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“Sharing my favorite retreat” 5 of 5 stars
Review of The Linden Centre

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The Linden Centre
3.5 of 5 Hotel   |   No.5 Chengbei, Xizhou Town, Dali 671004, China   |  
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Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 241 hotels in Dali
2 reviews
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Sharing my favorite retreat”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 2, 2013

While teaching Sino-US Relations on a Semester at Sea Voyage, I gathered half a dozen shipmates – faculty, students, and lifelong learners -- who were willing to pass up the Forbidden City and the Great Wall to spend our five days in China at my favorite retreat, in Xizhou, a small town in a remote corner of Yunnan. As soon as our ship docked at Shanghai, we flew to Kunming, where we were met by Andrew and a van from the Linden Centre.
When our group awoke the next morning to find themselves in a lovingly restored Dali marble mansion surrounded by breathtaking countryside, they knew the trip had been more than worthwhile. Brian Linden took us in tow for an intimate introduction to the people of Xizhou. A charming and outgoing Sinolophile/art connoisseur/entrepreneur, Brian didn’t even have to knock to gain access to the homes of local families. The next morning, Brian received an invitation from a neighboring village, so everyone at the Centre piled into horse carts or hopped on bicycles to attend a traditional Bai nationality house warming. Thanks to the Centre’s symbiotic relationship with the local people, we felt more like members of an extended family than tourists.
By the time we boarded a plane to rejoin our ship in Hong Kong, our entire group was mesmerized. In the course of our fourteen-weeks’ westward voyage from Ensenada to Barcelona, we visited a dozen ports of call and enjoyed unparalleled opportunities to encounter people from diverse and fascinating places – but, by the end of the trip, our group still ranked our experience at the Linden Centre at the top of our list.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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332 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (55)
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English first
Ellison Bay, Wisconsin
2 reviews
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 29, 2013

I was angry to see that some arrogant guests said the LInden Centre was ln bad taste and not up to standards or like a back pack hotel. I have never stayed in backpacker hotel that has a GM with 40 years of hotel management experience including GM roles at the Intercontinental, 1000 year antiquities and leading artwork on the walls, a 2000 volume research library open to guests, a fitness centre and meditation/yoga space, 40 bilingual staff for a hotel of 16 rooms, and outstanding chefs- one of whom was the leading chef at Kunming's top hotel and enticed out of retirement by the Lindens.

5 star is not just the linens or a spa facility. True wordly travelers are ready for a great hotel that enriches their life as well as give them the comfort of a five star hotel. I have taken many guest to the LInden Centre and it is a great experience with great taste and lovely rooms and attentive staff.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled on business
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
72 reviews 72 reviews
44 hotel reviews
Reviews in 46 cities Reviews in 46 cities
91 helpful votes 91 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2013

We could not understand the rave reports given this accommodation on Trip Adviser. Our assessment of the hotel was that of an YMCA.

First, we had been booked for 'superior accommodation'. However it turned out that that there is no 'superior' accommodation. Our party was given two ground floor rooms in the second courtyard. One room was quiet small and had no air conditioning. Hot water was only available for limited hours morning and night. We were asked to pre-order our dinner and were given a 'hurry up' while enjoying a pre-dinner drink in our rooms. The standard of meals was very ordinary.

The hotel is some 35 km from the center of Dali and there are no reasonable alternative restaurants available.

For those wishing to experience an 'ethnic' situation the Linden Center may be of interest. However for those who expect 4 or 5 star accommodation choose a hotel in the center of Dali. It is a pretty town and is where I would stay if I visited again.,

Room Tip: Choose a hotel in Dali city
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled with friends
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brian L, Owner at The Linden Centre, responded to this review, May 16, 2014
The Linden Centre is proud to be compared to a YMCA given our hotel is so much more than just accommodations. 95% of our guests spend an hour or two in Dali and leave. Our average stay is 3-5 days. Clearly there are guests for souvenir shops and pizza cafes. That is what Dali (and Chinese mass tourism) thrives on. For those guests who want to visit old China, without the tourists, bars and ubiquitous shops of scarves and t-shirts, our "YMCA" offers an award-winning option. Our rooms do have air-conditioning/heating and our head chef is a 57 year old chef who was the head chef at Yunnan's leading hotel throughout the 1990s. Our food is accessed daily at our local market and contains no MSG or other artificial additives. It has been highlighted in magazines such as China's Conde Nast Traveler and on Chinese Central TV.

