The Luxe List

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The Luxe List 2015

From Delhi’s latest pleasure palace to a cliff-side resort in Sri Lanka, our reviewers have scoured the region to pull together this year’s roster of the top hotel openings. Read on to discover which new properties stood out from the rest in terms of service, setting, and a singular sense of style.

Reported by Natasha Dragun, Jason Overdorf, Leisa Tyler, Gabrielle Lipton, Ron Gluckman, Amy Fabris-Shi, John Ashburne, Jonathan Hopfner, Christopher P. Hill, Sanjay Surana, Scott Haas, David Tse, and Simon Ostheimer.

The Luxe List 2014

It’s been another exciting year of hotel openings in the Asia-Pacific region, including a handsome new lodge in Bhutan’s remote Phobjikha Valley, design-driven digs in (of all places) Canberra, and an indulgent private-island resort in the Maldives complete with its own mini-submarine. Read on to discover these and more in a list that gathers together the best new properties across more than a dozen countries, each tried and tested by our roving band of reporters.

See the Luxe List from previous years

Reported by Cynthia Rosenfeld, Leisa Tyler, David Tse, Christopher P. Hill, Gabrielle Lipton, Lara Dunston, Chris Caldicott, Natasha Dragun, Esther Wong, and John Ashburne.

5 Remote Island Luxury Hotels

Islands, especially smaller and more remote ones, can exert a powerful appeal on travelers. Decades after writing Tales of the South Pacific, James Michener described his own lifelong obsession with islands as “nesomania,” nesos being the Greek word for island. So what is it that draws some of us toward places surrounded by water? Is it the scenery and salty breezes? The romance of a faraway shore where life moves to a different rhythm than our own? Or is it, in the words of another card-carrying nesomaniac, Paul Theroux, “because islands are small self-contained worlds that can help us understand larger ones”? Whatever it is that tugs our wanderlust, there are myriad islands out there that beckon. Here are five remote landfalls that also benefit from having remarkable places to stay.

Fogo Island
Newfoundland, Canada
Half the size of Singapore and home to fewer than 2,500 people, Canada’s craggy, windswept Fogo Island lies off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland in splendid isolation. First settled by cod fishermen in the late 17th century, Fogo today harbors a handful of seaside communities where wood-frame houses and stilted fishing shacks overlook the North Atlantic’s Iceberg Alley. Getting here is half the adventure: you fly into the town of Gander from St. John’s then drive for two hours to catch a ferry at Farewell, whose name offers a fitting preface to this edge- of-the-world experience. Yet Fogo is also an emerging cultural destination thanks to locally born tech millionaire Zita Cobb, who’s made it her mission to revitalize the island’s failing economy. Among her projects are an ambitious artist‐in‐residence program and, pictured here, the 29-room Fogo Island Inn (1-709/658-3444; doubles from US$804), which opened last year on the granite shoreline near Joe Batt’s Arm. Not only is the spruce-clad hotel a looker, but it also delivers a strong sense of place: local woodworkers and quilters made most of the furnishings; the restaurant showcases locally fished and foraged ingredients; and “community hosts” are on hand to introduce you to island life.

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The Luxe List 2013: Jiang An Shangri-La, Shanghai

A lot of thought has gone into this new Shanghai property—some 20 years worth, in fact. The blocks where the Jing An now stands have slowly been added to the Shangri-La portfolio since 1993, with the hotel finally opening its doors in June. It’s now being touted as the company’s flagship, and for good reason: there are more than four million pieces of crystal gleaming throughout, vast expanses of marble (on the walls, the floors, the pillars), and some 207 pieces of artwork commissioned from 50 international artists. Rooms and suites offer understated luxury, with carpets designed to resemble Chinese watercolor paintings, heated bathroom floors, and 3-D TVs. The signature Summer Palace restaurant, designed by Hong Kong’s André Fu, comes with “dining chambers” that present different styles of Chinese cuisine, while a Mediterranean dining room is set to open by the end of the year and will occupy an external glasshouse with a rooftop bar. From here you’ll be able to gaze over the former residence of Chairman Mao, a 1920s building meticulously restored by the hotel group and transformed into a petite museum.

Jing An Kerry Centre, 1218 Yan’anZhong Lu; 86-21/2203-8888; Jiang An Shangri-La website; doubles from US$286

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The Luxe List 2013

This year, our 10th annual showcase of the Asia-Pacific region’s best new hotels and resorts is as beguiling as ever, featuring 35 properties in more than a dozen countries. From a Himalayan hideaway in Bhutan and an equally remote Australian lodge to the height of opulence in Shanghai, read on to discover those places that truly rise above the rest in terms of style, service, and surrounds.

