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“Interesting Place, Some Competition May Help”
Review of The Linden Centre

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The Linden Centre
Ranked #1 of 478 Hotels in Dali
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
81 reviews
62 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
“Interesting Place, Some Competition May Help”
Reviewed November 4, 2012

I stayed at the Linden Centre as part of a 3 week trip to Yunnan, which in turn replaced a trip to Tibet made impossible by restrictions placed on travellers by the authorities. I found that generally there are two types of tourists in Yunnan, domestic tourists who form the vast, vast majority and expatriate residents interested in exploring more of their temporary home. There are very few visitors who do not fall into these two categories. The Linden Centre caters primarily to the expatriates.

I found myself evaluating the Linden Centre according to two different scales. Surrounding me, every morning at breakfast, were happy and knowledgable expatriates who told me how rare the Linden Centre was in China, that there is nowhere like it. From this perspective the Centre is a real achievement. The architecture is stunning and the views (for the time being) are either quaint or even bucolic. Staff speak good English and can orientate you towards good shops and local restaurants. The breakfast and the vegetarian dishes available in the evening were well done.

However if I compare the Linden Centre to other places I have been, it is not that exceptional. Not too far away, there are plenty of heritage boutique hotels in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand that are truly excellent on any scale. I think that some local competition (even with a few 100km) may help a good place like the Linden Centre to truly excel. I visited most of the Songstam hotels, far to the north on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and I found these to be really excellent. However there is nothing comparable in Dali and the surrounding area

Rooms at the Centre are small, I would certainly advise on one upstairs towards the back if you want more light and peace and quiet. It can be difficult to get laundry done if it is raining. Public areas can be cramped, particularly if there is a group in residence.

Not so long ago Xizhou would have been genuinely remote. Not anymore. The overall area is becoming somewhat touristy. It will be a challenge to the Centre to find new places to visit, or new ways to experience places swamped by visitors, beyond the frontier of the booming domestic tourism market. The road from Dali airport shows that breakneck development is hitting Dali, like other parts of China and many local attractions seem over crowded, over restored or both. Cormorant Fishing on the nearby lake now has a tour bus park and countless boats of package tourists chasing a very few fishermen. The building and restoration crews were even out in Xizhou, knocking down and re-building the old buildings.

Room Tip: I would recommend upstairs rooms at the back of the building compound for more peace and quiet and n...
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled solo
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Helpful?
2 Thank chrismcl
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, November 6, 2012
Thank you for your response. I think that it is important to distinguish between historical restoration in China (our Centre) and newly-built, non-protected structures (Songtsam and other 'old' hotels). It is extremely difficult to convert a national relic in China into a cultural hotel like our Centre. We had to work closely with three cultural bureaus and the local villagers, in addition to balancing the sensitive aspect of being foreigners taking over a nationally protected building- one of Yunnan's most photographed private complexes. There are enough examples of bad restoration and Disneyfication in China. We endeavored to error on the side of historical accuracy and preservation. China is full of 'old' boutique hotels, which are nothing more than newly-constructed buildings in an old style. Owners of such properties have the freedom to do whatever. They face no cultural restrictions. This is very simple. Our aim was not to replicate that model in China. Instead we wanted to give guests a true experience in a real architectural treasure, thus encouraging others to preserve over rebuild.
Competition will also be difficult as our business model is focused more on cultural sharing, not on profit generation from the hotel. A 16 room guesthouse housed in a national relic in a rural village is not a strong business proposition. Unless someone has the same passion for cultural exchange and preservation as we have, historical boutique hotels will never make business sense in China's current travel climate. It is much easier to knock things down and rebuild. That is why there are very few strong examples of historical boutique hotels in China. We have already helped restrict construction in Xizhou's inner core of 110 protected complexes. Any building, which is focused mainly on Dali, 20 kilometers to the south, will be restricted in central Xizhou. Our Centre has a mission to protect and share culture. We believe that we are demonstrating this with our clear commitment to helping save Xizhou's cultural heritage. For those guests wanting something beyond "Disney", there are few in China who have demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice profits for a more sustainable hospitality model.
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English first
Shanghai, China
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
Reviewed November 4, 2012

