Themes for dreams

Updated: 2011-12-18 08:15

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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 Themes for dreams

Early morning at the Buddhist-themed Mahayana OCT Boutique is a world of chirping birds, rustling trees and quiet meditation. Photos Provided to China Daily

Themes for dreams

They are more than just a place to lay your head down for a night. Hotels have become attractions on their own, and the reason for the journey. Shi Yingying visits a few outstanding examples in Shenzhen, Guangdong.

If you want to experience the austerity of temple life, you will like the tranquility at this inn. The Mahayana OCT Boutique Hotel encourages an early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle for its guests, and since couples are housed in separate rooms, it also encourages celibacy, a courtesy the hotel asks for out of respect to its guiding beliefs.

Describing itself as the first Buddhist-themed hotel in the world, it's actually annexed to the Huaxing Temple, halfway up the mountain and facing the blue sea 30 kilometers to the east of Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

The quiet 22-room boutique hotel guarantees you privacy and allows guests to find their inner peace at leisure - at a price of 1,600 yuan ($251) per night per room. A suite costs 3,600 yuan.

Next door, the Huaxing Temple is on a grander scale at 12,000 square meters. It is still quite small as a temple, but it is big enough to hold a nice Chinese garden and a 23.3-meter tall gold-plated statue of the Goddess of Mercy, or Guanyin.

The temple buildings, framed by ancient lindens, is also home to a small Buddhist museum.

The hotel blends in with its neighbor by adopting a cassock yellow theme, and a cup of pu'er tea is served while you proceed with check-in. In the background, Zen music soothes away the weariness of travel.

Like most standard hotel rooms, each guestroom has a huge square bed in the center, but there the similarities end. Instead of a cozy couch or sofa, there is a meditation corner in the room and very little else.

You have to wake up early at the Mahayana. The meditation corner faces south and is next to the window, where your neighbors - the chirping birds and rustling trees - are already awake and up and about. It is the perfect morning exercise sitting quietly enjoying the scene or meditating with a book.

If you need help on the path to enlightenment, you may also consult the monks of Huaxing Temple, according to Master Guojin, who came to the temple two years ago from Jiuhua Mountain.

Buddhist elements color the decor: Crafted wood hangings above the bed extol the virtues of a pure mind and the elimination of desires, a motif repeated on the Chinese folding screen at the door. The hotel stationery is replaced by Chinese brush, ink and rice paper.

You can also get married at the hotel and they can organize a Buddhist wedding ceremony, As Master Guojin says "a wedding shows more sincerity when it's held in front of the Buddha".

If the tranquil temple is not your cup of tea, maybe a hotel located in the Water Park at the foot of the mountain may appeal more. You get to sleep behind a waterfall.

Hidden behind the 300-meter-wide and 70-meter-high manmade waterfall, the Otique Aqua Hotel is a 94-room designer hotel. It adopts a milk-white color scheme to go with its water theme, and emphasizes the fluidity of its design by having no sharp corners in the rooms - and for this, the Aqua Hotel wins big fans among the children and their parents.

In certain rooms, the bathtubs are in the center of the bedroom and the shell-shaped tub sits right at the foot of the bed. But relax, these are the honeymoon suites. Blue LED lighting and background music of lapping waves add to the ambiance.

Look out of the window and be surprised again by the sight of a roller coaster whizzing by. The wild party at Water Park, however, shuts early in the evening and leaves its guests undisturbed at night.

Just a few steps away from the Otique Aqua Hotel, the Cargo Hostel is there for those who do not have fat wallets and won't mind sharing a room. The bed and breakfast hostel adopts bright colors of orange and green and lets its guests pretend they're rooming in a huge container truck.

One good reason to stay at the Cargo Hotel is the opportunity to steal quick glances at your African neighbors - the flamingos and exotic parrots. The outdoor cafe on the second-floor terrace gives you a bird's-eye view of Flamingo Paradise - a small, natural bird park.

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 Themes for dreams

Top : Meditation corner in the guestroom of the Mahayana OCT Boutique Hotel. Middle: At the Otique Aqua Hotel, the bathtubs are the main attraction and sit right at the foot of the bed. Below: The cool bunk beds of the Cargo Hotel.

(China Daily 12/18/2011 page16)