Hot 100 2015 - Travel
Expect to hear a lot more of The Maldives. In a recent speech to inaugurate Club Med's first five-star solar-powered resort (Finolhu Villas), Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen announced "a grand new vision for tourism in the Maldives". He outlined plans to transform the national economy through a "massive, massive infrastructure project" that includes a new airport capable of handling six to seven million visitors a year and a rash of luxury resorts across the 1,190-island archipelago. The high-end invasion has already begun, with properties like Amilla Fushi creating bold new silhouettes in the low-slung honeymoon islands. A Modernist fantasy of strong angles and pools on stilts, Amilla is more exclusive community than resort hotel. Set in the UNESCO world biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, its accommodation ranges from one-bedroom houses to a six-bedroom "residence", each more appealing than the last. Luke Mangan is in charge of the eating.
AMAN TO THAT
Occupying the top six floors of a tower complex with views of the Tokyo Skytree and Imperial Palace gardens, the newest Aman is a postmodern eyrie that taps both landmarks for aesthetic inspiration. The art collection deconstructs nature in large-scale "tree" murals adorning reception, the library and restaurant, while an interior ikebana garden bisects the airy lobby. The 84 guestrooms and suites are serenely uncluttered, with ash-timber platform beds facing the glittering cityscape, heated granite bathroom floors and shoji sliding doors. In the darkly handsome Lounge, bartenders update classic cocktails (Mojito, Grasshopper, Moscow Mule) with Japanese wild mint and ginger infusions. Don't miss a deep soak in the spa's traditional ofuro bath. Cultural immersion complete. Aman Tokyo, The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi, Tokyo, (81) 03 5224 3333
Embrace your inner gaucho at Valle Chacabuco, a striking new lodge in deepest Patagonia. The stone hotel, set on an 80,000-hectare property of protected Chilean grasslands, is a warm-hued shelter of open fires, recycled timbers and mesmerising Mount Tamanguito views. Its comfortably rustic accommodation runs to six ensuite rooms; the raw-timber chic of the Puma Room is our favourite. There are also bunk beds for economy travellers. Mealtimes feature cuts from prime local livestock and produce straight from the farm. But the real star of the Valle Chacabuco experience is the great outdoors. Get among it. Coyhaique, Aysén Region, Chile
TOUCH OF PANACHE
A bigger hotel, with broader appeal from the young couple who brought chic to the ancient quarter of Faubourg Poissonnière with Hôtel Paradis two years ago, Panache occupies a site where two streets meet just north of the Grands Boulevards in the 9th arrondissement. Its triangular footprint gave interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon some ideas to play with. The chef in charge of its lobby winebar-restaurant has yet to reveal his identity, but we do know that guests will be able to enjoy a glass of wine in a brand-new basement screening room.
Grand Central Market is almost 100 years old, but in the past 18 months it has become the nexus for LA's burgeoning food scene. Think Melbourne's Vic Markets, but both fancier and grungier, with all the gritty charm of downtown Los Angeles, interspersed with oyster bars, upmarket butchers and fresh-pressed juice stands. At Wexler's Deli, chef Micah Wexler is smoking his own (gorgeous, ethereal) lox and making his own pastrami; Mark Peel (of Campanile fame) is opening seafood counter Bombo, where you'll be able to slurp oysters and Champagne. The best bite here might be the $3 carnitas from a vendor who's been here for more than 20 years, but the joy is in the jumble of old and new, swish and sensible.
