Luxury Hotels

Jean-Michel Gathy luxury at Capella’s Sanya hotel

Yngvar Stray

As the photo above indicates, Capella Sanya is a stunning beach-set resort on China’s ‘Hawaii’ island, Hainan, that 59 nations can now visit simply with visa on arrival. Capella Sanya stresses luxury from start to finish. The gal badly needed a manicure. This was set up in a glass-walled, open-the-doors cabana right by the pool and beach.  Happy young Chinese achievers, mum and dad and omnipresent child, played and frolicked in the hot sun. The cabana had working BBC and CNN, a bottle of Taittinger waited expectantly in an ice bucket, and there were skewers of chilled fruit.  Mind you, this, and the first-class manicure, were only to be expected.

View towards the beach

Pickup from Sanya’s Phoenix airport, 35 minutes away, was by silver Rolls-Royce, with WiFi and divine sago-infused coconut water. And there, at the resort, was GM Yngvar Stray, who opened the 190-room beauty this January. Originally intended to be One&Only it was designed, like One&Only Reethi Rah and so many other world-class resorts, by Jean-Michel Gathy. Bill Bensley’s superb landscaping has several bird sculptures (think his pool terrace at St Regis Bangkok).  Sensibly, one cluster of villas can be sold together to give 11 bedrooms, ideal for families. I was in two-bedroom Villa Jasmine, #8105, which has dining for eight, a full kitchen, an 18×6 metre outside pool, several terraces and, down five steps, grass leading to the beach 20 metres beyond


I had some gorgeous Assouline books, brought here via Korea: my selection included Stanley Stewart’s tome on Ashford Castle. The Capella Sanya is a hotel for continual experiences, which include some spectacular sunsets. Every evening at 6.30 hotel guests are invited to the Living Room, a splendid residential library. Drinks are served, and at 6.50 a story-teller starts a ten-minute ritual, recounting the tale of The Silk Road, supposedly named by German Ferdinand von Richthofen who explored this area in 1877. Every night, in turn, one of seven stages is celebrated, west to east, Venice, Alexandria, Bombay, Bangkok, Singapore, Sanya and Shanghai. A suitable libation, Sanya Summer, is offered.  We then went off to dine, outside on Dempsey’s terrace, a reminder that Capella, the company, is headquartered in Singapore.

..and morning tai chi

In the morning, after a good workout in the Athletic Centre, I breakfasted in Silk Road, experiencing the ultimate Chinese offering – see a video below – which in addition had nine congees. And then, to balance last evening’s ritual, I was lucky enough to see what happens every morning, at 8.30 a.m. Jean-Michel Gathy’s arrival area, the Dream Odyssey, is a mystical 30-metre circular pond, fed by water dripping from the inner edges of a peripheral half roof above. The round pool is surrounded by a square building, yin and yang, square for earth, round for the universe.  A white-suited master goes into the centre of the pool and does tai chi as the rooftop water slowly begins its sequence for the day. Feng shui, or what you will, makes this a highly memorable luxury hotel. AND NOW SEE, IN ORDER VILLA 8105, A TYPICAL EVENING RITUAL, CHINESE BREAKFAST BUFFET, AND FINALLY THE MORNING TAI CHI RITUAL