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Secret Garden Boutique Hotel
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Reviewed August 20, 2012

Beautifully renovated courtyard houses in the countryside. The suite I stayed in was very special. There are many little private common areas in and around the hotel to read quietly or share a drink. It is outside Yangshuo but gives you a chance to really enjoy the stunning scenery by staying right in the middle of it. Great staff who make you feel that you are part of the family. Well worth a stay.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled solo
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3  Thank Helen M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 16, 2012

My most FAVORITE place to stay in all of China. We so loved The Secret Garden. What a special place, run by very lovely and tirelessly accommodating people-- Faye and Fengzi (and their contacts of thousands). I was lucky enough to have stumbled upon their website as I was planning a six week trip to China. My son and daughter-in-law live in Shanghai. They wanted to get out of the big city for their holidays and wow did we ever accomplish that, and more, with our fabulous stay outside Yangshuo at The Secret Garden.

I had started planning far in advance, so was able to drive Faye crazy with multiple emails about the Secret Garden, Yangshuo and the surrounding area. She always answered immediately with helpful information and arranged our pickup from Guilin airport as she arranged so many adventures for us. When we four arrived at the airport we were met by the driver, no problem. It was about an hour and half ride from Guilin, past Yangshuo and to the lovely teeny little town where the Secret Garden is hiding among the rice fields and karst. I highly recommend the van ride especially if you are four or more people. Otherwise, a boat or a bus to Yangshuo, then, find a taxi to Jiuxian (good luck with that when you don't know where you are going). Although, knowing Faye, she would be able to send a taxi to where you ended up in Yangshuo. She is a transport magician.

We were amazed when we arrived in this teeny little town and the van drove down a single lane road to the middle of nowhere. Beautiful nowhere. Check out their website and read about the incredible Qing Dynasty buildings that Fengzi has painstakingly and amazingly restored to such beauty. Bring some baijiu (Chinese wine) and see if he is not too exhausted to talk about the ongoing construction process and fascinating small town politics.

We stayed in the wonderful suite upstairs in the Courtyard House. I highly recommend this suite, though my son and his wife loved their standard room in the front building. We revealed in the spaciousness and oh, the views out all the many many windows, front and back. The king size bed was incredibly comfortable. I loved my view from the bathroom sink, looking out over the rice fields and to the karst. The shower was perfect and the water was hot. Great towels, great everything. There is a sitting room that is comfy and has one of my favorite amenities throughout China (or, anywhere…) each room is outfitted with its own 5 gallon water dispenser with hot and cold tap. What a luxury! How thoughtful! I can never seem to get enough water to drink so this was heaven. There is also a 5 gallon water dispenser (with tea bags by the side) in the common area of the Courtyard.

Faye helped us to arrange our excursions. She set us up with the bamboo boats--ordering the taxi, getting us the tickets, suggesting where to go after. For example, taxi to the Li River for the cruise on our own boat (the four of us).
The Li is where the incredible karst image on the 20 yuan note is. Instead of a taxi home after, we wished to take the local bus to Yangshuo. Faye told us how to find the bus, then, with her precious business card in hand, we were able to call her at days end (her cell phone is attached to her hand) from Yangshuo so she could order a taxi to pick us up and return us to the Garden (about a 20 minute drive). What a lovely day. If we had been arranging on our own, the logistics would have taken monumental figuring out even though my son has Mandarin. A lovely day.

One day, we told her we would like to go on the non-motorized bamboo boats (another incredible river excursion). Oh, she says, hmmm, national holiday it was. Many Chinese tourists. This is just what they were all doing that day as well. But Faye and her trusty cell phone arranged everything for us. Taxi to the boats, the breathtaking bamboo boat ride, then on to Yangshuo for the not-to-be-missed Impression San Jie Liu Light Show. And then back home. Of course, Faye had arranged the tickets to the show as well as a driver to return us safely to our little bit of heaven.

One day we said we wanted to take a walk in the karst. Fengzi said (between hammering nails) go out back there (behind the hotel) and there is a great walk to a deserted town. Another adventure, right in our back yard.