LIVING THE DREAM
You'd think that Bondi, Sydney's capital of cool (and kale), would have a thriving hotel scene, but the pickings are noticeably slim - at least until this August, when QT joins the 'hood. Part of the glossy Pacific Bondi Beach development in the old Swiss Grand building, it will be QT's first venture into serviced apartments. There'll be 69 of them, with interiors courtesy of Nic Graham, the designer behind QT's Sydney, Gold Coast, Port Douglas, Canberra and Falls Creek properties. He's bringing the group's signature "luxury-meets-quirk" aesthetic, with a bright, beachy feel similar to the Gold Coast flagship. Each apartment will feature a veranda, fully equipped kitchen, QT's famously fun minibars and other luxe highlights such as Malin + Goetz bathroom accessories. There won't be a house-operated restaurant, bar or spa on site. There will, however, be a very switched-on concierge and management team, briefed to direct guests to the right spots in Bondi. "We are going to make sure [the staff] is entrenched within the Bondi scene," says QT's Stephen Howard, "so that they know the ins and the outs of where to go, from where to eat to the creative sets, such as galleries, as well." QT guests will also have exclusive access to the Pacific's health club, valet parking, dining and shopping facilities. The property will be the sixth addition to the QT stable, which is slated to grow to seven with a Melbourne hotel opening mid-2016. QT Residences Bondi, Pacific Bondi Beach, 180 Campbell Pde, Bondi Beach, NSW
DESIGN OF GOOD FORTUNE
Sunrise Kempinski Hotel turns Chinese feng-shui architecture into an art form. The latest Beijing refuge from Kempinski, Europe's oldest luxury hotel group, is in the heart of the Yanqi Lake and provides serenity in an otherwise congested city. The hotel's "sunrise" design is intended to embody good fortune, and represents cooperation and harmony while offering breathtaking views of the Yan Mountains. If the view and design aren't soothing enough, there's always a freshly brewed beer and Cuban cigar waiting at Paulaner Bräuhaus's microbrewery. Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing, 18 Jia Yanshui Rd, Yanqi Lake, +86 10 6961 8888
HOT FOR HOBART
The Federal Group, also the brains behind Tasmanian hotels such as The Henry Jones Art Hotel and Saffire Freycinet in Coles Bay, has announced plans for another venue, the MACq01, in early 2016. While the group is staying tight-lipped on the project (let alone its pronunciation), the 113-suite complex will call Hobart's lively waterfront home and is currently under construction. Watch this space.
There's a new way to stay in NYC and it's called MySuites. A collection of one- and two-bedroom apartments, scattered around Manhattan's most interesting neighbourhoods (the West Village and Chelsea among them), MySuites gives you a chance to live like a local, from $430 a night. Call MySuites' concierge for local dining tips and more.
Benesse House museum and hotel, designed by Tadao Ando in 1992, sits on Naoshima island in Japan's Seto Inland Sea, just three hours from Osaka by bullet train. Choose between Ando's Museum, Oval, Park or Beach rooms, each with their own site-specific artworks. Visit The Art House Project, where private homes, restaurants and abandoned buildings across the island have been transformed into art spaces. It's a lovely stroll (Sapporo in hand) down to Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkin at the end of the wharf, or soak in the colourful Shinro Ohtake-designed public onsen. But save Benesse Museum until last: after the museum closes, guests are free to wander the space in hotel slippers, with nothing but Nam June Paik, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol's Flowers to keep them company.
Wellness travel is experiencing a boom worldwide, from the cheap and cheerful beachfront variety to the seriously slick luxury end of the pool. The Aro Ha retreat in Queenstown prides itself on encouraging guests out of their comfort zones while staying in the lap of luxury.
This holistic adventure wilderness retreat sits in some of the most breathtaking scenery in New Zealand, and that's saying something. For a warmer warm-up, head to Thailand: Chiva-Som may be turning 20 this year but it's still the benchmark in spa travel. With 11 retreats available - from rejuvenation to full detox - Chiva-Som delivers a total-immersion health experience with ample organic food, yoga and deep-tissue massage to straighten you out, possibly, once and for all.
Type-A exercisers, on the other hand, might find more to like
joining the overachievers at SoulCycle in New York. If
sweating on a stationary mountain bike for 45 minutes in a
darkened, heated room with a high-intensity DJ and a team of
beyond-enthusiastic participants sounds like the way you want to
shake off your jetlag, then head straight to SoulCycle and join the
club. It's a spin class with a spin, and there are queues
around the block to join in.
