At the risk of throwing caution to the wind and catching a cold, I’d still like to note that this has been a monumental year of travel and expansion for us at TravelNatureAsia as the catastrophic COVID chapter finally draws to a close. After being grounded for almost 3 years, a sense of normalcy finally returns as travel restrictions across borders are largely lifted and the industry is finally getting back on its feet in 2023.
As we bid farewell to this felicitous year, it might be worthwhile to recount the significant milestones of TNA since its humble beginnings. Having launched this Asian travel guide in little over a year, we have published 6 FAB Lists and 7 Gourmet Bulletins and now boasts of over 250 hotels on our Asia Top Hotels page. As Le Chief for the group, I have spent 245 days on the road traversing different parts of Asia, adding 66 new hotels to TNA Asia Top Hotels. And these are some of the continent’s most impressive hotels - Mandapa, Buahan, Shambhala are just some of the more exotic names rolling off our list. Practically all the major luxury hotel brands with a flag in Asia as well as many independent boutique outfits are represented on our site and our 2023 Year End List will spotlight the most deserving properties we’ve reviewed since TNA was launched in 2022.
The reward of the job lies primarily in the discovery of stunning hotels in Asia and the excellent services they are crafting for their guests. There is so much more to a hotel than just minibars and bathtubs. A fabulous hotel is primarily pieced together by service, design and aesthetics but the most sublime of them also incorporate art, culture, history and heritage with great sincerity. But what if a hotel should fall short of these lofty ideals and the experience is very much incongruous with expectations?
When it comes to managing expectations, the realities of the luxury industry today have doubtlessly set it on a southward slide. In 2023 there are more hotels than ever but not quite enough staff to inhabit the vacancies. There is evidently a manpower shortage and every hotel is coping with this deadlock. Some are obviously succeeding better than others but generally speaking service standards have fallen sharply across the board. Inflation and rising costs have also taken its toll, and the order of the day for many is to cut corners then grin and bear it. The irony consumers will definitely notice is that while all this is happening, hotel ADRs are rising sharply, with destinations like Japan and Singapore publishing stratospheric rack rates that are just jaw-dropping.
While industry executives ponder and act to curtail the progressions of these challenges, industry watchers like this reviewer would like to laud those who have managed to keep it all together and keep the dreams alive in their daily operations. Here are the best hospitality establishments in Asia we have reviewed in 2022/2023 and we heartily congratulate them for their deserving accolades.
Top 10 City Hotels
(Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Thailand)
Park Hyatt Jakarta
Jakarta’s newest luxury hotel is also resolutely its best - stunning decor, impressive hardware and impeccable style combine to impress even the most seasoned traveller. Augmented by the light and views flooding the interiors from every corner, the Park Hyatt Jakarta is an exemplary hotel in every consideration. There is little chance to enter and leave this spectacular hotel unimpressed because every inch of its conception and assemblage is designed to that effect.
Who doesn’t love an architectural fantasy held together by whimsical dictates and a serious budget? Capella Hanoi is bombastic in all the right context with exactly the sort of milieu divas of the world would find gratifying. This is clearly a creative and conceptual tour de force where within its genre there are no parallels.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
As far as luxury hospitality goes, Park Hyatt pretty much sums up the definition of superlative within both industry and popular context. The 27 year old property retains much of its looks and charms even as Tokyo has evolved stupendously over its operative years. Colour me dramatic but after a few visits one can discern an almost samurai-like loyalty between staff and regular guests.
Four Seasons Bangkok
Four Seasons' latest opening in Thailand is not only the chain's most highly anticipated in recent years, it also surpassed much of our expectations, from the height of its rooms' ceilings to the shimmer of its blue blue pools. After a brief absence from the Thai capital, the brand's triumphant return at its highly verdant riverside plot had raised a new zenith within Bangkok's luxury hospitality sector.
