From Asia with love… Our pick of the best Asian hotels of 2018

Hotel Showcase , The Wondering Traveller

It’s been an incredible 2018. We’ve got a new website on the way, we’ve celebrated our 10 year anniversary, and, last but not least, we’ve visited some stunning hotels to add to the collection. Since we’re just back from a trip to Asia, we’ve decided to share with you a selection of the best hotels we’ve had the chance to visit. And yes, watch this space because many will be joining the Collection soon. 

Capella Ubud, Bali

When it comes to hotel design in Asia, Bill Bensley is the man of the hour. An eccentric brit with a knack for conjuring hotels with out-of-the-box looks, the Bangkok based designer’s work has covered everything from hotels to the Malaysian Sultan’s royal palace. And one of his latest designs, the Capella Ubud, might be his greatest.

Where is it? 

Just north of Ubud. The Capella Ubud is tucked away in the jungles of the Keliki Valley, and borders lush rice paddies and the Keliki Village, a settlement of artists whose traditional coloring techniques would make Henri Rousseau envious. Shrines and stone-built homes dot the area surrounding the hotel.  To get there, you’re looking at a two-hour trek from the airport, but some air conditioning and a cold beverage on the way makes it a breeze.

What’s it like? 

Back to Bill Bensley. The designer imagined the Capella Ubud as a 19th-century expedition in the forest of Bali. The result? A playful atmosphere where guests get to stay in glam tents designed around imaginary explorer’s professions, a ship’s Captain, a cartographer, a naturalist, and… a Toymaker. Guests are handed “survival kits” upon arrival ( more ponchos and mosquito spray than a hatchet and rations), and the mini bar is a reconditioned explorer’s trunk…

Asian Hotels 2018

Why we love it?

The lush jungle foliage and sounds, the views over the sacred River Wos, the quirky – but elegant – designs, and that signature theme. It’s one of the most luxurious escapes from reality you’ll ever find.

The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi

It took 7 years to build the Ritz-Carlton Langkawi. Clearly, every second was well spent. A subtle blend of mother nature and indigenous designs, The Ritz Carlton is set to be the poster boy for Malaysia’s new luxe area.

Where is it?

In Langkawi, an archipelago of over 100 islands and islets about an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur. Mount Machinchang towers in the background, lush forests are all around, and the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea are just opposite. Heavenly.

Asian Hotels 2018

What’s it like?

The Ritz- Carlton Langkawi is in perfect harmony with Langkawi’s landscape. The numerous trees dotting the resort shield it from the rest of the world and make it feel smaller and more intimate than it is. The rooms are a blend of traditional Malay and Siamese designs and are as contemporary and sleek as they come. But their true wow factor is how they never take away from the sense of jungle escapism that lives in the hotel. Floor to ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of the ocean or the rainforest, and plunge pools let you enjoy it all in style… cocktail anyone? 

Why we love it? 

The views, the plunge pools, the sounds of the rainforest, the infinity pool that’s at one with the sea, and those uninterrupted views of the Andaman whenever you look out the window.

Phum Baitang, Cambodia Siem Reap  

Squint hard – very, hard – and you could mistake the Phum Baitang for a traditional Vietnamese village. Design wise, it fits the theme, with its 45 rustic villas designed like rural Khmer homes and acres of gardens all around.  The only thing that breaks the sense of immersion is how luxurious it is. And yes, that’s a good thing.

Where is it?

Close to the Angkor ruins, Old town and Siem Reap International Airport. And yet, well away from any of the hustle and bustle you’ll find in these areas. The Phum Baitang is an enclave of peace. Its 45 rooms and villas are nestled within acres of lemon grass fields and sugar palms and allow you to think you’re living the simpler life… until it’s time for your moringa oil massage, of course.

What’s it like?

Rustic, luxurious, intimate, laid back and incredible all around, the Phum Baitang is where we’re checking in next time things get too hectic at the office. Its 45 rooms ( 25 villas and 20 pool villas) are spread across 8 acres. In other words, peace and quiet are guaranteed. Luxury is in the details here. Rooms inspired by traditional Cambodian wooden housing are plush with luxury trimmings like stone baths, warm teak, and locally sourced woods. The spa is out of this world, and every meal served at the Bay Phsar sings with flavor. Trust us, check – out is a heart-wrenching moment.

