Stayed here in May 2006 during Chinese Golden week.. The hotel was open after a soft opening since March, and grand opening was scheduled for around August. Overall, we were quite dissappointed with the hotel. Firstly when we arrived, we noticed teams of workers around still doing construction work. The reception area was still not completed yet and there were exposed electrical wires running around the beams and ceilings.
At first look, our Pool Villa was very nice and the decor quite interesting. However, during our stay, we discovered many problems with the villa. The first thing we noticed was that the floor tiles in the bathroom were heated, which was a nice touch. But the problem was that it was too hot. It was nearly impossible to walk around the bathroom barefoot, as you would get burnt by the tiles.. we had to wear our slippers whenever walking around, and there was no way to turn the floor heating down or off. Other things that we noticed were that the cold water took a while to turn cold. When you turn on the cold water, scalding hot water came out for about a minute before it starts to turn cold. We suspect that the cold water pipes ran next to the underfloor heating. Since we were there at the beginning of summer the rainy seasons, there were A LOT of flies and bugs around. The hotel provided one of those purple bug zapper things, but it was pretty useless and throughout our stay, the bugs stayed inside the villa. Besides being inside the Villa, they loved swimming in the pool and because of that, while the pool looked nice, we didn't get to use it at all during our stay.
While those are just some minor issues on the hardware side, our biggest gripe was to do with security. Our Pool Villa was located on the perimeter of the the resort complex, with a view of the jade snow dragon mountains, which was very stunning. However, right outside the wall of our villa were just farm areas, and anyone could have walked right up to our villa and climbed over the wall, which was no higher than 6 foot tall. I did not see any security cameras or any type of security measure to prevent people from doing that. Besides that, regular access to the villa complexes were through a flimsy pair of wooden doors which were held together by a $2 padlock. Without the padlock, even the wind could have blown open the doors. Access to the actual villa was not much better and the sliding doors were held together by another flimsy lock. On top of all that, there were no personal safes in the room. I brought this up with the hotel management and they said the safes would be installed soon. Needless to say, this entire setup made was very uneasy leaving our valuables inside the room, especially with construction worker all over the place (they were working even during the weekends up until midnight, I presume because they had to get the rest of the villas and facilities working before the grand opening). Of course, besides the security issue, the construction noises were also quite annoying during our stay. While we knew that the hotel was still not completely opened, we didn't think that there would be drilling and sawing from the villa next door, as well as bulldovers rolling by right outside the villa. I wish we were told this beforehand.
When we were there only one of the restaurants were open as well as the bar. We ate at the restaurant for breakfast and had one dinner there. The other dinner we opted for an in-villa BBQ inner, which was very reasonably priced. They set up a BBQ, tables and we were waited on by 2 waiters. The setup was very nice, but there were a few problems. Firstly, the outside of the villas were very dimly lit, and we could barely see what we ate. The cook also seemed to have a problem cooking, as most of the BBQ items were overcooked. We have to give credit to the waiters though, who tried very hard to bring us additional candles, but it would have just been easier if they were provided with a small electic floodlight of some sort.
Dining at the restaurant was more disappointing, and the food there was overpriced and service extremely slow. Orders were forgotten, and things like drinks took 20 minutes to arrive, ice-cream came melted, hot items on the menu came cold (turned out to be a mistake and should have been labeled as cold item). A lot of the food items sounded quite inspiring on the menu, but when it came out, it was excuted quite poorly.
Staff communication skills were horrible, with a lot of the chinese staff barely able to have a conversation in english. For example, when you call the guest services and asked a question, it was plain that they were reading some kind of script. If you asked them what time the spa hours were, they would start going on about how type of spa services they had. It was really quite frustrating sometimes. There were a few senior staff who were from banyan tree resorts around asia, but the majority of them were local chinese staff from Yunan, and they were still getting use to how things work. With a bit more training I am sure they would get better though.
Overall, I do not think I will come back to this hotel again. There's no denying that some of the views and the overall design was quite spectacular, there are a lot of problems underlying the surface. While I am sure the software side such as service and dining would improve over time, I do not think a lot of the hardware items would improve that quickly Security is a big issue, as well as some of the annoying problems with bathrooms, etc. I think the price they charge is unrealistic for the product they offer, as well as the location. You do not have to go to Lijiang if you want to go to a spa and resort. There are much cheaper, easier to get to places and higher quality places to go than Lijiang. If you go to Lijiang for the city and the scenary, you can stay at a very good hotel at a fraction of the price that the Banyan tree charges. After this stay, I felt very disappointed, and it felt like we were guinea pigs testing out a product that wasn't even remotely complete yet. While the price we paid was relatively cheaper than what they will be charging in the future when the resort is fully opened, we still couldn't help having a feeling that we were ripped off.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.