The Ancient Thai people described “Xishuangbanna” as an ideal and magical paradise. Nowadays, it has become the kingdom of plants, abundant with parashorea chinensis trees leading up to over a hundred meters high, wild tea trees thousands of years old, codariocalyx motorius plants that dance in the wind, and synsepalum dulcificum, also known as miracle fruits, dangling from shrubs, waiting to be picked to alter your taste buds. It is also home to various wild animals including the iridescent blue and green peacocks and the majestic elephants. In such a Utopian place, 13 ethnic minorities live harmoniously with nature.
Once I landed, I grabbed my bags and headed to the car, which was waiting to take me to my hotel. The rich and tropical scenery and exotic local landscapes massed my need for sleep during the drive. My eyes couldn’t take it all in, the exotic architecture, tropical palm plants and beautiful girls dressed in ethnic clothing kept me wanting more.
Within a 15 minutes’ drive, I arrived at the Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna from the Xishuangbanna Gasa International Airport. When I arrived at the hotel, I felt astonished by the tall, transparent and exotic lobby, where I met my interviewee, Mr. Richard Liu, General Manager of Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna. Richard enumerated the hotel’s design carefully. Upon entering the lobby, I was surrounded by tropical plants. Pillars, shaped in traditional Thai elephant-foot drums and a chic chandelier inspired by the michelia alba, one out of six flowers from the Theravada Buddhist Temple. Magnificent handmade woodcarvings that made up the front desk was made of Myanmar’s white T. sinensis and Laos’ s white rosewood which displayed only a fraction of its inspiration, the notable ancient Buddha Temple, Jingpiao Temple. The cloud-shaped chandelier, which hung above the front desk, reminded me of beautiful scenery from the mist-shrouded, Ancient Tea Mountain. In addition, the chandelier in the banquet hall was innovated from a rattan-weaved dining table from the Dai village and the front door was made of local coconut shells. The most eye-catching was the one in the hotel’s lobby bar, a resplendent Thai wood building unique in style and character. Richard stated that he witnessed several old craftsmen produce this architectural miracle with only their years’ experience and onsite measurement without any blueprints or nails.
Located in the Jinghong city of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province and the core area of Wanda Theme Park, Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna is an international brand hotel integrated with a tropical resort, entertainment, a commercial shopping plaza, theme parks and large-scale performances. Through Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, the famous Mekong River runs across six countries, presenting the mysterious 13 ethnic customs and well-established tea-horse culture. In a number of hotels, Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna stands out by its Dai-style architecture and rainforest aroma. Aside from providing guests with hotel products and services of Hilton standards, the hotel is also committed to offering an authentic and unforgettable Xishuangbanna experience.
Richard joined Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna in March, 2015 and was involved in the whole process from preparation to operation. Under his leadership, the hotel has gained the reputation in the local hospitality industry within just one year since its opening in September, 2015. As one of the best performers of the Wanda and Hilton Group in the Greater China, the hotel has won a number of awards and honors in the Asian-Pacific region. During the preparation, the hotel’s conditions were extremely difficult. As the General Manager, Richard started from scratch and struggled intensely. He trained his young team of many members from different ethnic backgrounds, into a distinguished team of hotel practitioners, understanding everything from the local ethnic customs to the international brand culture to even the rainforest resort.
Richard, a person who can lead such a hardworking team in this special region, intrigued me. Not only had he served for a number of international hotel brands including Starwood, InterContinental, Accor and Shangri-La during his 22-year hospitality career, his footprints were found from the Southern city, Hainan to the northern cities, Shenyang and Dalian across the country. During this period, he accumulated a handful of experience and expertise and was recognized for the integration and training of employees with different cultures and regions. The secret to his success lies in the ardent love and dedication to the hospitality industry. He leaves his mobile phone on for 24 hours a day, dealing with many kinds of operation and customer affairs at any and every given time. Immediately after he comes up with new ideas, he grabs a pen, writes it down, shares the ideas with associates and implements them at once. In his previous career, he had participated in the preparation of many hotels and organized a number of large-scale activities including the Summer Davos Forum in Dalian and the 2nd Boao Forum for Asia. Solid professional knowledge and a broad range of interests make Richard insightful and innovative in the operation and management of the hotels. During his spare time, Richard is keen on traveling, reading and outdoor activities. He is willing to discover the local characteristics and integrate them into hotel products, which promotes the development of the local minority culture.
From Richard’s perspective, the uniqueness of Xishuangbanna lies not only in climate and culture, but also in ethnic customs and natural resources. The local pottery, paper, tea ceremony, oldest wild tea tree and artificially cultivating tea trees are the best examples. The authenticity of the Pu’er tea is under the great influence of local humanities and economy. The splendid culture of 13 ethnic minorities nourishes the honest customs in Xishuangbanna. Richard often participates in many local festivals. He told me about many strange customs and specialties including the Dragon Head, Viscum liquidambaricolum Hayata, and Necromancer. He also established deep friendships with local people. Under his guide, the hotel staff often goes to visit the local families, taste the authentic food, participate in ethnic activities, and experience the natural environment where tea tree is grown and learn about the rich tea culture in the Ancient Tea Mountain.
Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna provides guests with shuttle services. The surrounding facilities are complete and convenient. The local people are simple and honest. The hotel staffs are enthusiastic and hospitable. There are so many local festivals that there is one saying called, “Celebrate the festivals in the first half of the year and make the summary in the rest of the year.” Take the water festival for an example. The festival lasts for a whole week and manifests a good and propitious omen. A whole year is filled with various festivals including Gatangpa Festival, Swing Festival and New Rice Festival. Local people are always welcoming guests to join them, celebrating their festivals and weddings together. Gradually, the customs have influenced the hotel staff as a whole to become unified with the local people. The multicultural integration of the staff also gives guests an unexpected feeling that provides a unique experience beyond traditional hotel destinations.
The hotel boasts a total of 412 resort guest rooms and suites, equipped with a fitness center constructed around the mountain, an indoor and outdoor independent swimming pool and children’s play pool. Every guest room has a balcony with the separate view of the swimming pool, a tropical landscape filled with trees and flowers, or a breathtaking view of the mountain. Moreover, the hotel has a magnificent pillar-free hall of 660 square meters. All the meeting and banquet facilities are flexible and separated. The wedding-style lawn in the back garden is a fantastic place for all kinds of cocktail events.
Yunnan is known for different kinds of natural mountain grown vegetation. The virgin forest of Xishuangbanna and the Lancang River located across the city, bring a rich and varied source of delicacies. Despite the traditional Cantonese cuisine, the authentic local food served at Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna always surprise guests with the local ingredients and creative ideas. After dinner, guests can relax in the lobby bar, chatting the night away with friends accompanied with some Pu’er tea.
In the year of 2017, the hotel will be more international, radiating its services to the neighboring countries and promoting the hotel from diversification to multinationalization. The hotel team will further refine the hotel services, expand the guest sources, open the meeting market, diversify the resort product and increase the price-quality ration.
Xishuangbanna offers a vast amount of warm sunshine, plentiful rainfall, and pleasant weather for all the seasons. Lush tall trees, fresh air, beautiful birds, and sweet floral flowers are ubiquitous in this rainforest paradise. Providing all these necessities and more for a relaxed vacation, Doubletree Resort by Hilton Xishuangbanna under the joint efforts of Richard and his team make it all possible.