Why we love it?

Rustic looks, secluded – but not too much – location, excellent spa services,  and the Bay Phsar crispy battered shrimp.

137 Pillars House Chiang Mai

An enclave of peace, intimate, and walled off from the colonial houses of Wat Gate by a massive living wall, the 137 Pillars House of Chiang Mai is one of those rare gems where it’s love at first site.

Where is it?

You’ll find the 137 Pillars House of Chiang Mai on the other side of the Mae Ping River nestled amid the colonial houses of Wat Gate and – relatively – untouched by the growing number of art- galleries and co-working spaces popping up in the city. 

What’s it like?

The former HQ of the Borneo Trading Company and the former home of 20th-century globetrotter Anna Leonowens, the 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai wears its colonial heritage on its sleeve. The main building was painstakingly restored, historic photographs line the walls, and dark teak, celadon urns, and four-poster beds help create a vibe you’ll feel nowhere else.

Why we love it?

The distinct colonial style , the prime location at the heart of a historical district, and those living walls. 

Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, Bali

Heaven is a place on earth, and it’s the Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton Reserve. Slip into the waters of your plunge pool, have your butler fix you a drink, and take in the sprawling vistas of rice paddies and the Ayung river and you’ll see why. Heaven indeed.  

Where is it?

About 15 minutes by shuttle bus from Ubud, and surrounded by lush rain forests, rice paddies, and the sacred River Ayung, it’s a setting that’s as serene as they come and as far from the hassles of daily life as it can be.

What’s it like?

In one word, spiritual. There’s no reception here. Too official. Instead, you’re met by your patih ( which means king’s right-hand man or butler… choose according to your ego) and taken to your villa. From there on, life at the Mandapa flows as smoothly as the Ayung. The villas are a savvy blend of Thai and contemporary, and all come with plunge pools, excellent butler service, and the music of rain forest fauna and the bubbling river. 

Why we love it?

The looks, the atmosphere, and the peacefulness of the Ayung. 

Amanyangyun, Shanghai

We approach Aman hotels with high expectations. Somehow,  after our visit to the Amanyangyun, the bar’s been raised even higher not only for Aman’s but hotels in general.  After all, when a hotel is surrounded by 10,000 trees all transported from 500 miles away and is built from recycled timber and brick from centuries-old homes, how could it not?

Where is it? 

In Shanghai’s Minhang district, bordering Qizhong Forest Park. It’ll take you about an hour from Shanghai to get there, but it’s well worth the trip.

What’s it like? 

Unique. In all our years of visiting hotels around the world, we’ve never run across something quite like the Amanyangyun. A collaboration between Aman owner Adrian Zecha and Chinese philanthropist Ma Dadong, the Amanyangyun is a passion project that’s part conservation effort and part luxury hotel.

When 10,000 ancient camphor trees ( some dating back to 1,000 years) and 50 Ming and Qing dynasty homes were threatened by the construction of a dam in Ma Dadong’s homeland of Fuzhou, he launched a conservation effort to uproot them all and relocate them to a patch of rainforest close to Shanghai. 15 years later, the Amanyangyun was born, a remarkable step back in time to the China of old.  

Why we love it? 

The unique story behind it, those minimalist Aman designs, stellar service, and the forest of 1000 year old trees. 

Capella Shanghai Jian Ye Li 

Located within the French Concession, deep within a shikumen lane complex and far from Shanghai’s skyscrapers, is where you’ll find the Capella Shanghai Jian Ye Li. Designed by Jaya-Ibrahim and home to the first Pierre Gagnaire restaurant in China, the Capella Shanghai offers up a different side of the city to its guests: a more traditional, and peaceful one.

Where is it?

Within the French Concession, a heritage retreat where tree-lined neighborhoods,luxury boutiques, churches, and craft beer producers occupy centuries-old buildings. Think terraced cafés and colonial style architecture, and you’ll get the picture. 