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN NORTHBRIDGE
Between its freshly minted rum speakeasies, modern Indian eating houses and southern Italian wine bars, Northbridge is in the midst of a serious growth spurt, but the suburb isn't done yet. Meet Alex Hotel, the first hotel to be built in the West Australian inner-city precinct in a decade. Taking inspiration from the Ace Hotel brand, this boutique 74-room hotel on 50 James Street is as much about its surrounding neighbourhood as it is its in-house offering. At the ground-level restaurant count on modern European cooking, while on the rooftop terrace cocktails and views await.
BURMA BY WATER
River cruises in Burma are still a serene adventure, but a change in regulations means the rivers will be welcoming a wave of fabulous new luxury cruises in 2016 - go now and beat the crowds.
ALL NEW CHENGDU
It's fair to say that pandas have helped put China's remote Chengdu on the map. Eighty per cent of the world's giant pandas are found here, roaming around the Sichuan province and attracting all manner of five-star hotels. One of the most exciting openings is The Temple House, from the team that created The Opposite House in Beijing and The Upper House in Hong Kong. Part of a government-led conservation project to protect heritage buildings around the thousand-year-old Daci Temple, the hotel is set in a restored courtyard building from the Qing Dynasty. Meanwhile, the Mandarin Oriental is creating a buzz before it has even set an opening date. This 320-room hotel occupies the top 33 floors of the city's tallest skyscraper and boasts fantastic views over the Jin-jiang River and the city skyline. Its Sichuan restaurant promises to be a hit if you can take the local heat. Venture further out of town and the serene Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain awaits, the group's first resort in China. The eco-hotel offers all its standard spa magic, along with culture galore, courtesy of the UNESCO World Heritage & Natural Cultural site in nearby Dujiangyan.
BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO ROTTNEST SINCE THE
An overnight stay at Western Australia's favourite holiday island is set to become a whole lot more comfortable. Karma Royal Group, owner of the Rottnest Lodge, has announced it will begin building a new $20 million property later this year, with completion due in late 2016. The new resort will contain 80 luxe units, a beach club, day spa, gymnasium and personal training facilities.
Checking into one of the suites at The Peninsula New York now gives you complimentary access to a chauffeur-driven Mini Cooper S Clubman for three hours each day thanks to a collaboration between the hotel and BMW. Kitted out with a mini-fridge and iPad or iPhone, the bespoke moss-green Mini's compact size is perfect for cutting through Manhattan's traffic-clogged streets and avenues. The hotel has also created a number of self-guided motoring tours, from shopping excursions on Fifth Avenue to an exploration of the Meatpacking District.
Diwali, the Hindu celebration of light over darkness, will illuminate the Indian subcontinent over four days in November. Streets and homes are lit with oil lamps, fairy lights and firework displays, and filled with rituals of prayer known as puja. Diwali kicks off on 11 November this year (the date fluctuates with the moon) and Varanasi is a particularly breathtaking vantage point, as the Ganga twinkles with floating lamps and the ghats are lined with spectacle.
VALLEY & VINES
Millahue Valley has become the world's next great wine destination with the opening of 4325-hectare Viña Vik, about two hours outside Santiago, a companion property by the art-loving creators of Estancia Vik in Uruguay. Surrounded by vines, the low-profile winery is barely visible in the landscape as the vast fermentation and storage complex is housed underneath an artificial lake that's crisscrossed with walkways and granite boulders. Guests stay in the adjacent mountaintop retreat with 22 art-filled suites and a Caudalie wine spa. On request, the chef will whip up a traditional Chilean barbecue picnic in one of the vineyards. And, naturally, the house red is blended right down the hillside.
