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An exclusive collection of the best Asian hotels, resorts and spas

Winners of 2023 Smart Travel Asia 20th Anniversary Best in Travel Poll


Holidays out of the box

Fun stays at Asian boutique hotels, heritage hideaways, hip hotels, and nature retreats with some eyebrow-raising whimsy.

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Australia | China | Hong Kong | India | Indonesia | Malaysia | New Zealand | South Pacific | Sri Lanka | Taiwan | Thailand | Vietnam


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    Black and white dominates at chic hideaway

    Adelphi, a fine Melbourne boutique hotels choice

    Tucked along one of Melbourne’s signature lanes is the Adelphi, a slick 34-room hideaway with a mixed bag of holidaymakers and suits. It’s favoured by architects and interior designers and its jet-black leather landscape looks freshly torn from the pages of an architectural glossy. The hotel’s most dramatic feature, however, is its rooftop swimming pool, which boasts a see-through Perspex floor jutting out above Flinders Lane. Also get a pillow fragrance menu.

  • ADELPHI. Tel: [61-3] 8080-8888, (www.adelphi.com.au).


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    Qing-era courtyard hutong indulgence

    DuGe is a luxury heritage boutique hotel in Beijing

    At the brilliantly restored DuGe, a designer courtyard boutique hotel in Beijing's Dongcheng District, a Qing dynasty residence hosts 10 bedrooms with private en suites, each with its own theme and featuring original antiques, custom furnishings and contemporary art. Set amidst grey stone hutong rows, crimson doors beckon guests into a secret world set around a sunny courtyard. Squeeze into the doll's-house White Russian bar for a pre-dinner kick.

    DUGE. Tel: [86-10] 6445-7463, (www.dugehotel.com).

    Warehouse escape in rambunctious art district

    Gracie Art Hotel Beijing 798, whimsy in the Art District

    Beijing's zany 798 Art District lies en route to the airport bereft of subways, and cabs are as rare as dragon's teeth. In this exuberant sprawl of old warehouses turned art paradise, spot the delightful 30-room Gracie Art Hotel Beijing 798. This Beijing boutique hotel is in a brick building with a small garden patio and each room is an exercise in pure whimsy - with mod-cons and glass partition baths. Feel your way through cobalt corridors packed with framed mirrors.

    GRACIE ART HOTEL BEIJING 798 . Tel: [86-10] 6436 1818, (www.graciearthotel.com/).

    Vintage Shanghai with a modern twist

    Pei Mansion Hotel, Shanghai

    Pei Mansion Hotel, at 170 Nanyang Road, is an intimate restored setting in a small, classical three-storey stone building dating to 1934 with an ornamental garden. It was one of architect I M Pei’s family homes. There are 25 rooms in classical mould with chic touches, patterned tile floors, deep-seating leather chairs, velvet divans, and assorted memorabilia in a faux-Euro setting. Spot vintage radios – that work – tiny balconies, old almirahs and free WiFi.

    PEI MANSION. Tel: [86-21] 6289-7878, (www.peimansionhotel.com).


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    From policing pirates to private hideaway

    Tai O Heritage Hotel

    A real charmer, but not the easiest to get to, is the tiny Tai O Heritage Hotel at Lantau's Tai O Fishing Village. With just 10 rooms and suites decked out in colonial fashion with white French windows, classic lines and a comfortable homey feel, this is spot for adventurers or true-blue romantics. Built in 1902 as a police station to guard against marauding brigands, the building has been carefully restored though not without the odd quirk or two.

    TAI O HERITAGE HOTEL. Tel: [852] 2985-8383, (www.taioheritagehotel.com).


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    Rooms with a view? Well, this is it

    Shakti 360º Leti offers incredible mountain views

    Like a blushing Himalayan flower, Shakti 360º Leti blossoms from October to April in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. A four hour drive from Almora brings you to a grassy ridge with four wooden cottages set against a stunning mountain backdrop, all with huge glass frontages to gawp at the vistas. Lie in a four-poster bed and take in the sunrise. Enjoy wine and pashmina blankets indoors, or step out for a bracing walk.

    SHAKTI 360º LETI. (www.shaktihimalaya.com/kumaon.php).