The food was great we had breakfast at Secret Garden everyday and some dinners. The staff is lovely and helpful. We could just sit around the outside areas of the Secret Garden and drink pijo (beer) and hang out. That would be fine.

One night, Fengzi took us to dinner at his friends' house, the local Communist Party Leader. What an amazing experience. It was an honor to be in the farm house of a local, exchanging stories and learning how to drink and toast properly ("friends, cheers" knock the hot pot with glass and drink--each time anyone starts the "friends, cheers" refrain. Uh Oh!) Good thing we were all walking. This is a small local dining and cultural exchange mini program Fengzi has arranged. We paid a nominal sum to our Chinese host for the amazing food he so beautifully prepared and were rewarded with an unforgettable night of fun, friendship and food. This was our first experience with hot pot and after this we could not get enough.

The day we had to leave Secret Garden, we had an idea to run past Faye, perhaps we could leave a lot earlier in the day for our evening flight out of Guilin and have our driver take us to the Dragon's Backbone--Longji Rice Terraces outside of Guilin. This added many hours to our trip yet she was able to arrange it last minute with the driver even though it was such a busy time during this Chinese holiday. Many hours in the van but it was worth it to walk up the beautiful terraces before finally flying back to Shanghai.

Do not miss the Secret Garden. I would fly back to China just to stay there for a few weeks and forget everything else. I could go on and on about it and Faye and Fengzi and the lovely staff. So, please ask me if you have any questions! I will try and post photos with captions.

Room Tip: Upstairs suite in the Courtyard House is spacious and lovely. King bed. Views out front and back.
  • Stayed: April 2012, traveled with family
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7  Thank L Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 20, 2012

My wife and three kids (10, 10, 8) shared a nice room which had two nicely sized beds plus another mattress on the floor (futon style). The Chinese courtyard-style hotel has an environment which is tasteful and historic, almost romantically restored.

Our family gobbled up the food (both Chinese and Western). The Chinese food, in fact, is a little Western. From fries to orange duck, we were surprised at how well prepared the food was given how remote the hotel feels (you have to through a mile or so of unpaved, dirt, potholed, roads to get to a suddenly smooth concrete turnoff that leads to the hotel).

Faye provided fantastic service. The room was perfectly prepared upon arrival, restaurant service felt like we were the only ones they were serving (frankly, for part of the meal we were). Faye helped us get bikes as well as arrange for one of our daughters to practice mandarin with one of the hotel staff. Getting to and from the hotel was via a taxi that Faye set up.

We saw downtown Yangshuo and it felt very touristy. We loved Secret Garden because it was away from the main center. When we road bikes together, there were virtually no cars on the miles of roads which was really nice given how young our children were.

We stayed for one night, which was too short. We were supposed to be there two nights, but our flight was extremely delayed inbound and unfortunately, we had an outbound pre-booked flights. If I could do it over, I would have stayed two or even three nights as Yangshuo and Secret Garden were a great respite from the big cities.

Final tip, be aware that if you are excited to see the Zhang YiMou performance it is dependent upon the weather. We had tickets, but the show was canceled due to rain. Big bummer.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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3  Thank Dion L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 15, 2012 via mobile

Comfort and tradition. Nice place in traditional Chinese countryside. Secrets to be explored :-)

  • Stayed: July 2012
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3  Thank vf65
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 5, 2012

Wonderful hotel in a small village about 6kms from Yangshuo. Great rooms, great food and wonderful friendly and helpful staff. You stay inside the walls of a real old village among other villagers in beautifully old buildings that have a hand made or lovingly hand restored feeling. It is rustic and beautiful with everything you need for comfort. Drinking Water is provided in the room and the suites have a nice shower, seperate toilet, sitting area ...really comfortable and it's beautiful and quiet, surrounded by karst hills and rice fields. One can go for long walks or go down the river on a bamboo raft. Ask at hotel .....

Room Tip: The suites are worth it
  • Stayed: May 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Stephanie V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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