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SOUTHEAST ASIA

MARCH 2019

A Sky-High View Of

Bangkok

SINGAPORE S$7.90 / HONG KONG HK$43 THAILAND THB175 / INDONESIA IDR50,000 MALAYSIA MYR18 / VIETNAM VND85,000 MACAU MOP44 / PHILIPPINES PHP240 BURMA MMK35 / CAMBODIA KHR22,000 BRUNEI BND7.90 / LAOS LAK52,000

IT LIST 2019 THE BEST NEW HOTELS


SHIZUOKA DREAMING Anchored by majestic Mt. Fuji, sated by Shimizu Port, and chilled out by the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture is a beautiful, bountiful region for a roadtrip. You’ll find romance at every turn; just hop in the car and drive. THERE ARE FEW THINGS MORE ROMANTIC than a roadtrip. The sense of exploration, charting your own course together, sharing a unique adventure determined only by the two of you—it brings a couple closer together. And when you do it in one of the most romantic settings on earth, oh the memories! Sitting pretty between Tokyo and Osaka, Shizuoka is teeming with bountiful produce, beautiful flowers, fresh seafood. This coastal region is famous for hot springs, its rolling tea plantations that produce the most green tea of any region, and its wonderful wasabi— Japan’s wasabi cultivation started here. Everyone knows the superstar of the region is mystical Mt. Fuji, but a lesser known secret is its glorious early-bloom sakura: kawazu sakura draws savvy visitors as soon as February to celebrate the pink blossoms. From Tokyo, set your sights on Mt. Fuji and head straight for it. You’ll find yourself on the Izu Skyline, a scenic expressway running along the eastern ridgeline. It feels like an otherworldly movie set, especially if the weather cooperates and you can see Sagami and Suruga Bays in addition to towering Fujisan. You’ll pull over multiple times for ever-more fantastic photos—especially when you get to Izu Panorama Park and its thrilling ropeway skywalk atop Mt. Katsuragi. Come back down to earth but, perhaps, keep up the daredevil spirit at Shirahama


ADVERTORIAL

Beach in Shimoda. There’s a reason it’s considered the best in Izu: crystal-clear waters, white-powder sands, worldclass resorts, gorgeous oceanic panoramas. And, as a bonus, this southerly town is also a mecca for surfing and windsurfing. Yes, Shizuoka is full of surprises! Linger awhile down here on the Izu Peninsula. Though it has the most ryokans in the country, you’ll find quiet nooks, peace and romance among all the inviting ryokans. Whether you onsen-hop or check into one resort for an extended stay, it’ll be easy to soak up the tranquility. Back up north in Fuji’s shadow, now’s the time to don your finest and take some wedding photos. From any direction and at any time of year, the scene is rendered even more romantic when it looks like you’re receiving the blessing of this sacred mountain. But one particularly coveted spot for pictures is Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine in Fujinomiya. This is the lead shrine of more than 1,300 shrines in Japan dedicated to the Princess of Blossoms also known as the Goddess of Mt. Fuji. You and your families will cherish these pictures for a lifetime. Where to next? This is a journey from mountain to sea and back again. You won’t want to miss Shizuoka city. We’re

CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: Okuoikojo Station above Sesso Lake; wedding photos under Mt. Fuji; the region is the green-tea capital of Japan; eat all the sushi you can in Shizuoka city; Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine; driving the Izu Skyline.

not sure why Shimizu Port isn’t better known the world over, the tuna hauled in here is of such high quality the locals call Shizuoka the “City of Tuna”. Visit the morning fishmongers, then get to literally any sushi restaurant in the city. You won’t regret it. A bit inland you’ll find shockingly pretty Sesso Lake. This turquoise blue waterway in the heart of the hills changes color depending on the season, light and even the daily current. Canoeing and kayaking is beyond beautiful in autumn. And high on a bridge above is Okuoikojo Station, an unstaffed railway station that provides a scenic viewing point for the natural surrounds. Not that this next-level beauty will even surprise you by this point on your Instagram-hit of a trip.

Explore Shizuoka exploreshizuoka.com


Champagne Suite, The Parisian Macao.

Live the Suite Life at Sands Resorts Macao Isn’t it wonderful when your only problem with planning is being spoiled for choice? A fabulous, diverse, fully integrated complex, Sands Resorts Macao offers access to more than 850 duty-free shops, 150 restaurants and a host of entertainment under one roof— including some of the world’s biggest music acts. Wellness centers that just invite luxuriating include the award-winning Le SPA’tique; restaurants whetting our palates include Chiado by contemporary Portuguese celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, and the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, The Golden Peacock. All of which make for an unforgettable stay, even before you decide that your rest would be best spent in a new, luxuriously appointed suite at one of the worldclass hotels.

The Venetian Macao’s bi-level Premio Royale Suite transports you to Venice with its iconic gondola-inspired décor, its dark woods and its rich fabrics. The separate sleeping and living areas bequeath upon you the feeling of being regal. Perhaps your court is larger? In that case, opt for The Parisian Macao’s exclusive Marseilles Suite. It has a dining area for six friends or dignitaries, and its own private media room. It is the luxurious choice for a contemporary magnate, and offers easy access to La Chine, which serves French-influenced Chinese in the Eiffel Tower.

Yes, there’s a broad range of suites at The Parisian Macao; The Venetian Macao; Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip; The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central; Conrad Macao, Cotai Central; and Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central. Whether you’re planning a family holiday, a romantic getaway, an adventure with friends, or a special celebration, a suite will make your visit to Macao unforgettable and divinely indulgent. All you have to do now is pick one.

IT’S SUITE BEING ROYALTY Sumptuous furnishings, space to sprawl, exquisite areas to entertain, and UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy dining options fit for a king? That’s what we call the royal treatment.

Premio Royale Suite, The Venetian Macao.


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Versailles Suite, The Parisian Macao.

Premio Rialto Suite, The Venetian Macao.

THE ULTIMATE SUITE INDULGENCE

A TRIP WITH FRIENDS? SUITE!

When planning a grand celebration here, there are no hotels more impressive than Four Seasons Hotel Macao or The Parisian Macao. The Parisian Macao’s three-bedroom Versailles Suite is as palatial as its namesake. With décor inspired by posh apartments in the City of Lights, this suite goes on and on with its own massage room, media room, private gym and more it s truly fit for royalty For a different style of senior statesmanship, take over The Ambassador Suite at Four Seasons Hotel Macao, with its hardwood floors and plush carpets. our guests will e e ually da led y the art on your walls as the panoramic views. eds are customi a le with a choice of mattress toppers and bathroom amenities are by Bulgari.

Group travel is all the better when it’s all-in bonding. Whether we re visiting acao for a concert y a legend or an eating e travagan a, all we want to do at the end of the day is collapse in comfort together. The all-suites Venetian offers 3,000 newly refurbished suites—the elegant -s uare-meter remio ialto Suite is adorned with gold and blown-glass accents. The Parisian Macao lights up a night with its Lyon Suite overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and conjures grandeur with the Marseilles Suite’s dining area for six and private media room. There’s also the Executive Suite at Four Seasons Hotel Macao, the Deluxe Suite at Conrad Macao, Cotai Central, the Deluxe and Executive Suite at Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central. Options a ound e promise you can t go wrong.

St. Regis Sutie, The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central.

Family Suite, Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central.

LOVE, SUITE LOVE

SUITE FAMILY HOLIDAY

From its winding ancient laneways to its modern magnificence, its da ling lights and hidden noo s, acao is rimming with romance. What better place to seek out l’amour than The Parisian Macao? Cuddle over candlelit dinners, and lock your vows of devotion on the Love Lock Bridge. Then retreat to your newly unveiled Champagne Suite, with sumptuous linens, a walk-in closet, and a foot massager—all overlooking, of course, the glorious Eiffel Tower and Le Jardin. And speaking of views, the sophisticated St. Regis Suite’s vast windows bowl us over with their breathtaking vistas. If we can’t meet all our needs in the separate living space, dining room and marble mini ar area, the -hour St. egis utler is easily ec oned

There’s nothing more precious than time with family. An integrated property like Sands Resorts Macao lets you easily entertain kids of all ages, from activities at Qube Kingdom, to live-action role playing at Planet J. The Sheraton Family Suite has a kids’ room with bunk beds and a large living area with varieties of entertainment facilities. Adults can retire to their private bedroom for the rest they deserve. The Famille Room at The Parisian Macao has room for children to play and grown-ups to unwind. The parents’ king bed gives lots of space to stretch, while kids dream the night away in lofty bunk beds.

Experience the extraordinary Reserve your suite at Sands Resorts Macao today For more details on offers and privileges, please visit SandsResortsMacao.com


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Africa 07 - 09 Apr 2019

Arabia 28 - 29 Apr 2019

LATIN AMERICA

Latin America 14 - 17 May 2019

Asia Pacific 27 - 30 May 2019

NORTH AMERICA

CHINA

North America 23 - 26 Sep 2019

China 30 Oct - 01 Nov 2019

Cannes 02 - 05 Dec 2019


March

CONTENTS

features

76

Fit For A Raja Rajasthan is littered with forts and castles of the maharajas who ruled the region for centuries. Rachna Sachasinh finds luxurious renewal projects that manage to conjure the community spirit of far humbler abodes.

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96 C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P : B R I A N G U I D O ; R A N VAS N AGAU R & M E H R A N GA R H M U S EU M T R U ST ; S E A N F E N N ESSY

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My Kind of Paradise We all dream of powder-soft, palmfringed beaches and crystal-clear seas, but in Fiji, these are par for the course. Michael Paterniti finds out what it takes to elevate a stay from great to truly mindblowing. Photographed by Sean Fennessy

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City of Angels, Land of Hotels In Los Angeles, a handful of beloved properties— some new, others from Hollywood’s glory days—are woven so deeply into the social fabric, you couldn’t imagine the city without them. By Alex Bhattacharji. Photographed by Brian Guido

ON THE COVER

Enjoying the sunset in a Pool Sky villa at Rosewood Bangkok. Bathing suit, Vilebrequin. Photographed by Scott A. Woodward. Model: Kiana Treaster @WM Management. Stylist: Saranya Ariyakul. Hair and makeup: Thapakornbhat Yu-vanich. Photographer’s assistant: Jakarpong Chumneankul. TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

/ MARCH 2019

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CONTENTS IN EVERY ISSUE

T+L Digital 10 Contributors 11 The Conversation 12 Editor’s Note 14 Deals 72 Wish You Were Here 106

parties to celebrate Thailand’s rescued elephants; take to Asia’s waterways on these boutique cruises; a historic lakeside lodge in Hangzhou; and more.

22 Touch the Sky Follow the well-

Bangkok opens this month, and we’ve got an exclusive first look at the newest luxury hotel in the Thai capital.

restaurant in Luang Prabang offers contemporary takes on traditional royal Lao cuisine by an award-winning Bangkok chef.

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this year’s Hotels Guide by the way you travel, whether that’s for work, fun, romance or a family escape. With everything from decadent beach villas to practical business hotels, let this be your booking bible for your next trip away.

spirited North African port of Tangier is shining anew with hip hangouts and collaborative design boutiques from a new generation.

41

Test the Waters After an extensive renovation, The Datai Langkawi has reopened with a sharp focus on luxury, wellness and learning to commune with nature.

38

8

59 Style Your Stay We’ve sorted

38 Modern Medina The free-

trod pilgrim path to Vietnam’s most spiritual peak and spend a few nights at Yen Tu mountain’s new designer resort.

28 Royal Revival This inspired

Guide

35 Higher Ground Rosewood

MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

It List: The Best New (and Reborn) Hotels in the World Every year, we head out in search of the finest new (and newly reimagined) properties around the globe, from far-flung islands to boutique city stays and lush mountain lodges. We’ve highlighted 19 of our favorites— find the full collection for 2019 at tandl.me/it-list.

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F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F G A L E R I E C O N I L ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E G R E AT M A D R A S ; C O U R T E S Y O F PA S T E L U A N G P R A B A N G ; L E I G H G R I F F I T H S

19 Reasons to Travel Now Two


T+ L D I G I TA L

+

LOOKOUT

SYDNEY’S HOTEL BOOM From charming boutiques to big-name five-stars, an array of top-flight new stays will ensconse you in the hottest neighborhoods of Australia’s most famous city.

VIETNAM THROUGH THE LENS An intrepid photographer looks back on years of traveling through and living in the diverse, ever-changing landscapes of Vietnam.

12 BUCKET LIST– WORTHY RESORTS IN THE MALDIVES Stunning new getaways that up the ante and provide the perfect excuse to run away to a dreamy Maldivian isle.

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MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

TLEDITOR@ MEDIATRANSASIA.COM

travelandleisureasia.com

F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F O V O L O ; A A R O N J O E L S A N T O S ; C O U R T E S Y O F C H E VA L B L A N C E R A N D H E L I

THIS MONTH ON TR AVEL ANDLEISUREASIA.COM

Canggu is the Bali of your dreams; India has some truly amazing street art; how to make the most of your long layover; a luxe new cruise in Halong Bay; the latest travel deals and much more.


CONTRIBUTORS

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Scott Woodward

Shamilee Vellu

“Higher Ground” Page 35 — “Rosewood Bangkok is like a private manor: sophisticated, exclusive and intimate. My favorite location is Moon Gate at the entrance to the modern Chinese restaurant, Nan Bei. This circular wooden portal looks into a glass-enclosed atrium filled with 1,600 lights and 600 suspended golden magpies, and was inspired by the Chinese tale of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd,” he says. “Fashion shoots bring together so many different creative partners—the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, and this cooperative spirit is one of the things that I love most about my job.” Instagram: @iamscottawoodward.

“Style Your Stay” Page 59 — We asked our writers for their favorite family, millennial, business and romantic hotels in the region. “The challenge was keeping to three per country!” Vellu says. In her hometown Singapore, she gives top marks to: “Capella, on Sentosa Island; it always feels like a tropical getaway, even when I’m working. And I can’t wait to see the new face of our grand dame, Raffles.” Best hospitality trend? “More hotels are empowering their staff with a small budget, so they can surprise and delight guests independently, whether it’s buying an impromptu birthday gift or a pastry from a favorite local bakery.” Instagram: @shamvellu.

3

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Rachna Sachasinh

Claire Boobbyer

“Modern Medina” and “Fit for a Raja” Pages 38 and 76 — The best stays in Rajasthan are refitted heritage manors and castles. “Ranvas Nagaur is in a completely unknown 11th-century palace and fort compound. The staff are flawless. The town feels like a medieval city, and in the full, labyrinthine market and the narrow streets flanked by mud buildings, I felt I had slipped back in time,” she says. “By the firepit at Lakshman Sagar, I noshed on aloo-spinach tikkis, and thali of millet roti, foraged spiced greens and daal, tamarind eggplant, and local mango achaar—pickles fermented in terracotta pots.” Instagram: @rachna_sachasinh.

“Royal Revival” Page 28 — A former guidebook-writer on Laos, Boobbyer has been visiting the country since 2005. “What impresses me most at the new Paste Laos in Luang Prabang is chef Bee’s careful consideration of royal chef Phia Sing’s original recipes but with tweaks that update his ancient plates for the modern palate, and enhance them with nuanced flavors. My favorite is the sour river-fish soup: the slips of tilapia are so tender, and the sharp, peppery taste of the tamarind creates a perfect contrast,” she says. For casual, “get sin dat (local barbecue cooked on a table grill) washed down with a cold Beerlao.” Instagram: @claireboobbyer.

P H O TO GR A P H ER

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F S C O T T A . W O O D WA R D ; C O U R T E S Y O F S H A M I L E E V E L L U ; C O U R T E S Y O F R A C H N A S A C H A S I N H ; C O U R T E S Y O F C L A I R E B O O B B Y E R

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W R I T ER

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W R I T ER

W R I T ER

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You may want to check you’ve packed your noise-canceling headphones on your next trip to Bali. This year, Garuda Indonesia announced a series of ad-hoc live acoustic sessions on board its Jakarta to Denpasar flights. Aiming to attract a more millennial crowd, the in-flight concerts will be performed by up-and-coming young Indonesian musicians. Though the sets last just 10 to 15 minutes, the idea was largely criticized by Garuda’s fans, who felt the forced concerts would be an invasion of their personal time—and ears. Surprisingly, this concept is not new. Here are a few more in-flight jam sessions that have made airwaves in the past.

American Airlines was a pioneer in promoting live music high in the sky—in 1971 the company installed a piano bar in every plane’s coach lounge.

British band Jamiroquai set the original Guinness World Record of the highest concert in the sky, when it launched its album High Times during a flight between Munich and Athens at 35,000 feet. The record was later broken by James Blunt, who performed at 42,000 feet in 2010.

En route to Sydney from Brisbane in 2014, the cast of Broadway musical The Lion King broke into a spontaneous performance of the song “Circle of Life.”

India’s Jet Airways suspended five of its cabin crew in 2016 after they allowed Bollywood superstar Sonu Nigam to belt out one of his hits through the in-flight intercom.

Last year, Jetstar Japan and Joysound cheekily announced the launch of karaoke flights, complete with maracas and tambourines, and earplugs for begrudging passengers. Thankfully, it was all just a big April Fools’ joke.

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MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

FROM OCEAN ESCAPES TO CITY STAYS, WE’VE LOVED SEEING THE HOTELS THAT YOU’VE BEEN CHECKING INTO AROUND ASIA.

#TLASIA

T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N

Breakfast at Pullman Luang Prabang. By @wheremartawent.

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island blues. By @andredemello.

Flower power at Seminyak’s Aleva Villas. By @themerriedlife.

Skyline snacking at Aman Tokyo. By @neverendingtraveller. SHARE AN INSTAGRAM PHOTO BY USING THE #TLASIA HASHTAG, AND IT MAY BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING ISSUE. FOLLOW @TRAVELANDLEISUREASIA


EDITOR’S NOTE

The Garden Lounge at The Murray.

FROM MY TRAVELS

@CKucway chrisk@mediatransasia.com

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M A R C H 2 0 1 9 / T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

F R O M L E F T: I R FA N S A M A R T D E E ; C H R I S T O P H E R K U C WAY

ELCOME TO OUR 2019 HOTELS ISSUE, let me take your bag. You’ll need to have a seat so we can fill you in on all that is new around Asia, and there is a lot. Long gone are the days where a hotel or a resort is only a place to lay your weary head. In some instances around the region, the address is the destination for a long weekend. Think about it: a beyond-comfortable room; more than one great place to eat; a fitness center with steam rooms, Jacuzzis and a great pool; and a world-class spa. You can check in and, yes, never leave. Central to this month’s issue are the best new hotels on the planet, including a few stellar entries from Asia. “The It List 2019” (page 41) highlights 19 properties around the world but the complete collection of 74 can be found at tandl.me/it-list. Among the notable Asian entries are the Capella Ubud, Six Senses Duxton and Taj Exotica Resort & Spa. Elsewhere, we stop in at resorts both in Vietnam (“Touch the Sky,” page 22) and India (“Fit for a Raja,” page 76) that look to rework the past and inject them into the present as comfortable getaways with a difference. Off in the distant South Pacific, “My Kind of Paradise” (page 84) tours a series of next-level resorts in Fiji where personal wine fridges await and pertinent questions come in the form of, ‘Favorite cocktail?’ Admit it, you’re now glad you took a seat.

Among our editorial team, we can proudly say that, in the past year, we’ve been to eight of the hotels and resorts on this year’s It List, and it’s safe to say we were wowed at each of them. I checked in to The Murray (niccolohotels.com) in Hong Kong, a revamp of a 1960s architectural icon in that city and was impressed with how designers adapt to the constraints found with any such development. That, and I now know what OVT means. Old Valuable Tree, in case you were wondering.


