From Asia With Love… Our Favourite Asian Hotels This Year

Gold Lists 2019

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It’s been an incredible year at Grand Luxury Hotels. We have a new website that we love, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and we’ve added some stunning hotels to our collection.

Particularly, our trip to Asia last year meant we really have a selection of the best hotels that side of the world, but don’t take our word for it. You decide for yourself…

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 explorers, 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, the Old Town and the 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?

The rustic looks, the secluded- but not too much- location, the excellent spa services,  and the Bay Phsar crispy battered shrimp.

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. 

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.   

 


About Nimah Koussa

The best part about being a travel writer is bringing cities and destinations to life: their stories, secret addresses, luxurious gems and unique holiday moments. And I have been one for a little more than 10 years. From the best bars and restaurants in different cities of the world to hotels where you can check-in to get away from it all, this Magazine is all about making every trip just a bit more meaningful.

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