The hottest new hotels in Asia and the Middle East | Condé Nast Traveller IndiaJune 16, 2021
ZANNIER HOTELS BÃI SAN HÔ, VIETNAM
As countries lift restrictions and open up across the globe, travellers will be spoiled for choice with a bevy of exciting new hotels to pick from. Presenting the hottest new hotels in Asia and the Middle East:
THE HARI HONG KONG
In the heart of the most dynamic part of town, right by Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, stands The Hari Hong Kong. It is a fusion of the charm and elegance of the brand’s first property, The Hari London, and the vibrancy of Hong Kong. The hotel is part of
Harilela Hotels that’s run by Chairman and CEO Dr Aron Harilela, whose grandfather moved here from Hyderabad in the 1930s. Interior architecture and design practice Tara Bernerd & Partners have added petrol-blue lacquer panelling across The Hari Hong Kong in a nod to its sister property, which they also designed. Amber leathers, grey marble and fluted surfaces feature prominently. There’s a mixture of tweed and velvet fabrics in the décor in rich blues, greens, and earthy tones. The 210-key hotel includes three rooftop suites. The rooms are designed with a dramatic open plan, deep amber textured fabric and rich marble with antique brass elements. Each suite houses a five-piece bathroom, a separate sitting room and its own private terrace. Bespoke timber credenzas, floor lamps, glass-topped marble coffee tables, armchairs and poufs give the suites an inviting air.
FLASH POINT Immerse in Japanese flavours and city vibes on the al fresco terrace at Zoku. thehari.com
ZANNIER HOTELS BÃI SAN HÔ, VIETNAM
It’s always curious when a country’s most exciting opening is in a destination few travellers have heard of. So to Phu Yen, a quiet stretch of beach 40 minutes’ drive from Quy Nhon, past shrimp farms and fishing villages, where Arnaud Zannier has placed the super-secluded Bãi San Hô. It is beautiful, like everything he touches: traditional Vietnamese architecture and design with a splash of Mexico thrown in, curated with a kind of sepia-toned elegance. Some of the 71 villas spotlight architecture from the Ede ethnic group, with reclaimed wood flooring, and others have deep-blue walls mirroring the colour of nearby boats. All is tonal and textured: natural linens are tucked into canopied beds, and elements such as antique baskets and bamboo furniture celebrate Vietnam’s craft heritage. Each detail is thoughtful, from the beachside restaurant serving hand-pressed sugarcane juice to the rattan chairs around the inky pool. The crash of the waves on the half-mile lick of sand and the wind whistling through the surrounding rice paddies set a peaceful playlist. Zannier has form in carving out elegant escapes in unexpected places (Namibia, Cambodia, Megève) and this newest incarnation is another smash hit.
FLASH POINT The ode to grandma’s cooking at Bà Hai, modelled on a stilted Bahnar village home, where four fixed menus showcase traditional dishes from four regions. zannierhotels.com
AMAN KYOTO, JAPAN
As fresh as the first cherry blossom, Aman Kyoto feels as if it could have existed for centuries, which sets it apart among the flurry of new hotel openings in the city. This delightfully out-of-time quality has much to do with its setting: 80 serene acres of woodland, dense with maples, crosshatched by stone paths and fast-flowing streams. It’s a city hotel enfolded in nature. The aura also comes from the late architect Kerry Hill’s knack for merging traditional and contemporary. Containing just 28 bedrooms, Aman Kyoto’s six pavilions have latticed walls and pitched roofs that echo the forms of machiya houses; every bathroom has its own wooden ofuro tub. Another factor in Aman Kyoto’s curious magic is its slow genesis. Between its conception and completion, Vladislav Doronin acquired Aman, owner Adrian Zecha stepped down, and Hill passed away. Thus, Aman Kyoto bridges old Aman and new Aman, embodying all that has made the brand so exciting and influential. FLASH POINT Enjoy the remarkable sensation—rare in a Japanese city—of being lovingly embraced by nature. aman.com
OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI, MALDIVES
The Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is just a 20-minute catamaran ride from Malé, which means you won’t have to check in after the sun’s gone down, or check out before the sun’s up. Pick between a beach villa, with sunrise or sunset views, or the ocean pool suite. Fancy launching straight in the lagoon? There are ocean pool suites with slides as well. Bumming around is serious business at Bolifushi, and you’ll find plenty of spots in your room to gaze at the sun as it settles gold on the lagoon or watch neon fish trace patterns in the waters. Each of the 89 rooms is swish and well-appointed, with a generous deck kitted out with loungers, a couch and hammock at the water’s edge, and an infinity pool. Watch stingrays congregate at the beach for dinner, before heading for sundowners at the overwater hammock at the bar Ozar. Dining venues range from sushi and dim sums at buffet restaurant Vista Del Mar to Arabic specialities at Sangu Beach, as well as a fine-dining European restaurant and an Indian eatery. A kid’s club, with activities such as pizza-making and treasure hunts, and babysitting services, mean you can take downtime at the spa or out at sea, or just truly put your feet up without a worry in the world.