See the Luxe List from previous years

The Luxe List 2013: Macalister Mansion, George Town

A 20-minute walk from George Town’s heritage district, this grand 100-year-old mansion has been given the facelift of the century: gutted and refitted by Singapore-based Ministry of Design, it is now among the most stylish hotels in Malaysia. The name Macalister comes from one of Penang’s earliest British governors, and the property’s design references the colonial administrator through various art installations, including a two-and-a-half-meter-tall bust in the driveway. There are only eight guest rooms, each with pale oak floors, bespoke furniture, and a Bisazza-tiled bathroom fitted with a deep soaking tub; other welcome touches include plush robes, superfine bed linens, and a complimentary nonalcoholic minibar. On the ground floor, guests have their choice of fine dining in the mostly white Dining Room (a pair of pink and blue Plexiglass deer being one of the few concessions to color); a café accented with hanging plants and wall murals; a well-stocked wine bar; and The Den, a smart gentleman’s-club-style lounge with a range of premium single-cask whiskies. The grounds also boast a lawn-fringed swimming pool—the perfect spot to cool off after a tour of the UNESCO-listed old town.

228 Macalister Rd.; 60-4/228-3888; Macalister Mansion website; doubles from US$212

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The Luxe List 2013: The Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Located in the heart of the Malaysian capital, one of the city’s most iconic houses of slumber has recently made a triumphant return. First opened in 1935 as the home of colonial pomp in Kuala Lumpur, the Majestic now boasts a new tower of up-to-date rooms and suites, as well as 35 lovingly restored original suites. Pith-helmeted doormen, white-gloved butlers, and lavish high tea service serenaded by a resident jazz band make the Majestic Wing suites a must; each is lovingly decorated with polished timber floors and Art Deco–checkered bathrooms complete with claw-foot tubs. The added benefits of a private entrance and complimentary car service make it a great base from which to explore KL. Be sure to leave time to visit the Smokehouse, a regal cocktail lounge complete with private screening and card rooms, and the hidden men’s barbershop and tailor downstairs.

5 Jl. Sultan Hishamuddin; 60-3/2785-8000; The Majestic Hotel website; doubles from US$208

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The Luxe List 2013: Seven Terraces, George Town

Tucked behind the Goddess of Mercy Temple in the heart of George Town’s heritage district, this row of seven Chinese terrace houses was on the verge of collapse before Penang-born Christopher Ong and his partner Karl Steinberg transformed it into a magical bolt-hole. Ong’s fourth hotel venture in Penang is arguably his finest, with 14 spacious guest rooms dressed with Chinese wedding beds and antique furniture opening onto a granite-lined courtyard anchored by two frangipani trees. There is a Peranakan-inspired restaurant and swimming pool, but the star attraction here is the antiques: rosewood chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl, turn-of-the-century hand-painted porcelain sets, and an elaborately carved gold-leaf screen and door that belonged to the grandest house in George Town, long since torn down. The set was separated for 30 years before being purchased by Ong and brought back together at Seven Terraces.

Stewart Ln.; 60-4/264-2333; Seven Terraces website; doubles from US$167

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The Luxe List 2013: Fairmont Makati/Raffles Makati, Manila

The first five-star-branded property to open in Manila in 20 years was worth the wait. Occupying a rare quiet corner in the capital’s financial hub, it is divided into two wings: the elegant Raffles, with just 32 suites, all dressed in white marble and glittering chandeliers and catering primarily to leisure travelers; and the 280-room Fairmont, with its orange-hued jazzy style and a smart executive lounge better suited to business types. Both wings have their own swimming pools while sharing a gym and spa, and guests have access to a combined seven restaurants and lounges, including all-day restaurant Spectrum (which does wonders with such Filipino favorites as kinilaw and sizzling sisig) and an outpost of Singapore’s storied Long Bar. Also a winner is the decadent Sunday brunch, which features free-flow Veuve Clicquot champagne and a whole spit-roasted pig.

1 Raffles Dr.; 63-2/555-9777; Raffles Makati website and the Fairmont Makati website; doubles from US$273

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The Luxe List 2013: Pangulasian Island, Palawan

An hour’s flight in a turboprop from Manila followed by 25-minute boat ride across karst-studded waters brings you to the newest—and most luxurious—of El Nido Resorts’ Bacuit Bay hideaways. Arrayed between lush rain forest and a sweep of sugar-white sand, the island’s 42 thatch-roofed villas (some with plunge pools) are designed in a contemporary Filipino style, with sumptuous interiors done up in neutral tones and locally sourced materials such as acacia wood; they also offer easy access to the bay’s coral-rich waters, which you can explore by kayak or on outings with Pangulasian’s top-notch dive center (there are more than 20 dive sites in the area). Should guests wish to venture farther afield, sister properties Miniloc Island and Lagen Island are a short speedboat ride away, as are natural attractions such as the vast limestone cavern of Cathedral Cave. But there’s plenty to keep you busy on Pangulasian, whether it’s dining on tropical fruits and fresh salads from the resort’s organic gardens, sampling a traditional hilot massage at the spa, hiking the island’s nature trail, or just soaking up the ravishing views from your balcony.

63-2/813-0000; Pangulasian Island website; doubles from US$681

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