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ART DIRECTOR DEPUT Y EDITOR FEATURES EDITOR SENIOR DESIGNER DIGITAL MEDIA EDITOR

Christopher Kucway Wannapha Nawayon Jeninne Lee-St. John Eloise Basuki Chotika Sopitarchasak Veronica Inveen

REGUL AR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGR APHERS Cedric Arnold, Kit Yeng Chan, Marco Ferrarese, Duncan Forgan, Lauryn Ishak, Grace Ma, Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Scott A. Woodward, Stephanie Zubiri CHAIRMAN PRESIDENT PUBLISHING DIRECTOR PUBLISHER DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER TRAFFIC MANAGER / DEPUTY DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER SALES DIRECTOR BUSINES S DE VELOPMENT MANAGER REGIONAL MANAGER CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PRODUCTION MANAGER CIRCUL ATION AS SISTANT

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj Robert Fernhout Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Varin Kongmeng Kin Kamarulzaman Leigha Proctor Paul Adams Gaurav Kumar Nuttha Tangpetch Yupadee Saebea

TR AVEL+LEISURE (USA) EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, NEWS, LUXURY, ST YLE

Jacqueline Gifford Meredith Long

MEREDITH PARTNERSHIPS, LICENSING & SYNDICATION (syndication@meredith.com) BUSINES S AFFAIRS DIRECTOR DIRECTOR, LICENSING OPER ATIONS EDITORIAL DIRECTOR E XECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONTENT MANAGEMENT

Tom Rowland Richard Schexnider Jack Livings Paul Ordonez

MEREDITH CHAIRMAN AND CEO PRESIDENT AND COO CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER E XECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENTS

Steve Lacy Tom Harty Alan Murray Brad Elders, Lauren Ezrol Klein

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®


REASONS TRAVEL NOW MARCH 2019

TO

T+L’s monthly selection of trip-worthy places, experiences and events. A temple skyline from the Namthip rice barge.

no.

1

Go on a sailing sojourn with these handpicked floating hotels.

C O U R T E S Y O F S E C R E T R E T R E AT S

They say it’s about the journey, not the destination. Well aware of this theory, Asia-based curated travel network Secret Retreats added several new independent luxury vessels to its Secret Cruises catalogue this year. Here are a few we can’t wait to jump aboard. Namthip Luxury Rice Barge, Thailand Cruise from Bangkok to the former Thai royal capital, Ayutthaya, in this remodeled traditional cargo barge with just two decadently appointed cabins and a wooden deck with intimate dining area. secret-retreats.com/namthip; day cruise for up to four people from Bt120,000; overnight cruise for up to four people from Bt150,000, including dinner.

Ginger Junk, Vietnam This modernized Indo-Chinese wooden junk boat takes to the dramatic waters of Halong Bay as well as quieter Lan Ha Bay. The ship features 12 spacious, modern suites with Vietnamese designs, a terrace restaurant, a relaxing spa and an on-deck Jacuzzi-pool. secret-retreats. com/ginger; one-night low-season cruise from US$231.

Sequoia Yacht, Indonesia Charter this elegant, eco-friendly (there’s no single-use plastic or palm oil products on board) private yacht around the seas of Eastern Indonesia—Komodo, Sulawesi, the Banda Islands, Raja Ampat and more. Its three suites will fit up to six people. secret-retreats.com/sequoia; one- to two-person sailings from US$5,500 per night. — ELOISE BASUKI

TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / MARCH 2019

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Dragon-boat racing gets a pachyderm twist in this fundraiser for Thailand’s rescued elephants. You may have noticed that Anantara has a thing for pachyderms. This month they’re launching new parties in their honor, to raise money for the Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, a non-profit that rescues the animals and provides housing, health care and insurance for the mahouts and their families. On March 13, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Chiang Rai will host a fête, market and elephant walks. Then, in Bangkok on the weekend of March 29–31, dragon-boat racing teams will descend on the Chao Phraya River for a regatta in special boats adorned with wooden elephant heads. Ashore, join a dry-dock rowing competition, or enjoy an Old Siam–themed Ladies Day, concerts, champagne tents and more. bangkokriver festival.com; tickets Bt200 per person, per day; VIP tickets Bt3,000 per person, per day, including free-flow drinks and snacks. — E.B.

Watch the fast and furious races from the riverbank.

At Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp.

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Hangzhou’s heritage temple quarters is a hostel you’ll actually want to stay in. Next to Hangzhou’s UNESCO-listed West Lake, Inlake Hostel is not your average backpacker bunker. In the historic grounds of a former temple, the hostel’s rooms are refurbished dormitories, where emperors once stayed on pilgrimages. The actual temple didn’t survive the pillage of the Cultural Revolution, but its dormitory was left among the ruins and still maintains stone images of Buddha and original altars. Now, these dorms (which offer both private king and twin rooms, plus two six-bunk rooms) provide a stay steeped in this history; three original scripture verses penned by the Qin Emperor are preserved at its entrance. The project of a former art director named Xue Li, the 15 minimalist rooms have wooden accents and custom furniture that spell more boutique hotel than hostel. The spacious rooms are awash with Japanese and Scandinavian sensibilities and hit the spot for design buffs looking for a different experience in this charming cultural city. inlake-hostel.hangzhouhotel.org; doubles from RMB1,280. — JULIANA LOH

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F R O M TO P : C O U RT ESY O F A N A N TA R A ( 2 ) ; C O U RT ESY O F I N L A K E H O ST E L

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Add a once-in-a-lifetime experience to luxury stays across Asia. With their Hong Kong and Bangkok properties opening this month (see page 35 for more on the latter), Rosewood Hotels have their sights set firmly on Asia; Guangzhou and Rangoon are also in the pipeline this year. Channeling their “Sense of Place” mandate, the boutique hotel group’s 12 Days of Rosewood experience packages offer chances to explore with local communities and global personalities.

Hong Kong

Here’s a two-stop package that puts style mavens on the catwalk. In Hong Kong, take a behind-thescenes visit to the atelier of local designer Anaïs Jourden Mak and receive a bespoke creation by Anaïs; at Paris Fashion Week, sit pretty in front-row seats at the Anaïs Jourden show, with backstage access. Accommodations include two-night stays at both Rosewood Hong Kong and Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, in Paris, plus designated culinary experiences in both cities.

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Chef Nak at Rosewood Phnom Penh.

rosewoodhotels.com/ hong-kong; from HK$738,682 including two nights in Hong Kong and two nights in Paris; valid from April 1, through February 28, 2020; e-mail hongkong.reservations@ rosewoodhotels.com. Phnom Penh

This three-part journey starts by going back to school: join John Wood, founder of literacy charity Room to Read, and speak to students in his foundation’s program. Next, board the Khmer Magic Music Bus with

John Wood and students in his literacy program.

Phlouen Prim, from Cambodian Living Arts, as it spreads traditional music around the countryside, plus learn to play local instruments and perform a Cambodian folk dance. Lastly, take part in a Khmer cooking class with chef Nak in her traditional wooden house on the Mekong. rosewood hotels.com/phnom-penh; from US$6,980, including a four-night stay, through December 31; e-mail phnompenh.reservations@ rosewoodhotels.com. Luang Prabang

Embark on a soulful journey in the former royal Laos capital. Start with a personal treatment by venerated traditional healer Mr. Xong, who uses ancient Hmong herbal remedies. Take part in a private meditation session in a sacred shrine with one of the most revered monks in Laos. And go foraging with Rosewood Luang Prabang culinary director Sebastien Rubis, plus farmers and members of local hill-

tribes, before a culinary masterclass and royal Laotian banquet. rosewood hotels.com/luang-prabang; from US$5,480, including a three-night stay; valid through December 1; book three months in advance; e-mail luangprabang@ rosewoodhotels.com. Sanya

Surfing will debut at the Tokyo Olympics next year, and going for gold at the inaugural competition is rising Chinese star Xinrui Wang. Training regularly in Sanya, home to China’s best surf breaks, Xinrui is offering exclusive one-onone lessons for guests of Rosewood Sanya. The surf pro will bestow a mix of useful theory and practical instruction personalized to each guest’s experience level, so even beginners can learn to approach a wave. rosewoodhotels.com/ sanya; from RMB45,888, including a three-night stay, through December 31; e-mail sanya. reservations@rosewood hotels.com. — E.B.

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Touch the Sky Following the well-trod pilgrim path to Vietnam’s most spiritual peak, Eloise Basuki spends a few nights at Yen Tu mountain’s new designer resort, a sprawling palace that honors the mountain’s regal history. PHOTOGRAPHED BY LEIGH GRIFFITHS

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FROM LEFT: One of the entrances to the 13th-century-style complex; lotus flowers are a common motif used in the Legacy Yen Tu; walls in the hotel’s waiting area are clad in clay and rice husks. OPPOSITE: The copper effigy of the Enlightened King meditates on Yen Tu’s peak.

IN 300 B.C., A HERMIT MONK named An Ky Sinh hiked to the top of Yen Tu mountain in search of eternal life. He came to the right place: More than 400 varieties of medicinal herbs grow in these forested hills in northeast Vietnam. Though An Ky Sinh never found the immortal mix, up on Yen Tu’s peak, 1,068 meters above sea level and just an hour from legendary Halong Bay, he did find enlightenment. Soon, more spiritual explorers journeyed to the region, the most significant of whom was King Tran Nhan Tong. The 13th-century king had brought harmony to the country after successfully ousting Mongol invaders, but by 1299 he sought a different kind of peace—he renounced his throne to embark on a more spiritual life, and chose sacred Yen Tu as his new home. Here, crowned with an affectionate new nickname, “the Enlightened King,” Tran Nhan Tong launched the first Vietnamese sect of Buddhism called Truc Lam. The monk built pagodas, shrines and temples on the mountains slopes, establishing Yen Tu as an essential religious site for the country’s Buddhists. These days, one million pilgrims trek this mountain

every year; during Tet more than 50,000 people climb to the top each day. But on this day, a wintry November afternoon, it’s just me, a few woollen-hatwearing nuns and my guide, Camellia Dinh from Tung Lam, the private development company that installed the cable cars on Yen Tu 14 years ago. Tung Lam has done more than just make the mountain more accessible (the cable cars cut a 30-kilometer hike down to a 15-minute ride). Last year the group developed a sprawling accommodation complex at the base, offering pilgrims—and tourists like me—a place to stay that feels almost as hallowed as Yen Tu itself: a replica 13th-century palace. The reverence is a credit to Tung Lam’s chairman, Bui Dinh Tuan, whose specific vision for his hotel—that it must reflect the spirituality of the destination—saw nine different architects and their designs rejected: towering glass skyscrapers were too modern in this ancient land; 600-room monsters lacked charm and personality. Finally, Tuan was introduced to Bill Bensley, the Bangkok-based

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designer who has become hoteliers’ go-to for resorts that require authentic character. Bensley’s winning idea turned the former carpark space into an ode to the Enlightened King: a traditional village offers US$15 monasterylike dorms for pilgrims; a central field and vast pavilion can hold events for up to 8,000 people; and a 133-room M Gallery hotel, Legacy Yen Tu, treats guests like royalty in the palatial rooms of the “king’s residence.” Though the cable car quickly brings me back down to earth, entering the hotel still feels like I’m in another world. This is more than just a property with a sense of place; it’s a trip back in time.

The final cable car leg that hovers high above dense bamboo groves and ancient pine forests is swift, and nerve-wracking

MY JOURNEY TO the Chua Dong pagoda, the tiny

but venerated copper temple that clutches the craggy peak of Yen Tu Mountain, has left me breathless. Granted, the two cable car tracks do most of the grunt work (the sheer final leg that hovers high above dense bamboo groves and ancient pine forests is particularly swift, and nerve-wracking), but it’s still a steep and sweaty 900-meter hike to the summit from the final station. I barely catch my breath admiring Chua Dong, known as the spiritual home of Truc Lam, before we start the downward trek along a rocky trail to say a quick prayer to the ancient statue of An Ky Sinh, and the towering copper figure of the meditating Enlightened King (I’m told he’ll grant you financial success if you make it up to meet him). While the trek defeats me—the nuns, of course, don’t seem to break a sweat—these extra exertions are intentionally left for the pilgrims’ benefit. “The chairman wanted to keep it a spiritual experience,” says Markus Hesse, Legacy Yen Tu’s general manager. “He didnt

FROM LEFT: At the Truc Lam meditation center, agarwood incense is lit to purify the soul; seven-vegetable pho at the Legacy's

Tho Quang restaurant; located in the village, Nha Hang Cho Que restaurant is a more casual, diner-style eatery.

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want a cable car straight from the bottom to the top—you’re there in five minutes, take a selfie and then head back down. He wanted people to still experience the pilgrimage.” It’s something that even I, just an observer, can appreciate: Dinh offers me a sip of the holy water that flows into the small, mid-mountain Mot Mai temple built into the rock; I make a blessing at the incense-clouded Long Tien pagoda; and try my luck with the king’s effigy, crossing my fingers for a raise (though I’m enlightened enough in the ways of the modern magazine industry not to bet on it). The views itself are worth the trek, but as my calves begin to cramp I’m thankful that my room back at the Legacy has been designed to be a place of respite. I’m staying in a deluxe room on the upper floor, which looks over the inner field to the village and the palace gardens. In spring highland streams trickle into a moat, and the bordering trees burst into a golden bloom of yellow apricot blossoms, one of the ancient native trees that are found on Yen Tu. My room is peaceful not just for the watercolor-paintingview I take in from my balcony, the heavy wooden doors, or the flickering ceiling lights set in traditional urns. But also because there’s no TV. Tuan and Bensley agreed that there was no need for outside entertainment at a serene place like this. “We are the first Accor hotel out of 4,500 to not offer TVs in the rooms,” Hesse says. “At first I wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but I haven’t had a single complaint. You’re not going to come to a place like this and then sit in your room and watch a movie on HBO.” Bensley may be famous for his out-of-theordinary designs (a fictitious university–themed resort on Phu Quoc; a zip line to enter his new tented camp in Cambodia) but Legacy Yen Tu feels purposefully, and delightfully, restrained. The whitewashed palace walls remain unadorned for the winter moss to decorate naturally. The curved black roof tiles were manufactured to match those on the mountain’s modest pagodas. Obviously, though, restraint does not translate into boredom. Interior walls are a traditional mix of clay and rice husks to keep the foundations dry. The bathroom sink, made from central Vietnam white marble, is shaped like a blooming lotus flower. And take a closer look at the floor tiles. Engravings on those in the hall were hand-etched by local artisans, and—my favorite touch—on some of the tiles in my room, which were handmade by a local Yen Tu potter, you can spot stray paw prints from the craftsman’s cats.

FROM TOP: The cable car offers scenic views of the mountain and its

many pagodas; the Legacy’s hotel rooms are overlooked by Yen Tu mountain; rooms feature handcrafted tiles and hessian walls.

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FROM TOP: A royal entrance to the Yen Tu palace complex; the café and

bar at Legacy Yen Tu shows off designer Bill Bensley’s signature style; head to the village square for a nightly traditional dance performance.

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Bensley’s fingerprints, meanwhile, are all over the public areas. Bright fuchsia lounges and embroidered silk pillows sit within a lobby clad in orange hessian rice-sacks and crowned with vibrant Asian artwork. In the bar (though more café than cocktail lounge, to fit the Buddhist surrounds), a painting of the “Tiger Queen,” who I’m told resembles the Enlightened King’s beautiful fourth wife, overlooks a mottled bronze bar, cartoonish tiger rugs, and oversized four-poster lounges. At the hotel’s Tho Quang restaurant, buffet breakfast is served on rustic-looking wooden cabinets, with regal, though slightly dysfunctional, throne-like chairs. Of course any good queen must keep in touch with the common folk, so I leave my palace quarters for the five-minute walk from the hotel to the Hang Huong village across the field. Low-season makes the empty village seem a little theme-parkish, but the food is still the real deal. For lunch I eat country-style Tien Yen salted chicken and fermented Yen Tu bamboo shoot at Nha Hang Cho Que restaurant, finishing with a thimble of local apricot wine. Cultural activities feel authentic, too. In the evening, I huddle among a small audience in the village center, and watch a troupe of giggling local teens—many of them hotel staff—perform traditional dances. On another night, I visit the village’s meditation center and learn Truc Lam Zen meditation from one of the masters, who tells me the local agarwood incense smoking by my feet cleanses the soul. But the most significant wellness draw here is yet to come. Opening later this year, Legacy Yen Tu’s 2,240-square-meter spa is set to be another pilgrimage of sorts, as you’ll almost certainly find Zen after a visit. Centering on a digital-detox theme, the complex will be Wi-Fi-free: drop your phone at the door and wander to the brick hammam; get scrubbed with a bamboo-charcoal exfoliant; and unwind in a singing-bowl bath, releasing tension with the help of melodies that vibrate underwater. The spa will be a hands-free space, so while relaxing oil massages are not on the menu, aura therapy, jade facials and wood tapping offer alternative treatments. I’m keen to soak in the herbal bath, which Hesse tells me will be made up of the medicinal plants An Ky Sinh searched for all those years ago. Yes, I know, a steaming herbal infusion is not going to grant me a life everlasting, but I’m thinking a trip here will surely extend it. accorhotels.com; doubles from VND2,700,000.


WHERE FAMILY TIME IS AS MAGICAL AS THE SUNSET. bruneitourism.com

The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Jerudong


AT T H E TA B L E

Royal Revival

Famous for dishing up award-winning Thai cuisine, the chef at the helm of Michelin-starred Paste Bangkok has ventured to the other side of the Mekong, offering reimagined takes on the traditional royal cuisine of her Lao heritage. Claire Boobbyer finds past meets present on the menu at this elegant new outpost in Luang Prabang.

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THOSE IN THE KNOW have always talked up Lao food for its marriage of balanced flavors—more savory than sweet, intense use of fragrant herbs, and unusual tastes such as moreish bualo-skin paste and sundried river algae. Internationally, however, it simmers under the radar. Search for Lao cuisine on Amazon, say, and Hawker Fare, the book by Michelin twostarred Lao-American chef James Syhabout appears, but little else. Lower down the >>

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The signature duck curry at Paste Laos.


AT T H E TA B L E

ranks, a title with a monotone jacket is listed. Unlike contemporary cookbooks with graphic covers so alluring they’re good enough to eat, it’s this, the unassuming Traditional Recipes of Laos by Phia Sing, that’s behind the opening of Luang Prabang’s new Paste Laos, the country’s first restaurant with Michelin-starred chefs in the kitchen. Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun and her Australian chef husband Jason Bailey’s Paste Bangkok has held a star since the Michelin Guide launched in Thailand in 2017; and Bee was voted Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2018. It was time for a new challenge. First published in 1981, Traditional Recipes of Laos features handwritten recipes by Sing, who was the former chef and master of ceremonies at the Royal Palace. When communist forces entered Vientiane in 1975, the British ambassador to Laos, Alan Davidson, photocopied the royal recipes, loaned to him by Crown Prince Vong Savang, and promised Sing’s widow, then still living in Luang Prabang, he would publish a book. Fast-forward two generations and enter British hotelier Ivan Scholte, who was so impressed with Paste Bangkok’s Thai heritage and aristocratic-influenced menu he invited its chefs to take over the restaurant at his Apsara Hotel in Luang Prabang. After research and conversations with Ivan, Jason turfed up Sing’s cookbook, which inspired Bee to continue Sing’s culinary legacy, reimagining his traditional recipes for contemporary tastes.

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Despite her Lao heritage—her father is Hmong, her mother, from the Lao Wiang ethnic group—Bee had never set foot in Laos before this venture. Her great-grandparents had moved to Thailand fleeing tribal warfare, her parents had never been back, and she’d not considered a trip until Ivan invited her. “Lao food is still unknown,” Bee says, “and many haven’t heard of Phia Sing. We’ve updated his recipes for the modern palate keeping 80 percent of the original idea and ingredients.” Within the upscale, white-tablecloth Paste Laos dining room in the riverside Apsara Hotel, an exotic wallpaper adorned with mythical plumed birds and flowering trees looks over diners. Foodies familiar with traditional Lao cuisine must absorb the backstory to understand what underpins the restaurant’s dishes. Diners may expect certain flavors or aesthetics, but Paste Laos introduces unexpected nuanced twists on common plates. Take the conventional Luang Prabang salad, made of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, watercress, peanuts and hardboiled egg with a sweet-sour dressing featuring fish sauce. Here, the salad is significantly tweaked and textured with quail eggs, crunchy greens, lightly tart curry sauce and silken salmon roe. The sour river-fish soup is exquisite: wafer-thin slips of tender tilapia float in a soup packed with herbs and flavored with fermented Lao fish sauce (pa dek), and decorated with a pretty and peppery young tamarind leaf. Bee reinterprets Sing’s Lao duck curry by slow-cooking the succulent duck with young coconut, curry paste and shards of taro, adding dill, Chinese cabbage flower and pink hummingbird flower petals on top. The original curry paste and powder were short on ingredients. Bee adds garlic, lemongrass, galangal, fennel and nutmeg to the original recipe’s dried chili and shallot for greater depth of flavor, plus fresh tomato puree (something Sing included in a second duck curry recipe marked “French-style”). Sing’s recipe was most likely heavy with its featured 10 potatoes, but Bee swaps the tuber for taro, a different texture and a lighter, sweeter note. Bee credits meticulous ingredient research—the perfectly aged coconut for cream; using Lao galangal and Lao sugar, both more intense in flavor than Thai verisons; foraging for fragrant herbs and flowers—as the strength of her new culinary adventure. Laos is gifted with an abundant natural larder, and, like Sing before her, Bee is carrying on an ancient tradition—both of which couldn’t be more of the moment in the food world. pastelaos.com; mains from LAK187,000; set menus from LAK385,000, two-person minimum.

