Nestled in a sleepy valley in the foothills of Moganshan, draped in a verdant tapestry of lush bamboo forests and terraced tea fields you’ll find the naked Stables Private Reserve; a new luxury eco-resort of such refinement and service it taxes any writer’s cache of laudatory superlatives. It is a retreat in the truest sense of the word; a bucolic safe haven providing guests with a level of mental, spiritual, and physical redemption this humble wordsmith can only describe as, Shawshankian. We were fortunate enough to be invited to their media junket for their soft opening, and what follows is our story.
In order to understand how fond we are of the entire naked Retreats organization requires you, our beloved reader, to understand a little something about us. We grew up in families that taught us to be proud of our blue-collar roots; with no one ever daring fill our minds with the idea that we might, one day, be able to make a living writing about the fanciness, and fineries, 5-star resorts have to offer. So it was with generations of working-class resignation to the idea that people like us just simply didn’t deserve such a level of hospitality that had us anxiously awaiting the private car the naked Stable Private Reserve arranged for us. Our trepidation was magnified by the fact that our boss would be joining us, as she always did when Michelin stars and/or promises of champagne in a Jacuzzi were involved. It’s not that we don’t love her. Quite the opposite. Her presence legitimizes our own. It’s just that these events always end up with us embarrassing her. Our boss can go from a filthy cock fight to black tie gala with the same effortlessness and panache of a female Bruce Wayne, while we writers were quite happy at the cock fight wondering what happened to our shoes, but we digress. The point is, in the multiple times we’ve stayed at more rustic, but no less refined, naked Home Village, not one time did we feel out of place or not sincerely welcome. Quite frankly, we simply felt at home. It’s why we always go back and delight in the invitations they extend towards us.
We were picked up in a pristine Peugeot 408 and whisked towards our destination; a secluded, mountain getaway located within the confines of a protected game reserve. In keeping with the spirit of a true eco-resort, no vehicles sporting internal combustion engines are allowed past the main reception area, or to use the parlance of the naked folk, the Clubhouse Bistro. The outside world ends at the bistro where you can check in, get a bite to eat, or take a dip in their 20-meter lap pool. Yes, you can do all that, before you even check in. Just remember, you have to check in. You just can’t use the pool.
While the staff at reception took care of our accommodations for the evening, we were taken on a tour of the grounds, which are, in a word, breathtaking. Though painstakingly cultivated, every effort was spent to ensure the natural beauty of the area remained intact and untouched. Even the amphitheater is earthen and green. It was overcast the day we walked from the Clubhouse Bistro to tour the stables from which the naked Stables gets its name. Although the horses hadn’t arrived at the time of our tour, the stables and grazing areas were ready and waiting, and while we’re no horse whispers, we feel confident those steeds will be very happy here.
A light drizzle fell upon us as we ascended the steps to the private hilltop hot tub available for corporate and/or private parties. From there we went up to admire the view from the very romantic, VIP deck, which overlooks the valleys and peaks that radiate from the hilltop observation deck. Despite the inclement weather, none of us complained, or hurried. In fact, we lingered; snapping pictures of the scenery that flowed forth from beneath our feet. It was a quiet testament to the resort itself. Were we at a Ho-Jo, we would have hunkered down inside our rooms waiting for the weather to break, but here, watching the storm clouds tatter across the mountaintops like freshly-ginned cotton made us appreciate the time even more.
From majestic views to azure hues we were whisked via electric cart into the heart of the naked valley where you’ll find a heated, 2-tiered, negative edge pool we had to physically restrain ourselves from jumping into. Around the pool you’ll find plenty of space to lounge, but the place that piqued our interest was the Pool Bar & Pizzeria. We bring this place up despite the fact we were unable to go for taste test , but going by what we saw (and smelled) this would be where we’d have spent the majority of our time had we more time than we did. We love pizza. We’ll book entire trips around good pizza, and what we saw looked as good, if not better than any we’ve found in China.
A short descent from the pools you’ll find the Kikaboni Restaurant and Bar. Kikaboni is Swahili for, ‘organic,’ which is a term that can be applied to any facet of this strictly green eco-resort. From design and décor to cuisine and cuvee they found a way to flawlessly meld African and Asian motifs in perfect umoja, which is Swahili for ‘unity.’ It was at Kikaboni where we were treated to a lavish, multi-course, dinner and tasting of some delightful South African wines. The staff made us feel right at home. It was a palate-pleasing triumph, not only for South Africa’s often overlooked, yet fabulous terroir, but also to the naked Stables approach to hospitality, which is, in our opinion, beyond reproach. After dinner, our media party, sated like satyrs, split up as we made our ways back to our respective Tree-top Villas.
