Sun sets and the contours of this horizontal modernist compound come to life. Architectural up-lights raise lit columns along the perimeter, down lights flush the layered brick walls and guest rooms and dining hall become punctuating light boxes. I don’t know quite how to describe Tsingpu Retreat The Walled as a hotel. It’s certainly a modernist architectural marvel which reinterprets Chinese brick housing into a low-rise, flat roofline compound walled into grid formation hotel rooms.
Lyndon Neri tells me the introverted grid scheme was part of a solution to the development restrictions to preserve the structural footprint of houses that existed there. Real experience is in and outside the perimeter of these walls and in the corridors where the old structural underpinnings remain and are harmonised with the new development. You lose yourself in maze-like paths where each turn opens to surprising perspectives. Monotonous grey brick facade is broken by unexpected discovery of courtyards, ponds, lawns and undulation.
20 guest rooms are packed into the interior of the walls and the vast grounds surrounding it draw serenity so rare in any Chinese destination. Simplicity and tranquility are almost overbearing although appreciatively. As a hotel, 20 rooms densely packed into the interior of the walls have surprising privacy. Playful elevation again plays a role here as some rooms are sunken while others require light hikes.
Dining room reminds a sparse mess hall, albeit stylish and modernist. Familiar Neri & Hu signature pendant lights connected by rods jutting out and circling decorate the ceiling. Excitement, warmth and entertainment is somewhat wanting but it is nevertheless a contemporary dining experience.
Food is a master class in chopstick skills- every shape and texture of meat, fish and vegetables in the most refined Chinese cuisine I’ve ever experienced. It reminds of food in Hangzhou – uncharacteristically bland yet, quite simply, tasty. Strips of pork neck and assorted mushrooms pack in flavour while celery and diced chives add crunch. Head of jelly fish .. also crunchy but my mound would be left barely touched. A large family chatters away at the other end of the restaurant while their teenage daughter puts on dance moves to Taylor Swift (I will write to management tonight and introduce Music Concierge… OMG, now they’re playing Avril Lavigne). The only other diners are the young couple I met at the folding fan making class earlier in the day.
Yangzhou city scape is unusually human scale for a Chinese city with low rise tiled roof housing, verdant green fields, farm lands and waterways everywhere (Yangzhou was a crucial midway stopover for the Ming dynasty canal connecting Beijing and Nanjing).
Direct access to Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat is a swift 40min drive from Yangzhou Taizhou airport. It is also 90min from Nanjing and 2.5hr drive from Suzhou airports. If you’re coming from Shanghai, take regular train service to Zhenjiang and ask for hotel pick up.
Tsingpu Retreat – The Walled, Yangzhou (https://www.tsingpu.com/)
Rate starts at approx. USD 500 – full board and inclusion of daily cultural programs