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FROM TOP: The Yum Yai salad, featuring pork belly, dried squid, crab, riverweed, and egg floss, was inspired by a Phia Sing recipe; Chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun; the restaurant’s polished interior.


NE X T ACT

Test the Waters

C O URT ESY OF T H E DATA I L A N GK AWI

The Datai Langkawi has reopened after an extensive renovation and the astute realization that the modern traveler’s greatest luxury is learning to commune with nature. On a wellness sojourn, Jeninne Lee-St. John finds the best of intentions under the rainforest canopy.

Without a fourth wall, treatment rooms in The Datai spa are built for forest-bathing.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: One of The Datai’s two main pools fronts a swath of its white-sand parabola; The Gulai House serves traditional Malaysian fare in a specialoccasion setting; a refurbished spa villa; a one-bedroom beach villa; The Pavilion serves Thai cuisine up in the trees; a Canopy Deluxe room.

Emoto. The Japanese alternativemedicine guru believed in the effect of human consciousness on water. He claimed that when he exposed water to positive ideas (the word “angel;” a photo of dolphins) then froze it, the molecules formed beautiful crystals. Water exposed to negative ideas (“you disgust me;” heavy metal music) and then frozen became ugly blobs. You can find his microscopic photographs online, and—since our bodies are about 60 percent water—they seem to make a compelling aesthetic argument for all of us to think happier thoughts. Emoto’s theory has never been scientifically proven and plenty of skeptics call him a crank. But the idea of the power of intent pervades the wellness industry. Sankalpa is a yoga term for a solemn vow, a resolution of the heart and mind, an ideal way you want to be; references in Sanskrit date back 3,000 years but it has burst into the mainstream recently. That meditation app on your phone? Those elementary school kids in mindfulness class? That’s all about intention. The Datai Langkawi has intention in its DNA. When it first opened 25 years ago, the resort was ahead of its

THE DATAI OCCUPIES an enviable swath of land on northward Datai Bay, a deep cove protected from the open ocean. This white parabola with its flat, pale-turquoise waters is an easy layup for the sundry best-beaches-inthe-world lists on which it ranks. It looks like the gods built it for paddleboarding; I teach my normally timorous mom to stand and soon

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PERHAPS YOU’VE HEARD of Masaru

time in environmental responsibility. Original architect Kerry Hill is said to have been so awed walking in its pristine rainforest he wasn’t sure he sure he should move a single stone. For every tree they felled to build the property, they immediately planted a new one, and they set the main building up on a bluff away from the beach to show off the view, emphasize the mystique and, most importantly, preserve the virgin land as it had been for 10 million years. Langkawi’s original grande dame closed in 2017 for renovations. When it reopened in December with redone villas and suites and a new five-bedroom estate villa for your group travel needs, plus a new nature center to encourage forest-bathing, a permaculture garden to promote sustainable eating, and a wellness program all about living your best life by listening to your body’s needs and imbuing your cells with good intent, well, it was clear that this Datai is using even deeper sankalpa than before.


she’s zooming so far out to the depths that I wonder if she’s heading for the Thai islands in the distance. Facing shore, I admire not only the lushness that envelops the property (you can barely pick out any buildings among the brush) but also the hustle and laze of a beach resort completely in its groove. It’s a healthy living organism. The hotel has barely reopened, but everyone is behaving like they’ve been playing their roles for a generation. Which, I find out, they have. Many of the familial staff who deliver my iced lattes in minichillers or make the rounds with complimentary cocktails have been here from the beginning. And while I find it easy to make myself at home on the elevated daybed I claim every day, for many, this place truly is their (second) home. Thirty-eight percent of guests are repeats, and the average number of visits among them is five. So, when sprucing up their ecosystem, The Datai was intent on evolving organically. Their greening efforts go far beyond the new nature center with its resident naturalist and the coral-preservation and -rehab program. They bottle their own water (infused with happy thoughts), they buy their seafood direct from local fishermen (who, when they cruised up one afternoon, had all the chefs actually skipping down to the beach), and they’ve created a permaculture garden to work towards zero-waste food production. Permaculture, said Bill Mollison, one of the Tasmanian environmental scientists who came up with the idea, “is a philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” Take that holistic perspective and apply it to the human body and that is The Datai’s phytobiology- and inner truth–based wellness philosophy. It’s an effort to Masaru Emoto your insides. Is this new-age

SITTING ON THE PORCH UNDER THE TREE CANOPY, SUNLIGHT PEEKING THROUGH THE TREES, A MONKEY PAYING WITNESS FROM ABOVE, I RECEIVE MY MANDI EMBUN kookery dressed up as science? I don’t know. But the diverse experts the resort has brought in to fix my body, mind and soul certainly have me happy to drink the Kool-Aid. A COUPLE DOZEN people who have flown in from all over the world are sitting in the nature center sniffing unmarked vials of serum. We are each asked which of the five most appeals to us, and then are given a bottle of it without explanation. I’m feeling a bit like a rebel and a bit left out when the blue bottle I’ve selected seems so unpopular while the red bottles are nearly all snapped up. Then Camille Blardone, CEO of Laboratoire Gibro S.A. in Switzerland, which makes the Phyto 5 skincare line, says, “The five scents are calibrated to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) elements, and address our individual physical and emotional needs.” He goes on, wiping the sweat pouring from his brow, “Here we are on this beautiful island. Of course, many of you picked the fire serum. Hot climates unbalance your fire energy. We need to cool you down.” Glancing around

the room, I realize that nearly everyone who has come here from the European winter has a red bottle in front of them. The handful of us who live in Southeast Asia have bottles of other colors—presumably because we are already acclimated to the tropics. Camille shows us Emoto’s water photographs, and says the water forming the base of his Phyto 5 products—a plant-based amalgam of TCM, ancient beliefs and modern tech—comes from a pure spring in

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shy dusky leaf monkeys throughout the property; the new nature center is the launch point for exploration; the Beach Bar.

Switzerland’s verdant, unpolluted Jura mountains, where their lab is and where his family has a fairytale cottage in which they can immerse in the change of seasons. Abdul Ghani Hussain is a Western-trained doctor who helped create The Datai’s new wellness program. His grandparents were traditional Malay healers, but he only dove deep into the subject when he realized his wife was allergic to many medicines in his clinic. He allies Camille’s Swiss experience with the tropical island we’re on today. The Internet may tell you that forest-bathing began in Japan in the 1980s, but rainforestdwellers have been doing it from time immemorial. Back in the day, Dr. Ghani says, Malays rose at 4 a.m. to perform stretching and breathing rituals to activate their earth, water, fire and wind elements within. They’d say prayers and then go into the forest for their mandi embun— literally, bathing in the morning dew. “The dew helps strengthen the body and the skin. After years of doing this, warriors would not get cut in battle,” Dr. Ghani says. “We are trying to recreate that environment.” My indoor/outdoor treatment room in The Datai spa feels like an

equatorial onsen combined with a scenic-vista rest stop. There is no fourth wall; the soundtrack is birdsong and a bubbling stream. My bespoke Phyto 5 facial is built on my scent selection (metal), my desired emotional state (picked from a set of sankalpa-style cards: “confidence,” “zentitude,” etc.), and the therapist’s assessment of what my skin needs. “Treatments are only effective if they’re made for you,” Camille had said. The Phyto 5 line has more than 100 products, and each person uses no fewer than 24 per multisensory spa journey that includes biostimulation and light therapy. “The treatment tries to put you in a state of happiness to receive the healing properties,” Camille told me —which puts a lot of pressure on the other person in the room. “Yes, it’s also a journey for your therapist. So, they need to have a strong chi. In training, they spend a lot of time learning to stimulate the magnetic field of the body. We teach them how to maintain a positive state of mind.” Sitting on the porch under the tree canopy, sunlight peeking through the leaves, a monkey paying witness from a high branch, I receive my mandi embun. “The simple ritual of the flower bath is about releasing bad spirits out of your system,” Dr. Ghani had told me. “We believe in the effect of thought on water.” My therapist asks me to close my eyes and consider my intention—what is it I want to be? Then he solemnly pours petal-filled water on me. It is so soothing, almost meditative, and for some reason when the water washes down my right arm I shed the tiniest of tears. Goodbye dystopian nightmare-scape negative-thought water. Here in the heart of the rainforest, I feel awash in exquisite snowflakes. thedatai.com; rates from RM7,500 for a double room to RM90,000 for The Datai Estate villa. Malaysia Airlines flies to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur with many daily connections to other cities in Asia; malaysiaairlines.com.

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C O URT ESY OF T H E DATA I L A N GK AWI ( 3)

NE X T ACT


DEBUT

Higher Ground

The sleek and stylish new Rosewood Bangkok has a warm welcome built into its architecture. Here are some of the glammest angles of the latest skyscraping five-star in the Thai capital. PHOTOGRAPHED BY SCOTT A. WOODWARD

The Chinese restaurant, Nan Bei, was designed by AvroKO. Printed top, trousers and Chinese handheld fan, Sretsis; crystal earrings, Milin; heels, Jimmy Choo.

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DEBUT

A private dining room in Nan Bei restaurant. Dress and crystal earrings, Milin. LEFT: Strutting into the lobby. Jumpsuit and golden starfish earrings, Sretsis; heels, Jimmy Choo. WHEN YOU DESIGN AN ENTIRE HOTEL around the wai, the Thai hand-gesture of greeting,

you set a pretty high standard for the welcome to be expected within. Rosewood Bangkok is now receiving guests in the heart of the capital, and whether you arrive via the expressway off-ramps from both city airports or the integrated walkway to the Skytrain, you sense that your personal convenience, comfort and style have always been top of mind. The residential feel that pervades the 159-room tower is best exemplified by the 23 suites and villas on high, four with private pools, all of which we’d happily move into. Among the on-trend drinking and dining venues are a speakeasy with 6,000 vinyl records for guests to play DJ, and an organic, locavore, farm-to-table café that healthily complements the holistic spa reviving the beauty rituals and lost remedies of ancient Siam. A waterfall that runs for 11 floors through the hotel’s interior and winds up at the saltwater lap pool pays tribute to the riverine and canal culture of Bangkok. Surely, this is what they mean by “sense of place.” rosewoodhotels.com; doubles from Bt9,500.

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MODEL: Kiana Treaster @WM Management; STYLIST: Saranya Ariyakul; HAIR AND MAKEUP:

Thapakornbhat Yu-vanich;

PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT:

Jakarpong Chumneankul.

The main saltwater pool. Dress and crystal earrings, Milin; heels, Jimmy Choo. BELOW: Relaxing in a Pool Sky Villa. Dress, Disaya; crystal earrings, Milin; heels, Christian Louboutin.


SPOTLIGHT

Modern Medina

Once a bolt-hole for beatnik artists and writers, the Moroccan city of Tangier has always nourished a creative vibe. As a new generation evolve the quirky laneways with hip new hangouts and collaborative design boutiques, Rachna Sachasinh finds the free-spirited North African port is shining anew.

Tangier’s historic medina.

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Tangier, not far from where William S. Burroughs wrote much of Naked Lunch, textile artist Nina MohammadGalbert led me through the stacks of vintage Beni Ourain and boucherouite rugs that line her studio. MohammadGalbert runs Artisan Project (artisan projectinc.com), a textile brand and sourcing company for Moroccan wares. She recently relocated to Tangier after seven years in Fez. “This city constantly draws in new perspectives,” she said. “The vibe here invites creativity.” Tangier’s notoriety peaked in the years following World War II, when it was a demilitarized zone that seduced spies, artists and the jet set. But by the 1980s, the flow of foreign visitors and the money they brought with them had dried up. Now, after decades of neglect, the city is showing signs of renewal. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI mandated a cleanup of the historic medina, commissioned a tree-lined waterfront promenade, and installed a modern port fit for cruise ships and yachts. An ambitious highspeed railway to Casablanca started running in December, slashing travel time between the cities from five hours to two. Tangier at last seems poised for another heyday. On my visit, I strolled the medina and admired the Art Deco buildings along the boulevards of Ville Nouvelle. Everywhere, I found Tangier doing what it does best: giving newcomers and natives room to create. A prime example is Atelier Kissaria (atelierkissaria.com), a workshop and gallery where printmakers collaborate with traditional weavers, ceramists and embroiderers, applying a modern design sensibility to classic Moroccan crafts. “Tangier is moving forward

R A FA E L I A S / G E T T Y I M A G E S

IN A FRENCH DECO BUILDING in


Intricate design at Hotel NordPinus Tanger.

fast,” artistic director Hicham Bouzid told me. “We want to show that the slow, old-fashioned approach is still relevant.” Getting lost in the casbah’s bougainvillea-strewn lanes led me to more retail discoveries, including Au Fil de Tanger (26 Rue Ben Abbou; 212/61067-7213), where artisans embroider handmade linen caftans. At KMcouleurs (19 Rue Ben Ajiba; 212/5399-39505), Senegalese designer Karim Legros sells kaleidoscopic African wax-print djellabas, babouches and accessories. A few alleys over, a new addition, Galerie Conil (fb.com/galerieconil), deals in avant-garde artwork that reflects on the country’s migrant crisis. A short walk south brought me to Mimi Calpe (mimicalpe.com; doubles from DH1,019), a 19th-century French-style villa that was transformed into a hotel two years ago. Its high walls conceal a verdant garden and swimming pool; inside, the six sun-soaked rooms have verandas that overlook the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s an understated alternative to ornate properties like Hotel Nord-Pinus Tanger (nord-pinustanger.com; doubles from DH2,048), which draws the modern beau monde with its whitewashed terraces, refined

FROM TOP: THIERRY ARENSMA; COURTESY OF GALERIE CONIL

Galerie Conil, a contemporary art venue in Tangier.

Maghrebi interiors, and potent cocktails. You can find traces of an earlier Tangier at Aux 3 Portes (aux3portes.com; doubles from DH1,523), the home turned hotel of a French interior designer. With its kidney-shaped pool and hodgepodge of textiles and curios, the nine-room hideaway feels like a throwback to the boho salons of the 1940s. Tangier’s old-school haunts still draw a crowd. Tourists and Tanjawis alike flock to the 98-year-old Gran Café de Paris (1 Place de France; 212/5399-38444) and the nearby Librairie des Colonnes (librairie-descolonnes.org), a onetime favorite of literary giants like Jean Genet and Truman Capote. Near Bab Haha, the

casbah’s northern gate, I wedged myself into Les Fils du Détroit (fb.com/ lesfilsdudetroittanger), a tiny music venue where I sipped mint tea as the septuagenarian house band belted traditional Andalusian ballads, a routine its members have kept up for 30 years. At dusk one evening, I followed the lead of the locals, many of whom make a nightly ritual of walking toward the sultan’s old palace to watch the sun set before strolling to the medina for a bite. At Syrian diner Abou Tayssir (11 Rue d’Italie; 212/645-811-609; mains from DH57), soft, smoky, tandoor-fired pitas were a perfect foil to crispy falafel and tangy hummus. Wellheeled Tanjawis slunk into the piano bar at El Morocco Club (elmoroccoclub. ma; mains from DH123) for aperitifs followed by saffron couscous and chermoula-stuffed sardines; the menu was developed in part by chef Meryem Cherkaoui, the matron of Moroccan ancestral gastronomy. The most talked-about arrival is Macondo Tanger (fb.com/macondotanger; mains from DH57), a Mediterranean spot with house-made pastas and 360-degree views. “Tanjawis are less about the bottom line and more about joie de vivre,” Mohammad-Galbert told me. It’s true. Tangier is still a place that indulges romantics and rebels, where innovation and tradition are embraced in equal measure. The high-speed train may be pushing the city into the future, but Tangier’s spell is timeless.

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COURTESY OF CAPELLA UBUD

THE IT LIST 2019

THE BEST NEW (AND REBORN) HOTELS IN THE WORLD

Every year, T+L editors reach out to our network of hospitality professionals, trusted writers and hotel addicts in search of the finest new (and newly reimagined) properties around the globe. Then we log tens of thousands of miles checking in to dozens of them, from far-flung islands to mountain lodges (and this year, for our It List, more than one renovated church). Here, 19 of our favorites—find the full collection for 2019 at tandl.me/it-list. Edited by Lila Battis, Siobhan Reid and Hannah Walhout

Hidden in the wilds of Bali, Capella Ubud.

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QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE

I N DON E SI A

Hotel designer Bill Bensley has dreamed up some of Southeast Asia’s most glamorous resorts, but his favorite travel memories are those of childhood camping trips. That love of nature, along with Bensley’s obsession with old-world style, informed his vision for the first Balinese property from the Singapore-based Capella Hotel Group. The result is 23 of the most lavish and fantastical tents ever conceived, complete with copper tubs,

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saltwater pools and suspension bridges. Each has a theme— the Librarian’s Tent, the Cartographer’s Tent—and is outfitted with rich textiles and antiques from the owner’s collection. The scenery is immersive: Bensley didn’t cut down a single tree on the resort’s four hectares of rainforest and rice terraces. And then there’s Ubud, Bali’s cultural center, which is a mere 20-minute drive away—that is, if you can bear to leave the Capella’s little piece of paradise. capellahotels.com; doubles from $838. — GISELLA WILLIAMS

*Prices throughout are listed in U.S. dollars for ease of comparison.