Because we are housed in a national relic- protected at the same level as the Great Wall- we were unable to put water holding tanks, solar panels, and change the footprint of the original rooms. Our guests are usually away from the Centre during the day, so we turn off the pump that supplies water to our building's half-acre footprint. This is to conserve energy, and we tell all guests very clearly and include signs in each bathroom that we are happy to turn on the pump if guests want to take showers between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. For 99% of our visitors, this is a small price to pay (to have to ask the front desk to turn on the water) to have the opportunity to stay in one of SW China's most important and pristine historic buildings.

Dali offers non-indigenous, newly constructed cement hotels surrounded by pizzas, t-shirts and massage parlors. We may offer a so-called 'YMCA' experience- which I believe means friendly and genuine service with a greater mission (ours being the desire to preserve China's heritage). At the same time we compliment this service by offering unprecedented access to a historic building with Ming and Qing Dynasty antiques throughout (have yet to see a YMCA with leading art pieces and 500 year old antiques in the rooms!). We encourage those who want the latter to venture down to Xizhou.
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12 reviews 12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 10, 2013

Visited the Linden Centre for a few days during our recent trip to Dali, Yunnan with my husband and parents. We enjoyed the beautiful restoration of the authentic historic building and the peacefulness of Xizhou. The staffs at Linden Center were very helpful too especially Annie who took us around Xizhou and the morning market. She was very warm, friendly and even speaks the same native tongue as we do therefore my parents were very happy to meet her as they do not speak Mandarin.
My husband and I are looking forward to visiting Xizhou again and will definitely stay at Linden Centre.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 8, 2013

I have now stayed at the Linden Centre three times and look forward to my next visit. It ranks among my favorite hotels anywhere for several reasons. The gorgeous and tranquil setting; meticulously restored traditional house, filled with museum quality antiques; The attentive and knowledgeable staff, some of whom have become friends of mine; The friendly but never familiar service and the interesting people I have make this a very special place.

There are are few things that visitors should be aware of. Rooms are very comfortable but simple. There is no pool or spa and there are no televisions in the rooms but there is a television lounge. However, I have never seen anyone in it, perhaps because conversation with other guests in the bar is far more entertaining. The cuisine is authentic local cooking, which is delicious but not fancy. And there are no shops or nightlife nearby. But the Linden Centre offers unique opportunities to take part in local life and culture in ways that other hotels do not and I can get my shopping and nightlife elsewhere.

Room Tip: Rooms in the back courtyard will be quieter and have more light.
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Palo Alto, California
1 review
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 8, 2013 via mobile

I was really surprised by the negative review i just read because the Linden Centre is by far my favorite place in China and like them, i am an overseas Chinese. I think the previous visitors, who only stayed long enough to cancel their reservation, may have thought they were going to visit a 5 star luxury resort, which is definitely not what the Linden Centre is about. The Centre is about giving you a sensitive and sophisticated immersion in the China that is fast disappearing. It is in what is called Dali Township, which is 45 minutes from Dali City, which is an entirely different urban metropolis. The actual village is Xizhou, which is such a typical village that a famous scholar, CK Yang studied it in the early 1960's to represent the social dynamics of a Chinese village. The village is charming, with narrow alleys, Ming period buildings, and many examples of traditional architecture, surrounded immediately by beautiful rice paddies and more distantly by the majestic Yangshuo Mountain Range which seems to touch the sky because the clouds seem so close up here. The Linden Centre is an authentic traditional family compound that has been historically restored to original architectural specifications (one reason why the hot water is limited). The rooms, which are restored from the original structure can be dark because that is how it was 100 years ago, the rooms all face open courtyards and gardens, on two levels with open wooden balconies connecting the rooms and public spaces. It is furnished with real antiques from the owners who are art and antique dealers. the reason why it is consistently ranked no. 1 in Dali, and in the top 10 lists of so many travel guides of China is not because it has acres of crystal chandeliers, stainless, steel, or a famous restaurant. I think it is always ranked so high, despite it not being a luxury hotel because it offers such a unique experience to those who are looking for something real.

