What could be more lush and verdant than a bamboo forest in the foothills? At China's Naked Stables Private Reserve, two and a half hours by high-speed train and car from Shanghai, green is all around you: in the landscape, to be sure, but also in the eco principles that drive this LEED Platinum–certified property (it's the first resort in Asia to achieve this certification).
It was hot and muggy in New York this past weekend, which had me thinking wistfully of Naked Stables and its cool valley setting within a protected reserve. (The name, by the way, has no frisky connotations—it's merely a reference to its emphasis on sustainability and nature.) What's truly special about the place is that it feels like a window into a wild and wonderfully timeless side of China, far from the glitzy skyscrapers and sprawling cityscapes many of us have come to associate with the country. Guests stay in either rammed-earth huts (seen above, with terraced tea fields in the distance) or hillside villas set on stilts and tucked into the trees. The distinctive eco-friendly construction of the earthen huts gives them a circular shape and unusual striations on the walls. Furnishings come in the same sensuous shapes. The activity schedule is as full-on or laid-back as guests would like. You can hike through the bamboo forest, head to the equestrian center for a guided trail ride, learn kite flying and archery from a master, or learn to pick and roast white tea from the resort's own fields at certain times of the year. The region itself has become a popular weekend escape for Shanghai residents seeking to escape the sweltering humidity. It's a bit tougher to get there from New York City, but I have a feeling that a Naked Stables experience lies somewhere in my future. (All photos from Naked Stables Private Reserve)