C O URT ESY OF CA PE LL A U BU D

Capella Ubud, Bali


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FANTASY ISL AND

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Andamans I N DI A

Most island hotels boast about their seclusion, but the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, set on Havelock Island in India’s far-flung Andaman Islands, doesn’t need to bother. The journey to this 54-suite hotel on a remote archipelago usually includes an international flight, a domestic flight and a ferry ride, but the trek pays off when you arrive. Concealed in the rainforest on the edge of Rhadanagar Beach, Taj Exotica was built to accommodate its surroundings, with endemic plants and 13 hectares of untouched mangrove forest punctuating the 18-hectare site, as well as an organic garden that supplies the property’s three restaurants. The eco-friendly villas are constructed from palmilla and coconut wood and raised on stilts—a nod to the traditional homes of the Andamans’ indigenous people. The ocean is mere steps away for easy access to kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling, and though you can’t see the beach from your suite, you can hear the rolling of the waves from almost every corner of the resort. tajhotels.com; doubles from $461. — MARY HOLL AND

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MERCHANT MANOR

Six Senses Duxton

F RO M L E F T : C O URT ESY O F TA J EXOT ICA R ES O RT & S PA ; COU RTESY O F S IX S E N SES HOTE LS RESO RTS

SI NG A POR E

A study in updated nostalgia, the first urban hotel from the wellness-focused brand is a natural fit for Duxton Hill, where steely towers loom over Chinatown shophouses. Among them is this refitted row of several designed by London hotelier (and 1960s Bond girl) Anouska Hempel, who kept their intimate feel intact. Behind the stunning original façades, interiors echo Singapore’s unique heritage: Chinese screens and calligraphy-patterned wallpaper, Portuguese shutters, Malay woodwork. In collaboration with the TCM practice across the street, a local doctor pays housecalls for consultations, and the mini-bars in the 49 guest rooms are stocked with botanical tinctures—in addition to locavore booze in an Instagram-worthy display. The hotel feels like an oasis, but the surrounding area, Tanjong Pagar, is one of the city’s liveliest and most neighborly. In fact, sister hotel Six Senses Maxwell, which contains the joint-property’s pool and spa, just opened a few blocks away. sixsenses.com; doubles from $288. — CAREY JONES

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CONCRETE OASIS

United Places Botanic Gardens

Stymied by the city’s lackluster options when trying to book a room for a friend, developer Darren Rubenstein decided to take action. The firsttime hotelier spent years refining the vision behind the 12-suite United Places Botanic Gardens, where apartment-style amenities and seamless service deliver a sense of understated luxury. Rubenstein joined forces with designer Sue Carr to create the hotel, a purpose-built four-story structure opposite Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, in the chichi suburb of South Yarra. The property is full of antipodean touches, from Grant Featherston Scape chairs in the living rooms to limitededition Sullivans Cove whisky in the minibars. The garden-view suites have mossgreen overtones and velvet drapes that close at the touch of a button, while the ones overlooking historic South Yarra are finished in a dusty pink. Butlers are on call around the clock— ask one to book a table at Matilda, chef Scott Pickett’s fire-focused eatery downstairs. unitedplaces.com.au; suites from $466. — CARRIE HUTCHINSON

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C O URT ESY OF U N I T E D P L AC ES

M E L BOU R N E


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LOG CABIN LUXURY

Mere steps from the iconic, cherry-red aerial tram that shuttles skiers to the summit of Jackson Hole’s Rendezvous Mountain, Caldera House has one of the most covetable locations in the area. But its refined interiors are what make the exclusive, eight-suite property JAC K S O N H O L E , stand out. Blond oak paneling and low-slung Scandinavian furniture W YO M I N G lend a Midcentury European flair, while custom-made wooden headboards and textiles with Navajo motifs draw inspiration from the culture of the American West. The spacious rooms feel like penthouses (with a price tag to match), each with a chef’s kitchen, fireplace and heated balcony with mountain views. A ski-valet service and an in-house ski shop run by local guru Gov Carrigan ensure that getting on and off the slopes is effortless. In the evenings, refuel for your next powder day with wood-fired pizzas, porchetta mac ’n’ cheese, and other carbheavy dishes at the hotel’s outpost of the beloved Italian restaurant Old Yellowstone Garage. calderahouse.com; doubles from $2,600. — JEN MURPHY

F RO M TO P: C O U RT ESY O F CA L D E R A HOU S E ; C OU RT ESY O F BE L MON D CA P J U LUCA ; CO U RTESY O F HOT E L PET E R & PAU L

Caldera House

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SAINT IN THE CITY

Hotel Peter & Paul N E W OR L E A NS

Powder-blue and pine-green ginghams, handcrafted wardrobes, and a wooden chandelier from Sweden lend Hotel Peter

& Paul a vibe that’s somewhere between Swedish manor house and Italian palazzo. A colorful addition to the city’s growing roster of outstanding (and affordable) places to stay, the property is made up of a former church, a schoolhouse, a rectory, and convent buildings that had been abandoned for more than a decade. Last year, prominent local resident Nathalie Jordi and design firm ASH NYC converted the complex in the artsy Marigny neighborhood into a 71-room hotel. Guest rooms occupy repurposed spaces like classrooms and the stage of the old auditorium. Many original details, including cypress-wood moldings, stained-glass windows, wainscoted corridors, and marble fireplaces, have been carefully preserved. The unusual mustard-yellow rectory serves as the Elysian Bar. Order their take on the Jack Rose. hotelpeterandpaul.com; doubles from $129. — TANVI CHHEDA

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COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

Belmond Cap Juluca M AU N DAYS BAY, A NGU I L L A

Cap Juluca was always considered the place to see and be seen in the Caribbean—but over the past decade, it faded in favor of newer, buzzier locales. Then, just months after the property had changed ownership, Hurricane Irma struck, putting a planned $121 million redesign on pause. Now the wait is over. Five new villas, set among the Moorish buildings arcing along Maundays Bay, bring the key count up to 66 rooms and 42 suites—with new perks like bathroom patios and Bluetooth speakers. A new spa offers treatments that draw on indigenous Taino knowledge, and Pimms restaurant has been given a seafood spin and a chef’s table presided over by Londoner Andy Gaskin. Plus, the easygoing resort has put locks on its doors for the first time—an upgrade that has some regulars grumbling. That is, until they hit the beach: the Cap they know and love is alive and well. belmond. com; doubles from $725. — HANNAH WALHOUT

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MAGIC TREE HOUSE

Awasi Iguazú

M ISION E S, A RGE N T I NA

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HELLENIC GODDESS

Istoria

SA N TOR I N I, GR E ECE

Far from the crowded corridors of major Santorini villages like Fira or Oia, Istoria sits above Perivolos Beach, one of the island’s most serene stretches of volcanic black-sand coastline. The third Santorini property from husband-and-wife hoteliers Antonis Eliopoulos and Kalia Konstantinidou, this

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12-suite retreat had a former life as a threestory Cycladic mansion—the domain of an eccentric Greek socialite with a passion for horses. Elements of the original estate can still be found throughout; the ground-floor stables have been converted into guest rooms, each with its own private patio and plunge pool or hot tub, and the interiors have been modernized with bespoke furniture, mosaic floors of locally made tile, handcrafted textiles

C O URT ESY OF D ES IG N H OT E LS

You check in to this stylish, 14-villa property in the Argentinean jungle with one thing in mind: seeing Iguazú Falls, a series of 275 towering cascades on the Brazilian border that attract more than one million visitors every year. And you will see them, with early access to beat the crowds, and accompanied by a private guide, an expert naturalist assigned to you for the duration of your stay. But just as special is Awasi’s roster of activities beyond the star attraction—all of which are included in the price of your visit. Kayak down the Yacuí River, through remote Atlantic rain forest; meet an indigenous Guarani community; and wander the ruins of the Jesuit mission at San Ignacio Miní, a unesco World Heritage site (the fullday road trip is well worth it). Each excursion brings a new perspective to this well-trodden destination, just as the thoughtful, seemingly effortless service from the Awasi team raises the bar for hospitality in an area long lacking in luxury hotels. awasiiguazu.com; from $1,050 per person, allinclusive, two-night minimum. — JACQUELINE GIFFORD


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RIVE GAUCHE GRANDEUR

Lutetia PA R I S

C O URT ESY OF LUTE T I A

This Left Bank institution—opened by the Boucicaut family in 1910, across the street from their department store Le Bon Marché—has been restored to its former glory after a four-year closure and a $230 million revamp. The result is the epitome of understated luxury, with original stained-glass windows and Art Deco chandeliers tempered by sleek mirrored surfaces and custom-built furniture in dark blues and caramel. A new interior courtyard suffuses the common areas with light, while the all-marble subterranean spa—home to a hammam, a sauna and a 17-meter indoor pool—is an oasis of calm in the busy St.-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Bar Joséphine, named for Josephine Baker, a frequent guest of the hotel, is the pièce de résistance: the frescoed Romanesque ceiling took a painstaking 17,000 hours to restore. hotellutetia.com; doubles from $836. — SIOBHAN REID

and Aegean accents. The massive pool, which the resort claims is the largest at any on the island, and tranquil spa make it all too tempting to hunker down at the hotel—but one alfresco meal at the property’s patio restaurant, or a short walk down to the private loungers on the secluded onyx beach, will remind you of the striking natural beauty at your doorstep. istoriahotel.gr; doubles from $448. — JES SICA KLINGELFUS S

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URBAN SANCTUARY

The Jaffa Tel Aviv

Built on the site of a 19th-century French hospital, the Jaffa now offers rehabilitation of a more luxurious variety. The John Pawson–designed lobby, hung with Damien Hirsts and punctuated by sections of an 800-year-old wall unearthed during renovation, puts the hotel’s marriage of old and new into relief. The 120 rooms and suites, divided between the original building and a recently built addition, are united by clean design, with furniture conceived by Pawson. In the hospital building, an oak-treestudded courtyard is surrounded by four stories of loggias leading to guest rooms—some with ceilings so high they’re downright celestial. In the new building, windows look out onto the glittering Mediterranean. Add to that two restaurants by New York’s Major Food Group (of Carbone fame), a subterranean spa, and the Chapel bar, with painstakingly restored stained-glass windows and a bona fide late-night scene, and the Jaffa has set a new standard for high-end Israeli hotels. thejaffahotel.com; doubles from $600. — ADEENA SUSSMAN

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RARE VINTAGE

Quinta da Côrte

This whitewashed winery and guesthouse, overlooking the terraced slopes of Portugal’s most picturesque wine region, is all about analog luxuries: reading antique books in the library; dining at communal tables; disconnecting from screens. The interiors have a spontaneous feel that belies the exacting eye of designer Pierre Yovanovitch, who oversaw every detail of the estate and its nine suites, from the custom ceramic tables and handblown chandeliers to the rotary phones on the nightstands. The wine is just as fastidiously produced: the vineyards are tilled by horses, and port is made only when conditions are ideal. quintadacorte.com; doubles from $195. — G.W. >>

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F RO M TOP : A M I T- G E RON ; JE A N - F R AN C OI S JAUSSAU D

D O U R O VA L L E Y, P O R T U G A L


INTO THE BLUE Swim among sharks with our divemasters, surf the ultimate break with our local experts, or find tranquillity in the bluest waters you’ve ever seen. A world of wonder above and below the waves awaits with Four Seasons. Come and live the life aquatic with us.

Find out more about our participating resorts at: fourseasons.com/intotheblue

! '' '"' ' &"' $' !' "' %!' $' # '% 


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BLOOMSBURY BOUDOIR

L’oscar LON DON

ASCHER-WALSH

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Botswana is home to about a third of the world’s African MOR E M I G A M E elephants—and R E S E RV E , B O T S WA N A dozens of them, along with zebras and Cape buffalo, graze at the doorstep of Mombo Camp, a just-rebuilt lodge in the heart of the Okavango Delta. This tableau vivant is a fitting backdrop for Wilderness Safaris’ most exclusive property, established in the 1980s, which sits on a plum 38,900-hectare concession in the Moremi Game Reserve. With just nine villas, the new camp maintains the ambience beloved by Mombo regulars, but also feels INTO THE WILD

Mombo Camp

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of-the-moment with its marriage of style, luxury and sustainability. The camp now runs entirely on solar power, and Wilderness employs a team of conservation scientists and rhino-monitoring officers. Enjoy a pink G&T in the lounge, a placid sanctum of flaxen fabric and blond wood, or walk the undulating boardwalk—at times pitched high enough for elephants to pass under; at others low enough for them to cross over—that curves past the spa to Little Mombo, the camp’s smaller cousin. After lunch, it can be tempting to drink in the vistas from your private plunge pool, but don’t miss teatime. It’s a high art here, with chilled rooibos and lemon cakes that provide fuel for late-afternoon game drives. wilderness-safaris.com; from $1,990 per person, all-inclusive. — MARCIA DESANCTIS >>

DA N A A LL E N

The general manager, Michael Voigt, puts it best: “If you don’t like purple and peacock feathers, you better check out right away.” He’s only half joking. At this former Baptist church in central London, the effect is that of a posh country manor reimagined by Merchant Ivory by way of Stanley Kubrick. A butler is assigned to each guest; waiters effortlessly remember orders from the day before. The 118-yearold building’s listed status means that original details like checkered marble floors and mahogany banisters remain— and the former chapel still soars toward the heavens at chef Tony Fleming’s impossibly sexy restaurant, the Baptist, where the bar serves “biblical” cocktails with names like Chastity, Pride and Gluttony. The 39 rooms—designed by Jacques Garcia— have stone fireplaces, hand-embroidered headboards and babyeiderdown duvets. During renovation, Voigt stayed at least one night in each of them—ensuring that, regardless of your feelings about purple and peacock feathers, this is a hotel you won’t want to check out of. loscar.com; doubles from $576. — REBECCA


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BOHO BUNGALOW

Hotel Joaquin L AG U N A B E AC H , C A L I FOR N I A

The Sydell Group, known for the NoMad and Freehand hotels, has built its reputation on expertly distilling the essence of a neighborhood. Like the bohemian enclave of Adams Morgan, the 220-room Line D.C. is resolutely intelligent and consciously (occasionally self-consciously) cool. Situated in a former church with pews repurposed as lobby seating, the hotel features original art and micro libraries, compiled by local shop Idle Time Books, in every room. The food and drink lineup is in itself worth the stay, with six venues, including Erik BrunerYang’s Spoken English, an intimate standing-only tachinomiya, and James Beard Award–winner Spike Gjerde’s A Rake’s Progress, the Baltimore chef’s first foray into D.C. dining. In keeping with its community-focused vision, the Line is also home to an Internet talk radio station and the nonprofit incubator Adams Morgan Community Center. In the morning, grab a coffee at Gjerde’s the Cup We All Race 4, then join the locals on the front steps taking in the parade of Adams Morgan commuters. thelinehotel.com; doubles from $268. — TOM AUSTIN CAPITAL GAIN

The Line D.C.

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DESTINATION CREATION

Anantara Quy Nhon Villas VIETNAM

A key staging area on the central coast for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, little-known Quy Nhon is blessed with a perfect parabola of white sand and, to date, minimal invasive tourism. Anantara has just opened the first luxury resort in the region, but with a mere 26 private-pool villas, they’re thankfully still keeping things on the down-low. Marvel at local Cham ruins or doze off in Anantara’s treecanopy spa: life in this fishing-dominated town is a breeze. anantara.com; doubles from $470. — JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN

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F RO M TOP : C OU RT ESY O F TH E LI N E D. C. ; C OU RT ESY OF A N A N TAR A QU Y N HO N

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Walking into this Robert McKinley–designed property is like stepping into the home of an eccentric artist. From the local artwork to the vinyl collection in the lobby “living room,” every touch feels intentional and deeply personal. The 22-room inn on the Pacific Coast Highway is set inside a California bungalow that had a previous life as a motor lodge. It’s centered around a courtyard pool, where plush daybeds and a massive bronze sculpture by former fashion designer Rogan Gregory set the scene for artful R&R. An in-house “adventure guru” organizes surfing lessons and snorkeling at idyllic Shaw’s Cove, just steps from the hotel. But the real action can be found at all-day restaurant Saline, where Leo Bongarra, formerly of L.A.’s Sunset Tower Hotel, whips up SoCal dishes with the perfect degree of indulgence (order the Napa lamb chops with turmericdusted cauliflower). hotel joaquin.com; doubles from $300. — S.R. >>


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Silversands Grenada

Silversands, a justopened resort on the northern end of Grand Anse Beach, is a game changer for the unspoiled island of Grenada. Split across two clean-lined, contemporary buildings clad in South American bulletwood, the 43 guest rooms and suites—plus nine residential

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villas—have private balconies with ocean views and a light palette of blond oak and Italian Calacatta marble. Locals are already flocking to eat at Silversands’ two restaurants: Asiatique, a formal dinneronly venue, and the Grenadian Grill, which serves up a casual beach-club vibe, lobster rolls and catch-of-the-day ceviche, and evening DJ sets. Guests have

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access to a watersports center—equipped with stand-up paddleboards and kayaks with clear bottoms so you can spot starfish while gliding past—as well as a spa stocked with Espa products and Puro, a dedicated cigar-and-rum bar that serves up sunset tastings of the local spirit. silversandsgrenada.com; doubles from $850. — EMMA LOVE >>

C O URT ESY OF S I LV E RSA N D S G R E N A DA

BEACH PARTY


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PRESERVATION PASSION PROJECT

Amanyangyun SH A NGH A I

The Oberoi, New Delhi.

Here are 55 more world-class properties on the list. Head to tandl.me/it-list for our full gallery. AFRICA

Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island; Hoanib Valley Camp Kaokoland, Namibia; One&Only Nyungwe House Rwanda; Omaanda Lodge Windhoek, Namibia; Zuri Zanzibar Tanzania

ASIA

The Murray Hong Kong; The Oberoi New Delhi; Rosewood Luang Prabang Laos; Shinta Mani Wild Kirirom National Park, Cambodia; Waldorf Astoria Bangkok

CARIBBEAN + BAHAMAS

O:LV Fifty Five San Juan, Puerto Rico; Rosewood Baha Mar Nassau, Bahamas; Skylark Negril Beach Resort Jamaica

EUROPE

Bank Hotel Stockholm; Brach Paris; Château Lafaurie Peyraguey Bommes, France;

Experimental Chalet

Verbier, Switzerland; Fife Arms Braemar, Scotland; Hotel Mamá Mallorca, Spain; Heckfield Place Hampshire, England; Hotel St. George Helsinki, Finland; Hotel Vilòn Rome; Katikies Mykonos Greece; Kettner’s Townhouse London; L’Arlatan Arles, France;

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Le Barn Bonnelles, France; Palazzo Bozzi Corso Lecce, Italy; Ottantotto Firenze Florence; Raffles Europejski Warsaw; Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland; Stamba Hotel Tbilisi, Georgia; University Arms Cambridge, England; Vista Palazzo Lake Como, Italy

THE AMERICAS

Bungalows Key Largo, Florida; Carpenter Hotel Austin, Texas; Collective Hill Country Wimberley, Texas; Eaton DC Washington, D.C.; Francis House Napa Valley, California; Freehand New York City;

Harbor House Inn

Mendocino, California; Hotel Amparo San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Hotel Clermont Atlanta; Hotel Figueroa Los Angeles; The Hoxton Portland, Oregon;

Inn at Kenmore Hall

Richmond, Massachusetts; Janeiro Rio de Janeiro; Montage Los Cabos, Mexico; Noelle Nashville; The NoMad Los Angeles; Palihotel Seattle; Perry Lane Hotel Savannah, Georgia; Sheldon Chalet Denali National Park, Alaska; Sophy Hyde Park Chicago

AUSTRALIA

Calile Hotel Brisbane; Paramount House Hotel Sydney

F RO M L E F T : A L EJA N D RO S C OTT ; C O URT ESY OF THE O BE ROI

It might take a village to raise a child, but it took just one man to raze several villages—only to gloriously resurrect them 700 kilometers away as the most ambitious luxury resort slash living museum you might ever have the pleasure of spending a small fortune to sleep in. In 2002, self-made billionaire Ma Dedong embarked on what many called a Quixotic quest to save a bunch of 500-year-old stone-and-wood villas and 10,000 revered camphor trees from an area of Fuzhou that was to be flooded for a reservoir. His workers took apart 50 houses piece by piece, dug up an ancient well, and destroyed a tollbooth so as to fit a fatty 2,000-year-old tree up the highway. The result: a serene, feng shui–masterpiece enclave outside of Shanghai that is imbued with the history of the royal scholars who originally lived in the 26 villas perfectly reassembled here and complemented by a throughline of minimalist Midcentury design. Whether you’re practicing calligraphy at the on-site Chinese cultural study center or zoning out in the massive Aman spa that includes a Russian banya, Moroccan hammam, and two lap pools, the experience is the purest form of soulful rejuvenation. aman.com; doubles from $890, antique villas from $8,895. — J.L.S.J.


A taste of tropical luxury on the magical island of Bali

Boasting magnificent views of the shimmering sea, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort’s spacious rooms and suites offer sophisticated style and exquisite comfort. Revel in a world of rejuvenation with a savant mix of world-class facilities, French cosmetology and tranquil surrounds. Discover all our magnifique addresses in over 40 countries on

ITDC Complex lot N5, Bali 80363 | +62 361 849 2888 | H9078@sofitel.com | www.sofitel.com


STYLE YOUR STAY

C O U R T E S Y O F W Y N D H A M G R A N D YA N G O N

Business doesn't mean boring at Wyndham Grand Yangon.

Whether you’re traveling for work or play, if you need a room for two or the whole brood, this year’s hotel guide has got you covered. We’ve sorted the following pages by the way you travel, from decadent beach villas to practical business hotels and everything in between. >>

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Amansara can organize a private dinner at one of Siem Reap’s temples.

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa The one-of-a-kind design at this Bill Bensley haven makes a creative backdrop for events you want etched in your memory. The universitythemed five-star resort has plenty of venues for festive nights: feast at the Pink Pearl fine-dining restaurant; have a dance at the waterfront, jazz band–playing Chemistry Bar; or take in golden sunsets at the open-air Red Rum restaurant. The suites make intimate sea-view stays for honeymooners; blowout group parties should book Lamarck House, a 1,300-square-meter, seven-bedroom expanse with marble bathrooms, 24-hour room service and a 50-meter infinity pool. jwmarriottphu quocresort.com; doubles from $400; Lamarck House from $10,000. — ELOISE BASUKI

SPECIAL OCCASION These intimate, extravagant and picturesque resorts are just the spot to celebrate those once-in-a-lifetime moments.

CAMBODIA

Amansara, Siem Reap The 1960s are regarded as a gilded period of prosperity and

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*Prices throughout are listed in U.S. dollars for ease of comparison.