There are 2 types of accommodations at the naked Stables Private Reserve: private, ‘Earth Huts,’ perfect for couples and small families, and 2, 3, and 4 bedroom Tree-top Villas, which are suitable for larger groups. All come replete with all the amenities you’d expect from a world-class, 5-star resort; including an on-call personal host. How great is that? Need a bottle of wine brought to your place? It’s a phone call away. Want the hot tub prepped for – Oh, I don’t know. – a relaxing end to a raucous media dinner? Say no more. After returning to our 2-story, 4 bedroom, luxuriously appointed villa, we spent about a minute commenting on how much we loved the contemporary Afro-Asian décor - Hides as floor covering? Love it. - before we ran to our respective rooms, changed into our bathing suits, and jumped in the private hot tub out on our villa’s expansive balcony.
Perched atop a ridge, just above the tree-line, we were afforded a stunning view of the valley and twinkling resort grounds below. We sipped wine, we breathed, we relaxed, and for a few brief wonderful moments, all was well. As we sat in silence, listening to the white noise of the hot tub’s steamy roil, watching the autumn rain shimmer like diamonds against a black satin sky, we surrendered ourselves to a Zen-like state of sweet oblivion, and became one with peace. Then our boss farted, ruining the whole moment, so we slipped back into our robes and retired to our respective bedrooms.
Having spent so much time enjoying all the naked Stables had to offer, we failed to notice how comfortable and well-appointed the rooms were. Queen-sized beds fitted in signature bedding made up the heart of the room, from upon which you’re afforded a stunning view out through the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. At the base of said windows you can bask in your own private bathtub as well as the majestic natural surroundings. We were beat, so we forwent the bath and slipped into bed under the lush down duvet. We tried to stay awake, if for no other reason than to not want such a magical night to end, but comfort won out, and we were snoring in no time.
Morning came too soon, and with it, the realization that our short trip would be coming to an end. We got out of bed with a lot less enthusiasm than when we got into it, but at least the rain had passed, leaving behind a glorious sunny day, so we decided to make the best of it. After a reinvigorating scrub in the black slate spa shower, we got dressed and headed upstairs to the main lounge/den area for a cup of fresh brewed coffee. It’s here where you’ll find the state-of-the-art entertainment center; satellite TV, CD/DVD, Wi-Fi, the whole shebang, but we honestly don’t know why you’d need it. There is so much to see and do, not once did anyone in our group even think of TV, movies, or emails, and that’s a good thing. Before we knew it, our personal host was knocking on our door to escort us down to the Clubhouse Bistro for lunch and check-out, so we took one last moment to take it all in, collected our things, and with a sigh anyone who has ever been bumped from first-class to coach would be familiar with, we left.
The eclectic menu at the Clubhouse Bistro perked us right back up, and thankfully, so did the food. All of which was fresh, locally-sourced, and absolutely delicious. After lunch we milled around the lobby and sun deck out by the sparkling lap pool and spoke with the staff. They actually called us, “Sir,” without immediately following it up with, “We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
As much as we tried to wish it away, the time had finally come for us to say goodbye. We shook hands with the staff, emphatically thanked them for all their hospitality, because let’s be honest, it’s their unparalleled service and attention to detail that makes this place so fantastic, and made our way to the car they’d arranged to take us back home. We briefly thought about faking a sprained ankle to buy ourselves a little more time, but decided to take the high road. As our car pulled out past the stables, we occupied our time enthusiastically planning our next trip. After all, there was still so much we hadn’t gotten to enjoy like the naked Leaf Spa & Wellness Center, the naked Galleries and Boutiques, archery, fishing, and there’s even a Little Shoots Kids Club for the wee ones. We simply cannot wait to go back.
If the stresses of the city are becoming more than you can bear, sweet salvation is less than an hour away. So check out the naked Stables Private Reserve website (address below), figure out what package and accommodations work best for you, and spoil yourself with the superfluous amount of service and serenity the naked Team strives to provide. Some of the best times we’ve had in China have been right here. It’s why we keep going back.