The clue’s in the name: Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain puts you right beside its eponymous attraction – for better views, you’d need to bring a sleeping bag and brave the wilds. Don’t do that when you can bed down at this eco-conscious crowd-pleaser, whose extensive charms include a trio of restaurants, an indoor pool, a qi-aligning spa, a space-themed bar, a traditional tea lounge, organic gardens, bamboo-and-wood-graced rooms and a fleet of resident panda experts. Beyond your boutique bedroom, Panda Valley, Unesco-listed Dujiangyan city and unspoiled villages await…
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Your choice of a 30-minute foot massage for two or a body scrub for two
Noon; earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £212.72 (CNY1,889), including tax at 16.6 per cent.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast.
In addition to its trio of restaurants (and in keeping with its mock-village feel), the hotel has a series of food and drink ‘shacks’, including Wok Mee Shack, C+T Shack, a tea lounge and Farm2Straw Juice Bar.
At the hotel
Courtyard and organic kitchen gardens; tea house; snacks and dessert shacks; rooftop relaxation studio; spa; two pools; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD player, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
If you’re here with a gang, book out one of the villas (we loved their private entrances and sense of space and privacy). For easy access to the hotel’s courtyard, pick a room on the first floor; if you prefer a balcony with views, opt for second-floor sleeping quarters.
The pretty indoor pool is housed in a beamed building with a fleet of sunloungers.
Experience Taoism’s healing powers at the Six Senses Spa, whose treatments champion Amala products. Opt for the signature Daoyin Tao massage, try cupping, acupuncture or a shen, jing or qi spa ritual. Ask for lifestyle and holistic advice from the visiting practitioners, who offer personal consultations. The spa is open from 10am–11pm daily (the latest treatment slot is 10pm). Post-treatment, continue the health kick with a ginseng, ginger and bee-pollen juice from Farm2Straw Juice Bar.
The region is prone to drizzle, so bring a raincoat. Don’t fork out on plug adaptors at the airport – the hotel has a stash.
If you like a good brew, be sure to swing by the tea lounge, where you can experience a traditional tea ceremony. There’s also C+T Shack, where a variety of teas are on sale; try before you buy (and add a slice of cake or a pastry while you’re at it).
Six Senses is very welcoming to your cubs, with a free kids club, indoor and outdoor play areas and lifeguard-manned pool, and villas with room for the whole brood. Beds or cots can be added to rooms (for an extra cost); babysitting can be arranged.
Little Smiths aged 1–12 are invited (the hotel reckons it’s best for 6–12-year-olds, though).
Opt for one of the two-bedroom villas: some have a kitchen and dining area, some have both of the above, plus a pool. Extra beds (£51 a night) and cots (£18) can be added to all rooms.
There’s a free kids club by the swimming pool, open from 9am–6pm, which has games and entertainment for 1–12-year-olds. Meals aren’t served here, and it’s not used when it’s rainy. The hotel also has two family-friendly pools, an outdoor play area, a garden, an indoor play area and a stash of bikes for little Smiths (and larger ones). Tiny Gordon Ramsays/Nigellas can take part in cookery classes (they'll learn to make delicious cookies), cycle around on borrowed bikes and start perfecting their tennis serve.
Both the outdoor wading pool and indoor family-friendly pool are supervised by a lifeguard.
Six Senses has a stash of on-loan highchairs and bamboo cutlery made for tiny paws.
Staff can arrange babysitting (£6 an hour, per child); be sure to give at least three days’ notice.
In keeping with Six Senses’ signature philosophy of sustainable luxury, its Chengdu outpost purifies and mineralises its own drinking water, which is stored in reusable glass bottles. The hotel also uses a Tesla electric car for airport transfers and has free charging stations. Only earth-kind cleaning products are used; the restaurant champions organic, seasonal food, sourced from its garden or local suppliers.
