|Photo by Freeimages.com/Nicole Kotschate|
By The Daily Telegraph, February 01, 2016
Featuring the most incredible places to stay in destinations including Bali, Thailand, Japan, China, India and Bhutan.
Iniala Beach House, Phang Nga, Thailand
Two years after its opening on the sands of Natai Beach, just north of Phuket, this refined designer property has established itself as one of the most sought-after hotels in Asia. And not just because of its fantastical design – there are beds which drop from the ceiling and appear to hover above the floor, turquoise starfish-shaped sofas and Swarovski crystal-encrusted pool tables – or its exquisite dining, which is masterminded by Eneko Atxa, the youngest Spanish chef to be awarded three Michelin stars. No, it’s because Iniala delivers the kind of privacy that Saudi princesses, Russian oligarchs, Californian tech giants and Hollywood royalty require. With just three three-bedroom villas, a penthouse suite and associated children’s hotel, fronted by plenty of private sand, it’s ideal for an exclusive buy-out. Not that the four-villa mini hotel is a gilded cage. Activities include everything from Muay Thai boxing classes with world-class coaches and otherworldly spa treatments in mother-of-pearl-clad cocoons to yachting around the ancient sea-stacks that scatter the waters of the glass-green Andaman Sea. Double rooms from £1,765.
Read the full review: Iniala Beach House, Thailand
Nihiwatu, Sumba, Indonesia
An hour’s flight east of Bali is Sumba: an island of ancestral villages, tribal traditions and, on a forested fringe of long golden beach, Nihiwatu. Originally a surf resort, it reopened in 2014 under James McBride, formerly of The Carlyle in New York, and soon became known for its simple luxuries and eco approach. Its villas – the largest of which has its own pavilions, kitchen and library – have pointed thatched roofs that are typically Sumbanese, private infinity pools and bales set in gardens of banana and frangipani trees. Butlers who attend to the villas are happy to reveal their animist culture to guests, whether that’s the symbols woven into local ikat cloth or the importance of the island’s spear-throwing festival. Experiences include riding ponies into the surf, nudging a paddleboard down-river, diving, and surfing one of the world’s most famous left-hand breaks. It’s a place in which, somewhere between the sea spray and lost-world traditions, it’s possible to lose yourself completely. Double rooms from £435.
Read the full review: Nihiwatu, Indonesia
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, Japan
While the Mandarin Oriental offers sleek design mixed with cutting-edge technology and an astonishing level of intelligent service, it is the feeling of being in an aerial cocoon of calm that distinguishes this hotel. It occupies the top floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower in Tokyo’s business and shopping district, with astounding views from floor-to-ceiling windows in all 179 rooms and suites. Among a dozen bars and restaurants, the classy Mandarin Bar is a favourite, while gourmands struggle to choose between Cantonese cuisine at Sense and the Tapas Molecular Bar, where cutlery is swapped for pipettes and syringes. In the meditative 37th-floor spa and its pool, nothing but glass comes between swimmer and the sight of snow-capped Mount Fuji bathed in the red glow of sunset. Double rooms from £317.
Read the full review: Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Amansara was originally a 1960s French modernist villa commissioned by King Sihanouk as a summer retreat for his VIP guests. The Aman group restored the building in 2002 and later brought its signature minimalist style to bear on a spa, a lap pool and 12 new suites furnished with terrazzo floors, hardwood fittings, sandstone reliefs and private courtyard plunge pools. This refreshed architectural gem is now run with sparkling efficiency by Sally Baughen and her staff and provides a perfect sanctuary from the booming streets of downtown Siem Reap. More importantly, the hotel lies on the threshold of the Unesco World Heritage Site, home to Angkor Wat and the jungle-clad ruins of the Khmer Empire. Guests are provided with their own tuk-tuk and driver to explore the rich heritage on their minimalistic doorstep. After a day of temple-trotting, visitors are welcomed back by the cheery hotel staff with afternoon tea served to the sounds of traditional Khmer music in the swish Sixties dining room. Mid-century architecture meets 10th-century culture – a heavenly combination. Double rooms from £609.
Read the full review: Amansara, Siem Reap
Alila Uluwatu, Bukit Peninsula, Bali
New arrivals here find it nigh on impossible not to whip out their smartphones and immediately try to capture the hotel’s phenomenal modernist architecture and Indian Ocean views. Perched atop cliffs on Bali’s peaceful Bukit Peninsula, Alila Uluwatu is all straight lines, vivid whites, shimmering blues and black lava rocks. Villas are stylish and soothing, with private pools and butlers who, depending on requests for private, discreet or indulgent service, either lavish attention or flit around like genies, leaving treats on the table or geranium face masks by the bathtub. Morning yoga sessions are invigorating, as are laps of the 164ft cliff-hanging infinity pool. At the spa, warm coconut-oil massages leave guests suspended somewhere between nodding off and nirvana. An added feel-good factor comes from knowing that this is the first hotel in Bali to receive the highest level of certification for environmentally sustainable design. Double rooms from £615.
Read the full review: Alila Uluwatu, Bali
Asaba, Izu Peninsula, Japan
Bamboo forests, lakes, blossoming trees, hot-spring baths, dancing fireflies, the scent of tatami… If there is one place where the unpoetic might feel inspired to write a haiku, it’s Asaba. The 15th-century family-run ryokan, on the edge of the hot-spring town Shuzenji, is just two hours south of Tokyo by train. The entrance is marked by a split cotton noren curtain hanging above a monochrome pebble entrance, behind which elegant kimono-clad staff usher guests to one of 17 minimal guestrooms. Each is designed in signature ryokan style, with tatami mat floors, sliding screens, deep cypress baths, futons, paper lanterns and asymmetric flower arrangements, as well as windows with views of pretty lakes and gardens. Guests can soak in the restorative outdoor hot-spring baths before indulging in a private in-room kaiseki dinner: a banquet of a dozen dishes fit for an emperor. The Harry Bertoia chairs in the lounge best sum up the Asaba experience – it may be rooted in heritage, but the atmosphere is fresh and modern. Double rooms from £660.