The Linden Centre coordinated an extra ordinary trip for us. They arranged for us to listen to walk through the town of Xizhou, visit locals in the town, meet local Bai people, meet artisans working in Zoucheng Village, and eat lovely local food. We biked around Erhai Lake, hiked in the local mountains, and visited a tea plantation. We walked and shopped in the nearby town of Dali. A local group of musicians performed Dongjing music. The building of the Linden Centre itself is architecturally and historically significant. The staff is knowledgeable of local culture history. The staff was gracious, warm, and knowledgeable. They shared information about the history, traditions, and culture of the local area. We had lovely local dinners back at the Centre. Post-dinner activities included lovely conversations and drinks at the bar.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank o2binitaly
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
2 reviews
Reviewed November 3, 2012

The Linden centre was a perfect destination for us, especially after spending time in the huge metropolises of Shanghai and Beijing. The extraordinary historic building comprises 3 courtyards that are beautifully decorated with Chinese antiques. There are 12 bedrooms, and many common areas. The staff were an inspiring mixture of well educated Chinese and Western young people who were endlessly helpful and committed to making sure we had the best possible time.

There was a great array of cultural and other activities available with the support of well informed guides. We went cormorant fishing, attended a concert of local Bai musicians, visited temples, took horse cart rides, dined with a local family, visited a local cheese maker, local noodle maker and a village elder who discussed his long life through extraordinary periods of change. Mainly we enjoyed wandering around the village, talking to people with the help of our guide who translated for us so we could get a sense of village life. There was so much more available, but we only stayed 4 nights.

Linden centre is an integral part of its local community and is committed to sustainable living. It is more than just a tourist destination. Thanks to all involved.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Kate741
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 3 Contributor
16 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed November 1, 2012 via mobile

The Linden Centre is located 15-20 mins drive from Dali in the small village of Xizhou. A former businessman's house, the hotel has been tastefully and thoughtfully renovated. The bedrooms are a good size and the bathrooms are very modern. The staff are friendly and welcoming and speak good English.

There's a bar and wifi and the food is tasty and good value. Breakfast is a choice between Western and Chinese.

The hotel are happy to arrange activities and it is a perfect base from which to explore Dali and Erhai lake.

  • Stayed October 2012
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Helpful?
1 Thank CELlondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Shanghai, China
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed October 24, 2012

It was a pleasure to finally meet the woman, who together with Brian Linden, has envisioned and restored something wonderful for the world:
An authentic, lovingly restored home turned quaint and iconic Boutique Hotel located in old Xizhou town nestled nicely between the foothills of the magical Chang Mountainds and Lake Er Hai.
The light is beautiful, the air is fresh, the people are pleasant and the food is varied and tasty, vast and unique.
There is a powerful overwhelming sense of positve energy there, something different that I have only felt once before, in Bali.
We had a delightful and fully measured trip to Yunnan, Xizhou Town and surrounding area.
As such, The Linden Centre, was exactly that, our centre, and introduced us to live local music, colorful and delicate artisans and their crafts, merchants of antiquities and foods and even took us to to a large family celebration where we met 100 or more people and enjoyed their food and drink and customs..
We also biked and toured the lake, the Chang Mountains, hit a tea plantation and ate with the local Bai people on several occasions.
We rolled down to Dali, has a great lunch and toured the old town with little time constraint or pressure.
We capped our days back at the Centre and enjoyed wonderful dinners prepared there, then moved to drinks and espressos in the Hotel bar and exchanged stories with the staff while one them entertained us on his guitar, even sharing some of his own compostions about local legends and folklore.

Everyone spoke english so we were never at a loss for information and history.
The days started with a bountiful breakfast served in their main dining room, spacious and immaculate, nicely adorned with local antiquities.
The local breads offered up made the most incredible toast.
They know how to prepare eggs to satisfy any westerner and the coffee was good.
The coffee served in the bar were from the local plantations near Kunming.
It was organic and we brought some home from the Lanna Coffee Roasters.

