The inaugural 'World's 50 Best Hotels' listed 18 Asian hotels amongst its honorees. While the selection has raised plenty of debate on what constitutes 'the best', it is patently clear that some of the continent's most deserving properties have been inexplicably overlooked. Here is our selection of Asia's best hotels that should top any list worth its salt.
where are the Asian TOP hotels
in World's 50 Best hotels?
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Any list detailing hospitality greats without at least one Peninsula Hotel is patently ludicrous. Progenitor Peninsula Hong Kong has spawned a bevy of beauties across the world with the Shanghai property similarly matched in class, stature and excellence. In terms of quality and service the Peninsula orientation is simply unrivalled where the chain has a presence. One really wonders where the 580 'industry experts' earned their chops if they deign to deny the grand dame her rightful place on their lofty list.
Shangri-la Singapore is the brand's flagship property that is as deserving as Capella and Raffles to earn a place on the list. While it is not as historic as the latter nor luxurious as the former, it is still an important fixture that has been expanding hospitality norms since its inception. Before urban hotels saw the need for gardens Shangri-la Singapore raised the green vision. Whilst hotel dining in the country could have languished on as paltry affairs, Shangri-la laid out the opulent teas and grand spreads very early on, setting the industry standard. This is the landmark that placed Singapore on the hospitality map and she definitely deserves her dues.
Capella is a luxury brand that is rising rapidly through the ranks but one cannot help but feel that Capella Bangkok's perch on the list may be a tad misplaced. Launched at about the same time, Capella Bangkok is completely outmatched by her sister in Hanoi, whether it is the latter's boldfaced opulence or the insane attention to details that is baffling even to seasoned insiders. Thus to exalt Bangkok and overlook Hanoi is just incomprehensible. Even when compared to its Singapore sibling, the group's firstborn, the Bangkok installation appears plain and diminutive, yet they are ranked 17 positions apart. New really isn't always better.
The Datai Langkawi
Without a doubt The Datai is steadfastly Malaysia's best resort and whether it is the beauty of its primordial surroundings or the elegance of its Kerry Hill/ Didier Lefort designed dreamscape, this independently managed superlative can easily hold its own against any one of the 50 hotels on the very list in question. Not too many resorts can boast both rainforest and ocean surroundings on their grounds and The Datai has excellent access to both, with both villas and rooms that are beach fronting and forest covered. The service here is also the gold class of Malay hospitality, a standard bearer that others aspire to.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto
One of the ancient city's earliest internationally managed hotels, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto may be somewhat reduced in brand and stature but is by no means a humble establishment. Brilliantly designed by celebrated Japanese practice Super Potato, the property's enigmatic blend of modern and traditional forms is so artfully imbued, the hotel never seem to age. The dedicated service rendered by the staff of this hotel is also of an imperial grade so rare even in Japan, and this is one of a handful of addresses remaining that one can truly call home when one is away from home.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
If legends can talk, the Park Hyatt Tokyo would be quite the story teller. Raised quirky and very very striking, there is absolutely nothing to disdain one once one is within the enigmatic confines of this hospitality giant. Lost in Translation may have launched the hotel onto its cult status trajectory but it was the very inherent charms of Park Hyatt Tokyo that made it the absolute choice for director Sophia Ford Coppola in the first place. Park Hyatt Kyoto may be a beauty in her own right, but there is so much more to this legend that makes its exclusion from the list inexplicably baffling.
COMO Shambala Bali
Agriculture and architecture, myths and bliss, these are the very allures of a Balinese haven and for close to 3 decades the COMO Shambala estate has embodied the very essence of the Balinese dream. Gardens, wellness and luxuries are melded so seamlessly into this impossibly serene estate one can be quite easily lulled into a tropical trance that keeps worldly affairs quite at bay. Such glorious elements are similarly incorporated into neighbouring establishments like Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton Reserve and Four Seasons Sayan and it is a scandal none of these award winning hotels from Bali are judged worthy of the list!
Velaa Private Island Maldives
Maldives is an oceanic archipelago known chiefly for its many resort islands and there is no lack of contenders from the pack on any given list. Although both Soneva properties are beautiful and resplendent in their own right, many of the luxury establishments from Maldives can easily equal half the entrants on the World's Best 50 list. Velaa Private Island, an impossibly opulent and chic resort ingrained with the 'ask and ye shall receive' service mantra, is by far the most notable and mystifying snub. There are many more, but that is a given and the main cause of our grievance.
Amantaka Luang Prabang
Of all the Aman properties to choose from, the minders from the World's Best 50 list anointed Amagalla and Aman Tokyo when more studied choices can be easily made. Amantaka in particular, is one of the Aman stable's comeliest properties, crafted out of an abandoned French hospital with no AD inputs from the likes of Kerry Hill or Ed Tuttle. With the serene charms of Laos' bucolic countryside just peering in from the folds, Amantaka is truly a rare escape from the world, and the chain's seminal break from its lofty, faraway pretenses.
