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Offering an idyllic escape by the lake

BLENDING in with the beautiful natural scenery of the area, Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake provides the perfect chance to get away from it all. Yao Minji discovers just how peaceful a stay in this serene setting can be.

In Hangzhou, it isn't too difficult to find a beautiful spot by the West Lake, but it is surely a challenge to build a tranquil and eloquent hotel that is well-blended with the lake's scenery and well-balanced with traditional ambience and modern convenience.

Set on the shores of the beautiful lake amid willow trees and lotus ponds, Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, is only a few minutes' drive from the city center, yet also provides an escape from the crowded part of the lake that is filled with tourist boats. It is adjacent to the inner lake, where few tourists pass by, and the perfect perch to soak up the lake's authentic beauty.

A pleasant getaway from the city's hustle and bustle, the hotel has no tall buildings, but only delicate architecture featuring red bricks and typical Chinese roofs. Designed in the traditional garden style of the area, water, an essential element of such gardens, features heavily at the hotel.

The outdoor swimming pool, sitting on top of a sizeable shallow pond, has infinity edges on all sides, giving the impression that it extends all the way to the lake which is only a few steps away.

A tree-lined path leads to more aquatic features - a pond with a vivid fall on the left, complementing and echoing the peaceful lake to the right.

The traditional-style building, the luxuriant grass field and the tall trees all, like the West Lake, seem to have been there forever. However, despite blending naturally with the ambience of the space, these settings were artificially built.

Surrounding the pond is Jin Sha, the hotel's Chinese restaurant. The high-standard dining venue offers fresh and healthy interpretations of classic local, Shanghainese and Cantonese dishes, with the sophisticated dining room and outdoor terrace overlooking the gardens and ponds.

Eleven discreet private dining rooms each involve a distinct style, decorated with both traditional and contemporary pieces, with an outdoor area on the shore of the pond.

The main dining hall and some of the private dining rooms contain a showcase kitchen, allowing guests to see the deft culinary team at work.

Designed by celebrity chef Tony Lu, also executive chef at Shanghai's acclaimed Fu 1088 restaurant, the well-balanced menu presents a modern culinary vision of authentic dishes made healthier with the freshest ingredients available in Hangzhou, exemplifying sophisticated dining in China.

An impressive dish is Ren Shen Fu Gui Ji (Beggar's Chicken), a modern interpretation of a traditional dish elevated to a new level of flavor. The chicken used is locally raised and of the free-range variety, leaner and more delicate than factory-farmed poultry.

Other notable dishes include Jin Pai Kou Rou (local farm-raised pork and bamboo shoots), the Cantonese favorite Hua Jiao Tang (fish maw soup with sea whelk and cordyceps, a type of fungus used in traditional Chinese medicine), and Mo Li Bing Ji Ling, a popular pudding served with jasmine tea ice cream.

To accompany the meal, the restaurant provides a fine selection of teas, which includes a wide range of white, green, oolong, black and herbal teas such as the famous Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, native to the West Lake area. The legendary tea is also used in some of the dishes to enhance the flavor and fragrance, such as the Long Jing Xia Ren, or fried local lake shrimp.

For a hotel retreat in such a serene setting, a visit to its spa is a must. And the spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, built like an underground palace occupied by tranquil fragrances and soft lighting, easily alleviates the tiredness of daily urban life.

Each of the nine spacious double-bed treatment rooms hide behind a round door at the end of a path over a shallow pond.

The treatments available use both top international product lines and local ingredients, including Dragon Well Tea and Jade Spring Ritual, which utilizes the region's famed Longjing tea.

After treatment, guests are left with a feeling of peace and weightlessness in the tranquil room, which exudes a sense of freedom felt around the entire hotel.


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