On the balcony at Sala Thai; in a mountain-spying dining room at Zi Qi Yuan. On Saturdays, Farm2Fork offers a ‘chef’s table’ concept, where guests pay what they judge their meal to be worth.
If you’ve a yen to pop a Mandarin collar or wear a cheongsam, now’s as good a time as any.
Enjoy flavour-packed Thai treats – pomelo and prawn salad, tom yum goong, mango with sticky rice and the ilk – at Sala Thai, illuminated by a striking snaking light tube on the ceiling. Request a private dinner on Sala Thai’s rooftop, in an area called the View (for obvious reasons). There’s also Farm2Fork, a barn-style space decorated with tin bowls and vases stuffed with wheat, where dishes highlight bounty plucked from the hotel’s organic garden, plus local meat and fish: trout cooked in coconut, dan dan noodles and wagyu beef short rib, for example. Last but not least, Zi Qi Yuan is a series of minimalist private dining rooms decorated with wooden accents and zingy hits of green. Sichuan cuisine with Cantonese, Shandong and Jiangsu influences is served here: try roast goose or suckling pig, twice-cooked pork, Sichuan gong pao shrimp balls or beef-shank tripe and hot and sour jellyfish. The hotel also has Wok Mee Shack, which serves street food to eat in or takeaway.
Enjoy creative cocktails and Sala Thai snacks at cosmic Moon Bar, decorated with a huge crescent moon and stars fashioned from rattan. There are six signature libations, including Liang Yao Ku Kou (which means ‘bitter medicine’, but tastes better than it sounds), Qing Cheng Mist, Drunken Uncle, Panda Resting In the Garden and Huasheng & Pijiu (‘peanuts and beer’).
All three restaurants close at 10pm; Moon wets whistles between 2pm and 11pm.
Order treats to your room between 7.30am and 10pm. Options include soups and starters, salads, sandwiches, Asian classics, noodles and desserts; there’s also a menu tailored to tots’ tastes.
The hotel shares its setting with the mighty Mount Qingcheng; Unesco-listed Dujiangyan city is a half-hour drive. Beijing and Shanghai are both a short domestic flight away.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is 70km away (a 90-minute drive). Flights from cities in the US connect via Hong Kong, and British Airways operates a direct flight from London five days a week. Hotel transfers can be arranged (£132 one way, for one vehicle with room for four; £264 return).
Qingchengshan Railway Station is a five-minute drive from the hotel (hop on a bullet train here from Chengdu Station). Transfers from Qingchengshan are £12 a vehicle (give staff at least two days' notice of your arrival day and time).
Dujiangyan city is half an hour away by car; the hotel’s car park is a short stroll from the main building. However, unless you want to take a driving test on arrival, driving in China is an extremely tricky affair that requires a local licence (International Driving Permits can’t be used in mainland China). To get around Chengdu, pavement pounding or the cheap and quick Metro are the best options.
Worth getting out of bed for
Try yoga in the hotel’s rooftop studio space; indulge in a soothing spa treatment; go on a tour of the kitchen gardens with the chef. If you’re not afraid of heights, have dinner on the rooftop, with only the clouds (and each other) for company. Pandas are your near neighbours – Panda Valley is a 10-minute drive away. You can also visit a panda breeding centre, informatively named the Dujiangyan Research Centre of Giant Panda Breeding, at Shiqiao. Hike Mount Qingcheng and discover the impressive temples that await within. Explore Tai’an’s cultured Old Town. If you want to learn tai chi, calligraphy or other local skills, ask the staff to arrange a lesson or two. The hotel also holds weekly farmers’ markets in its grounds each Sunday.
You’ve got three restaurants a stroll from your bedroom, so we’d probably recommend maximising those. If you get cabin fever, sample local flavours and dishes at Shu JiuXiang Hotpot Restaurant at XueFuLu, Dujiangyan, or JunShou Fu at XinYan Kan Middle Section, Dujiangyan.