Fuchun Resort Hangzhou
Fuchun Resort is an exquisite haven raised by Belgian maven Jean-Michel Gathy in China that has remained somewhat unknown to the travel community outside of the country perpetually at odds with Western ideals and ways. It comprises of updated Chinese style buildings set over a picturesque lake and tea plantation composition that, with the right lighting, can induce epiphanies about our modern existence. It is the snub of stunning hotels like Fuchun Resort, intentionally or otherwise, that begs the question - why isn't there at least one hotel from China on the World's Best 50 List? Is this a political message or more a qualitative issue?
Park Hyatt Jakarta
Unbeknownst to the outside world, Jakarta is actually a splendid repository of luxury hotels that can rival many on an international scale. The unfortunate fact is that owing to the realities of the Indonesian capital, often a smog covered, road clogged metropolis of 10 million, no one would really like to visit the city, making it the antipode of a holiday destination. The newly opened Park Hyatt Jakarta is so remarkably sophisticated that if it was raised in another destination, it would instantly be catapulted into the world's best strata. Sadly, the host city is the reason why stunning, deserving hotels like Park Hyatt and similarly excellent Langham Jakarta will face insurmountable challenges garnering global recognition.
Santani Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has suffered from a slate of bad luck since a bombing and an avalanche of political and fiscal woes crippled its tourism industry a few years ago. But this does not negate from the fact that the Jewel Island is aflush with impossibly beautiful and dreamy hotels, like The Santani. A wellness hideaway perched up in the highland of Sri Lanka's hilly interior, this remote establishment is just the spot to escape to every once in a while to forget the world. Material luxury isn't its biggest selling point but its conception is largely grounded in the bare earth retreat philosophy, which to some constitutes the ultimate form of luxury in life.
The Sukhothai Bangkok
The Sukhothai Bangkok has been widely acknowledged as the epitome of taste and sophistication in the Thai capital for decades, and while it is true its thunder may have been occasionally stolen by upstarts the likes of Four Seasons and Capella, its regal allures are impossible to supplant or negate. The World's Best 50 List clearly has a penchant for new properties which we understand, but a resolutely top hotel shouldn't be defined or excluded by such ageist bias. Old is gold, and while this is easier said than done, those that succeed should be given their rightful recognition.
Regent Phu Quoc Vietnam
The Regent brand may have slumped under the ownership of Four Seasons, but those are fortuitously the yesteryear episodes now that the brand is under the ownership and management of IHG. This redefined luxury chain had started a new chapter by taking management of the stunning ex-Four Seasons Shanghai Pudong and with the opening of The Regent Phu Quoc. Vietnam really should come within the sight of these 580 'industry experts' because it is one of the fastest rising tourist destination of the region with a slate of new openings that has fundamentally altered the industry dynamics. The Regent Phu Quoc is one such exemplary establishments, with both its hard and soft products quite as breathtaking as its coastal vistas.
Alila Villas Uluwatu Bali
Bali is an island blessed with both stunning coasts and a verdant heart and the best hotels on the island are either perched on handsome sea-facing cliffs or under tropical cover. Alila Uluwatu is one of Bali's most resplendent resorts with its iconic WOHA designed architecture and stunning oceanic vistas. Bafflingly, with so many deserving coastal properties to choose from likes of Alila Uluwatu, Apurva Kempinski and Raffles Bali, to name but a few, the sole entrant on the World's Best 50 list is Desa Potato Head, which though not underserving, is definitely not the best hotel in Bali.
Banyan Tree Anji
The Banyan Tree Anji is another compelling reason why China's snub on the World's Best 50 list is an inexplicable and unjustifiable move. The stunning views of Anji's rugged, handsome terrain not withstanding, the modern take on classical Chinese architecture raised within these picturesque confines alone makes the hotel well worth a visit and worthy of top billing consideration. In a region famous for its jade green bamboo forests, Banyan Tree Anji's perch capitalises both on the vistas and the clever appointments of elevated luxuries like bamboo shoot digging trips and a mahjung room dripping with views.
The Buahan A Banyan Tree Escape
A bold new concept barely one year in operation, The Buahan is about as close to primordial resplendence one can aspire to minus a few constructions that have always been deemed essential to luxury hotels, even eco-luxe hotels - constructions like walls, automation and imported ingredients. This is thus a resort where your temporal abode is unshielded from the elements on the horizontal front in all directions and walking (more like climbing actually) is your only option to get around. But one is always getting around towards rewarding stations like the restaurant offering delicious cuisine made with local ingredients, the spa with the best masseuse we encountered in Ubud and the ethereal riverside waterfall for purification rituals that rid one of care and bad juju. Such a deliciously bold endeavour at the frontier of the industry but is anyone from the List paying attention?
Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel Japan
If a newly opened family joint can lay claim to being the world's best hotel, then Japan must be teeming with them for beyond the Amans and the Hoshinoyas staking out in the bustling cities, sparsely visited Japanese ryokans in the country's exotic enclaves have long honed their mastery on hospitality that can only be described as imperial. When we visited Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel in 2018, the kimono clad staff prostrated before us as she explained the amenities of the room, amazing us to our core. Such reverence towards guests may be a bit out of place in the modern world but that insistence on olden ways is both philosophical and profound. Everything in this boutique-sized hotel is impressive, from the exquisitely harmonised East-West cuisine to the meticulously staged experiences like after-dinner malt and cigars and onsen bathing, is out of this world. Yes, way out of this World's Best 50 world.