FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

A Chance Encounter in the Landscape at China’s Boatyard Hotel

by Ron Bernthal

Aug 29, 2023

© Zhang Xi


A river on a rainy day in Jiangnan, China, is a dreamy scene. But the most unforgettable memories are often hidden in that invisible scenery.


© Zhang Xi 

Jiangnan is a geographic area in China referring to lands immediately to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Within this region is the village of Shanwan in the Wujiang District of Suzhou city, in Jiangsu Province, where the tranquility of the idyllic town, the quiet expanse of the river and lakes, and the historical culture all blend into one.

The 13-room Qushui Shanwan Boatyard Hotel is China-based GOA’s second project in the area  The Boatyard Hotel and Metasequoia Grove restaurant constitute part of the rural revitalization zone located at the entrance to Shanwan Village. The rippling black-roofed buildings are like the crow-top boats gathered and docked on the shore.


© ZHU Hai

With an interior designed by WJ STUDIO, the concept is to give its indoor space rhyme and a temporal experience. When guests come to the Boatyard Hotel looking for the idyllic scenery of a water village, they do not know they have already become part of the scenery. A floating island with a few dead trees stretches as if to welcome and detail the passage of time. The hotel building and its interior are integrated within the surrounding natural landscape.

When you enter the property, a slightly arched trestle bridge and a crow-top boat are moored on the side. Light pours down from the dome’s skylight on a sunny day. If raining, water droplets keep falling on the canopy, and the scenic rocks and Jiangnan’s unique sound and color are revealed in this area alone.



After passing the bridge, the large, floor-to-ceiling windows open up the view. A bench with a carefully recessed water pattern invites guests to sit and watch the water, trees and clouds on the other side of the isolated island.

When visitors stroll along the promenade, the corridor is a place for relaxation and coffee (and perhaps a good book). The horizontal space and arching roof take in the riverbank scenery one by one, with the morning light and sunset and the viewing bridge extending into the water.

A sunken pool opens to the sky’s light. From the courtyard to the bedroom to the collection, the space progresses from outside to inside and from inside to out. The room facing the riverbank offers a panoramic view of the waterfront. Leaning over the long window sill, guests can enjoy the sunset.



The guestroom area from the first floor to the second floor guides occupants upward. Light enters the reserved slits, creating a “line of sight” to the interior. Guestrooms on the second floor retain high vaulted ceilings, buffered by a foyer, and then with a horizontal opening to the room layout. The tall and wide floor-to-ceiling windows are enough to incorporate the outdoor scenery into the interior. On the first floor by the water’s edge, the dining area boasts a lake view. Sunk about 12 inches below the water surface, the design recreates the experience of being seated in a boat cabin, sharing in some way the town residents’ memories and day-to-day living experience.

Boatyard Hotel was completed in late 2022. Amenities include free WiFi in public areas, a restaurant, café, swimming pool, hot spring, and fitness and yoga center. The hotel is located about 1.5 hours from Shanghai by taxi. Many high-speed trains run from early morning till late night between Shanghai and Suzhou, with the shortest travel time of 21 minutes (one-way train fare is about $2–7).


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