Fuyang, China

Photo: Fuchun Resort
Photo: Fuchun Resort

You need a break in China. You’ve been working in Beijing, touring Xi’an, and running around Shanghai. Now you’re exhausted and looking for a place to relax. But this isn’t a country known for peaceful leisure time. You had hoped to find solitude in Hangzhou, in Eastern China. The setting—along the shores of West Lake—sounded perfect. The reality is a little different. The city is congested, there are lines of people everywhere, and you can’t break away from the hordes of tour groups. It’s amazing the Chinese call this an escape.

But keep going. Since you found a beautiful, natural environment, a true retreat can’t be far away. Follow the Fuchun River. The buildings get smaller. The road narrows. The hillside becomes greener. You’ve left the city behind. You drive through tiny villages. The Fuchun Mountains are ahead of you. Another lake is coming up. Your breathing slows. There’s no one around. For the first time in China, you’re alone outside.

You calm down by the time you reach the Fuchun Resort. The Southern Song-style buildings sit on the edge of the lake. You’ve arrived just in time for your preplanned Gua Sha reflexology massage at the spa. The scraping technique releases the rest of your tension. After your massage, sit in the steam room, eat lychees in the lounge, and head down to the pool. The heated indoor pool has black mosaic tiles, stone statues stand guard, and an outdoor jacuzzi has views of the lush hillside. You should have planned this earlier in your trip.

Photo: garytamin via stock.xchng
Photo: garytamin via stock.xchng

Unwilling to disrupt your zen feeling, you stay right at the resort for dinner. The Asia Corner, filled with traditional red lanterns and floral artwork, has uninterrupted views of the calm lake. You start with stir-fried rice with Longjing tea. The tea gives the rice an earthy, roasted taste. Then Guangzhou steamed mandarin fish arrives. The air fills with the smell of ginger, garlic, and green onion. And you can’t resist a cup of the Longjing tea at the end of your meal. The green tea is gentle and slightly sweet. Just what you needed.

The next morning, the resort is surrounded by fog when you wake up. The hot, humid air from the lowlands moved in and settled over the lake. You can barely see the edge of the water, much less the tea plantation on the other side. You resolve not to stay in your newfound comfort state, so you head out to see the countryside. Visit the maze-like Longmen Village to see rare and preserved ancient architecture from the Ming and the Qing dynasties. The pagodas, the houses, and the archways are more than 300 years old. See the ancient art of paper making and book stitching at Hua Bao Zhai. Learn about terroir and proper water-boiling techniques before a tea tasting at the Longjing Meijiawu Village. Explore the grottos, see the rock carvings, and buy prayer beads at the majestic Lingyin Temple.

Visit the Baochu Pagoda on top of Precious Stone Hill for a view of Hangzhou. The city looks better from the distance. You even consider heading down to one of the teahouses in Wushan Square. But then you think better of it. Why chance it when a perfectly brewed cup of tea is waiting back at the lake.

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