COURTESY OF AMANSARA

INDONESIA

The Apurva Kempinski Bali It may be the new kid on the block, but there’s nothing neophyte about this lavish Nusa Dua property. Beachfront and exquisitely appointed with contemporary Indonesian wood-carvings, ikat textiles and three pools, this 475-room luxury hotel makes for a memorable escape. Private villas come with their own plunge pool and some suites offer direct access to the resort’s jewel-toned lagoon. Share a romantic meal of local lobster at seafood-themed Koral Restaurant, soon to be the island’s first aquarium dining experience, or slip into the Japanese-style spa. For extra special days, the oceanfront wedding chapels make a scenic place to say “I do.” kempinski.com; doubles from $185. — JENNY HEWET T


F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A P U R VA K E M P I N S K I B A L I ; C O U R T E S Y O F M U A N G L A L O D G E ; C O U R T E S Y O F J W M A R R I O T T P H U Q U O C ; C O U R T E S Y O F R A E S O N WAT E G O S

peace for Cambodia. And the Amansara abounds with callbacks to this so-called Golden Era. Once a royal guesthouse, the elegant low-rise collection of rooms was used by late monarch King Sihanouk to host notables such as Jackie Kennedy and actor Peter O’Toole. Aman’s signature panache means today’s guests will feel every bit as pampered as their celebrity predecessors. The brand’s curated experiences—ranging from cooking classes to powwows with Siem Reap’s cultural movers and shakers— are all very now. But retrostyle décor throughout and the property’s spectacular circular restaurant—formerly a dancehall—are grist to any James Bond fantasy. Further period allure is displayed in the airport pick-up service where guests are whisked to the property in one of Sihanouk’s 1960s Mercedes sedans. Very groovy indeed. aman.com; doubles from $1,500. — DUNCAN FORGAN

LAOS

Muang La Lodge Tucked into a gentle curve of the Nam Pak River in mountainous northern Laos is Muang La Lodge, a remote luxury bolt-hole known for its thermal baths, enchanting setting and off-piste trails. Just 10 wooden garden villas with verandas, all unplugged from modern life, feature 1930s-style furniture and local crafts. Spend days cycling or wandering green paddies in search of rural views meeting traditionally dressed Khamu, Akha and Ikhos locals with an expert guide. Stroll across a bamboo bridge to the secluded lodge pool on a private river island; sink into hot tubs pumped with the area’s natural thermal spring; try orchard-to-table dining in the candle-lit garden; or settle into a pampered slumber with massages at the

spa. muangla.com; minimum two-night stay $459 per person, all-inclusive. — CL AIRE BOOBBYER

JAPAN

Fufu Kawaguchiko Opened last autumn, this elegant 32-room newcomer overlooks Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi Prefecture, just two hours from Tokyo. It may be close to wineries, ice-caves and lava tubes, but the awe-inspiring views of mist-shrouded Mount Fuji from your plant-filled room’s private volcanic-stone onsen will make leaving your comfortable cocoon difficult. The staff speak exceptional English, and are especially adept at demystifying omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) by explaining Chef Hoshino’s and theatrical kaiseki meals (like Fuji sakura pork seared tableside on lava stone with blueberry butter; kettle-cooked conger eel; and firewood ice cream to be finished at the outdoor fire-pit in your cozy gray yukata robe). fufukawaguchiko.jp; doubles from $835. — ADAM H. GR AHAM

Traditional gebyok carvings at The Apurva Kempinski Bali.

Riverside dining at Muang La Lodge, in Laos. Twilight at Red Rum, JW Marriott Phu Quoc.

AUSTRALIA

Raes on Wategos, Byron Bay If the sound of waves crashing doesn’t lull you to sleep at this waterfront hideaway on Byron Bay’s coveted Wategos Beach, the four-poster bed surely will. With just seven suites and two luxury penthouses, this newly revamped escape feels like it leapt off the pages of a romance novel. Raes Dining Room focuses on food that’s equally poetic, plating up everything from Fraser Island crab spaghetti to spicy tuna with Fuji apple, lap cheong and lemon. Designed for two, the one-bedroom penthouse is made up of marbled floors, a sunken bath and a light-filled atrium, plus Byron’s iconic ocean, headland and lighthouse views. raes.com.au; doubles from $463. — J.H.

The sun-lit terrace at Raes on Wategos, Byron Bay.

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FAMILY HOLIDAY We know it’s no easy feat to vacation with multiple people, ages and energy levels, so here are some of our favorite hotels where everyone can get their kicks.

Club Med Bintan has activities for everyone.

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two children, two-night minimum. — J.H.

VIETNAM

Vinpearl Resort & Spa Long Beach Nha Trang Overlooking Bai Dai beach, on the fringes of Cam Ranh Bay in southern Vietnam, the two-, three- and four-bedroom villas at this luxe resort are spacious enough (300 square meters should do it) to ensure a wholly relaxing stay, even with kids in the next room over. While adults can bliss out in the lakeside Akoya Spa or hit the 18-hole beachfront golf course, young ones will be forever entertained at nearby Vinpearl Land, a sprawling island theme park with thrilling rides, a variety of ocean activities and waterslides, plus a bird park and the largest botanical gardens in the country. vinpearl.com; two-bedroom villas from $273. — E.B.

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CAMBODIA

Le Relais de Chhlong The otherwise somnolent Mekong River town of Chhlong has been given an unexpected jolt of energy with the opening of this romantic, waterfront retreat. The former residence of a French governor, this stately yellow-hued mansion positively reeks of period charm. The property, which has been painstakingly restored to its former pomp, exudes colonial-era charisma in everything from its ornate stone balustrades to the ceiling fans that whir overhead, and the fresh-baked croissants and pains au chocolat served at breakfast. You don’t need to be a Francophile, though, to appreciate a gorgeous outdoor pool and giant suites with exquisite furnishing and terraces overlooking the Mekong. The sizeable rooms make the hotel a perfect

escape for traveling families, while expeditions to spot the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins exclusive to this stretch of the river are a kid-friendly highlight not to be missed. relaisdechhlong.com; doubles from $109. — D.F.

LAOS

Pullman Luang Prabang With the feel of a small village encircled by paddy-field views, Pullman Luang Prabang masters its space with a wealth of activities devoted to kids. Amid greenery threaded with wandering paths and streams, there’s a pool for infants, and another with a waterslide (plus an infinity pool, for the adults, of course). The Kids’ Club, the only one of its kind in this increasingly popular city, entertains tots and teens with books, games and toys at an indoor playground. Where it really shines is with its diverse class

C O U R T E S Y O F C L U B M E D B I N TA N

INDONESIA

Club Med Bintan, Bintan Island This all-inclusive family resort sits beachfront on Indonesia’s Bintan Island, just an hour from Singapore. White sands, long sweeping shores and an endless array of fitness activities make for a rejuvenating vacation the whole clan will fondly remember. Master your skills in everything from archery, flying trapeze and golf, to sailing, snorkeling and paddleboarding. As well as a family-friendly buffet and a la carte options spanning the gamut of international eats, there are a handful of poolside terraces at which to unwind. While you sip mojitos, the little ones can keep entertained with cooking classes and crafts at the complimentary kids’ club (for four- to 10-year-olds). clubmed.com. au; from $1,184 per night all-inclusive for two adults and


C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U T R S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S ; C O U R T E S Y O F F E S T I V E H O T E L ; C O U R T E S Y O F P U L L M A N L U A N G P R A B A N G ; C O U R T E S Y O F AVA N I + S A M U I

offerings in crafts, baking and fitness—think hula-hoops, face painting and wafflemaking. An introduction to their Lao holiday destination sees kids garden, feed fish and cultivate rice through workshops in the field. Adults sleep easy, too, with interconnecting rooms, or extra beds in Deluxe-suite living rooms just a skip, hop and jump to all the playground fun. pullman-luangprabang. com; doubles from $135. — C.B.

THAILAND

Avani+ Samui Basking in the sun-soaked shores of Phang Ka beach, on Koh Samui’s quieter Taling Ngan side, the new rooms and villas by Avani’s premium brand Avani+ feel just like your own private beach house. Whitewashed wooden ceilings, a private deck with infinity pool and cozy linens may tempt you to stay in-villa, but

The Nail Bar at Four Seasons Hong Kong.

Festive Hotel’s Family Room.

A new Pool Villa at Avani+ Samui.

Lush living at Pullman Luang Prabang.

you really shouldn’t—free access to kayaks, paddleboards and mountain bikes offer adventures to nearby mangroves, waterfalls and villages. For a scenic daytrip, hop on a longtail boat and snorkel off the pristine white sands of Koh Madsum and Koh Tan just 15 minutes away. Essence restaurant offers dinner with beach views, while drinks are poured in the cutest cocktail truck, a batik-patterned Combi van that parks itself poolside. avanihotels.com; doubles from $127. — E.B.

SINGAPORE

Festive Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa Festive Hotel scores points with families for the smorgasbord of activities available within a stone’s throw: it’s just steps away from Southeast Asia’s only Universal Studios theme park, S.E.A. Aquarium (one of

the world’s largest aquariums) and Adventure Cove Waterpark (where high-speed waterslides and swimming with dolphins and sharks await). Not to mention the kids’ club and a dedicated kids’ pool and wet play area, and a staggering array of dining (from hawker fare to Michelinstar dining), shopping and entertainment options, so there’s always something to do. While all the rooms here are designed with families in mind, our pick is the Deluxe Family room, which comes with tailored bathrobes and a kid-friendly loft bed. rwsentosa.com; doubles from $440. — SHAMILEE VELLU

HONG KONG

Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong Swish hotels often aren’t the most welcoming places for their smallest guests, but Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong defies

convention by rolling out the red carpet for families. Upon arrival, children will find petit-sized amenities such as kids’ toiletries, robes and slippers, while turndown brings healthy snacks (such as sugar-free chocolate ganache cookies or homemade gummy bears made with fresh fruit) and a cuddly stuffed toy. Blankets, diapers, bottle sterilizers and diaper pails are provided at no charge. Children’s menus are available at all of the hotel’s restaurants, and tots aged three and up are even welcome at Michelin threestarred Lung King Heen and Caprice. Also useful: connecting rooms, two full-sized outdoor pools (with ample pool toys) and a newly launched in-room destination guidebook with a section dedicated to family-friendly activities. fourseasons.com; doubles from $548. — S.V.

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MILLENNIALMINDED Low-budget, high-design, next-gen hotels have begun to sweep Asia, an on-trend fit for digital nomads, flashpackers and aesthetes alike.

Salon De Co restaurant at Ovolo Incholm, Brisbane.

DJs make a party vibe at Canggu hotel The Slow.

INDONESIA

The plantfilled lobby of Lao Poet, in Vientiane.

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The Slow, Bali Creatives work hard and play slow at this stylish boutique stay in Bali’s happening Canggu. A cultured oasis on buzzy Jalan Batu Bolong, The Slow has just 12 spacious, design-led rooms that are oozing with inspiration, plus a rooftop bar and relaxed all-day diner with power points, fast Wi-Fi and good coffee. There are no obvious distractions, such as TVs or even a communal pool, instead the regular art exhibitions and curated tunes

from L.A.-based Reverberation Radio point to a deeper level of sophistication. When you’re not tapping away on your laptop, some of the island’s best yoga studios and beachfront sunsets are only a five-minute walk away. theslow.id; doubles from $191. — J.H.

AUSTRALIA

Ovolo Incholm, Brisbane Nothing is more evident of Brisbane’s breezy renaissance than this new-look boutique stay in Incholm in the heart of the city. The hotel, rebranded last year to Ovolo Incholm after a complete makeover, marries electic Art-Deco interiors reflective of the building’s 1930s heritage with next-gen perks to entice modern travelers. Guests can enjoy a range of complimentary services, including free happy hour and breakfast (when you reserve your room on their website), access to a 24-hour gym, free laundry service, superfast Wi-Fi and all-day snacks. The in-room mini-bar is also yours for the taking—as good a reason as any to take advantage of that late checkout. ovolohotels.com.au; doubles from $130. — J.H.

CHINA

Hotel Jen, Beijing A co-living concept by Shangri-La, Hotel Jen is a modern haven in the Chinese capital that focuses squarely on the needs of the >>

FROM TOP: COURTESY OF OVOLO INCHOLM; COURTESY OF THE SLOW; COURTESY OF L AO POET

LAOS

Lao Poet, Vientiane A funky little find in the Lao capital with a glamorous rooftop infinity pool, Lao Poet comes with all the style cred its Luang Prabang sister retreat, Satri House, is renowned for. Wallpaper of glossy palms backdrop the 55 bedrooms bedecked in paper lanterns, velvet spreads, cushions in jewel tones, plus desks for digital nomads. Antiques are paired with 1930s repro leather chairs and Arco-style floor lamps in the lobby, while botanical prints and chandeliers adorn the dining room. Lao Poet sits on a quiet street in downtown Vientiane, its location perfect for the sights, and the growing coffee and restaurant scene. Grab a free bike offered by the hotel, or drink in the sunset from the infinity pool terrace. laopoethotel.com; doubles from $100. — C.B.


the

freelancer generation. The hotel prides itself on its super-fast Wi-Fi throughout the property; its central location connected to the China World Trade Center Complex and the China World Mall; and its two-level, 24-hour, 3,500-square-meter fitness center that offers pilates, spin classes and even an MMA boxing ring. Rooms are filtered with an airpurification system and are fitted with roomy workstations, coffee makers and international power sockets; guests in hotel suites get free breakfast, buffet dinner and drinks, and access to Prototype, the hotel’s 320-square-meter co-working lounge. hoteljen.com; doubles from $200. — E.B.

JAPAN

Marriott Moxy Honmachi, Osaka Marriott hits a millennial home run with this new 155-room Moxy property, which opened last year. The hotel occupies a former 11-story undergarment warehouse in Osaka’s shabby-chic Honmachi district, minutes away from the station and chock-a-block with izakaya and kushikatsu joints. An industrial chic décor is found throughout, with exposed brick walls, white subway tiles, tin bath stools, timber veneer, old-fashioned phones and wall-mounted luggage racks, tables and chairs (tweaked from the original Yabu Pushelberg designs, but executed by local firm Wise Labo). Free Wi-Fi and a 24/7 gym sweeten the deal. A DJ and a rowdy gathering of laptop workers in the lobby will not affect the peace and quiet of your room. marriott.com; doubles from $150. — A.H.G.

HONG KONG

The Upper House It’s no small feat that the Upper House has managed to stay cutting-edge despite turning

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10 this year. Little wonder, really, considering how the Andre-Fu–designed hotel continues to tick all the boxes for design acolytes. Its 117 tastefully styled rooms (which start from 67 square meters for a standard room) are especially spacious for Hong Kong, and several are corner suites offering jaw-dropping panoramic island and harbor views. Instagram opportunities abound here, ranging from the famously huge bathrooms (and incredible bathtub views) to the private dining alcoves at Café Grey Deluxe that extend over the city 49 floors up. The elegant yet intimate bookfilled Sky Lounge on the same floor, meanwhile, also regularly hosts casual discussions by renowned tastemakers such as Yabu Pushelberg and Christian Louboutin. upperhouse.com; doubles from $662. — S.V.

SINGAPORE

The Great Madras Designed to warm the cockles of any card-carrying millennial’s heart, The Great Madras is a colorful 35-room conservation project that fully embraces its history and location in vibrant Little India. Its staggering array of photo opps will make an Instagrammer’s head spin: will it be shoefies on the geometric-tiled floors? Selfies in the barbershop or against the numerous neon signs or outdoor pool? Or #foodporn shots of halal Catalonian-style tapas? While rooms are small, they make up for it with style and charm. Design-philes will also note the cleverly laid out hostel rooms (in which doors slide closed to form private rooms) and the open-layout lobby that has been thoughtfully constructed to function as the neighborhood’s “living room,” where locals and visitors alike can mingle and trade a story or two. thegreatmadras.com; doubles from $89. — S.V. >>

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Hotel Jen towers over Beijing.

The Upper House has enviable views of Victoria Harbour.

Communal areas feel like home at Marriott Moxy Honmachi, Osaka.

Boutique charm in Singapore’s Little India.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F H O T E L J E N ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E U P P E R H O U S E ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A R R I O T T; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E G R E AT M A D R A S

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Noku Maldives

Noku Kyoto

Noku Maldives

Noku Osaka

At home in Noku Attentive service. Friendly faces. Comfortable experiences. Quiet spaces.

www.nokuhotels.com | Enquiries@nokuhotels.com


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BUSINESS TRIP

AUSTRALIA

QT Perth Moments from Swan River in Perth’s revitalized CBD, this new urban hotel makes an ideal base for suits who don’t like to sacrifice on style. With its slick rooftop bar (the highest in Perth), Italian-themed Santini Bar & Grill steakhouse, and multiple events rooms, this artful stay is the perfect mix of business and pleasure. Australiana design accents of cockatoo wallpaper and native motifs keep it local and lighthearted, while the in-room espresso machines, free pilates classes and fully kitted-out gym appeal to those religious about their routine. qthotelsandresorts.com; doubles from $115. — J.H.

BURMA

Wyndham Grand Yangon This luxury outpost in the heart of Burma’s commercial capital has all the trimmings. Oversized rooms have Wi-Fi, large desk space and a Bluetooth-supported speaker telephone, on top of comforts like coffeemakers and marble bathrooms. Conference and meeting rooms spread throughout the 20-story property overlooking

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Spend the end of a long workday on the rooftop bar at QT Perth.

Kandawgyi Lake, with a 500-delegate Grand Ballroom for cocktail receptions. Take advantage of the Executive Club Floors, which includes exclusive access to the Executive Lounge: buffet breakfast, evening cocktails and free meeting-room use. wyndhamgrandyangon.com; doubles from $112. — E.B.

THAILAND

Marriott Marquis Bangkok Located in the heaving center of Bangkok, this 1,388-room hotel provides easy access to the city (and a luxury retreat from its mayhem) just a short walk from multiple public transport stations. The 1,300-person ballroom offers one of the largest spaces in the city, and the 35 meeting rooms are all designed to feel like private residences. Events will go down without a hitch with top-notch AV equipment, fully customizable catering options, and the Marriott’s online attendee booking system. Clients will be impressed by

MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

the sweeping vistas at the gin-forward rooftop AB Bar. After work, stay in for dinner at the culinary whirlwind that is Akira Back, the alwayssatisfying Soba Factory, or the classic Cantonese restaurant, Pagoda Chinese. marriott.com; doubles from $126. — E.B.

HONG KONG

Kerry Hotel Another sleek showpiece by starchitect Andre Fu, Kerry Hotel offers iconic views of Victoria Harbour. It boasts the largest hotel meeting, event and catering facilities in the city: the 1,756-square-meter Grand Ballroom is Hong Kong’s largest pillar-free hotel ballroom and also contains its largest LED wall. The 17 meeting spaces in the Shangri-La-owned property also include the Presidential Suite and the open terrace of Red Sugar Bar, which has a 270-degree wraparound terrace that’s perfect for networking sundowners. Five different F&B spaces and quick access to an MTR

station make it a convenient choice. shangri-la.com; doubles from $216. — S.V.

SINGAPORE

Ascott Orchard Singapore One of Ascott’s six serviced residences in Singapore, Ascott Orchard stands out for its fashionable pedigree. Set in the heart of famed shopping belt Orchard Road, it’s the island’s first serviced residence to offer eight Fendi Casa–furnished penthouse suites. Other suites come in studio, one- and two-bedroom layouts, with 47 dual-key units that allow guests to create a threebedroom layout, ideal for those traveling in large groups. Services include access to a business center, a smartphone with data, Wi-Fi, pool, gym and resident’s lounge (with fully equipped kitchen). Conveniences such as airport transfers, parking and meal deliveries are available for an extra cost. the-ascott.com; doubles from $214. — S.V. >>

COURTESY OF QT PERTH

MALAYSIA

Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur No expense is spared at this sky-high five-star just a few steps away from the Petronas Towers. Suites are spacious, sophisticated and functional for in-room working; the 24-hour business center has all your admin jobs covered; and the Executive Club lounge offers all-day refreshments, two hours of meeting space in the club-floor boardroom, complimentary dry cleaning and 15 percent off treatments at the hotel’s two-story spa. Entertain clients over dim sum at Yun House, or Malaysianfocused drinks at Bar Trigona. fourseasons.com; doubles from $215. — E.B.

Traveling on the job doesn’t have to be boxy and boring. These upscale hotels do the hard work for you, leaving more time to enjoy your surroundings.


#ILOVEBINTAN

Find us on WeChat:

TAKE YOUR TASTE BUDS ON A RETREAT Plethora of resorts to stay, fun-filled things to do, delightful local food to eat & endless new discoveries to make. A tropical island paradise, just 60 minutes away from Singapore!

Visit Us: bintan-resorts.com

bintanresorts


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ENTERTAINMENT If you’re looking for a resort that can bring the spectacle to you, these glitzy pleasure palaces offer shows, shopping, seaside adventures and more.

Okada Manila This gleaming, gilt structure fronting Manila Bay is an all-under-one-roof theater, nightclub, gaming complex, dining hub and shopping district. Dance the night (and day) away at beach/nightclub Cove Manila, sift through top brand boutiques at the Crystal Corridor, and pick from 21 lavish eateries, from refined Italian or robata-style Japanese to 24-hour dim sum. Some offer views of Okada’s enormous fountain, which shoots 700 water jets in time with 2,000 colored lights and booming tunes. okadamanila. com; doubles from $280. — E.B.