For decades now The Sukhothai has been the definitive face of Thai hospitality in the highest reaches of the sector. As an architectural enigma its comely interiors, wrought through the imagination of Ed Tuttle and Kerry Hill, have withstood the transition of tastes and time. The beauty and elegance of this cherished address have truly been imbued with a timelessness that few hotels can hope to match.
Sindhorn Kempinski Bangkok
Bangkok's newest Kempinski property was injected with very different DNA from its sister hotel - it is remarkably distinct in design, wonderfully wrought in aesthetics and happily not conjoined to a shopping mall at birth. Plan a spa day at the incredible Sindhorn Wellness by Resense and indulge across an entire floor of facilities allocated to this wellness haven.
The Langham Jakarta
All the aspects to this new Langham flagship are bright and comely, and admirers of celestine white structures will have a field day residing here. Nestled within the emerging business district in the SCBD parcel right next to malls and prominent business addresses, the conveniences offered here are simply unrivalled.
As far as city Intercontinental hotels go, Intercontinental Osaka is a delightful rarity in the design department. Eschewing the frumpy crust of a classically attuned business hotel, the zen aesthetics of this Osaka outpost is as regal as it is restrained. The all-round hinoki palette induces rest and lightness and coupled with the exemplary service delivered by the staff at every corner, this is pretty much one of Osaka’s top premier hospitality addresses.
Hyatt Centric Kanazawa
As a relatively new offspring of the burgeoning Hyatt empire, Hyatt Centric Kanazawa is visually stunning. An art filled treasure trove pushing the boundaries on the conventional hotel construct, this vibrant establishment evokes a sense of wonderment with an eclectic and unpretentious collection of over 100 traditional and contemporary artwork hat is tastefully and unobtrusively rendered as wall and room fixtures. The grand service delivery is the other reason why Hyatt Centric Kanazawa deservedly inhabits this list.
Resplendently modern after a thorough renovation at its main wing, there is lightness and exuberance at Shangri-la Singapore.Coupled with the lingering old world glamour via the lush landscapes and imposing columns, as well as all round fabulous service, this hotel remains the landmark property that placed the Shangri-la brand on the hospitality map.
Top 10 Resorts
(Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Thailand)
Regent Phu Quoc
Under new management as part of the IHG universe, the Regent brand couldn’t have picked a better establishment to announce the shape of things to come with its Phuc Quoc property. Reflecting the glory days of a golden brand lost to years of neglect under previous ownerships, Regent Phu Quoc is magnificently composed of stunning architecture, comprehensive facilities and one of the best service delivery in existence today. The mantra here is clearly ‘ásk and you shall receive’, with some so deftly gifted with the art of anticipation, nothing on your holiday wish list is ever left to chance.
A magnificent cliffside haven that took a decade to raise, every detail within a Raffles Bali villa is designed to impress. One can imagine the amount of time poured into the thoughtfulness of the fixtures, from the subtle physics involving the bathtub headrest to the carefully curated amenities, this resort is definitively top notch. The butler service here is truly deserving of its Raffles pedigree and an exemplary study of how this service should be seamlessly rendered. The resort grounds are littered with exotic spots for intimate revelries, all meticulously staged and delivered with Raffles panache of course.
Mandapa a Ritz Carlton Reserve Bali
An intimate resort set amidst the verdant and cultural heart of Bali’s Ubud, Mandapa is the ultimate escape from modern realities. The sumptuous suites and villas are imbued with vistas featuring rustic rice terraces, lush gardens and inviting pools. The Ayung river meanders through the resort right next to various restaurants, villas and the spa to magical effect. The service here is naturally impeccable and rendered with finesse deserving of Mandapa’s stature as a Ritz Carlton Reserve property.
Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape Bali
A sensational concept that seamlessly melds luxury with wilderness, Banyan Tree’s first Escape establishment is a patchwork of 16 villas interspersed amidst a stretch of pristine valley close to Bali’s cultural heart of Ubud. Fashioned after the architectural style of Balinese Bales, these luxurious abodes are raised without walls, melding the sights and sounds of its primordial surroundings as part of the construct. Buahan is also an all-adult establishment designed for maximum intimacy, where even the lack of walls poses no issue for those wishing a world just unto themselves.