FLASH POINT The home reef is rich with marine life, but you can also take a 10-minute boat ride to take the plunge near a 30-year-old shipwreck and snorkel with turtles. theozencollection.com
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BANGKOK AT CHAO PHRAYA RIVER, THAILAND
Plans for the hotel group’s return to Bangkok (its former location closed in 2015) were hatched long before spontaneous
international travel took such a body blow, but this Jean-Michel Gathy-designed reincarnation on the banks of the Chao Phraya
River feels elegantly tailored to the city’s regulars. For those who have ticked off the usual sightseeing hits, this escape has significant staying-put appeal: there’s a multi-tiered swimming pool with thick-cushioned loungers for all-day lingering, vast bedrooms with deep bathtubs and DIY cocktail corners, and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame knockout views. The restaurants—there are four, plus a vermouth-forward bar—are set for lazy lunches, with sardine tartines and mignonette-drizzled oysters at Brasserie Palmier, perhaps, or citrusy crudo with a crisp rosé on Riva del Fiume’s riverside terrace. It’s a place that feels all encompassing, right down to the spa, which does hi-tech anti-aging treatments and lo-tech bamboo massages, with a separate lap pool for aqua aerobics and stand-up paddleboarding. An urban edge shines through in the contemporary art collection and a rotating exhibition in the gallery wing puts the spotlight on local talent.
FLASH POINT Philip Bischoff has turned the hotel’s bossa-nova-fuelled BKK Social Club into one of the best and buzziest hangouts in town. fourseasons.com
It can’t be easy being a living legend, a global icon, an object of universal reverence. What happens when, eventually, you have to renovate and possibly even change? In the case of Raffles Singapore, you do so in a way that appears effortless and natural. The good news at this 133-year-old classic is that all that was irreplaceable has been preserved, down to the wicker chairs and ceiling fans that provide so much ambience. Several of the most visible new additions involve food and drink—the restaurants by Anne-Sophie Pic, Jereme Leung, and Alain Ducasse; the revamped and expanded Writers Bar; the freshly polished and gleaming Tiffin Room. And then there are the design flourishes, courtesy of Alexandra Champalimaud—often mere details, such as trunk-style cocktail cabinets or Peranakan-mosaic bathroom tiles, that are in keeping with the historic spirit of the place while imparting a bright, contemporary energy. FLASH POINT Perhaps the best example of an update that did not compromise the legacy can be found in the Long Bar: The cast-iron, hand-cranked shaker specially fabricated for the hotel makes a racket like a runaway train and allows up to 18 Singapore slings to be mixed up simultaneously. Often the best improvements are the ones that enhance a sense of place that was there already. raffles.com
HERITANCE AARAH, MALDIVES
Maldives’ first LEED Gold-certified resort, Heritance Aarah allows the landscape to shine. This is Aitken Spence Hotels’ first Heritance property outside Sri Lanka. The design is beautiful: thatched roofs and wood, with interiors in calming shades of teal, beige and gold. The vibe is barefoot chic, the service warm and friendly. It takes a 40-minute seaplane ride over jewel-toned water and coral reef to reach here from Malé airport. Each of the 150 villas comes with flatscreen TVs and WiFi, but there’s every reason to plug out. Laze in bed—or in the bathtub (arrayed with L’Occitane products)— and gaze at the lagoon shifting colours. Fall asleep watching the ocean throw patterns on the wall through a glass panel on the floor. The six restaurants and five bars serve smashing cocktails and nosh, mostly included in the villa price. There’s a great kids’ club and teen activity room plus snorkelling, dolphin-watching and massages at the medical spa. The best part isn’t on the brochure: the resort lies an hour ahead of a recognised time zone so for your entire stay, the time showing on your phone doesn’t apply to you. FLASH POINT Take the hotel’s tour of the fishing island of Maduvvarree for a slice of Maldivian life. heritancehotels.com
CHIVA-SOM, HUA HIN, THAILAND
Exceptional therapy, guilt-free feasts and larger rooms—the luxury wellness resort was always splendid, but its newly renovated property in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin, three hours from Bangkok’s airport, is even more so. Sure, it’s a world-class, award-winning wellness retreat, but it’s the way it consults and treats guests that makes them feel different. As you check-in, you fill out a questionnaire to map your current health. It leads to a long, very fun chat with a health advisor who charts out your wellness plan around six modalities: physiotherapy, holistic health, nutrition, fitness, spa and aesthetic beauty. It has always been known for its exceptional therapy, thanks to its access to highly advanced physiotherapy, ably assisted by therapists who are always training to update themselves. Their facility for isokinetic exercises is still the most popular: machines analyse your body’s abilities and weaknesses and therapists accordingly advise and direct your healing and training. Hydrotherapy is in demand, with the addition of a hydrotherapy and flotation chamber. It’s worth signing up for watsu—think of it as shiatsu in a heated pool where a therapist relaxes your joints and muscles.
