Chinese real estate developers have had some of their best years in the past 2 decades. Luxury villas, apartments, and office buildings have skyrocketed at speeds comparable to growing bamboo shoots after heavy rain. Consequently, the pricing on houses has tripled in the past 5 years within major metropolitan cities.
However, this profitable industry has caused big concern for the central government since it has prompted extremely high living costs to the ordinary working class in these cities, and begins to show signs of social instability. Recently, the central government implemented a new policy that removed all state owned companies from the real estate development markets, and imposed a 50% second-home purchase down payment requirement that makes it virtually impossible for those who use their second or third homes as a quick-return investment.
The real estate investment money, therefore, has quickly shifted from private investors to the local governments. The local government uses big funds to build public schools, city parks, and interestingly the vacation resorts, prompting a wave of tourism in China. To attract tourists, every local government has to identify its “unique natural or cultural resource” with either an old temple or odd rocks on hilltops (even tombstones are included). A recent project that I have designed for Xi An Tourist Group turns an old, virtually unattended mountain park into a new tourist destination featuring 5-star spa-hotels, a luxury vacation village, 10,000 ft. span of cable car routes, theaters, museums, helicopter tours, mountain skiing, horse riding, and a giant 99-meter high Buddha statue on the mountain top. The government plans to spend several billion RMB through the next 10 years in order to realize this ambitious plan, which will ultimately bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to this new attraction.
Grand outdoor shows are in big fashion in today’s China. One of my recent conceptual stage designs is for “The Night Banquet in the Heaven’s Lake”, a musical show that takes place amidst a nature mountain lake of 50 hectares, surrounded by lush forest and landscaped rocky hills. The show stage is to be built under the water surface during the day and submerged before Showtime at night. The musical is based on an ancient myth of a pool girl who becomes an angel and flies to the heavens after refusing to obey her brother’s order to marry a rich man. The visual images are projected on the surrounding mountain rocks as a scenic backdrop, using the most modern stage technologies such as hydraulic elevation systems, laser and computer lighting, fireworks, and flying systems. This show can be viewed by visitors at all angles, ranging from the main seating areas to surrounding buildings, hill hotels, and even homes. This grand musical show will be jointly produced by Xi An Tourist Bureau and GCAD China Company, and directed by the most famous film artist (proposed to invite either Zhang Yimo or Zhang Jigang, the directors of Beijing Olympic Game Olympic opening Ceremony).
Hi all, I did a little research and found an excerpt on spa history. It’s really quite interesting!
The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of effecting a cure of some ailment dates back to pre-historic times. Archaeological investigations near hot springs in France and Czech Republic revealed Bronze Age weapons and offerings. In Great Britain, ancient legend credited early Celtic kings with the discovery of the hot springs at Bath, England.
A typical day at Bath might be an early morning communal bath followed by a private breakfast party. Afterwards, one either drank water at the Pump Room (a building constructed over the thermal water source) or attended a fashion show. Physicians encouraged health resort patrons to bathe in and drink the waters with equal vigor. The next several hours of the day could be spent in shopping, visiting the lending library, attending concerts, or stopping at one of the coffeehouses. At 4:00 P.M., the rich and famous dressed up in their finery and promenaded down the streets. Next came dinner, more promenading, and an evening of dancing or gambling.
As soon as I found my seat among rows of beach chairs occupied by hundreds of guests, a giant LED screen lit up in front of us and flashed various images. Loud, vibrating music accompanied the images with laser light beams sweeping through the scented foggy air above the stage. The pre-show lasted about three minutes before a dozen performers in colorful folk costume danced into sight from both sides of the stage. More actors poured in to join the dancing crew, some of which walked into the shallow water and danced toward the audience. As a prelude, it was quite a spectacle. Immediately following was a group of singers singing popular folk songs, then a few acrobatic shows, some saxophone plays and so on. At the peak of the performance, a group of water fountain jets suddenly shot up at least 20 meters in the air behind the performers, sparking loud applause from the exciting audience. The entire show lasted 45 minutes, and I walked out exhausted, as did everyone else. My day of fun, however, had not concluded yet because there was even more stuff waiting for me in the 2nd and 3rd floors – the body massage and night buffet respectively…
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It took me about an hour to go through most of the featured spa pools. After experiencing each pool, I felt healthier than I had been an hour ago. As I walked through a 50-meter long corridor, I entered a gigantic 15000-square meter water gymnasium known as “Hi Water-Space.” Everything we had designed was present, from the 40-foot tall water tree house to the spiraling water slide Space Bow. In addition, there was a vast swimming pool with simulated sand beach and power-generated sea waves. Guests of all ages were having a blast in the water. I had decided to ride the water slide, but was stopped by a gentleman on the way up. Apparently, I was too old to slide down! After insisting that I would be fine, I managed to experience the water slide, only to choke on water on the way down. It was fun nonetheless. Shortly after I sat on a beach chair to rest, the lights dimmed, the sea waves subsided, and a large stage platform emerged from the central swimming pool. I could hear an announcement, claiming that “the evening show will start in 15 minutes.”
More to follow later….
It was quite a different experience when I visited these Super Spas than when I designed them. For instance, a ticket to the Wendu Hot Spring Leisure City, which costs 160 RMB (20 USD), enables you to get into both the indoor park (180,000 square feet) and Spa House (64,000 square feet). One can stay for unlimited hours until 10:30pm. Swimming attire, foods, beverages, massages, and other services cost extra. You have to pay a much higher price for such accessories here than in regular stores outside of the park.
I was greeted at the door of a well-decorated locker room and led by a young man to the private VIP locker passing through rows of mahogany locker cabinets in the hall. Once I got outside of the locker room, I entered an indoor tropical jungle with hot spring bath pools in every direction. There were pools with workout machines in the water for physical exercise, jet-water massage tubs, and waterfall simulators. In addition, there was a variety of different-colored pools filled with herbal additives. All of these pools were either located under realistic artificial trees or hidden behind rocky caves lit by colorful lights. This arrangement created a romantic atmosphere, similar to that found on a theatrical stage. Personally, I can’t bear the heat of the pool for over 5 minutes, so I decided to jump from pool to pool as if I was running on a 100- meter hurdle track.
There were also private Spa rooms lined up on the first floor to provide thorough physical therapy. However, there is a catch: they charge as much as 150 USD per hour. It is hard to imagine if it’s really worth the money.
More to come regarding the second floor…
A spa is a body treatment with warm spring water and the application of specially mixed oils, all for the purpose of body care and relaxation. In China, this imported physical therapy has grown so popular and profitable that it has become an indispensable venue of any real estate development and a must-have form of business in local tourism. Because of the intense competition in this new industry, developers and business owners have begun to spend a great deal of money on the design and construction of spas. Many new spa saloons are so extravagant and decorative that they have gone far beyond their general purpose as health treatments. Instead, they have become known as “Super Spas,” a place of luxury entertainment for the local community and a favorite place for friends to gather and for business activities to take place.
The pictures we see here depict some newly finished or in-construction spa (hot-spring) houses in Beijing in various styles, from Moroccan to Southeast Asian, as well as Mediterranean influence.
I’m currently designing a “super spa” project that take a land of 260 hectares on a island near city of Taijin in Northern China.