What’s it like?

The perfect blend of East meets West. The Capella Shanghai occupies a pocket of traditional shikumen laneways built by French settlers in the 1930’s. If ( and you’ll have to try hard ) you look past the excellent service and all the trimmings that come with a luxury establishment, it barely feels like you’re staying in a hotel at all. Instead, a stay at the Capella Shanghai is closer to living in a gated enclave in the French Concession (one where you only have to walk two doors down for a detox massage and a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant, of course.)

Each of the 55 Shikumen style villas come with a unique sino-european aesthetic and span three floors. There are no views per se, but the red brick walls covered in creeping ivy, and the soft glow of the lights coming from the neighboring villas make for a remarkable sense of place. 

Why we love it?

The homely feel, the looks, those Croque Monsieurs they serve at afternoon tea, and the neighborhood, of course. 

Temple House Chengdu

A luxury hotel built atop the ruins of a former temple, the Temple House Chengdu is where hip locals and internationals come to worship the lifestyle modern Chengdu offers. In the open terrace of the MI XUN Teahouse, guests nibble on dishes inspired by Chinese medicine, at the speakeasy style JING, handcrafted cocktails and DJ’s keep the vibe going through the night, and the rooms, sleek and minimalist, are some of the swankiest in China. 

Where is it?

Close to Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li, a  modern shopping village dressed up in Dacisi architectural garb. Historical buildings dot the place (the Buddhist Daci Temple is the centerpiece), so do designer stores and restaurants. In other words, keep your credit card at hand.

What’s it like?

Modern as they come… but anchored with just enough tradition to keep it grounded. You arrive through a 100-year courtyard before getting whisked to your room by multilingual  staff, dressed for a fashion show. Designed by British firm Make Architects, the rooms are an exercise in minimalism and offer breathtaking views of the city skyline from their balconies or floor to ceiling windows. A verdant courtyard modeled around a Sichuan rice terrace lies at the heart of the hotel. 

Why we love it?

Sleek looks, relaxed vibe, stellar service, and a prime location close to everything worth seeing and doing in Chengdu.

Bulgari Shanghai

No need to pander to local designs and heritage, the Bulgari Shanghai is unapologetically… well, Bulgari, gilded concierge desks, copper plating, black granite and all… Common areas wear the definite article “Il,” and the gelatos are among the best in mainland China. Need a sense of place? The views of Shanghai’s skyline from the hotel’s floor to ceiling windows are second to none.

Where is it?

On the banks of Suzhou Creek minutes from The Bund and overlooking the former Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the location’s main draw lies in the uninterrupted views of Shanghai’s skyline.

What’s it like? 

Fans of the Bulgari chain won’t be disappointed. If you’ve been to one of their properties, you’ll know what to expect: black, gold and copper color schemes, creme beige couches, and a liberal application of black and white photographs depicting the iconic brand. The machismo of the design is softened by a level of service that’s one of the best in China, and the Michelin- Starred Il Ristorante, hands down the best Italian eat in town. 

Why we like it?

Signature Bulgari looks excellent restaurant, Italian flair, and those incredible views. 

Rosewood Hong Kong

“The Rosewood Hong Kong” is on everybody’s lips at the moment. In a city where it’s impossible to swing a bag without hitting one luxury hotel or the other, that’s no small feat.

We were lucky enough to be granted a “hard-hat tour” of the place earlier this year, and we’re glad to say that every bit of the hype surrounding the Rosewood’s flagship is justified. 

Located on the Victoria Dockside, the hotel is bang at the heart of the best entertainment and shopping experience the city has to offer. But, chances are staying in will be high on the agenda, thanks to rooms that promise to be the largest in the city, and suites that come with lap pools and hanging gardens. The hotel promises that more than 80% of the rooms will offer breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island, along with eight dining options, and an indoor swimming pool. Watch this space for more information. 

Liked this selection of hotels? If you want to see more of our Collection, there’s plenty more to see here.   

 

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