MACAU

The Parisian Macao With access to some of the region’s hottest concerts, cabaret performances and stunt shows, plus 850 shops, 150 restaurants and an Eiffel Tower replica, The Parisian Macao has pretty much got you covered for fun. Little ones won’t get bored either: Aqua World offers waterslides and pirate ships; Qube Kingdom fills 1,900 square meters of indoor-outdoor play areas with jungle gyms, climbing nets and a ball pit. parisianmacao.com; doubles from $124. — E.B.

Okada Manila's Cove nightclub features a 30-meter-tall, UVreflective glass dome.

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COURTESY OF OK ADA MANIL A

JAPAN

Bella Vista Spa and Marina Hotel Onomichi From the owners of Setouchi Seaplanes and luxury cruise ship Guntû, this superbly located resort overlooking the Seto Sea regales its guests with the wonders of the great outdoors. A Maserati or BMW car loan will get you around in style as will the full service marina offering a variety of boating trips, from sunset cruises and uninhabited-island picnics to fishing charters and Jet Skiing. A refurb last year now offers modernized rooms and a new spa. bella-vista.jp/ en; doubles from $275. — A.H.G.


DEALS

T+L READER SPECIALS

OUTDOOR THAILAND

This month’s deals leave zero time for boredom, showing off all these hotels have to offer: luxe diving in Thailand, a golf getaway in Vietnam and a celebration to remember in Siem Reap, for starters.

Pimalai Explore the jewels of the Andaman Sea with a diving package from luxe Koh Lanta resort Pimalai. The four-day package includes a one-day dive trip to Koh Haa—a group of five islets famous for their crystal-clear waters, pristine corals and variety of marine life—with two dives, a full set of dive equipment and National Marine Park entry fee included. Guests will also get three nights’ accommodation; daily breakfast; a three-course dinner at Seven Seas Restaurant; a one-hour aroma massage per person; unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi; and airport transfers. The Deal Diving Package: three nights in a deluxe room from Bt43,590, through April 30. pimalai.com.

Dive the coral-rich Koh Haa islands with Pimalai.

SUPERSAVER The Shanghai Edition, China

Treat yourself to bed and breakfast at Shanghai’s new designer home away from home. Spend the night in one of their sleekly furnished rooms, some with Bund views, and spend the next morning feasting at the hotel’s Shanghai Tavern, a European restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. The Deal Bed & Breakfast: a night in a Deluxe room, from RMB1,888, through December 31. editionhotels.com.

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CITY HONG KONG

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental If you’re looking to spoil

FROM TOP: COURTESY OF PIMAL AI; COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI EDITION

VIETNAM

The Anam Spend a long weekend on the green and gold, with this golfing package from beach beauty The Anam in Cam Ranh. The three-night package includes accommodation in a Balcony Garden View room; two rounds at the newly opened, Greg Norman– designed, 18-hole KN Gold Links; daily free cocktail hour at the Beach Club; a fivecourse dinner at The Colonial with wine and live music; a guided night tour of Nha Trang on a Vespa; a unique Mama’s Cooking experience conducted by six mothers of the hotel staff who cook up a traditional Vietnamese feast for guests; a private yoga lesson; daily buffet breakfast; and airport transfers. The Deal Golf and Dine package: three nights in a Balcony Garden View room, from US$1,435, through December 26. theanam.com.


yourself, take a day off for this relaxing escape. The deal includes a full 24-hour stay in one of the hotel’s Joyce Wang–designed guestrooms; daily buffet breakfast at MO Bar or other hotel venues; a dining or spa credit of HK$1,000 per stay when booking a L600 series room, or credit of HK$2,000 when booking a L900 Landmark suite; use of the heat and water relaxation facilities, gym and pool at The Oriental Spa; upgrade to the Sanctuary Suite for a 90-minute spa experience for two; complimentary room cleaning charge for stay with one pet; overnight parking for one vehicle; and more. The Deal Central Staycation: a night in a L600 deluxe room, from HK$5,700, through December 30. mandarinoriental.com. CHINA

COURTESY OF THE TEMPLE HOUSE

The Temple House Combine your city stay with a dose of Chengdu culture via this holistic experience from designer boutique hotel The Temple House. The three-night package includes accommodation for two; daily breakfast; a guided cycling tour of the city for two; a one-hour Signature Bamboo massage, which uses a combination of traditional bamboo canes and hand strokes to ease muscle tension, for two; and a Teahouse hotpot set dinner for two. A guided tour of the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base can also be arranged at an additional cost. The Deal Check in to Chengdu package: three nights in a Studio 60 room, from US$930. thetemplehousehotel.com.

tasting menu at nahm restaurant; daily breakfast at Glow restaurant; a tropical fruit plate, replenished daily; free Wi-Fi; free daily yoga class at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape; and more. The Deal The nahm Experience: a night in City room, from Bt7,360 (single occupancy), Bt10,160 (double occupancy). comohotels.com. SOUTH KOREA

Shilla Seoul Your next business trip to Seoul won’t be a drag with this exclusive offer for working guests. The package includes a night in an Executive Business Deluxe room with Executive Lounge access. The top-floor Executive Lounge provides fully equipped meeting rooms as well as complimentary dining throughout the day including a healthy breakfast, light snacks, afternoon tea and happy hour. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. guests at the lounge can enjoy free-flow alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. The Deal Business Plan package: a night in an Executive Business Deluxe room, from W390,000, through June 30. shillahotels.com.

SPECIAL OCCASION CAMBODIA

Shinta Mani Shack Celebrate your nuptials in the sacred surrounds of Siem Reap. The three-night wedding package includes accommodation for two in a Poolview King room; a romantic candlelit dinner with free-flow wine; a relaxing pre-wedding, three-hour spa treatment featuring a body scrub, oil massage, floral bath and a facial; a rejuvenating post-wedding spa “pamperyour-partner” treatment, where you’ll take a hands-on approach and learn how to massage your betrothed; a traditional spiritual wedding ceremony with an entourage of Chorng Dai (traditional Khmer wedding music) and a blessing by a monk; floral decorations with six flower displays, a flower arch, fire torches, bride’s bouquet and groom’s buttonhole, floral ring holder and scattered fresh rose petals; a special cocktail for the bride and groom; canapés; four-hour professional digital photography session, including a souvenir wedding album and all original digital photos; and lunch for two at Kroya

including beer and soft drinks. The bride and groom will also get daily breakfast; in-room Wi-Fi; private round-trip airport transfers; and fast track immigration on arrival. The Deal Spiritual Wedding Blessing Package: three nights in a Poolview King room, from US$5,596, through December 31. shintamani.com. THAILAND

SO Bangkok Party like a celebrity and invite your crew to a soiree in your very own VIP Duplex suite at SO Bangkok. Your exclusive package includes three hours of free-flow wine and beer and a selection of six appetizers, and a personal butler for your party for up to four hours. The Cozy Circle package is suitable for up to 10 people; while the Double Trouble package can accommodate up to 20 guests. As part of the package, you’ll also get one-night’s accommodation in the SO VIP Duplex suite and breakfast and Club Signature benefits for four people. The Deal Cozy Circle package, from Bt70,000; Double Trouble package, from Bt100,000; through December 28. so-sofitel-bangkok.com.

Explore The Temple House’s heritage design.

THAILAND

COMO Metropolitan Bangkok If you love Thai cuisine, add a Michelin-starred meal to your next Bangkok trip. Guests at the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok can take advantage of this offer that includes a

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MARCH 2019

T H E U LT I M AT E I N PA L AT I A L D I G S ? A C T UA L PA L A C E S . . . A N D F O R T S AND MANORS. SLEEP LIKE A KING IN THESE NEW BOUTIQUES IN

RAJASTHAN P. 76

A N E W C L A S S O F P R I VAT E - I S L A N D RESORTS IS NOT JUST FOR ROMANCE; THEY ALSO MAKE FOR A G R E AT FA M I LY G E TAWAY T O

FIJI P. 84

A CIT Y WITHOUT A CENTER NEEDN’T L ACK A SOUL. JUST ASK T H E L O C A L S W H O C O N G R E G AT E I N T H E H I G H E S T- E N D H O T E L S O F

LOS ANGELES

COURTESY OF ALIL A FORT BISHANGARH

P. 96

Alila Fort Bishangarh towers high on a granite bluff in Rajasthan, page 76.

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Fit For a Raja

R A N VA S N A G A U R & M E H R A N G A R H M U S E U M T R U S T. O P P O S I T E : C O U R T E S Y O F R A A S D E V I G A R H

RAJASTHAN IS LITTERED WITH THE FORMER FORTS, CASTLES AND CHATEAUX OF THE RAJPUT MAHARAJAS WHO RULED THE REGION FOR CENTURIES. ON A ROYAL TOUR OF NEW PALATIAL DIGS TURNED INTO HERITAGE HOTELS, RACHNA SACHASINH FINDS LUXURIOUS RENEWAL PROJECTS THAT MANAGE TO CONJURE THE COMMUNITY SPIRIT OF FAR HUMBLER ABODES.


RAAS Devigarh is the palace residence that started a movement. OPPOSITE: Ranvas at Nagaur is built into the former quarters of the maharaja’s concubines.

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CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Breakfast at

Narendra Bhawan Bikaner; the Prince’s room, Narendra Bhawan Bikaner; Ranvas at Nagaur sits in the sprawling Nagaur Fort; Alila Fort Bishangarh; a bedroom in Le Prince Haveli; the rock-cut pool of Lakshman Sagar by Sewara; a local liquor tasting at Lakshman Sagar by Sewara.


C LO C K W I S E F RO M TO P LE F T : C OU RTESY OF N A R E N D R A B HAWA N B I KA N E R ( 2 ); R A NVAS N AGAU R & M EH R A NGA RH MU S EU M TRU ST ; C O URT ESY OF A L I L A FORT BIS H A N GA RH ; C OU RT ESY OF LE P R IN C E H AV EL I; C O U RT ESY O F L AKS H M A N SAGA R BY S E WA R A ( 2 )

My first memories of Rajasthan are tied up with golden mustard fields, turmeric hills and a slobbering water buffalo. It was the mid-1990s, and I was a graduate student investigating heirloom millet seeds—the region’s primary grain crop—and living in an unfinished brick house on the outskirts of Jhunjhunu, back then a dusty market town clamoring with chai and sabji wallahs, metalsmiths, rickety bicycles, camel carts and listless cows. My hosts Phoolchand Dhewa and his wife Ram Kauri put me up in a closet-sized room outfitted with a charpoy—a narrow wooden frame bench strung with thick woven rope—and a light, homemade razai or quilt stuffed with cotton and wool. The room’s only window opened onto a scrappy manger belonging to Kaveri, the family’s stocky milking buffalo. A steadfast roommate, Kaveri nuzzled me awake at dawn, right before milking time when colorfully dressed village ladies balancing metal pots on their heads arrived to buy milk.

By day, Phoolchand and I traipsed the countryside, a patchwork of waist-high millet and mustard fields broken up here and there by the encroaching Thar Desert, which blankets the state’s western hinterland. Sitting cross-legged under the shade of peepal trees in the maidan, or village square, I interviewed farmers who explained the challenges of rural living and the steady creep of modernization. Clad in teetering magenta or saffron turbans and sporting well-coiffed moustaches— Rajasthani menfolk equate a well-groomed handlebar with virility—these farmers took their hand-to-mouth livelihood in stride, grinning broadly and serving tray after tray of sweet masala chai, tangy yogurt lassi and homemade jaggery so caramel-y it would make millennial foodies swoon. In the evenings, I huddled in the outdoor kitchen shack with Ram Kauri, helping her put together a one-pot curry of homegrown spices, lentils and vegetables cooked in earthy mustard oil, which she hand-pressed with a medieval-looking grinding stone. Then, we rolled the faintly blue bajra or millet rotis and cooked them over a slow-burning wood fire, piling them up one on top of another until there was enough for everyone. Eating with them by candlelight, my heart swelled with happiness. It was simple living, but it felt like a life of kings. In fact, Rajasthan means “land of kings.” Straddling India’s western border with Pakistan and sitting at the junction of ancient caravan routes, this region was for centuries ruled by factions of the Rajput clan—noble warriors who knew how to fight hard and live well. The Rajputs left behind a trail of bloodstained battlefields, imposing fortresses, lavish palaces and pleasure gardens that emerge like mirages on blistering desert horizons. Once India gained independence, however, Rajput royals were stripped of their titles and gradually turned their palatial digs into heritage hotels, giving travelers a taste of decadent maharaja living. When I left Phoolchand and Ram Kauri’s home, I treated myself to a stay in a handful of them. No doubt, the palace interiors were drop-dead gorgeous with their exuberant frescoes, marble and gem-encrusted chambers, embroidered canopy beds and reams of luscious silks and brocades. I relished the pomp and frills, the platoon of servants and, of course, the hot showers. But, often the experiences lacked soul. The honest, unbridled hospitality and bravura of the Rajput personality had been scrubbed out, and I found myself desperately missing the heartwarming community in the countryside TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / MARCH 2019

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and the buffalo Kaveri’s muzzle and drool. Over the years, I kept going back, hoping that my fondness for authentic royal and rural Rajasthani culture could somehow merge. For years, I came away disappointed, and then, on my most recent trip, I stumbled upon a few hidden-in-plain sight venues that were quietly resuscitating Rajasthani spirit. And, miraculously, they nailed it.

T

HE ORIGINAL HERITAGE hotels were authentic, but then it became overcooked,” historianturned-hotelier Dhananajaya Singh explains as we sip nimbu pani, or lemonade, in Baradari, the courtyard restaurant of RAAS Jodhpur, a pioneering heritage hotel and urban renewal project that Singh and his brother Nikhilendra launched in Jodhpur, the famous 15th-century walled city in western Rajasthan. The turning point came when India’s top contemporary art collector, Lekha Poddar, renovated Devigarh, her palace residence in Delwara, a picturesque hamlet on the outskirts of Udaipur. Poddar embraced the original architectural mood, but threw out the crewel and chintz, introduced clean, minimalist lines, incorporated modern furniture and whittled away outdated conventions, like small doors and windows. “When you place contemporary elements inside 500-year-old spaces, it creates a dialectic that is intriguing,” Singh tells me. “It’s really the only way to move forward.” Strolling through RAAS Jodhpur, which includes the hotel and an ambitious urban renewal project called Stepwell Square—a renovated 18th-century stepwell surrounded by smart boutiques and eateries—Singh’s point becomes clear. The main hotel’s 39 rooms and suites, pillared dining halls and cozy lounge alcoves occupy a mix of 18th century havelis, traditional urban dwellings built around a central courtyard, stables and temple, and three contemporary buildings. Old-world artisans were called in to restore the original jali (perforated wall screens), jharokha (overhanging enclosed balconies), carved rose sandstone pillars and copulas. New structures, like the Garden Wing rooms, parse minimalist luxury with steel and glass touches, contemporary furniture and a diehard ecophilosophy—no plastic bottles, water-efficient taps and a fun, electric scooter to zip around town. Vertical slits in the façade, a twist on the classic jali, freckle the interior courtyards with dappled light. “Doors and windows didn’t need to be small anymore,” Singh says as he swings open a window in the pretty garden suite and

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reveals hands-down Jodphur’s best view of the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, the former residence and garrison belonging to the Jodhpur maharajas, which looms high above the walled city. “We’re not worried about armies storming in or keeping the heat out,” he laughs. Once the hotel was completed, the brothers set to work on the adjacent toorji ka jhalra, or Stepwell Square as it’s known today. The architecturally mesmerizing stepwell, whose staggered flights of steps descend nearly 50 meters into blue water, was once a vital source of water for the parched city. Back in the day, before there was indoor plumbing, women would come here to collect water, worship, run errands and, no doubt, catch up on gossip of the day. Today, however, the stepwell is like an urban park, a shady rest stop for folks to catch up and chill. The brothers updated the pretty havelis surrounding the stepwell and filled them with charming boutiques and eateries, including India’s top clothing and lifestyle labels such as Nicobar, Play Clan, Stepwell Café, Rajesh Pratap Singh, and Andraab to name a few. Perched on the edge of toorji ka jhalra, I take in the scene. Jodhpur is Rajasthan’s second largest city, but it lives and breathes like a village. RAAS Jodhpur and Stepwell Square sits in the midst of cacophonous network of narrow winding lanes, centuries-old grain and spice markets, artisan guilds and quaint, bluetinted shophouses and temples—the blue keeps the heat and insects away—and lays at the feet of Mehrangarh Fort, the city’s main focal point. Watching locals and visitors stream in and out of the Square, taking selfies or simply chilling, I realize Singh and his brother had inadvertently flipped things around. They took Jodhpur’s lofty royal legacy, which is inextricably bound up in the fort 120 meters overhead, and brought it down to earth.

C

RUISING THE RAJASTHANI hinterland, I encounter similarly inspiring and forward-thinking heritage projects. The Alila Fort Bishangarh, for example, is mounted on a granite bluff, but remains connected to the pastoral vibe of the Bishangarh village below. Alila built new structures on the Fort’s original footprint, creating regal suites inspired by old Rajput and Mughal flourishes like Tarkashi, brass inlaid in wood, and frescoes with Thikri mirror work. There’s plenty of new-age fusion at the tony Amarsar dining room and vigorous gin and whiskey tonics at the clubby Madhuveni lounge, yet the


C LOC K W I S E F RO M TO P LE F T : RA NVAS NAGAU R & M E H RA N GA R H M US EUM TR UST ; C OU RTESY O F A LI L A FO RT BI S H A N GAR H ; C OU RTESY O F L A KS H MA N SAGA R BY S E WA R A ; C O URTESY OF L E P RI N C E H AV E L I; C OU RTESY OF RA AS J ODH P UR

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Have the run of the fort at Ranvas at Nagaur; an Ayurvedic spa room at Alila; slow food at Lakshman Sagar by Sewara; Le Prince Haveli was a former merchant’s residence; RAAS Jodhpur’s scenic restaurant.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Garden-

C LOC K W I S E F RO M TO P LE F T : C OU RTESY OF L AKS HM A N SAGA R BY S E WA R A; C OU RTESY O F R A AS J O DHP U R ; K . N O OR- P RI YA ; N A R E N D R A BH AWA N BIK A N E R ; C OU RT ESY OF L A KS HMA N SAGA R BY SE WA R A

fresh fare in Lakshman Sagar by Sewara; the pool at RAAS Jodhpur in the shadow of Mehrangarh Fort; the restored Stepwell Square, also a project of the Singh brothers; fine dining at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner; the eco-chic spa at Lakshman Sagar by Sewara.

RAJASTHAN

India is known for its opulent five-star hotel service. But in Rajasthan, set your sights on smaller brands whose pitchperfect stays in historic surrounds define the term unique.

Getting There

Jaipur Sanganer International Airport has nonstop flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Tourist e-visas can be obtained online prior to arrival at www. indianvisaonline.gov.in. Rajasthan’s modern road network makes it feasible, and enjoyable, to do a leisurely road trip. I hired a car and driver through India Beat (indiabeat.co.uk). Most luxury hotels in India offer complimentary driver accommodations.