  • Time for a gin and tonic in Rajasthan

    Ajmer Bungalow, homestay with great food

    Ajmer Bungalow is a three-bedroom house (dating back to 1908) with just enough plaster crumble and wet grass underfoot to feel at home. Trawl through family memorabilia, old furniture (each piece yielding a historical footnote, like the dining room chairs dating back to the Delhi Durbar of 1911), a functioning pedal organ, a record player and the garden with its fragrant raat ki raani that releases its scent at night. Excellent home-cooked food.

    AJMER BUNGALOW. Tel: [91-145] 262-8759, (ajmerbungalow.com).

    Royal palace escape in Rajasthan

    Samode Palace

    Not far from Jaipur, the 400-year-old Samode Palace is an essay in magnificence that will have jaws dropping. The hand-painted Durbar Hall with its earth-red frescoes can host a small corporate meeting in style. In days of yore, royal ladies peeked down from the blue shuttered windows of the jarokha. The 42 spacious rooms are fittingly regal and set around sun-drenched yellow plaster courtyards with terraced suites on the higher floors. There is an outdoor pool too.

    SAMODE PALACE. Tel: [91-141] 263-2407, fax: 263-1397, (www.samode.com).


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    The fine art of conversation in Bali

    Puri Ganesha Villas, healthy breaks in north Bali

    In Bali's less-discovered northwest fronting a pepper beach in the Pemuteran area you'll find the quietly elegant Puri Ganesha and its four two-storey Balinese-style villas. Pick one, two or three-bedroom space and plonk down in a lounge chair on a wraparound verandah. Villas face east to catch the first rays. A lap pool set in a refreshing bed of green, looks out at the sea. This is a spot for yoga, organic food, and a book. Rediscover "conversation".

    PURI GANESHA. Tel: [62-362] 94766, (www.puriganesha.com).

    How to attain nirvana in Ubud

    Villa Nirvana, a cosyand well hidden Bali boutique hotel

    In Ubud, Bali, a series of hairpins lead up to Penestanan where the road mysteriously peters out. This is the preserve of villagers, cyclists, beatific chickens, and a few travellers in the know. Here you'll find tiny hideaway Villa Nirvana with six thatch-roof villas set on individual green terraces, and two lavish suites on an adjacent private estate. Expect blue-tile pools, chill-out music, friendly staff, and healthy juices. Do yoga or grab a dosa.

    VILLA NIRVANA. Tel: [62-361] 979-419, (www.villanirvanabali.com).


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    Secret frangipani courtyard in old Penang

    Seven Terraces, Penang heritage stays

    Seven Terraces, a restored 14-room heritage boutique hotel in the heart of Georgetown, Penang, is the island's most recent addition to its slew of creaking timber finery. Salvaged by local-born Christopher Ong the seven terrace houses feature antique Chinese furniture - like the huge wedding beds - mother-of-pearl inlay rosewood chairs, gilt wood carvings, lattice-work, and ceramic tiles. It even has a lap pool and scented frangipani in the courtyard.

    SEVEN TERRACES. Tel [60-4] 264-2333, (www.georgetownheritage.com).


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    More luxury angles for anglers in NZ

    New Zealand luxury boutique hotels, Huka Lodge

    Coddled between leafy trees on a lush green 17-acre wooded estate, Huka Lodge, traces its antecedents back a long way as it peruses the burbling Waikato River. This luxury boutique hotel is a splendid spot for anglers. Enjoy a stroll and the outdoors unless engaged at the annual Bolinger Champagne Dinner. Lodge Suites offer heart-pounding river views with a timber verandah for reflection. Queen Elizabeth II has stayed here so don't tarry.

    HUKA LODGE. (www.hukalodge.co.nz/)


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    Finally, a Pacific playground for grown-ups

    Royal Davui Island Resort is for romance and honeymooners

    Royal Davui Island Resort is an adults-only sanctuary on Beqa Lagoon, Fiji, reached by seaplane and launch transfer. The emphasis here on seclusion and privacy. Think in-room dining, luxe spa treatments and private plunge pools at many of the 16 breezy villas. Four-poster beds with dreamy drapes sit atop gleaming timber floors looking onto patios with stunning ocean views. The island offers lots of opportunity to snorkel and swim.