Before I left for Chengdu, I saw an advert for the city at the airport. It said: ‘More than just pandas’.
At the time, I wondered why a tourism board would waste money on a campaign that was so clearly unnecessary (You had me at ‘pandas’, etc.) Now that I’ve spent the weekend in Chengdu’s Qing Cheng Mountain, I understand. There are indeed a plethora of reasons to visit this region, none of which come quickly to mind when you think of China.
Mr Smith and I are expecting a baby and this trip was our last chance at a babymoon. We’re not usually the types who would settle down for an entire weekend in a spa hotel, but given my restrictions on physical activities, it looked like a good fit. We arrived on the weekend before National Day, a major public holiday, and were greeted at the airport by the hotel’s car service – an immaculately kept Tesla that glided across the freeways while we munched on free fruit in the back.
Given our relative newness to travel in China, and the distance of the hotel from the city (Qingcheng Mountain is around an hour from the centre of Chengdu), this set the tone for our reliance on the hotel’s services. On checking in, we were introduced to the incredibly friendly guest services team, who were keen to fill us in on the hotel’s many facilities. We were told that, should we ever tire of walking, we could call a buggy at any time to take us any distance across the grounds, no matter how short. We got used to this quite quickly.
Facilities-wise, the hotel has enough to occupy you for several days. There is a beautifully designed spa with an extensive menu, a pool, a cinema, a bar, and an organic farm. There are three restaurants, which make good use of the home-grown produce, and a snack area with free popcorn and ice-cream on tap. This is handy, because there’s not much in the local village in the way of food.
The hotel is designed with sustainability in mind, and the rooms are minimalist but spacious. Blessedly, there are no plastic bottles to be found anywhere onsite. Our suite was located on a beautiful wooden platform surrounded by bamboo, with a view of the mountain that reminded me of traditional Chinese ink paintings. For the first day, we barely left this comfort zone, finding ourselves unusually relaxed, and wondering how the air in China could be so fresh.
By the end of the second day, we had tried every restaurant, and decided that the best by far is Zi Qi Yuan, serving Szechuanese dishes and a wellness menu. Here we dined on purple taro balls and mountain funghi, washed down with light ales that are brewed locally. Because of the lack of choice in the area, you might expect the hotel to cash in by pushing their prices up, but the restaurants are surprisingly reasonable. However, you should budget for three meals out a day, none of which will be cheap.
On the third day, having replenished our resources in the hotel, we ventured out of the compound and into Qingcheng Mountains. This began, of course with a trip to the panda park, which was organised by the hotel. They sent a guide, who knew everything about pandas and brought a brilliant extra dimension to the outing. If you wanted to save money, you could go to the park without, but we enjoyed her input (and the included car service).
Later that day, we attempted a mountain hike, and discovered what that advert was trying to tell us. Qingcheng Mountain is the birthplace of Taoism, and as we wandered slowly up the mountain, occasional temples and traditional structures would appear in the mists. After a short walk, we reached a lake, and crossed it by ferry to arrive at a cable car, which took us to a temple on a peak. It is one of the most evocative places that I’ve ever been, filled with poetry and history, and apparently not fully established on the global tourist trail. I recommend you go now, as someone told us that Chengdu is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Asia.
By the time we left Six Senses spa, we were fully immersed in the life there. We had become so used to the accommodating attitude at the hotel, that we didn’t even take precautions for rain, assuming that, if we got caught out, someone would instantly bring us an umbrella and a buggy. I decided that this must be what it felt like to be a Royal. I was convinced that the hotel staff were not just doing their job, but must really, really like us.
And, yes, I was laden with panda merch, but our experience was about much more than even those cute, remarkable, oddly inefficient celebrity animals. On the plane, I asked Mr Smith what he would miss most about Qingcheng Mountains. ‘Our friends’ he replied. We respected them so much, we didn’t even steal the toiletries from the bathroom.
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