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Green treat

 



        Elevated pitched tiled roofs, supported by flying buttresses of bamboo, at the lobby lounge in Crosswaters Ecolodge. Photos by Victor Paul Borg / for China Daily 


        A highlight of the bamboo-inspired design of Crosswaters Ecolodge, a resort set in the forest at Nankun Shan Nature Reserve. 



       Tourists fishing at Nankun Shan Nature Reserve, a reserve of subtropical mountainous terrain in the central part of Guangdong province.


There is nothing faddish about the holistic vision of the award winning Crosswaters Ecolodge in the Nankun Shan Nature Reserve, Guangdong. Victor Paul Borg reports

Crosswaters Ecolodge has rooms that cost more than double the price of other similarly upscale hotels in Guangdong province (about $150 per night) and still the resort is booked solid every weekend.

I found other surprises, no one else at the restaurant on Saturday night was drinking alcohol and it made me feel sheepish about drinking beer during my dinner. Everyone else seemed to be drinking coco tea - known as "100 years old tea", as it is believed to promote longevity.

Fortunately, I too will be blessed with a long life as various foods are also cooked in coco tea; besides, other local ingredients - hearty, fresh, and rugged - are also elevated to venerables.

During my weekend stay I had "bearded chicken" in coco tea, pork soup fragranced with the medicinal anti-arthritis climber called guo shan tong, freshwater fish from the river running outside my room, and of course plenty of tofu - especially douhua for breakfast - made from the famously sweet spring water.

"The spring water is very clear and very good for health," Enger Hou, the restaurant manager, told me. "That is why the local girls here have delicate and glowing skin."

Hou talks like a guru who mixes religion and health, but there is nothing faddish about Crosswaters Ecolodge, which is situated in Nankun Shan Nature Reserve in the central part of Guangdong.

It was designed by an eminent team of designers, led by the renowned "eco-architect" Hitesh Mehta. 


          Crosswaters Ecolodge's cozy rooms offer luxurious comfort.
 
It took seven years to complete the 48-room resort, and it was even bestowed an award by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) one year before it opened.

"This is the largest project in the world with regard to the use of bamboo in a commercial project. It is also the first instance of this method of construction (bamboo as a structural member in a place of habitation) being introduced in Asia in a large project. The spirit of the bamboo is celebrated in the landscape architecture, general architecture, and interior design," the ASLA report stated.

In my cosy room, the floor-boards and furniture are made of bamboo, the ceiling is covered by a lattice of bamboo, all toiletries are made from bamboo (toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, soap, and moisturizer), and even trays and baskets and other implements are constructed of bamboo.

The locally-sourced moso bamboo takes grander gestures outdoors: The covered walkways and the bridge are functional artistic installations of bamboo created by Simon Velez, a Colombian who is one of the world's most eminent bamboo artists.

More impressive still is the combined ceiling of lobby and restaurant and lounge, with flying buttresses of bamboo serving to elevate the ceiling into something like lofty sails or wings. It is as if the ceiling is about to take flight.

Meanwhile, Crosswaters Ecolodge itself has taken flight, an innovative resort that has fomented excited chatter in the global hotel industry.

The green vision in Crosswaters is more complete and holistic than most eco-hotels. For example, all the food in Crosswaters is either grown organically on the hotel's grounds or sourced locally from the indigenous Hakka people.

Such practices make the food part of the green holistic vision: The emphasis is on healthy and hearty food. Guests do not go to Crosswaters to indulge, but to eat healthily.

"We use local ingredients but then give them an elegant presentation and professional treatment," Hou explained. 

 
I asked Hou how the colorful, tasty dessert, of pumpkin and taro and sweet potato, I was eating was made.

"Those ingredients are marinated in sugary syrup, then steamed and tied together in one block by a blade of leaf," Hou said. "So, as you can see, they are staple and healthy ingredients, gently cooked and presented elegantly. It's all very simple when you think about it."

Call it sophisticated simplicity, it's certainly something that the well-to-do Chinese from Guangzhou and Shenzhen (both cities are about two hours drive away) are willing to pay for. And that fact is perhaps the greatest news about Crosswaters Ecolodge: It has proven that the market is ripe in China for sophisticated green resorts that offer the chance of holistic nature retreats.

The author is a designer of nature and culture tours in China and Asia - for more info, see www.peppermountains.com.
Source: China Daily
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