They do things a little differently in Asia, thankfully so. When choosing a hotel in Asia, consider that there’s a lot of history and tradition to Asian hospitality, so never mind that you’re collecting Starwoods points or are a Marriott Club member –it’s worth experiencing a hotel that’s owned and run by the people who know the region best, the locals.
This luxury chain takes its inspiration from James Hilton’s 1933 novel about a utopian village hidden in the snow-capped mountains of Tibet. Named Shangri-La, this paradise was filled with abundant trees and flowers, happy children, a library lined with thousands of books, and peaceful adults who never seemed to age.
The Hong-Kong based brand appropriates this idyllic ideal with its 60 or so hotels and resorts spread across 15 countries in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
What sets these five-star properties apart is their tranquil settings, many of them featuring landscaped gardens, beautifully designed spas, and little reminders of the brand’s namesake, like quotes from the book printed on stationery cards left by turndown service.
You may have seen the ads with celebrities like Michelle Yeoh that say “I’m a fan.” The fan, in this case, refers to the Mandarin Oriental’s logo, one of the most recognizable icons in the hotel industry.
Also based in Hong Kong, this brand has a farther reach, with 42 hotels and resorts in 27 countries in Asia, the U.S., Europe, and the Caribbean. Their properties are distinctive in that they incorporate an “Oriental charm” in design elements that also reflect the local culture and style.
One of their most prestigious hotels is the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which has a Thai cooking school, an Ayurvedic center, and a spa that Travel + Leisure awarded the “Best in the World.”
Talk about exclusivity. This group of boutique resorts emphasizes privacy and highly personalized service –there are typically four staff members to every guest. There’s purposely no reception desk or lobby, so it’s entirely possible to stay in the resort without seeing anyone other than the villa staff.
Each resort has only a few dozen rooms, and each villa or bungalow is meant to feel like a private residence, with its own pool, lounging, and dining areas. Some villas even come with their own private beach. Aman also emphasizes building their hotels with indigenous materials and a design aesthetic that mirrors the local culture.
Amanresorts has 24 properties worldwide, with its flagship property, Amanpuri, in Phuket, Thailand.
Named after its founder, this Indian brand has 28 luxury hotels and resorts, most of which are in the Indian subcontinent, with properties as far-flung as the Himalayas.
The Oberoi Vanyavillas was just voted the “World’s Best Hotel” by Travel + Leisure’s 2010 Reader’s Poll. What’s surprising is that this isn’t a typical luxury hotel. Located in the jungles of Ranthambore, India, 25 luxe jungle tents make up the base for tiger safaris.
It’s a campground like no other –the tents feature four-poster beds and wooden floors, and the resort contains a spa and a swimming pool.
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