HEIGHT OF LUXURY
The Jet Age is (long) dead. Long live the New Jet Age. We tend to romanticise air travel in the 1950s and '60s as a more genteel time when people dressed for the airport and the in-flight experience was extremely civilised. But new generation jets - the A380 in particular - have given carriers blank canvases on which to unleash their most lavish imaginings. The jetset could only marvel at Etihad's new three-room Residence, unveiled in December aboard the airline's new fleet of A380s and B787s. Now flying daily from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow and Dusseldorf, the 12-square-metre havens comprise a living area, ensuite and bedroom for the exclusive use of one or two extremely wealthy customers. (Still, it's cheaper than chartering a private jet. And you get your own butler.) More frugal flyers might prefer Etihad's first-class suites with their 204-centimetre flat beds (double bed optional) and personal minibars. For those after a more social drinking experience, look no further than the pointy-end cabins on Virgin, Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air and Qatar for walk-up cocktail bars and in-flight mingling. Need a good lie down afterwards? Emirates, Singapore and Air France, among others, now offer passengers their very own bedrooms. We're pretty sure Concorde never had beds. All the major airlines are lifting their A-game. Lufthansa pampers first-class guests with a seat and a separate bed, because sleeping on a seat is never ideal. Emirates famously offers showers in first class. Brazilian carrier TAM's first cabin is done out like a living room, with sofa, dining table, library and coffee service, among other cosseting extras. As Etihad said at the launch of its Residence, air travel has entered "a new age of style and glamour" - though economy class passengers might beg to differ.
MEALS ON WHEELS
Australia's ultimate roving dinner. And breakfast. And lunch. And every snack and drink in between. Departing Sydney on 2 September, the Indian Pacific's Food & Wine Train journey bolsters the already-memorable transcontinental rail journey with excursions that celebrate Australian cuisine. From a Barossa Valley experience to Indigenous-ingredient tastings and much more, it's a fine way to see - and taste - Australia.
Stone Town, on the East African island of Zanzibar, is the site of a new Park Hyatt hotel partly housed in a 17th-century UNESCO heritage site, Mambo Msiige. The hotel - a serious endorsement for Zanzibar and its heady Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences - has 67 rooms, most with views over Dhow Harbour and the Indian Ocean.
Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and a piano-shaped swimming pool - and if that's not enough to draw you to the Twin Palms holiday hideaway in Palm Springs, here's the trump card: it was designed in 1947 for Frank Sinatra, who had just signed a contract with MGM, making his first million dollars. If you want to turn the star-factor up a notch, head to the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, also in Palm Springs. Built in 1962, the luxury rental - replete with geometric bay windows, circular rooms and exposed-stone walls - was home to the honeymooning Presleys in 1967. For something just as showy but more contemporary, make your way to Gianni Versace's Miami mansion. It's now a luxury 10-suite boutique hotel, The Villa by Barton G, featuring a swimming pool lined with 24-carat gold.
DRAWING THE LINE
The continuous-line drawings from New York artist and illustrator Jason Polan will make you smile. Take a look at his Instagram or blog and watch while he documents (with charming stream-of-consciousness commentary) his mission to draw every person in New York City. From seemingly mundane moments (a dad holding his son on 2nd Avenue) to the more ridiculous (being commissioned to document arrivals at Kanye West's Fashion Week show), Polan is most certainly up for the challenge. Better yet, you can join in. He runs a free drawing club at the Taco Bell on 14th Street every fortnight simply because, he says, "I like drawing, Taco Bell and meeting nice people." The club has been going on nine years now and still pulls a crowd thanks to a double-decker taco (or two), the artist's good humour and his all-are-welcome attitude to illustration.
Over in Arab Street, Singapore, the just-opened Long Play is a leather and stainless steel-toned bar with a deluxe sound system, a vinyl collection spanning the 1950s to '70s, custom cocktails and bar snacks from buttermilk chicken to togarashi squid.
Mallorca's luxury drive continues in style with the opening of the Sant Francesc Hotel Singular earlier this year. Set in an old manor house in the Balearic capital, Palma, the 42-room hotel once belonged to a noble Mallorquin family and familial ambiance lingers - from the beautiful courtyards and lush gardens to the rooftop terrace and pool overlooking the Church of Sant Francesc. Expect delicious contemporary design throughout (kudos to Maria Jose Cabré of MJC Arquitectura for the custom furniture and gorgeous fabrics) alongside plenty of original design features, dating back to the 1880s.