The Linden Centre was instrumental in helping and guiding us.
Their local and international staff were fantastically centered, knowledgable, accomodating and delightful.
We felt fulfilled, well nourished in mind, body and spirit and upon return to Shanghai,
we were exhausted from all that we did and they arranged for us.
But, we were completely renewed and rewarded from our 3 days in their company.
I would like to thank them once again for everything.
In the end, the Lindens and their staff are most gracious and welcoming hosts, wonderful dinner companions and just genuinely nice people.
They make the trip and the stay well worth it.

Room Tip: rooms on the second floor are quiter and fresher and if you take one near the terrace give you a vie...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank berethetripster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong,
Level 6 Contributor
87 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed October 18, 2012

Everyday had a Wow factor! This is a rare place. The building of course is not only architecturally significant but amazingly preserved with care, in the most amazing setting.
The village and people are relaxed and welcoming and provide much opportunity for photos and experiencing their lifestyle. I loved the fact the place was eco conscious.
I would love to say thank you to each and every staff, they made our stay! Sensational Xiao Tang, Magic MCK, Awesome Andrew, Wonderful Weina, Joyful Jane and all the rest of the staff were amazing!
They embodied the spirit of hospitality. During our stay we did a market tour, indigo dying with the skilled old workers still working hard into their 80's, we learned how to make mooncakes in the Bai style at the with local bakers, a husband and wife team who will always hold a special place as they came back and performed for us local music and dance at the Linden Centre. We had the feeling that this place is built on the relationships with the local people which really enhances the village atmosphere.
Visiting at a busy time during mid-autumn festival was great, I think it enhanced our stay.
I travelled alone with two children 6yrs and 9yrs old, and it was something special for each of us.
Staying here helped build our appreciation for the chinese culture, I would echo comments about wanting to work here! It has inspired us to rapidly improve our Manderin and plan our next visit. Perfect mix of activities despite staying for 5 days there were so many things that we did not get a chance to do.
My hot tips for the stay:
Buy all the textile souveniers from the indigo ladies, very reasonable and great selection.
Order your food about an hour before you want to eat. Don't bother bringing other food and drinks, the food is fabulous, my kids loved the chicken and broccoli, some of the best food I have had in China. The bar is well stocked! They even had a home made plum wine, a little stronger than Umeshu.
Ride on the "Dali Taxi" the local horse and cart, it is the perfect way to see the village.
Taxi cost at Dali airport negotiated to hotel is about 220Y which is fine for the distance. We decided to go on the local buses for an intrepid experience which it was and that worked out to be 60Y for all 3 of us. Keep up the good work! Thank you so much for the privilege of sharing this special place, we'll be back! In the meantime I will be an ambassador and try to tell as many people to go as I possibly can.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Charm_andsome
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Level 6 Contributor
195 reviews
141 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 162 helpful votes
Reviewed October 8, 2012

The hotel is far away from Dali airport and taxi rates are quit high. Be aware, Dali knows it’s prices. All attractions ask high entrance fees (Pagodas 121 RMB (!)). No taxi driver will accept to drive by the meter, so we called the hotel for information about the price. Hotel staff was not able to give us an indication but the price fell immediatly anyway.

We were so happy to have chosen a hotel away from uninteresting new town and overcrowded old Dali. The village of Xizhou is really nice (visit the market) and the hotel is a beautifull mansion right in the middle of the rice fields. Rooms are small but comfortable and the fact that there is no hot water in the middle of the day and the fact that you can’t flush your toiletpaper through the toilet, did not bother us. Although expensive, this is still the best place to stay in the region.

Breakfast was basic, but it is ok and included in the room rate. Drinks and food are good and really not expensive. We did not bother finding an other place to eat. You can use the restaurant but we preferred the cozy bar.

The last day we drove to Lijiang by taxi. The hotel arranged a driver from Lijiang. This is not a good idea since the driver already made the 4 hour journey to the hotel the same morning. We had to wake him up during the ride. So always demand a driver from Dali. We hope the hotel will give some more attention to transportation since they failed to inform us correctly twice.