Read the full review: Asaba, Japan
The Peninsula, Shanghai, China
The Peninsula experience starts at the airport, where a customised BMW whisks guests downtown to this handsome modern take on art-deco design. Attention to detail is evident everywhere, from the beautiful mosaic floor of the 82ft indoor pool to the free international calls at the press of a button. The usual chocolate-on-the-pillow is here a multi-drawered lacquered box filled with different treats. An intuitive iPad controls lights, curtains and much else. The River Rooms are sensational: a wall of glass provides views across the busy Huangpu River to sleek towers designed by the world’s leading architects. On balmy nights, there is nowhere better in the city for cocktails than Sir Elly’s bar on the rooftop terrace, watching the evening light show play across buildings old and new. Unless, that is, it’s time for a spin on the river aboard the hotel’s own motor yacht. Double rooms from £247.
Read the full review: Peninsula Shanghai, China
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India
When Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata built this glorious Indian Gothic confection in 1903, he wanted it to be the finest hotel in India, a place of glamour and faultless service that was open to all. And it was – and it is. It may host a stream of A-list celebrities but everyone experiences the same genuine warmth and courtesy from its devoted staff. Rooms with a sea view in the original Palace Wing are the finest, reached via a magnificent cantilevered staircase that climbs five floors to the dome. Butlers arrive in a trice and never hover in the hope of a tip. The concierges have all of Mumbai at their fingertips, from the best guided tours (my tip: Mumbai by Dawn) to seats at the art deco Regal for the latest Bollywood blockbuster. And when the city and its traffic become too much, there’s no better retreat than the Sea Lounge for Mumbai street-food (in particular, bhelpuri), cucumber sandwiches for tea, or a cold glass of Indian wine as the sun sets over the Arabian Sea. Double rooms from £160.
Read the full review: The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
UMA by COMO, Punakha, Bhutan
Peeling back the layers of this hotel is much like discovering Bhutan itself. Uma’s ochre walls, broken by grand double doors, are reminiscent of the country’s dzongs, or fortresses, albeit softened by bougainvillea, poinsettias and camellias. Pass through doors and courtyards, past smiling staff in traditional Bhutanese dress, and views of densely forested hills unfold, with terraced rice paddies cascading to the meandering Mo Chu river below. Throughout the eight-bedroom, two-villa property, floor-to-ceiling windows and low-slung cream furnishings retain the focus on the views. Traditional Bhutanese art, hand-knotted rugs from Nepal and Indian cotton bed linens complete the simple, authentic aesthetic. While the menu at the intimate restaurant is global, spanning local specialities, gnocchi, cassoulet and wagyu beef burgers, dishes are crafted from local organic produce. Best of all, the property is also available on an exclusive-use basis. Double rooms from £440.
Read the full review: UMA by COMO, Bhutan
The Upper House, Hong Kong, China
The clue’s in the name. This is about ascending into a realm that’s more supremely stylish abode than hotel. The city’s babble ceases at the Stone Curtain, an entrance wall designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Beyond, two flickering lanterns (good feng shui) light guests’ path up, up, up… via escalator and lift, past scattered artworks of sinuous curve and tempting texture. Rooms – wonderfully spacious, filled with sky – begin on the 38th floor. At this height, Hong Kong’s harbour is a glittering distant necklace and, depending on the room, the reach-out-and-touch mountains a vision of tranquillity. Forget the usual trimmings: there’s no check-in desk, no pool or spa and the gym’s tiny; there isn’t even paper – guest information arrives via an iPod Touch. Elsewhere, though, the amenity bags burst with REN skincare products, there’s a hidden lawn, a library with flickering fireplace, and an enveloping sense of urban respite. And, on the 49th floor, is a single, perfect restaurant called Café Gray Deluxe, a gem set in the clouds. Double rooms from £400.
Read the full review: The Upper House, Hong Kong
The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan, India
The Oberoi's bush outpost lies just outside Ranthambhore National Park, where tigers sunbathe on old Raj ruins beneath a towering 1,000-year-old fort. Although the bedrooms are made from canvas, this is no jungle camp. Rather, it’s the grandest spot in India from which to watch wildlife while being looked after by some of the country’s most gracious hoteliers. Beturbaned staff, in jewel-coloured kurtas, are on hand when needed (invisible when not) to serve Indian feasts in candlelit courtyards, proffer orange-flower-scented face-towels after a safari or serve rosewater iced tea by the fringed colonial-style pool umbrellas. Naturalists offer lectures and take private safaris through the park’s loveliest areas to see spotted chital deer, rich birdlife and – with luck – tigers. And the rooms are so sumptuous that it’s criminal not to take time to recline on the carved four-posters, soak amid rose-petals in lion-claw baths or take tea on a silver tray while watching kingfishers diving into waterlily-strewn ponds. Double rooms from £645.
Read the full review: The Oberoi Vanyavilas, India
Contributions from Gill Charlton, Lee Cobaj, Danielle Demetriou, Fiona Duncan, Lisa Grainger, Gabriella Le Breton, Fionnuala McHugh, Johnny Morris, Natalie Paris and Charles Starmer-Smith
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