Insider's Guide: Historic Hotels around Asia - Part 1

Insider's Guide: Historic Hotels around Asia - Part 1

Aside from wanting to take a much needed break from the stress of work and our busy schedules, travelling for many is fuelled by a personal quest to experience a slice of different cultures, to get a glimmer of histories long past, and for a mere moment, be fully absorbed by another time and place.  Well, I know I do, but with the break-neck speed of development of the economies across the Asian region, finding those authentic experiences can be a little challenging.

One great way of finding that special local experience, which oozes with a lot of the best parts of the native authenticity and ambience, is to stay at some of the iconic historic hotels around the region. Thankfully, across Asia-pacific, there is a fine collection of some of these grand dames – true relics from yesteryear that not only have stunning heritage architecture but also allow travellers to experience some of that old world magic.  It’s a sure-fire way of getting that perfect mix of comfort and culture, without having to do all the homework.

The Peace Hotel – Shanghai, China

A symbol of Shanghai and it’s golden era of the 1920’s and 30’s, this stunning structure is one of Asia’s finest examples of classic art-deco architecture – if not the whole world.  Completed in 1929, and originally named The Cathay Hotel, this establishment situated on Shanghai’s Bund, was a magnet for global celebrities and personalities and the epicentre of Shanghai’s pre-war hedonism, seeing the likes of Charlie Chaplin pass through its gilded grand entrance.  While it suffered some-what during the communist era, the Peace Hotel re-opened in 2010 after a 3 year refurbishment, welcoming back some of that long-lost grandeur.


The famous green pyramid of the Peace Hotel, overlooking Shanghai’s Bund & Huangpu river
Credit: Fairmont Peace Hotel

With its endless marble surfaces, and classic oak panelled walls, this hotel is definitely a worthy pilgrimage site for those who adore all things vintage. Every single inch of this hotel looks like it rolled off the set of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. In our humble opinion, a stay at this hotel is reason alone to make a visit to Shanghai.


The legendary lobby foyer of the Peace Hotel - A shrine to all things art-deco 
Credit: Fairmont Peace Hotel

Aman at the Summer Palace – Beijing , China

This is an unusual choice for this list of Asia’s must-visit historic hotels, simply because it only opened in 2008, having previously being lying dormant for the best part of a century. If you ever wanted to get a taste of what it was like to live like an emperor at an actual Chinese imperial residence, this is most definitely your only bet. Located on the Northwest outskirts of Beijing, the Aman at Summer Palace is designed as an escape from urban living and a portal into China’s history and heritage.


A stunning entrance fit for the imperial family
Credit: Aman resorts

The hotel is situated amongst a series of historic courtyards, elegant pavilions and imperial pleasure gardens, and only a mere stone’s throw from the Summer palace – guest getting a private entrance to the Summer Palace, and full access to this majestic imperial residence even when it is closed to the public. Mixing absolute luxury with a total sense of cultural immersion, this is definitely a once in a life time experience and something for everyone’s bucket list.


The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok or “The Oriental” - Bangkok, Thailand

Some people say, that if you don’t know the Oriental in Bangkok, then you don’t know a thing about hotels. At almost 140 years old, the Oriental has maintained a reputation as one of the world’s finest hotel establishments throughout its long and illustrious history. Standing proudly along the Chao Phraya river, where sturdy teak-built  vintage shuttle boast link the hotel’s main building with the cooking school, the gym and the river-side Thai restaurant – it is truly the  global benchmark for the ultimate urban resort.

The timeless charm of The Oriental's old building 
Credit: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

The old building traces its origins back to 1886, having admirably maintained the classical Thai elegance and charm from that period that captivated many well-known celebrities, personalities and literary figures across the decades – most notably Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham.

Afternoon tea at the Author’s lounge is a must
Credit: The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Everywhere you cast your glance, features and the minute details of the Mandarin bring the guest back to the exotic early days of hotel.  The interiors are quintessentially Thai, filled with intricately carved woods and  grand furniture pieces – some suites even contain extravagant four-poster beds just to remind the already captivated guests exactly where they actually are.  


The stunning classic wood interiors of The Oriental's Spa 
Credit: The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

To be continued in Part 2...

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