This is a time when magic is in the air and every cobblestone seems like it might echo with the long lost footsteps of an errant emperor or departing concubine.
Beyond the last courtyard within the property a tall wall rises into the air, its grey stillness seeming to mingle with the leaden mist, so the stone and water become one together, like a river bed that miraculously rises into the dawn sky.
A member of the Aman staff materialises and uses an ancient key to open a door in the wall, and one passes through into the Garden of Virtue and Harmony and on past the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, free from any tour groups or indeed any other person, for this is one of the Aman Resort’s privileges.
Apart from its terrific spa, cloistered pool, private cinema and trio of first class restaurants (the Chinese iteration has legendary Peking Duck) guests may also use the Aman resort’s “out of hours” access to the 18th Century Summer Palace, which allows one to wander along the Long Corridor (a masterpiece with over 14,000 unique paintings) without anything for company except a vivid imagination.
And when the other visitors do arrive what fun there is to be had, watching couples waltz to Shanghainese music at 8am, men flying elaborate hand-made kites from the Seventeen Arch bridge and art experts holding self-criticism seminars within the Temple of Extensive Moisture.
And by 9am it’s time to return to the resort, part of which consists of original palace buildings, to take breakfast in one’s suite, where the antiques and traditional arched ceiling create the feel of a time machine, falling back through all that mist to the days when the Empress Dowager Cixi, who adored this place, might stop in for tea. Trust me, you will not want to leave.