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Legacy of tea traders

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-02 07:22

Legacy of tea traders

Hotel Indigo Lijiang embraces icons from the ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail, infusing contemporary design with Naxi and Tibetan ethnic touches. Photos provided to China Daily

When you hear that a hotel's newest property in China embraces a theme of the ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail, you might conjure a mental picture that's rather rustic: traders hauling Yunnan tea to Tibet to exchange for sturdy farm horses.

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But while Hotel Indigo celebrates the spirit and culture of those caravan days, don't expect your stay there to be boot camp or summer camp. The acclaimed Thai firm P49 Design has created a fantasy of a modern post house, infusing a contemporary design with Naxi and Tibetan ethnic touches that you can enjoy amid all the comforts of a luxury hotel in a southern pocket of Lijiang Old Town.

The boutique Indigo Hotel group, 39 strong with five properties around China, targets upscale travelers who want individual and authentic experiences that combine great historic, cultural and natural elements.

"Lijiang has really arrived on the domestic and international holiday map and there is a demand for top-quality hotels and retreats," says Constance Cheong, general manager of the hotel. "We offer sophisticated travelers a culturally rich retreat that combines personalized service with traditional Naxi hospitality and ambiance, plus unique neighborhood experiences."

Those local sensibilities are evident on a guest's arrival: A swarm of purple orchids, paper incarnations of the area's flora, flows above the lobby's reception area like a colorful flock of birds.

A cave-like arrival area called Me Space features a huge curving sofa and colorful cushions, an oasis for drinking, playing games and socializing. In the Tea-Horse Route era, travelers would seek shelter in caves nearby to escape any harsh weather, and the motif lives on in Me Space, with wood-carved "rabbit holes" that offer space for a movie screening or flexible hidden areas for private meetings.

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