Sky Valley Heritage Boutique Hotel is rooted in the city’s past, but its sense of place chimes perfectly with the intrepid traveller looking for a hotel with a story to tell
– By Paulyn T
“The hotel’s 100-year-old history is one for the books, and meticulous restoration has preserved its original historical materials and form; offering visitors a glimpse of its storied past.”
I’ll wager that you’ve never bedded down in a restored, national heritage-listed building that once housed 11 families. Well, neither had I — until I spent a night in Sky Valley Heritage Boutique Hotel, where I relived an era long gone in just 24-hours. This heritage house was taken from its original owners (a wealthy capitalist family that traded in pearls, jade and opium) by the government during an exercise of wealth distribution during the revolution, and given to the local people. The house was then subsequently rented to 11 families, who still remain the owners to date.The house was then subsequently rented to 11 families who lived here, and who still remain the owners to date.
Located in Xizhou, Dali in Yunnan province — the birthplace of Bai civilisation — historic and symbolic sights are interspersed with sacred mountains and winding creeks. Like a harmonious symphony of two worlds. Sky Valley Heritage Boutique Hotel itself is a stone’s throw away from the rustic, maze-like town of Xizhou.
From the outside, it was impossible to tell if I had arrived at the right place — cornice roofs with upturned eaves and intricately painted arches characteristic of vernacular Bai dwellings greeted me upon my arrival. Just like the local residences I’d seen on my way to the hotel but on a bigger scale. I gingerly made my way inside, feeling as if I were breaking and entering. Thankfully, a hotel concierge appeared at that moment to guide me through the impressive compound.
At the immaculate front desk, I quickly checked in, my bags swiftly whisked away. I was a tad early, but my room was readied. The friendly receptionist asked if I would like to rent a bicycle — the perfect companion should I wish to explore the countryside. “There are lots of local farms, rice paddies and vegetable gardens to see,” she offered with a smile. Instead, curiosity got the better of me and I took the opportunity to explore the hotel’s grounds.
The hotel’s 100-year-old history is one for the books, and meticulous restoration has preserved its original historical materials and form; offering visitors a glimpse of its storied past. Exquisite stone murals, for example, adorned each corner of the building’s external walls and were left noticeably untouched. I later learned that they serve as talismans and are believed to avert evil and bring good fortune to its residents.
Inside, refurbished Qing dynasty nuances — from individual window pieces and red copper bathtubs, to teak panelling and root carving lamps — are fed back into each of the 16 rooms, creating a look that goes heavy on nostalgia but is as authentically Bai as it comes.
My spacious suite on the first floor lay directly adjunct to the charming, central courtyard (complete with a landscaped ficus bonsai), yet still felt incredibly private. The outside world melted away once the wood-panelled doors were shut, and fit in perfectly with my desire for complete Zen.
Comfort and tradition went hand in hand for the interior. Light-wood panelling and concrete stone walls (most of the original wall was retained — if you looked closely, you could spot the newspaper clippings that were once pasted on there) lined the room, while a decorative screen added an oriental touch. Modern and minimalistic furnishings, like an elegant four-poster bed, had been thoughtfully incorporated into the space. After my immersive journey through Yunnan, I slept restfully that night.
In the morning, I woke to the sweet soundtrack of birdsong and daylight gently illuminating the room. In that moment, I felt generations away from the likes of the modern world. I felt grateful to have gone back in time for just one night.
Sky Valley is more than just a place to rest your head. It’s an experience…and one that is immersive, symbolic and mysterious all at once.