Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greening Communities 2009

The only hotel to plant trees in the city of Luang Prabang, associates from Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, together with over 4,000 members of the local community from government offices, hospitals, and universities, planted 2,243 trees in Luang Prabang in 2009 alone.

Taking place during the rainy season from June to October, the tree plantings met and exceeded the group-wide target of planting 2,000 trees per resort per year.

Maison Souvvaphoum Hotel will continue to strive to plant 2,000 trees each year, in line with the overall group-wide Greening Communities effort of building awareness of climate change.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Packing for Lijiang!

Packing for Lijiang!

I can’t wait! I’m heading to Banyan Tree Lijiang, and winter is coming fast, so I packed my winter wear, including my favourite Shokay wool scarves and gloves.

On a side note, Banyan Tree Gallery’s Shokay wool line is an interesting story. The Shokay Company is a social enterprise using yak fibre to provide sustainable income for Tibetan yak herders while still preserving their traditional lifestyles.

Day One – Arriving at Banyan Tree Lijiang

Flying into Lijiang, I felt like I was like settling into a magical kingdom in the clouds. We flew in through majestic mountains, finally landing in the quaint airport 2200m above sea level!

I loved the scenic 45 minute car ride from the airport to Banyan Tree Lijiang. The picturesque drive cut through fields of sunflowers and corn, a “sea” of yellow rapeseed plants and grasslands. Cattle, goats, chickens, a family of pigs, dogs and people were all with lining the roads and valley.

As we approached the resort, I noticed that Banyan Tree Lijiang is nestled in a valley with a breathtaking view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and sits among several villages, including Suhe Old Town, only a nice 10-minute stroll away.

It was delightful to see Banyan Tree Lijiang fit so perfectly into this picturesque setting, obviously the resort was built to reflect and celebrate the cultural heritage of the area. With the exception of the three-storey pagoda, which was built in the traditional way by hand and without any nails, all other buildings on site are two stories or less, and mimic the nearby town and its Naxi architecture of curved roofs and flowing streams.

After talking with many of the team members at the hotel including Ms. Andy Lei, Banyan Tree’s CSR Champion for Yunnan, it became clear to me that Banyan Tree Lijiang has taken numerous steps for energy and water conservation. These efforts include the use of solar water heating panels, energy saving bulbs, and a rain water harvesting system for landscape irrigation. At the same time, another point of emphasis ensures that waste management practices are in line with conserving the environment.

I spotted many bird feeders in the trees in and around the resort, and it turns out this was a planned effort to help guests enjoy the company of our feathered friends. True to Lijiang Old Town’s roots, the resort also features many fresh water streams as well as a main pond teeming with gold fish and carp. This is one place you won’t find shark’s fin!

Because of the long day of travel, I took a quick dip in my villa’s private hot tub before settling down with a delightful Naxi hot pot meal served in the privacy of my own villa. Naxi hot pots feature the freshest mushrooms, vegetables and stock, without oil or artificial preservatives. Another highlight of the meal was the Naxi musician and dancer performing an ageless, traditional Naxi dance as I dined. WOW!

Day Two – Visit to Wenhai School and Tree Planting in Lijiang

Over breakfast I learned that Banyan Tree Lijiang has a long standing relationship with a local school, Wenhai Primary School, which associates from Banyan Tree visit twice a year. Wenhai Primary School is about a 90 minute drive from Lijiang, and has around 80 students with less than 5 teachers, limited facilities and equipment and a lack of drinking water facilities.

I was lucky enough that my stay in Lijiang coincided with one of the visits to Wenhai Primary, so I was able to help hand out books, stationary, toys and clothes to the students. No matter how often I see it, nothing is as touching as seeing happy smiles on children’s faces!

While in Wenhai Primary, I also learned that every Children’s Day (31st of October), associates of Banyan Tree visit the school with cakes, snacks, drinks, sports equipment and other gifts to celebrate with the students.