Hotels

RAAS Jodhpur Set against the backdrop of the

towering Mehrangarh Fort, the glassy blue infinity pool was a cool spot to unwind after a day of exploring, as is the decadent spa with its excellent Ayurvedic and Himalayan treatments, like the Tibetan Ku Ny, which realigned my sensory organs. raasjodhpur.com; doubles from US$315. Lakshman Sagar by Sewara Traditional charpoys made cozy with soft hot-pink cushions flank the aquamarine swimming pool, dug right into an ancient granite boulder. An indigenous body treatment in the quirky and delightful spa, housed in a water tower, used Multani mitti,

local clay, making my skin soft and silky for days. sewara.com; doubles from US$315. RAAS Devigarh Eclectic curated experiences ferried me to sacred temples— where I learned to do darshan, or offer holy prayers—and to village guilds, including Sadhana Workshop, a fair-trade studio with fabulous clothes and crafts. raasdevigarh. com; doubles from US$308. Alila Fort Bishangarh Don’t be fooled by Spa Alila’s dungeon locale! The treatments are heavenly, especially the Roots of Jaipur which purifies the skin with field-grown turmeric, gram seed and mustard oil. alilahotels. com; doubles from US$400. Narendra Bhawan Bikaner The Merchant Experience flung me back in time as I explored old

markets lined with caravanserais, where traders from around the world stopped in to hustle exotic textiles, ceramics and spices. narendrabhawan.com; doubles from US$115. Ranvas at Nagaur Guests have the run of the fort— whose walls have a built-in walking path, offering a bird’s-eye view of the town’s donkey, sheep and rickshaw–trafficked market lanes and gorgeous sunsets. ranvasnagaur.com; doubles from US$250. Le Prince Haveli The atmospheric vibe here is hard to beat, but I equally enjoyed poking around the medieval marketplace village lanes lined with crumbling, half-buried havelis with jaw-dropping frescoes. leprincehaveli. com, doubles from US$50. — R.S.


best experiences here are all about indigenous gastronomy. My excitement peaks when the hotel’s chef gives me a tutorial on braai, a nomadic-inspired style of grilling marinated mutton over an open flame. Rajasthani cuisine evolved on the go, a mix of foraging and folding in Silk Road influences; in other words, whatever warriors and traders could get their hands on. I remember Ram Kauri’s throw-itall-in curries, and it suddenly makes sense. In Bikaner, a former princely state founded in 1488, Narendra Bhawan Bikaner riffs the swinging, smoking jacket–wearing and poloplaying lifestyle of a modern maharaja and his subjects. Light, playful interiors pair colonial and Midcentury pieces with ochre Bikaner terrazzo, imported Portuguese tiles and artisan indigo textiles and crafts. Over in Nagaur, an ancient caravan crossroads rooted in a strong Sufi tradition, I find medieval and modern sentiments perfectly intertwined in Ranvas, whose 27 charming havelis, once the quarters of the maharaja’s concubines, occupy a cozy niche within 12th-century Ahhichatragarh Fort, a sprawling complex of pleasure palaces, gardens and darbars, or meeting halls. Then, there is Le Prince Haveli, an extravagant mid-19th-century merchant’s residence in a middle-of-nowhere crossroads deep in Shekhawati, an eastern district known for its extravagant frescoes-adorned havelis, where I help an international restoration team remove the detritus and oxidation covering the building’s hundred-year-old walls. Run by French artist Nadine Le Prince, the lavish vintage rooms and garden courtyards revel in a 19th-century merchants’ sybaritic, sheeshasmoking habits, but the vibe is quintessential French joie de vivre muddled with folksy Rajasthani humor and hospitality—think DJ beats and never-ending chai and samosa breaks. Meanwhile, Devigarh, the palace residence that jump-started this next generation of heritage hotels, continues to trailblaze—this time around as RAAS Devigarh, where the Singh brothers impeccably cleave contemporary and nostalgic sentiments in everything from the furniture to the food.

I

AM STILL LOOKING FOR A throwback to my time with Phoolchand, Ram Kauri and Kaveri the nosy beast when I stumble across Lakshman Sagar by Sewara, a former 19th-century hunting lodge-turned-luxury eco-farm-stay tucked in the countryside between Pushkar and Pali, and my heart swells.

“Rural Rajasthan is suffering from a feudal hangover,” says Inderpal Kochhar, a filmmaker who moonlights as the founder of Sewara, a slow-life-inspired company that lifted Lakshman Sagar from ruin. The heritage hoopla only touches on a “thin creamy layer of Rajput life,” he continues. “I wanted to explore the other part of our heritage, the one that is rooted in Rajasthan’s agrarian and tribal past.” Sprawled across 13 hectares of scrubland wilderness and built around a tranquil lake, the property features 12 hand-hewn, ecologically conceived mud and stucco cottages and two restored havelis—the Zanana and Mardana where the Thakur of Raipur hosted hunting expeditions during the British Raj. During the renovation, Kochhar pursued a “zero-kilometer” ethos, wherein everything— be it the eucalyptus beam inside the cottages, the sarkhanda and kheep grasses shading the lakeside gazebos, or the spices and vegetables used in the kitchen—not only came from surrounding villages but drew on local artisan skills and problem-solving. In spite of using simple, local materials, Kochhar has inculcated a luxurious mien fit for kings. Chilling in my lakeside cottage—each comes with its own plunge pool—I watch wild antelopes and boars mosey up to the lake, while royal blue kingfishers, cormorants and egrets lap the shoreline. I take long walks around the property, traversing narrow ravines and climbing million-year-old boulders studded with quartz and obsidian. On the Zanana’s rooftop terrace, I linger with sweet masala chai, watching tawny sunrises light up the rangy hillsides. In the Mardana’s breezy veranda, I savor local farm grub like khejri, guggal and raabri, curries made with dried, herbaceous leaves and seeds. In the nearby village, I shape clay bowls with the village potter, corral goats with a tribal Rabari herder (it’s harder than it looks), wait patiently while a wizened, turbaned cobbler draws an outline of my foot on a piece of paper and uses it to craft a handsome pair of camel-leather juttis, or Rajasthani loafers. There is even a local hooch-maker, distilling an anise-flavored liquor called saunf made from fennel seeds. Kochhar half-jokingly calls this swathe of Rajasthan the Badlands. “It’s like the Wild West out here. The survivalist, frontier spirit is deeply ingrained,” he says. He was right. The folks I met embodied Rajasthan’s noble, strident and humble spirit. A good-natured lot, much like Phoolchand and Ram Kauri, they indulged in the simple pleasures of the here and now and were living a life just as compelling as the maharajas. TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / MARCH 2019

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MY KIND OF We all dream of powder-soft, palm-fringed beaches

and crystal-clear seas, but in Fiji, these are par for the course. After the opening of a clutch of next-level private-island resorts, MICHAEL PATERNITI finds out what it takes to elevate a stay

from great to truly mind-blowing. PHOTOGRAPHED BY SEAN FENNESSY


PARADISE

The shoreline of one of Fiji’s 300 or so islands, as seen from the air transfer to Kokomo Private Island Fiji.

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BELOW: At the new Six Senses Fiji, traditional dance performances are held on the beach at dusk. OPPOSITE: The Beach Shack, the guest reception area at Kokomo Private Island.

EFORE YOU SET OFF FOR

your private-island resort in Fiji—a place called Vatuvara—there’s the exertion of having to fill out a form. “Favorite cocktail?” it asks. If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer is: “All.” “May we stock your personal wine fridge and mini-bar with specific items?” it inquires. You think, “Yes, specific items are welcome—and did you just say personal wine fridge?” Before you arrive at your private-island resort in Fiji, to your villa with its own plunge pool and views of one of the most magnificent oceanscapes you’ve ever laid eyes on, the resort staff would also like to know how they can help you attain your wellness goals, and what activities you enjoy. You can check hiking and watersports, massages (plural!), and renewing your vows, among other options. If you pick yoga, an on-call instructor named Cloud will be flown in by seaplane to help turn your tense, inflexible body into a warm pretzel. And here’s the thing. As you strike your wobbly tree pose to the lovely encouragement of Cloud, while gazing upon the aquamarine waters of the South Pacific, personal wine fridge stocked and ready, you will ask yourself some very important questions: If Fiji itself is supposed to be paradise, could it be that I’m experiencing something more than paradise? This villa, this view, this moment—is this paradise plus one? Paradise turned up to 11? These questions, which at the time will seem the most reasonable in the world, will lead you to reconsider the meaning of that well-worn word paradise—what it is and what it signals in our minds. It’s a common trope of travel, of course, used to imply a certain color of water, a certain softness of sand, a certain amount of sun and spoiling. But if you were to experience three distinct interpretations of the word, by visiting three lavish private-island resorts purpose-built to indulge your every desire, would

each one expand or diminish the definition of paradise? And having experienced those dreams, what would you have learned? That’s exactly why I went to Fiji: to find out.

LOCATED SOMEWHERE

northwest of Tonga and southwest of Samoa, Fiji is a gorgeous insanity of South Pacific islands and atolls— more than 300, to be less than exact (some come and go with the tides). Though tourism is now the No. 1 industry, for a long time Fiji was seen as Tahiti’s less exclusive cousin, with great beaches and diving but not much in the way of cushy, high-end resorts. Whereas honeymooners jetted to, say, Bora Bora for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, backpackers would arrive in Fiji and board a ferry to one pristine island or another to surf, catch rays and party on the beach. Australians came for family vacations, but Americans were far more likely to opt for Hawaii or the Caribbean. And for folks in Asia, of course, the go-to high-end castaway pick has long been the Maldives. Over the past five years or so, though, the number of big-spending visitors has surged, thanks to the launch of nonstop flights from Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo, plus the opening of a clutch of new upscale resorts to more than justify the lengthy flights. My wife, Sara; our youngest son, 13-year-old Nicholas; and I flew in from Boston, meaning our flight was a little less than nonstop. After almost 20 hours of air travel, we emerged into fragrant, humid air, stripping off our fleeces. A short car ride later, we came to a marina where a boat took us out into the watery playing fields of Fiji. To suddenly find ourselves in that elemental otherworld, with its saltlaced wind, expanses of fluorescent water, and rugged, mountain-fringed horizon, was discombobulating, a physical shock. It felt like the best kind of freedom in the world. On the transfer to our first resort, the newly opened Six Senses Fiji on Malolo Island, I chatted with Sam, a member of the crew, up in the front of the boat. After pointing out the various world-class surf breaks we


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passed by, Sam told me a story about Dakuwaqa, the shark god. He said Dakuwaqa once terrorized the waters of Fiji, but then when he attacked the island of Kadavu, a goddess named Rokobakaniceva, assuming octopus form, subdued the shark and extracted a promise that he would leave the people of Kadavu alone. Sam told the story as if it had occurred yesterday. Then, as we approached Malolo Island, he said that the island’s Tui Lawa, or chief, commanded his own duo of large sharks. If you misbehave, he said gravely, you might get bitten by one. When I asked if he really believed that, he looked at me, smiling, and said, “Of course.” He said his uncle had often swum with sharks, and because he was such a fine person, had not been bitten once. That’s why.

W E’D BEEN TOLD THE

best thing about Fiji is its people: kinetically friendly, communally minded, kid-loving, naturally hospitable, greeting everyone with a loud “Bula!” At Six Senses, we were welcomed by serenade, which, friends, I’m here to tell you is the best way to arrive anywhere. As wooden necklaces were draped around our necks, a group of singers with acoustic guitars belted out a string of heartfelt harmonies. These songs could easily have seemed like just another tropical island cliché—and yes, the experience would be repeated five more times on our trip. But in the moment, the singing felt like an organic extension of the Fijian spirit. (Of course, the staffers sang these songs a lot as guests came and went, but for me, sap that I am, that initial moment never lost its feeling, especially later as we approached the end of our trip, and I went through my own complicated feelings of not wanting to leave Fiji, ever.) While Six Senses is luxurious, it of course also stresses sustainability. Efforts to reduce the resort’s carbon footprint can be felt at every turn— from the metal drinking straws and the Tesla battery–powered solar fields to the kitchen garden with its resident brood of chickens.

FROM TOP: The seafood

platter at Vatuvara Private Islands showcases Fijian flavors like coconut, lime and cilantro; a guest room at Six Senses Fiji. OPPOSITE: The beach at Kokomo Private Island, on remote Yaukuve Levu.

According to Rose Kavanaugh, the property’s enthusiastic marketing exec, it is this philosophy, more than the spa facilities or the food (both of which were fantastic), that repeat customers at Six Senses’ other resorts give as the reason for their return. Perhaps, having burned the jet fuel to be there, some of us feel relief in knowing that a resort has our ecological back. After checking in, we reviewed our activity options and found that they included a consultation with the property’s “sleep ambassador,” who can provide everything from organic pajamas to a sleep kit containing a neti pot and something called a sleep spritzer, infused with the scent of jasmine. Having installed ourselves in our beachfront villa, we took in the view from the deck. In the near distance, we could see a small island called Wadigi, which, we were told, has been rented out by Pink and Paris Hilton. Out to the west, the water turned from near-purple to an emerald green, and beyond that was an epic wall of white water where the energy of the ocean collided with the coral reef. Everything around us was shaped by the mood and aspect of the sea. It occurred to me that part of what makes any place a paradise is the contrast it provides with your life at home. Back in Portland, Maine, where we live, Sara and I had just sent our oldest child off to college and put our second on a plane to Beijing for a high school year abroad. For the past few weeks, the nest had seemed twothirds empty. In Fiji, the sensual bombardment of the natural world helped erase that parental pang. By the time we snorkeled around the nearby reef, we’d passed into a state of wonder, lost in a world of parrotfish and blue starfish. It reminded me of something that came before all the swimming and


FROM LEFT: A staffer at

Vatuvara, where guests have included Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; Vatuvara has set up a foundation to protect the surrounding reefs. OPPOSITE: One of the three villas at Vatuvara, which all have an informal, personal feel.

paddleboarding, before the yoga and massage at the spa designed to look like a Fijian village, before our last night on the island and the cocktail on the hilltop overlooking the resort at sunset. When we’d first arrived, we’d met what Six Senses called our GEM, or guest experience maker. His name was Pela Rageci, and besides being awesome, he looked a little like Usher. His greeting to us that morning, later to be repeated by others, captured something so true about the familiarity we felt in Fiji. “Welcome home,” he’d said, as if we’d already been there in another life.

IF YOU ASK ME , the mega-rich have it the hardest in Fiji. The rest of us go on vacation, and then, with lightened wallets and heavy hearts, take our leave at the end of the trip. We don’t want to go home, of course, but we generally don’t have much choice. Multimillionaires, on the other hand, operate on a different budget and schedule. We all crave our own version of paradise, but they alone have the means to acquire it— as well as a seeming compulsion to engrave their indelible signatures on the landscape in golden glitter. And then the project turns out to be a whole lot of work. It’s a thing in Fiji, moguls and celebrities buying their own islands. Mel Gibson purchased one for US$15 million. Clare Bronfman, the Seagram heiress, owns 80 percent of one, for which she paid US$47 million. David Gilmour, the Canadian gold baron, bought and developed the 1990s granddaddy of Fiji’s star-studded private island resorts, the Wakaya Club & Spa. In 2008, Red Bull cofounder Dietrich Mateschitz opened a resort on Laucala, his own manicured version of Xanadu, replete with Austrian chefs, a Wagyu cattle farm, its own

private submarine, and an 18-hole golf course staffed by PGA professionals. Oprah Winfrey to George Clooney have been guests. So it was strictly in the name of research that we hopped aboard a seaplane whose barefoot pilot brought us to an island called Yaukuve Levu, which is owned by Australian real estate billionaire Lang Walker. After spending US$160 million, Walker has realized his own version of paradise: Kokomo Private Island. The story of its acquisition goes like this. In 2011, a friend sailed by the jungle-thicketed island that would become home to Kokomo, and told Walker he’d found just the place for him. Lore has it that when Walker eventually showed up, he slashed his way to the top of a hill to get cell coverage, then negotiated the price down from US$7 million to US$3 million. He calls it the most costly phone call of his life, because shortly thereafter, he turned on the cash spigot to create the resort that stood before us. “This is the one project on which Walker has truly spared no expense,” Martin Persson, the island’s GM, told me. While Six Senses might have possessed a slightly more sceney vibe, Kokomo, by dint of its price, clientele and 45-minute plane transfer, upped the ante in terms of exclusivity. As we padded along the dock after drop-off, again came the musical greeting and the bestowing of leis, followed by a quick briefing from Lynn Enocksson, the PR manager and Martin’s wife. Here, our GEM was called a butler, and the “butler button” on our in-room iPad, we were told, would be the conduit to service. As it should be in paradise, the takeaway was simple: whatever you want, whenever you want it, we’ll try to make it happen. At this point, I was tempted to vocalize an urge for baked Alaska and fire juggling on the beach, just to see. (One guest had embarked on a new cleanse just before she arrived, and asked the resort staff to come up with 55 kilograms of celery, which they did.) Our beachfront villa, one of 21 at the resort, was once again ridiculous,


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with its white stone bathtub that resembled a bisected dinosaur egg, its bed that I never wanted to leave, oriented toward the azure ocean, and its paintings produced by one of Walker’s favorite painters, Chris Kenyon, during a yearlong island residency. But despite the creature comforts, at Kokomo you really get the feeling of being out there. The resort is situated in the Kadavu group of islands, surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef—the fourth largest on the planet—which teems with exotic marine life, including sharks and dolphinfish. The place feels so remote, in fact, that some of the nearby beaches are used to film international editions of Survivor. At Kokomo, we again were briefed about the multitude of on-land amenities on offer, from the tennis court to the yoga sessions. But again, we found ourselves most drawn to the aquatic wonderland of the Pacific Ocean. The resort offers a PADI dive center and a staff marine biologist who studies the region’s manta ray population. There’s Hobie catamaran sailing, tubing, snorkeling, outer-reef surfing, and deep-sea fishing (migrating tuna are never fattier than when in their Fiji phase, Persson told us). One day, we took a boat to an even more remote island, which took us past the Survivor beaches, where we could see a crew setting up one of the challenges. A short hike later, we found ourselves at the base of a 30-meter waterfall, a lovely refuge in the jungle with parrots fluttering by. Thinking ourselves brave, Nicholas and I

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clambered up some dry rocks and jumped. But then our Fijian guide climbed the slick rock-face behind the waterfall, found his own perch about halfway up, and casually dived headfirst into dark waters, splashing and whooping when he came up. When it came time to eat, everything was fresh and delicious—no small feat on a remote island. Kokomo’s ingredients come, in large part, from the farm on the eastern side of the island. These are overseen by Aussie executive chef Anthony Healey, whose previous gig was at Laucala and who also keeps bees for honey and presides over his own coterie of chickens. That evening, jellied by an excellent massage at what Kokomo touts as “the biggest spa in Fiji”—a stillmodest collection of traditional thatched huts, where a hammam and


a 3½-hour treatment called the Island Revival Journey are available—we ate at Walker d’Plank, one of the resort’s three restaurants. Seated on a deck over the rising tide, with crabs scuttling in the dark beneath us, we were welcomed by the restaurant’s chef, Caroline Oakley, a voluble local originally hired as Lang Walker’s private cook. It is her contagious belief that making food is an emotional act. Luckily for guests at Kokomo, she’s an accomplished improviser (we all loved the resort’s willingness to cook off-menu). Soon came duck pancakes, Korean barbecue, and fried rice with lobster, all accompanied by wine from an extensive list. As I entered a food coma, my wife took up my reporter’s notebook to record my reaction. “Now I understand how Marlon Brando ended up weighing three hundred and fifty pounds,” I said, just before they rolled me out. “He bought his own island paradise and ate exactly like this.”

OUR L AST STOP WAS

Vatuvara Private Islands, another billionaire-owned island nirvana and the place we met Cloud, the aforementioned yoga instructor. This time we came skimming via twinengine from south to north, in the direction of the yet more remote Lau island chain, once closed to tourists, where Vatuvara is located. The resort is actually located on Kaibu—one of three islands owned by Jim Jannard, the American founder of Oakley sunglasses. It looks out on his beloved Vatuvara island, which remains a protected sanctuary. With three villas in the whole resort, and the other two unoccupied that week, we were the only guests being attended to by a staff of 42. Of course, our digs were stunning, but the vibe was more like someone’s cool home than a luxury resort, fully furnished, with interesting books and found art objects. Yes, the personal wine fridge was stocked, and a beautiful coconut cake sat on the counter, made in our honor. The beach was for us alone, with all the toys including a sea scooter you could

FROM RIGHT: Kokoda, or

Fijian-style ceviche made with coconut milk, at Six Senses; sculptures in the gardens at Kokomo were carved from fallen cinnamon trees. OPPOSITE: Guests at Vatuvara have the island’s supply of watersports equipment all to themselves.

ride against the current. Cloud was on call to pretzel us up. The ionized plunge pool was temperature-controlled and deep, and you could hang on the wall, gawking at the waves as they crashed against the barrier reef in the near distance. None of this should have been surprising—though it was—once we learned a little about the man in charge, Rob Miller. Born in Australia and raised in Fiji, Miller is locally famous for having been the GM at the Wakaya Club & Spa in its late-90s heyday. He is still regarded as something of the grand pooh-bah of Fijian hospitality—so much so that when Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, had a night off on their recent tour of Oceania, Miller hosted them at Vatuvara. “Rob is a masterpiece,” said a woman named Leba Raluve, who acted as our server, bartender, masseuse, guest relations liaison, and probably about a dozen other things. Back when Miller was still working at Wakaya, hobnobbing with its famous clientele and perfecting the art of keeping them happy, he became particularly close to Jannard, then worth more than US$2 billion. So when Jannard bought these islands in 2009, he installed his friend Miller to build two houses on the 150-hectare Kaibu island—one for each of them—and start something Miller described as “small and exclusive.” The two then collaborated on the addition of a runway, villas and a four-hole golf course. When we visited, the resort had been in development for eight years, and they weren’t yet done with the gym. Theirs, Miller said, had been a soft opening. As an exclusive-use property, the time line of the launch was flexible. “We’re only looking for one booking at a time,” he explained.