On the island of St Kitts, Belle Mont Farm gives a true taste of the rural Caribbean. The mango and banana trees surrounding the clapboard guest cottage are hung with "pick me" signs when fruit ripens. Pathways are edged with tropical herbs. Livestock grazes on the golf course. A professional forager organises hikes through the rainforest on the upper slopes of Mount Liamuiga. Bikes are available to peddle past orchards and cane fields. At The Mill bar, island-distilled rum punch awaits. And this budding West Indies locavore movement is supported by an adjacent 160-hectare organic farm where chef Christophe Letard holds communal-style alfresco dinners at The Table. That said, you won't want to miss the real-deal fish-fry supper at one of the shacks down on the shore, or a visit to the weekly market in Basseterre where ladies sell homemade Scotch bonnet pepper sauce hot enough to set your tongue ablaze.
GO NOW: CUBA
Why? President Barack Obama is re-establishing good relations with Cuba, which means change will follow as fast as you can say "package tour". Visit now to experience this cultural time capsule before it's gone.
MILAN IN THE PINK
As Milan braces for the avalanche of visitors who will arrive for the 2015 World Expo starting this month, the city's wine-bar scene is already toasting new arrivals like the rosé-centric La Cieca Pink from the team behind La Cieca, one of the best wine bars in Milan. La Cieca Pink opened in late 2014, and, as the name suggests, the wine list is mainly made up of rosés, both still and sparkling. Via Pier Lombardo 9, Milan, +39 02 5405 0062
Portable hotels come in many guises - cruise ships, sleeper trains, first-class air cabins - but Snoozebox is the most pragmatic mobile lodge of the lot. Invented in response to the need for sharp, short-term digs at major events like Formula One and mega festivals (hello, Glastonbury), the stackable hotel rooms come with ensuites, flat-screen televisions and WiFi. They're popping up at all the big events, from Edinburgh Festival to the British Grand Prix.
GO NOW: IRELAND
The Irish-Canadian television series Vikings has revealed its shooting location, County Wicklow, to be a dramatic landscape of soaring mountains, rugged forests and remote glacial lakes. Take a trip.
SOHO GOES COUNTRY
The Great Tew Estate in Oxfordshire is the site of the new Soho Farmhouse (still members only), rumoured to be completed in July. It will feature 40 cabins dotted around a main lake, set up for swimming, sailing and sunning on loungers (don't get too excited, this is England). There will be a wedding venue on site - in the old hay barn, fit for up to 250 guests, as well as tennis courts, indoor and outdoor infinity pools, cowshed spa and cookery classes.
Jaipur has a new jewel in its crown. The Rajmahal Palace is tiny compared to some royal Rajasthani residences - it was built as a maharajah's pleasure pavilion in the 18th century - but part of it now truly shines in a new role as a boutique hotel that pays homage to both heritage and contemporary India with 14 dramatic suites in hot pink and turquoise hues, original chandeliers, and wild geometric wall hangings. Linger over a proper cup of Darjeeling on the Collonade verandah during the heat of day, when all of the Pink City seems to seek shade, or savour G&Ts in the Polo Bar surrounded by silver trophies from tournaments past. And splurge on a private thali dinner lavishly prepared by the current royal family's personal chef at their City Palace residence.
HAIR AND THERE
One of the essentials of travel is finding a good hair salon wherever you are. And in LA the salon right now is Goddard + Bragg. A West Hollywood oasis, just a skip from the Marc Jacobs, Isabel Marant and The Row stores on Melrose Place, these are the guys responsible for Kim Kardashian's blonde transformation. Book before you fly to get a sitting with colourist Lorri Goddard or a cut from Chris Tuner-Bragg.
Edited by Pat Nourse & Eliza O'Hare Words Dominique Afacan, Max Allen, Akash Arora, Sophie Dening, Fiona Donnelly, Sue Dyson & Roger McShane, Michael Harden, Kendall Hill, Natasha Inchley, Maya Kerthyasa, Shane Mitchell, Katie Parla, Besha Rodell, Maggie Scardifield, David Sly, Anthea Tsaousis & Max Veenhuyzen
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