FLASH POINT Spend blissful days without watching anyone take photos of their food or of the sunset— Chiva-Som is delightfully electronic-free (you can use your laptop, Kindle and phone only in your rooms). chivasom.com
WALDORF ASTORIA MALDIVES ITHAAFUSHI
The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi followed up its mid- 2019 opening a year later with the adjacent Ithaafushi – The Private Island. The island accommodates 24 guests, and can be accessed from Malé via a 40-minute ride in one of the resort’s six yachts or a 15-minute seaplane flight. Guests can even book out the entire 32,000sqm island, which fits a three-bedroom beach villa, two-bedroom overwater villa, four-bedroom residence, five swimming pools, kids’ pool and gaming area, gym, spa and entertainment clubhouse. There’s a dedicated chef but take time out to explore the main resort, which also offers yoga and fitness classes and spa therapies (such as the starlight ocean massage in the candle-lit spa garden). Restaurants include Middle Eastern cuisine at Yasmeen, private dining pods at Terra, Australian barbecue-style cuisine at The Ledge by Dave Pynt, open-theatre kitchen counters at Tasting Table that dishes out Asian and European cuisines, modern Japanese cuisine at Shimizu and contemporary Chinese at Li Long. Guests can also partake of cocktails and wood-fired pizzas at Nava, eat garden-to-table and sip organic wine at Glow, graze on light meals at Peacock Alley lounge and soak up the sunset at Champagne bar Amber.
FLASH POINT Toast to a special occasion over wine-paired dinners at The Rock’s 200-year- old Jarrah wood table, set in a cave-like room hewed from Jordanian limestone. waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
ONE&ONLY DESARU COAST, JOHOR, MALAYSIA
The late Kerry Hill secured his place in design history with The Datai Langkawi, so it is poignant that he returned to Malaysia for one of his final projects. And Desaru is an elegant showcase of Hill’s signature touch—his ability to transform the traditional vernacular and create a sense of all-encompassing nature. Triple-height pavilions make up the property’s central hub, their walls of windows and timber shutters referencing the Malay village. The space is dominated by a statement staircase that descends to a 50-metre pool with a glimpse of the South China Sea. Smart Singaporeans have been waiting for a glamorous escape they can drive to (the city is two hours away), and despite its position as part of a wider resort, the 128-wildlife-filled acres and 44 tropical suites have a private-island feel. Fronted by a sweep of bone-white sand, Ember Beach Club is also a draw, with its cabana-lined pool and barbecues. And there’s a strong focus on wellbeing—experiences include silat melayu, a centuries-old martial art, and even medi-lite consultations from pioneering Henri Chenot. One&Only’s highly anticipated first foray into Asia looks set to carve itself a reputation among Malaysia’s classic hotels. FLASH POINT The sushi at Hoshi restaurant is so sculptural it could win the Turner Prize. oneandonlyresorts.com
THE TOKYO EDITION, TORANOMON, JAPAN
A temple may not sound like the obvious starting point
for a hotel synonymous with hip parties. Yet that was the inspiration for the lobby of Japan’s first Edition outpost—the group’s 11th globally—housed in a 38-storey skyscraper in Tokyo’s Toranomon district. Designed by Kengo Kuma and the brainchild of hotelier Ian Schrager—co-founder of New York’s Studio 54, long-time Japanophile and the ultimate sensei in all things hedonistic—it has got the locals talking. The 31st-floor reception is filled with a wild burst of foliage—more than 500 trees and plants—through which staff in monochrome uniforms by Freddie Leiba shift in and out of focus. But it’s the layout that underscores the space’s alchemic magic: inspired by the compartmentalised floor plans of Buddhist places of worship, a network of ferns, bamboos and palms divides areas to create a classic Edition scene. There is the floating white-marble bar with emerald stools; the diaphanous-curtained window seating, lovely for chatting over a heady Ampo Sour; and the ocean-coloured banquettes and modern comfort food of The Blue Room restaurant. Rooms are an ode to Japanese minimalism: gold-leaf art, slated partitions and low beds—plus incredible skyline views. A light-filled spa, sleek pool and gym complete the 21st-century package. FLASH POINT Outdoor spaces are hard to come by in the city, unless you’ve booked one of the 15 rooms with its own roof terrace. editionhotels.com
HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, JAPAN
The Mitsui stands out as a rare, Japanese-owned luxury hotel among the city’s many international brands. The new-build space, created by a design dream team including Hong Kong’s André Fu, showcases the omotenashi hospitality for which Kyoto is famed. Kimono-clad staff bow in front of a centuries-old wooden gate that once marked the entrance to the residence of Japan’s powerful Mitsui family on the same site. It leads to the lobby, with its abstract sculpture set beneath washi lighting, which flows smoothly into a lounge with a kimono-inspired ceiling installation. The hotel folds around a courtyard that takes cues from the old house’s stroll garden, with ponds, stepping stones, flowering trees—and Shiki-no-Ma, an atmospheric recreation of a room used to entertain guests, with ink-painted panels. In true Kyoto style, food is a scene-stealer: signature restaurant Toki, with crafted France-meets-Japan teppan dishes, and relaxed Forni, serving wood-oven fired pizzas. The 161 bedrooms give subtle, contemporary tearoom nods with their soft greens, birch details and ceramics. It’s the only high-end city- centre property with its own natural source of hot-spring water—as experienced in the expansive thermal spa. FLASH POINT Take the complimentary morning wellness breathing sessions in Shiki-no-Ma. hotelthemitsui.com
ARTHAUS BEIRUT, LEBANON
The Lebanese capital has been to hell and back but its soul endures. And the historic neighbourhood of Gemmayze is emerging as a hub of resilience. Despite the area’s proximity to the devastating port explosion last August, buzzy restaurants and quirky antiques shops have returned. Among the undeterred is Arthaus owner Nabil Debs, a former hedge-fund manager who has turned his family’s estate into a hotel conjuring Beirut’s golden era. Made up of four restored stone houses overlooking a central courtyard, it’s as much an ode to the past as it is a backdrop for the future’s protagonists to converge. Each bedroom is dressed with vintage furniture sourced by Debs and his wife Zoe, who have also amassed a world-class art collection. Yet the atmosphere is laidback. The wrought-iron tables in the courtyard are a gorgeous spot for lazy breakfasts and long poolside dinners, for which chef Youssef Akiki has created globally inspired dishes such as hazelnut-crusted salmon, while cocktail include the gin-based Nabih Berri, which nods to the controversial local politician. The indigo underground lounge hosts late-night DJs, making this a self- contained compound you’ll never want to leave. Although the inside-track concierge service might change your mind.
FLASH POINT Ask for the Gebran suite, Its massive bath and dressing room are pretty special. arthaus.international
ME DUBAI, UAE
In a city of 160,000 hotel rooms, it is increasingly challenging to stand out. But here we have the world’s only hotel designed inside and out by the late, great Dame Zaha Hadid. The Opus, a gleaming glass cube punctured by an amorphous void that looks like a block of ice melting in the Middle Eastern sun, has sweeping curves and an organic- yet-space-age aesthetic that informs both the building and a stay in it. The ME by Meliá group brings its artistic bent with a gallery hosting rotating exhibitions and public areas decorated with bold canvases painted on site by Barcelona’s Mr Dripping. The brand’s Spanish roots are also lightly woven throughout: Natura Bissé bath products and spa treatments; tapas at Central, and a poolside parrillada producing tantalising grilled aromas for adjacent restaurant Deseo. But ME doesn’t lean on paying homage to its heritage or even that of Dubai—a relief in the UAE where modern Arabia tends to be the styling default. Beyond bedrooms in hues inspired by the nearby desert (in the Aura category) and the buzzing metropolis at night (the Vibe options), it plays by its own rules. And with its e energetic vibe, it feels less like a place to freshen up and sleep between city outings and more like your own high-spirited residence.
FLASH POINT Catch the sunset in the glowing, lotus-inspired atrium while the sky above darkens and 4,400 LED lights dotting the undulating structure above begin to twinkle. melia.com