The resort itself felt like a family affair. Miller’s wife, Lynda, tends the gardens; his sonin-law, John, flies planes for the resort and handles all the water activities, from Jet Skiing to deep-sea fishing. Daughter Katy, a marine biologist, heads up the Vatuvara Foundation, which is charged with protecting the ocean life of the northern Lau islands. These days, there is much discussion about the effects of climate change, development, and tourism, which include the destruction of coral reefs, deforestation, and unsustainable fishing practices. In response, the foundation, in partnership with organizations including the U.S. Geological Survey, has studied the coral reefs and the wildlife sanctuary of Vatuvara island, hoping to protect the species that reside there—one of which is the coconut crab, the world’s largest land-based arthropod.

W ITH OUR TIME TICK ING

down in Fiji, everything at Vatuvara assumed a special poignancy. The kokoda (Fijian ceviche) was somehow more flavorful; the perfume of the frangipani flowers more intense. Before the long trip home, before the final goodbye song, we wanted one last adventure. So John fired up the Jet Skis and we set out to a secluded beach so we could snorkel on the coral reef one last time. “Yippity-yoppity!” Nicholas yelled, gunning the machine as I clutched his waist. It was his catchall phrase, and at that moment he delivered it with such joy I imagined his two siblings, wherever they were in the world, perking up at the resounding echo of familial happiness. At the beach, it felt as if we were the only ones in the world. John, who is from Rotuma, Fiji’s northernmost island, was in the water before all of us, free diving. He was an actionadventure hero, as far as I was concerned. Watching him from the shore, I remembered something he’d said about his beloved home island, one with no hotels or resorts at all, where people lived in concert with the land and sea. As good as Vatuvara was, he said, “Rotuma’s my paradise.” Underwater, the reef dropped off suddenly, deeply—craggy and profound in its pinks and yellows and fluorescent blues. A sea turtle came winging along, its humble home on its back. Underwater, it flew. John, not us, saw it disappear in the distance. We simply imagined it, free to explore its own paradise and the feeling of its propulsion through all those awesome kingdoms of coral beneath the surface of our world.

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Kaibu

FIJI

Malolo

Yaukuve Levu

FIND YOUR OWN PRIVATE PARADISE IN FIJI

You’ll want to set aside at least a week for a vacation here, as the journey can be long. But with beaches, reefs, and resorts like these, who would want to go for any less?

Getting There

Fiji Airways (fijiairways.com) has nonstop flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo to Nadi International Airport, on the main island of Viti Levu. As Fiji is made up of more than 300 islands, many resorts offer their own air or boat transfers; in addition, there are ferry services to the busier Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups from Port Denarau, a short drive from the airport. Most countries are visa exempt, but citizens of Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam must obtain a visa before traveling to Fiji. Visit immigration.gov.fj for full details.

provide—from a picnic lunch on a deserted island to a visit to the Great Astrolabe Reef, one of the premier diving spots on earth. kokomoislandfiji.com; villas from US$2,500.

Where to Stay

Vatuvara Private Islands Another plane ride, this time 40 minutes northeast from Nadi, lands you on Kaibu, an island in the remote Lau archipelago owned by Oakley sunglasses founder Jim Jannard. Formerly closed to tourists, Kaibu is now home to this exclusive, 150-hectare, three-villa property with overflowing gardens, an on-site farm, and an organic golf course. vatuvara.com; villas from US$4,300.

Kokomo Private Island A 40-minute seaplane (or helicopter) ride south from Nadi to Yaukuve Levu, this property owned by Australian developer Lang Walker feels a bit like Fantasy Island. Whatever you want, the staff here aims to

Nanuku, an Auberge Resort Accessible by plane or road from Nadi, Nanuku is a laid-back, familyoriented resort in Pacific Harbour, on Viti Levu’s southern shore. Adventure is a central focus: guests can dive with sharks, Jet Ski to remote islands, and journey up inland rivers to rapids and waterfalls. What makes Nanuku most special, though, is the way it showcases Fijian culture—best witnessed in the traditional kava ceremony, which combines consumption of the euphoriainducing local drink with tribal dancing and singing. auberge resorts.com; doubles from US$775. — M.P.

Six Senses Fiji Located on Malolo Island in the Mamanucas, this eco-friendly resort offers high-end luxury with minimal guilt—as well as excellent food and a dazzling array of wellness options. And for surfers of means, legendary spots like Cloudbreak and Restaurants are a short boat ride away. sixsenses. com; villas from US$945.


CITY OF ANGELS,

LAND HOTELS OF

In Los Angeles, a handful of beloved properties—some relative newcomers, others dating back to the glory days of Old Hollywood—are woven so deeply into the social fabric, you couldn’t imagine the sprawling city without them. Alex Bhattacharji explores why they’re so essential to the way Angelenos live and gather and so endlessly alluring to visitors.

P H OTO G R A P H S BY B R I A N G U I D O


The Sunset Tower Hotel’s Tower Bar is one of the toughest reservations in town.

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I

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Afternoon

at Palihouse West Hollywood’s Mardi Restaurant; green juice at Mardi; a diner gets a little work done during happy hour at Palihouse Lobby Lounge & Bar.

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It’s a scene that plays out on Saturday mornings across the land: a line of people winds out the door of a small diner where, all weekend long, athleisure-clad families fill the dozen or so stools that flank a curved counter. As they thumb the papers, linger over partially eaten plates of eggs Benedict and silver-dollar pancakes, and lift their mugs to request refills of joe, they give no inkling that the Fountain Coffee Room is anything but a neighborhood joint, because that is exactly what it is—an institution locals casually refer to as the Counter. For starters, you would never know that Marilyn Monroe loved getting late-night ice cream here or that this is where the members of Guns N’ Roses signed their first record deal. And unless you recognized the embroidered crest on the napkins or the wallpaper emblazoned with waving bananapalm leaves or the Chanel-pink doggie bag boxes bearing the Beverly Hills Hotel logo, you’d also have no clue you’re in a hotel. “Of course it’s in a hotel,” says Alison Werner, a thirtysomething talent booker and Southern California native, when I meet her after breakfast. “This is L.A. Here, we actually hang out in hotels.” This comes as some bit of reassurance to me. In the three years since relocating from New York City, I’ve found myself hanging out at area hotels with a frequency that I thought might have branded me an outsider. But it’s like the writer and cultural critic Fran Lebowitz said:

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“Los Angeles is a large city-like area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.” Except, with all due respect to the consummate New Yorker, her cheeky observation is incomplete. Actually there are a handful of hotels, arrayed in a loose cluster across West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air, that compose the true focal point of the city. Their bars and lobbies, dining rooms and poolsides are the City of Angels’ main drags and town squares. “I always found Los Angeles singular among world-class cities in its lack of a central hub. There’s literally no there there, as they say,” hotelier André Balazs notes. “A hotel can fill that void.” That was the idea when he purchased Chateau Marmont in 1990, understanding that the stately Loire Valley– style château rising above the comedy clubs and nightclubs of the Sunset Strip had long served as a clubhouse for the elite. It’s never been alone in that role, though over the years the cast of hotels has changed as the city has. During


Tinseltown’s Golden Age, the Hollywood Roosevelt played the same part, as did the Beverly Wilshire, which is now staking its claim anew as a Four Seasons. Even as the city is awash in fresh energy, with ever richer culinary offerings, thriving art and cultural scenes, and the ascendance of Downtown L.A. and Venice, the tradition of treating hotels as hearths has happily endured. “A HOTEL, IF DONE correctly, serves as a second home,” says hotelier and restaurateur Jeff Klein, whose locally landmarked Art Deco Sunset Tower Hotel fills the bill by design, thanks to the dinner destination Tower Bar and the recently renovated pool and terrace. Several other properties around town—both old and new—do the same, each in its own distinct way: the opulent, hidden-in-plain-sight refuge Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills; the intimate and welcoming Palihouse West Hollywood, which packs bohemian-chic charm; and the always venerable Hotel Bel-Air, a canyon retreat whose faraway feel belies its proximity to West L.A. For out-of-towners, Los Angeles’s hotel-ashub phenomenon can put an improbable, ironic twist on an itinerary. In most cities, the authentic local experiences visitors crave come from leaving the hotel—not blocking out more


time there. “In the case of the Chateau,” Balazs says, “the same thing that appeals to visitors actually is something of vital necessity to residents of L.A.—a sense of place.” The Castle on Sunset, as the Chateau is also known, dates from 1929 and exudes Old Hollywood appeal. Long before the mismatched aesthetic was in vogue, the Chateau embraced eclectic, loungeworthy furniture that would deliver the comforts of home. Over the years, many famous figures have taken up full-time residence here, but even lingering for a few hours can act as a salve for the loneliness that tends to afflict Angelenos, isolated in their cars and secluded hillside abodes. And the Chateau is a celebrity in its own right, steeped in Hollywood history, glamour and legendary bad behavior. Jean Harlow hosted lovers here during her honeymoon, Jim Morrison swung from the balconies, and John Belushi died of an overdose in one of the bungalows. (The dishy new book The Castle on Sunset marks the Chateau’s 90th year with a history of its trysts, deals, addictions and art.) The property may as well be the uncredited lead in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, a film ostensibly about displacement and ennui that also shows the human connection and

bonhomie a hotel can provide. It’s a love letter to the Chateau’s many charms, including the intimate pool and personable waiters and valets, who in real life somehow manage to learn your name and know which car is yours before you can shift into park. These touches add to the Chateau’s air of exclusivity, which, while overstated, is reinforced by the star power on display during seemingly every visit. While eating dinner on the veranda recently, I spot several pop starlets at the tables. During a visit to the bungalow housing Chateau Hanare, Marmont’s year-old kaiseki restaurant, the cast of a premium cable show spills out of a private dining room. Over the course of one day, Quentin Tarantino sits in the sunken living room writing out notes in longhand on script pages, first on a low chair, then on a higher love seat, before finally settling into an armchair that seems to get his artistic juices flowing. A few days later, the space plays host to music executives lunching before meeting with colleagues and counterparts, taking calls, then wooing a pair of hip-hop artists over a drink—all without changing their location—until it’s time to amble a few meters for their dinner reservation.


CALL THIS DEVOTION to place enlightened inertia, an increasingly popular approach to efficient planning in this trafficcongested city whose mantra is map twice, drive once. Even established hotels have adapted to become multi-act stopovers, encouraging post-lunch laptop sessions that blend into evening engagements. At the Sunset Tower, which offers nearly every modern amenity except a sizable lobby, Klein reimagined the pool patio and the terrace, which had long been afterthoughts, adding a sultry new bar area with banquettes and booths for meetings over drinks. They now present a relaxed daytime precursor and nighttime alternative to the elegant and exclusive Tower Bar across the hotel’s lobby, which has seen its own evolution. Last year, when Gabé Doppelt, a former fashion editor and onetime acolyte of Anna Wintour, replaced Dimitri Dimitrov as the maître d’ at Tower Bar, she assumed the mantle of Hollywood’s most empowered host—and de facto social kingmaker. In Los Angeles, this changing of the guard at Tower Bar was treated like a peaceful transfer of power almost on par with a presidential inauguration. While Doppelt has honored traditions (the dress code and the no-photos rule, instituted after an unfortunate J.Lo incident, remain), she has also ushered in changes. In her hands, the Tower Bar’s reservation lists and seating chart are constructed less around the entertainment establishment and more with an eye toward contemporary eclecticism. Directing traffic with a trace of a South African accent, Doppelt confidently mixes and matches contrasting crowds, as if continuously curating a highly personalized cocktail party. “Changing the mix is essential,” she says. “It stops us from becoming stale.”

Reservations remain as elusive as ever, and some will go so far as booking a hotel room, knowing that it’s the best way to score a coveted table. “Guests get preferential treatment in that regard,” Klein says of Tower Bar. “If you’re an out-of-towner and you’re not staying here, it’s going to be pretty hard to get in. The truth is, it’s 80 percent locals every night.” That kind of client base is a seal of authenticity sought by all hoteliers, precisely because residents are the most discerning returning customers. “One thing that stunned me is how many people live in the area and come here,” Doppelt says. “We have one guest, Lev, who’s been coming for 12 years, maybe four times a week. He stands in the exact same place at the bar and he knows all our staff. He will even start telling guests about the history of the hotel. He’s a neighbor—that’s it.” The connection runs both ways. Doppelt also calls Lev part of the family, based on affection for him—not his stature, station or domestic proximity. “We have guests who, if there’s a death in the family,” Doppelt adds, “we’ll either go to the memorial or the family will come here.”

FROM LEFT: L.A.’s

ultimate powerlunch scene is at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge; swanky cabanas flank the hotel’s pool. OPPOSITE: Gabé Doppelt, maître d’, makes sure the dining area at the Tower Bar is set perfectly before she begins greeting hotel guests and beloved regulars.

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These sort of bonds aren’t cemented overnight. “You can’t just open a place and become a hub,” says Avi Brosh, the CEO and founder of Palisociety. “It takes a long time to become part of the fabric within a community. It has to be a friendly neighborhood place. It has to grow on you.” His company opened Palihouse West Hollywood a decade ago, seeking to create “a place that was a little bit less defined, more like a student union.” It was modeled on social-clubs-cum-hotels like Soho House (which opened a West Hollywood location of its members-only club, sans hotel, two years later), with a lobby, bar area and garden restaurant that flow seamlessly into one another, each inviting like-minded creative types to while away the time. It can feel like a co-working space, a Parisian café and a cocktail

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lounge—often all at once. As I perch at the bar, hip young Busy Philipps look-alikes clack away on their laptops, a young foursome toasts, and a spectacled fortysomething professional greets his lunch mate, whom he’s introducing to the place: “My quirky-cool assistant turned me on to it. Small but nice, right?” VISITORS HOPING TO drink in L.A.’s glitzy energy sometimes come up dry at the illustrious and idyllic Hotel Bel-Air—a sprawling, leafy oasis tucked partway up Stone Canyon that feels far, far away from, well, everything. That, of course, is its appeal to area residents. The sense of serenity begins when you cross the footbridge over Swan Lake and the white waterfowl float by. It continues through what feels like a rambling country


estate, which is what the property was until the 1930s. At the time, it was centered around a massive stable—vestiges of which remain around the pool, whose oval shape is an outline of the riding ring that preceded it. The hotel’s 103 rooms and suites are housed in multiple buildings scattered across five hectares, so that even when it’s at capacity, the Bel-Air never feels crowded. One happy exception: Sunday brunch, a buoyant, Bellini-fueled, open-air affair for which well-heeled denizens from all over the L.A. area descend on the hotel’s Wolfgang Puck restaurant. It’s rarefied enough for Balenciaga pumps but relaxed enough for New Balance running shoes. Some locals combine it with a trip to the spa, whose monthly memberships are popular among those who live nearby, while others indulge themselves with Bloody Marys and splurge on sturgeon caviar. The most essential weekday meal, fittingly, is at the Los Angeles area’s most iconic institution. That would be the power lunch at the famed Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel. (If you’ve heard that the Ivy is still the “it spot,” you’ve likely heard that from tourists, who now make up a disproportionate percentage of the Ivy’s patrons.) There’s comfort in being a Polo Lounge regular. As I enter, a woman in business attire rushes by the host and asks, “Is he here yet?” The host nods affirmatively as the woman heads in, the host

knowing precisely whom the woman is meeting and the woman knowing precisely which table she has. The most desirable spots are the small booths opposite the bar and, outside, the oversize banquettes that ring the garden, where producers and moguls mingle in full display for other diners. But the enduring appeal of the property, which opened in 1912 and later inspired the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” has been tested in recent years. The hotel became the subject of an impassioned boycott in 2014, after the Sultan of Brunei, whose sovereign wealth fund owns parent company the Dorchester Collection, instituted aspects of sharia law in his home country. But the opposition gradually lost steam, outweighed by affection for the hotel, its staff and its role as a headquarters for the neighboring community. If the Polo Lounge is the place Angelenos go to be seen, L’Ermitage is where they go to be unnoticed. “No one here uses the front door,” a greeter says—at the front door. As befits a refuge that prides itself on discretion, a more clandestine entry can be accessed on the parking level—one where the red carpet literally gets rolled out for events during Hollywood’s awards season and for visiting dignitaries. (For locals arriving for lunch or a staycation, too.) Once inside the 116-suite hideaway, you’re enveloped in peace and quiet, despite its location near Rodeo Drive. Every detail is refined and restrained. If it seems like The gardens at Hotel Bel-Air; OPPOSITE: The hotel’s bar.


of Zee’s who happens to be in town. “He probably thinks I did it to make it easy for him,” he says with a laugh as we raise our glasses. “But I made a reservation here before I knew where he was staying.” As Doppelt glides through the dining room after seating a group of guests, she stops and leans in to chat with Zee and the rest of us. As she stands to leave a few minutes later, she lights up and calls over an anonymous-looking middle-aged man heading toward the bar with a trio of friends. “You must know Lev,” she says to us. “Don’t you?”

WHERE ANGELENOS GATHER This constellation of six luxe hotels dotted around West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air forms Los Angeles’ true city center.

Brunch at the BelAir’s Wolfgang Puck restaurant.

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a perfect place to recover, it is. Soon after the residential condos were converted to a hotel in the 1970s, the owner built an entire wing for healing patients. Today, there’s a private floor reserved for postsurgical guests who want to be nursed back in the lap of luxury and away from prying eyes. Michael Jackson often convalesced here for months at a time. Of course, plastic surgery isn’t required to pamper oneself at L’Ermitage. Guests will check in to get primped ahead of galas and weddings, in part because of the renowned full-length triptych mirrors. At every turn, the service is reserved yet highly personal, even for guests who aren’t technically people. During lunch at Avec Nous, waiters alert the kitchen staff to prepare their handcrafted dog food as soon as they spot a familiar Great Dane and his owner sitting on the patio. Ultimately, the human touch hotels provide is what makes them so essential to residents. Like many visitors to Los Angeles, Joe Zee, a fashion stylist, creative director, and television host, used to wonder why friends in L.A. would be so eager to meet him at his hotel. “I get it now that I live here,” says Zee, a former New Yorker who has called the Hollywood Hills home for the past three years. “I celebrated my last birthday and New Year’s at Tower Bar.” When I meet him there to toast the launch of his new Netflix docuseries 7 Days Out, we grab drinks, followed by dinner with another friend

MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM

Beverly Hills Hotel Part of the Dorchester Collection, along with its sister property, the Hotel Bel-Air, the iconic retreat houses two of the city’s most popular dining destinations: the brunch favorite Fountain Coffee Room (mains US$8–$27) and the power-lunch den Polo Lounge (mains US$20–$75). beverlyhillshotel. com; doubles from US$595. Chateau Marmont Hotelier André Balazs’s hideaway welcomes Angelenos and travelers seeking a respite from the city—whether you’ve come for a leisurely meal at the kaiseki restaurant Chateau Hanare (from US$90 per person) or a stay in one of the legendary bungalows. chateaumarmont.com; doubles from US$450. Hotel Bel-Air Ensconced in Bel Air’s labyrinthine canyons, this former estate feels ultra-private, thanks to lush gardens and discreet service. Carve out time for brunch at Wolfgang Puck (from US$95 per person). hotelbelair.com; doubles from US$595. Palihouse West Hollywood This eclectic property blends elements of a boutique hotel and an extended-stay residence to foster a welcoming vibe, particularly in its Lobby Lounge (mains US$29–$57), a fashionable spot for after-work drinks. palisociety.com; doubles from US$335. Sunset Tower Hotel One of the city’s buzziest scenes can be found at the Art Deco landmark’s Tower Bar (mains US$32–$57), where celebrities and area residents congregate. sunset towerhotel.com; doubles from US$395. Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills Known for its understated elegance, the hotel draws visitors of all stripes with its 116 spacious suites and the panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills from its rooftop pool. viceroyhotelsandresorts. com; doubles from US$525.


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wish you were here

Snow-capped for five months of the year, Mount Fuji is about as iconic a symbol of Japan as there is. An inspiration to artists and poets for centuries, the now-dormant, 3,776-meter volcano often appears as a painting to the naked eye. Surrounded in every direction by layers of waterways, low-lying hills and clear skies blend and evolve as each day progresses, even from as far away as the bustling streets of Tokyo, which is 100 kilometers to the northeast. — SHINSUKE MATSUK AWA

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MARCH 2019 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM


Profile for Travel + Leisure  Southeast Asia

March 2019