Alila Uluwatu Bali
On its bewitching oceanic milieu alone one can dedicate an entire chapter but that would be a disservice to Alila Uluwatu, one of Bali's most enticing resort which for years have been setting the gold standard with its stylish design, impeccable service and alluring air since its inception. The most stunning attraction of this property besides its striking architecture is the vistas it commands from its cliff perch where the sunsets are truly breathtaking.
COMO Shambhala Estate Bali
One of the most renowned private estates raised within Ubud, COMO Shambhala is a verdant sanctuary set amidst lush tropical elements and stunning vistas. The estate is opulently enveloped by scenes both pastoral and wild, with the sparsely raised residences melded into magnificent landscapes that are both horticultural and primordial - rivers, forests, gardens, lawns and even a holy spring make up the alluring topography here. COMO is a hospitality brand that extends from hotels to wellness and its Shambhala Estate embodies the holistic approach to the good life.
Intercontinental Da Nang
Cloistered by the pristine natural elements of the Sun Peninsula some 30 mins away from the city, this Bensley designed retreat is a world unto itself, a masterful amalgamate of serene accents and dramatic styles, accentuated by a forceful melange of robust colours and forms set against an architectural frame of classical black and white. Operated by a dedicated service team that sees to guests’ varied needs, the InterContinental Da Nang is simply a joy to inhabit.
Apurva Kempinski Bali
This Kempinski property is a behemoth resort replete with ballrooms, club lounges, no less than 3 pools, an 'underwater' restaurant and a chapel, in short a one-stop address in Bali fully equipped for your conventions and conventional holiday needs. The rooms are luxuriously decked in contemporary splendour, as one can expect from a Kempinski hotel, and we highly recommend the pool junior suite on a high floor.
The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat Ipoh
The Banjaran is probably Malaysia's best kept secret in the world of luxury hospitality. Tucked away at a magical geosphere a stone's throw off makan hotspot Ipoh, this enchanting all-villa resort is not only enveloped by acres of tropical lushness, it is also designed to tap into the natural hot springs unique to the region with onsen-like features in all the villas. There are also primordial looking caves within its grounds now reinvented as restaurants, bars and wellness spots to add to the lost world ambience of this splendid retreat.
Hotel Gaia Bandung
As far as highland resorts go, Hotel Gaia Bandung has splendidly pushed the envelope in many aspects, chief of which is its bold striking design that greatly contrasts, and surprisingly complements, the verdant elements of Bandung that attract the multitudes to ascend in droves, especially over the weekends when there is simply no better counterfoil to the crazy realities of nearby Jakarta. You wouldn't call this an intimate hotel, but the beauty of its construct is that those seeking seclusion can still find themselves cocooned away in blissful hideaway mode, enveloped by gorgeous vistas most of the rooms and suites face.
Regent Phu Quoc
Top Club Lounge
Pacific Club Lounge Pan Pacific Singapore
Haus 65 Mandarin Oriental Singapore
Club Intercontinental Intercontinental Osaka + The Club Hotel Gaia Bandung
Top Fine Dining Restaurant
Tang Court, The Langham Jakarta
Peach Blossoms, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay Singapore
Apéritif Restaurant and Bar, Viceroy Bali
Pierre, Intercontinental Osaka
Cote by Mauro Colagreco, Capella Bangkok
Top Casual Restaurant
Refresh, Garrya Bianti Yogyakarta
Peppermint, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay Singapore
Nippon Ramen Rin Kyoto
Diva’s Lounge, Capella Hanoi
Automata, Centara Grand Osaka
Ojo Bangkok, The Standard Bangkok Mahanakhon
The Spa Park Hyatt Jakarta
The Spa at Regent Phu Quoc
Sindhorn Wellness by Resense, Sindhorn Kempinski Bangkok
Top Pool Design
Regent Phu Quoc + Capella Hanoi
Gaia Hotel Bandung
Mondrian Singapore Duxton