Once you arrive you are shown to your room and then met by a senior staff member with tea and a light snack. The staff member, often the excellent general manager Craig or his assistant then shows you around and in a leisurely fashion asks what you are interested in and makes suggestions about what is available and then casually arranges for one of the staff to take you wherever you'd like to go and do each day. On my last visit I was Interested in visiting small temples with local gods and our guide hired a car and took us to an even smaller village about a half hour away where we trekked up through narrow streets to a small temple where a local Bai celebration was going on, he then inquired of some elderly persons on the street and took me to two other temples and a Joss House (fortune teller altar) explaining the local customs and interrogating locals to help answer some of my questions. Unlike skyscraper luxury hotels, the price of a room at the Linden Centre includes a personal guide, transportation, and the freedom to explore whatever you wish in a beautiful setting. You can even visit the local market in the morning and bring home something for the chef tomcook, or he will, teach you how to cook it! The Centre often invites local artists to perform--on one night we were there a local Bai orchestra and singers came to play for us in one of the courtyards. I will never forget the experience of sitting in the moonlight, in an ancient Chinese courtyard, listening to a translated explanation of Bai ethnic music and culture including singing, dancing and music. Afterward the musicians let us handle and try their instruments. It's a shame the visitors didn't understand what they were experiencing. They were expecting a Hyatt Regency and what they could have had was a once in a lifetime experience! And unfortunately they didn't understand that when they booked through a third party agency like Agoda, their payment went to Agoda who then eventually pays the Linden Center a discounted price, which is why their refund had to come through Agoda rather than the Linden Center. I had the same experience after booking at the Hyatt Regency in Hong Kong and a Hotel in Shangrila. All transactions had to be handled through Agoda rather than the hotel.

Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
Was this review helpful? Yes 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Shanghai, China
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 7, 2013

The Linden Centre was recommended to me by an old friend who was a very satisfied guest too, and I couldn't agree more. Escaping from an international noisy urban life, I felt relaxed and peaceful here. In a beautifully restored traditional courtyard home with ancient artifacts and wonderful architectural details with modern amenities , I felt so comfortable, relaxed and 'taken care of' by the lovely, thoughtful staff who arranged for my every need. I thoroughly enjoyed the no smoking atmosphere. The chef cooked to my needs/preferences. On the peaceful terrace, I had some meals and watched the farmers tending their rice fields with the beautiful Cangshan Mountains and the blue sky in the background. The guests were from all over the world while I was there.

Xizhou Town is an unspoiled thriving village with so much character and charm and I felt very safe to walk through the streets. I visited a local family making cheese in their home right in the village. The attractions in the surrounding area included a row-boat ride on Erhai Lake to see cormorant fishing, and a village visit to a tie-dye workshop and strolling through Dali Old Town. Two flights (Shanghai-Kunming and Kunming-Dali) got me there. You need to allow at least half day's travelling time each way but I can't wait to go back for another visit.

Room Tip: The second floor rooms have beautiful views.
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about The Linden Centre

Address: No.5 Chengbei, Xizhou Town, Dali 671004, China
Phone Number:
Location: China > Yunnan > Dali
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites
Hotel Style:
#11 Best Value Hotel in Dali
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — The Linden Centre 3.5*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Linden Centre is a meticulously restored courtyard mansion in the pristine Yunnan village of Xizhou. Great care was taken to preserve the beautiful indigenous architecture of this nationally protected cultural relic, while up-scale modern conveniences including heating and air conditioning were added to ensure guests a comfortable and absolutely unique stay. In this elegant setting, connect with the local ethnic cultures that make this part of China so special. ... more   less 
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The Linden Centre Hotel Dali

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