    ROYAL DAVUI. Tel: [61-2] 9365-2648, (www.royaldavui.com).


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    Why whimsical adults still crave Kandy

    Helga’s Folly is a superbly entertaining Sri Lanka retreat

    An eccentric choice in Kandy is Helga’s Folly, whimsically termed an “anti hotel”, a sprawling red Bauhaus-style building clutching the hillside, with phantasmagorical décor. “If this is a folly,” wrote a guest, “it’s foolish to be wise”. Helga, who presides over her erstwhile home with the grace of a duchess, has created a fantasy-land with outrageous colour schemes and candle-lit parlours full of antiques and whimsy. Good nosh too.

    HELGA'S FOLLY. Tel: [94-81] 223-4571, (www.helgasfolly.com).


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    Quiet style makes a big statement

    Hotel Quote - one of the best Taipei boutique hotels

    ENJOY the tranquil and understated atmosphere at HOTEL QUOTE Taipei, a boutique hotel retreat in the heart of the city. Check in at the reception/bar with its dramatic silver walls and move on to the HQ Lounge, open 24/7 and providing light meals, Taiwan beer, and a refresh of any room amenities you may need. Whether it's a quiet afternoon or a peaceful evening you crave, this is a perfect setting that will stylishly surprise you at every turn.

    HOTEL QUOTE Taipei. Tel: [886-2] 2175-5588. (www.hotel-quote.com).

    Why proverbial high flyers head to Taipei

    Hotel Proverbs, one of Taipei's best luxury boutique hotels with a top-rated bar

    THE INTIMATE, chic and occasionally quirky Hotel Proverbs Taipei in the Da'An district offers smart, clean-cut rooms from 33sq m to 49sq m dressed in rich woods, copper tones, red rugs, gauzy drapes, see-through bathrooms with marble and other luxe fittings. This is a boutique luxury hotel for the discerning. Dine on perfectly-charred smoky steak, savour bespoke cocktails at a top Asian bar or head up to the rooftop pool for a breezy dip.

    HOTEL PROVERBS Taipei. Tel: [886-2] 2711-1118. (www.hotel-proverbs.com).

    Nature retreat for families and weddings

    Gloria Manor in south Taiwan is a romantic wedding venue in a natural setting

    IN KENTING, South Taiwan, nestled in green with vast ocean views is the delightful Gloria Manor, a family escape and leisure retreat. Its architecture and design are both a careful complement to the surrounding ecology. Explore trees, parks, trails, butterflies, a spa, and gym. Pick a soothing 33sq m Ocean View Room or opt for a family (or honeymoon) size 70sq m Premier Suite with floor-to-ceiling windows. This is a romantic wedding venue.

    Gloria Manor. Kenting. Tel: [886-8] 886-3666. (www.gloriamanor.com).


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    Secluded Samui chic and service with a smile

    Baan Wanora, for luxury boutique Samui holidays

    In the southwest of Koh Samui is the private luxury villa retreat Baan Wanora, set in 17,000sq ft of manicured estate. Serious thought has gone into the guest experience with a sensibly strong focus on staff. The 10,000sq ft villa with five en suite bedrooms is an all-wood construct drawing on Thai traditions but with a contemporary feel. Find shingle roofs, fish ponds, gleaming wood floors, rich fabrics, soaking terrazzo tubs, and iridescent cushions.

    BAAN WANORA. Tel: [66-81] 968-5384, (baanwanora.com).


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    Calm Cham culture on muscle beach

    Pulchra Resort Danang, Vietnam beach resort escape

    On storied China Beach in Vietnam, is the Pulchra Resort Danang, with its design inspiration drawn from ancient Cham culture. Spacious villas in this manicured green estate face the sea or are set around a lagoon. They offer high ceilings, lazily whirring fans and mod-cons for lux purists - is a BOSE sound system good enough? The distinctive design is what sets this retreat apart. There is space and a sense of intimacy with private pools offering extra indulgence.

    PULCHRA RESORT DANANG. Tel: [84-511] 392 0823, (www.pulchraresorts.com/vietnam/).

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