But something is wrong with this place. The local staff members are working hard and are truly friendly. Most of them seem to work in housekeeping, maintenance, cooking and serving breakfast. They have no or just basic knowledge of the English language. Good guys. There are also effective and efficient people who know the hospitality business. They are friendly but keep a sound distance. These guys speak English very and give reliable information. They run the place and make it all work. But there is also a group of staff members who use the hotel as an experience. They speak English very well. They have no respect for the local staff members and they constantly ask for attention. ‘Oh, I worked in X,Y,Z. Now I try to find out what to do next…’. They do know little about Dali. They look like smooth touts for some Beijing art company. They are dressed as if they come from some hostel in India (These are InterContinental prices we pay, so at least shave yourselves and wear long trousers). They exploite their local slaves, they exploite their guest and hosts. They behave like classic American snobs loud, ignorant, superior. Get rid of them, nobody will miss them. Even when we tried to pay our bill, one of them kept reception staff from it’s work by needing immediate attention.

We like to end this review on a more possitive note. We talked with Jane. Her collection of banknotes proved to be the start of an interesting and relaxing conversation. If you have the time…

Soon the Aman hotel will open. If we were to recruite our staff, we would know where to look. Because we are sure that we will not be able to afford the Aman hotel, we would choose The Linden Centre again for a next visit to Dali.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank KeesE
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, October 14, 2012
We appreciate your bringing to our attention some very important issues. Transportation is something critical to a more remote location like ours. We have struggled with ways to handle transportation on our own but are not legally licensed to transport passengers. We thus have developed relationships with many of Dali transportation companies and allocate assignments based on need. Because we do not run these companies, our ability to manage choices of drivers is limited. We have relayed to these companies our dissatisfaction with certain drivers and can guarantee that your driver will not be carrying our guests in the future. However, transportation is not part of our company and we are only able to introduce local carriers. We try to screen every driver but cannot control who is and is not available to drive for our guests at any specific time. We have had very few complaints and promise to take yours very seriously.

As for our staff, my wife and I take personal offense to your suggestions. We have been fortunate to work with local villagers and have tried to become an integral part of the local community. While these villagers' English level may not be at a traditional five-star hotel level, they have made incredible strides. Our Western staff is with us because of their passion for the local culture and their desire to share it with you, our guests. Being a small property, we are unable to offer salaries that are commensurate with their skills and experience. However, they come to the Centre for something that goes beyond financial reward. Their interaction with the local staff is always on an equal basis. We would never have anyone on staff who is condescending. Our General Manager, Frank He, is a local Bai, and has worked his way up through our system in three years. He now manages the Centre and is extremely passionate about sharing the local culture. He would not keep anyone on staff, Westerner or local, who displayed any arrogance in dealing with the local villagers or our guests. My wife and I too would never allow this.

We are very proud of our team and firmly believe that they are what makes a stay at the Centre special. We could easily recruit more of the Beijing or Shanghai Swiss-hotel school trained Chinese to fill out our staff. This is not why we established the Centre, nor is it a sustainable economic model for our village. We have been awarded numerous international accolades for service and have never been accused of being overly Western in our management style. If you spent more time at the Centre, which you still believe is the best option in the region, you would perhaps better understand our cultural paradigm. We are not aiming to be an uber-luxurious property that consists of isolated rooms and no interaction among guests or locals. That is the model in China, something that is attractive to the nouveau-riche but truly soulless travel. We believe that our guests expect more, and our past visitors seem to feel that we are consistently able to deliver on this.
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Additional Information about The Linden Centre

Property: The Linden Centre
Address: No.5 Chengbei Village, Xizhou Town, Dali 671004, China
Phone Number:
Location: China > Yunnan > Dali
Amenities:
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) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites
Hotel Style:
#1 Romantic Hotel in Dali
#5 Best Value Hotel in Dali
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3 star — The Linden Centre 3*
Number of rooms: 30
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 Bai architecture of this nationally protected cultural heritage hotel, while 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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