to the cottages that surround the lake shore.
Around the property were small areas for kids, families and couples. Lake cruises were offered by the hotel and one could rent the entire boat or a seat on it if they so chose. Meditation gardens, infinity pools, outdoor seating at the historical tea room all made this resort feel like the perfect escape from busy Shanghai.
We have made a habit of hiring a photographer while we are on vacation occasionally, especially in special places like this resort. My wife wrote about this some time ago for another site and while we don’t always do this, in Asia the backdrops tend to be more impressive, and professional photographers far more affordable than in the US. The concierge was able to arrange a photographer on our behalf for less than $100 (including ownership rights of the photos) and we can’t overstate how happy we are that the hotel was able to support us.
As Hyatt Diamond members (now Globalist) we were able to secure an upgrade to a Park Executive Suite. This was far and away among the most impressive I have ever seen. If you have been saving your suite upgrades, this is the place to spend them.
Walking in, we found a guest bathroom, a spacious living room and a fairly large kitchenette. Massive windows overlook the beautiful grounds including a relaxation garden just below our window, tile roofed buildings and the placid Dong Qian lake in the background.
Entering the bedroom, we found similar windows with roughly the same view, a beautiful dressing area and closet behind the bedroom and one of the largest bathroom/spas I have ever seen.
You’re not ready for the bathroom yet.
The bed was relaxing, there were good plugs next to the bed for charging our devices with international plugs and true to Park Hyatt service, a small mat with slippers were placed at the foot of either side of the bed each night.
Let me get to the smallest complaint I could have about the otherwise unreal bathroom. The toilet felt a little public and we often used the guest toilet when others were in the bathroom.
There was a beautiful and modern soaking tub that set at the edge of the bathroom and on the border with the bedroom which could be left open or separated by a heavy floor to ceiling curtain.
The main event, the most significant aspect of this jaw-dropping bathroom was the steam room. This was a 10-person steam room, at least. There were four shower stations in the middle of the steam room, a few benches – the whole area glassed in and facing the rest of the bathroom and subsequently, the bedroom.
Each morning I would get up earlier than the girls, start the steam, and return some work emails that came in overnight as the hours were opposite from the US east coast. After 10-15 minutes I would coax them out of bed and wrapped in towels and robes we would sit in the steam room and let it open our pores and wake us up. It was an in-room spa. I am not a big spa-type guy, I’ll go for massages occasionally, but I’m not seeking those opportunities out. I want to go back to the hotel just for those morning sessions. It was incredible.
As a perk of being a Diamond/Globalist member of the Hyatt loyalty program is the breakfast benefit for our family. Impressive as most Park Hyatt hotels are, Ningbo didn’t let us down. There were fresh items for Western visitors, Japanese salad bars for breakfast and of course many Chinese breakfast items.
I am sure we could order from a menu but the buffet was the obvious choice. They didn’t offer dumplings one of the days of our stay, Lucy’s favorite (and mine). We asked if they would be putting some out and true to Park Hyatt form, they made us our own custom order.
Another day they displayed an ancient Chinese bread-making technique with chefs manning the clay pot ovens distributing the made-to-order breads to amused clientele like our daughter.
We had a chance to dine at their ultra-swanky Seafood House restaurant and more or less experienced an omakase approach to the ordering experience as we recognized little on the menu. The food was delicious, expertly made and very different to what we were used to. It was a side of Chinese cooking that I was for the most part, unaware existed.
Dinner was served in courses, in truth, Lucy did not do well in this situation which was fairly formal. It was probably the worst she has behaved in a formal setting while we have been traveling but that’s what two-year olds do from time-to-time. If you have kids, they might struggle with the format of the dinner and the options available.
Based on the movie adaptation of the King and I, the property’s opulent pool impresses. There was a single person swimming laps on a couple of visits to the pool and on another occasion a mother and son who were not swimming in the pool. It was more or less a private pool and nearly olympic in size.
Before getting to the pool area, health club staff members greet guests and provide a locker key and offer a tour of the facilities. In the center of the locker room (no photos of course despite its emptiness) was a very warm, very relaxing hot tub, robes, every kind of grooming tool you could possibly want or need – if you didn’t clear your upgrade, just spend your time here instead.
There was a play room for kids in one of the cottages around the property and Lucy and I occupied the space while Carly had a massage at the spa. Not all of the rest of the activities were focused on her type of fun. Walking by the lake was pretty but not really her kind of vacation. The pool was fun but it wasn’t really an inflatable toy and splashing around kind of experience. Finding this cottage was a welcome surprise for myself and little Lucy.
Some of the buildings onsite are original, one of which is the Tea Room. It was a beautiful spot for drinks, snacks and lunch meals, even a Chinese dumpling cooking class. Inside the Tea Room we sat at traditional Chinese tables, Lucy learned to play a game with one of the staff members – it was a great place to spend an hour relaxing. The building was original (though updated for safety) and had been built over 700 years ago. After spending many years visiting Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, it was nice to see a more traditional Chinese approach.
The price per night was in the neighborhood of $180/nt or 12,000 points per night. Depending on your valuation of Hyatt points, 6,000 points and $75/nt is probably your best bet. For Globalists with unexpired suite upgrades, this really is one of the best values not only in Hyatt but among all the major chains. If you had a week to spare in Shanghai, hopping on the train to come down to Ningbo would be a good use of your time and money. For 36,000 points, $450 and one suite upgrade I don’t think there is a more relaxing, luxurious, and well-kept secrets in the entire world.
Have you been to Ningbo? Will you add this property to your list of must-stay hotels?