Banyan Tree Ringha – China

Where

Banyan Tree Ringha is located beside Hong Po Village near Jian Tang Town, in the heart of Shangri La in Yunnan, China. It is perched 3200m above sea level and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and amazing scenery.

You really feel you are on top of the world in the fabled lands of Shangi La.

Ringha is 45 minutes from Diqing Shangri La Airport and its surroundings and undulated landscape offer a unique travel experience in a frontier destination.

Back story

The Banyan Tree Ringha is a magnificent retreat with 32 spacious resort lodges and suites which are different from anywhere I have stayed.

They are traditional Tibetan farmhouses with intricate woodcarvings, smoky fireplaces and wooden balconies that have magnificent valley or river views.

The farmhouses are decades old and have been painstakingly preserved and relocated log by log to form Banyan Tree Ringha.

The resort architecture reflects the local Tibetan culture in the historic homelands of Tibetan nomads, one of the most secluded hide-aways in the world.

Rooms and interiors

Stepping into our farmhouse is like entering another world with its bright red and orange decor, beautiful Tibetan art and craft work and intricate wood carvings.

The two-storey house has an upstairs bedroom with the bed on an elevated platform and a downstairs bathroom complete with a handcrafted wooden bathtub.

Beautiful handicrafts adorn the walls and there are wooly rugs on the floor.

It is set near a small village where yak farming and growing barley are a way of life.

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Dining

For dinner we head to the retreat’s Chang Sa Bar and Restaurant and enjoy a tasty hot pot served with a variety of meats and vegetables cooked in delicious broth. It is accompanied by the Ringha Village Barley Spirit, a tasty drink invented by the local farmers.

Discover the art of tea appreciation at Jakhang Lobby Lounge where you can select from a wide variety of teas. Guests can also learn about the wide and fascinating array of tea leaves, buds and brews and enjoy some of the finest selections by the fireplace.

The Llamo Restaurant offers a variety of Chinese and western meals for breakfast and dinner.

In Tibetan “llamo” refers to a communal place where friends, family and neighbours gather to enjoy opera, plays, festivals and good food together. Try the yak burger and Yunan roasted duck salad.

While on a tour we stop for lunch at a traditional Tibetan farmhouse where we are welcomed warmly by three generations of Khan people.

We sit on low stools and are served salty yak butter tea, which is definitely an acquired taste, but the steaming fresh Tibetan barley bread and yak cheese are delicious.

Our guide tells us yak butter helps keep the farmer’s skin moisturised and their muscles warmed against the winter cold.

Life is simple here as it follows the seasons from harsh winter with snow on the ground to the warm days of spring and summer.

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Spa

There’s no better place to relax than on the top of the world and the Banyan Tree Ringha Spa has some great treatments.

The spa treatments are inspired by traditional Himalayan practices and the ancient Chinese Five Elements philosophy.

We relax in the spacious spa lobby, surrounded by intricate carvings and handcrafted Tibetan artifacts, and sip on warm tea before embarking on the quintessential Banyan Tree Spa experience.

The 90-minute Tibetan Tiptoe is perfect for reviving tired feet from too much trekking in the hills. It includes a herbal foot soak and scrub followed by a full hour of foot reflexology, which relieves tension and improves energy flow to the whole body. Scented sweet vanilla paraffin infused with cocoa bean and soybean extract seals moisture into the skin for a tiptoe finale… ahh bliss.

Features

The retreat offers some great tours that immerse guests in the Tibetan culture with visits to popular attractions.

“Walk slowly and don’t rush,” says our guide, who advises us on how to lessen any altitude effects of being 3600 metres above sea level.

“It is all about acclimatising gradually,” she adds, as we wander over grasslands and visit a modest temple with prayer flags flapping in the breeze.

This small temple is a vast contrast to the area’s massive Songzanling Monastery, which is nicknamed little Potala Palace as opposed to Lhasa’s Potala Palace.

The Songzanling Monastery stands majestically at the foot of Foping Mountain. The 333-year-old monastery’s gilded copper roof that shines in the sunlight can be seen from a great distance away.

Home to more than 700 monks, the lamasery with its many temples, prayer halls and chortens was built in 1679 and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist lamasery in Yunnan.

What I loved

Watching women in their traditional pink headdress with cute babies on their back and a mischievous grubby faced young monk poking his head out from a monastery door.

The sound of tinkling bells on the black and white goats that scamper over the stones below our farm house.

Across the other side of the valley, there are some fat yaks, a few horses and black and pink pigs enjoying a drink from the stream under the watchful eye of a shepherd dressed in a warm coat and hat.

My thoughts return to the book, The Lost Horizon penned by British writer James Hilton, whose main character stumbles across what he describes as the most beautiful place on earth and calls it Shangri La.

Fabled or not there’s been much talk that around here is the real Shangri La, which in Tibetan means the “sun and moon in heart”, an ideal home only found in heaven.

No one is exactly sure where it is but I think I am pretty close.

But whether or not it’s Hilton’s real Shangri La it doesn’t matter — this is definitely my version of heaven on earth.

Details

For bookings go to banyantree.com or email ringha@banyantree.com

Ringha is 3200 metres above sea level. It is recommended travellers acclimatise in Lijiang before heading to higher altitudes.

Sue Wallace
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