Holidays out of the box
Fun stays at Asian boutique hotels, heritage hideaways, hip hotels, and nature retreats with some eyebrow-raising whimsy.
Australia | China | Hong Kong | India | Indonesia | Malaysia | New Zealand | South Pacific | Sri Lanka | Thailand | Vietnam
Black and white dominates at chic hideaway
Tucked along one of Melbourne’s signature lanes is the Adelphi, a slick 34-room hideaway with a mixed bag of holidaymakers and suits. It’s favoured by architects and interior designers and its jet-black leather landscape looks freshly torn from the pages of an architectural glossy. The hotel’s most dramatic feature, however, is its rooftop swimming pool, which boasts a see-through Perspex floor jutting out above Flinders Lane. Also get a pillow fragrance menu.
ADELPHI. Tel: [61-3] 8080-8888, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.adelphi.com.au).
Qing-era courtyard hutong indulgence
At the brilliantly restored DuGe, a designer courtyard boutique hotel in Beijing's Dongcheng District, a Qing dynasty residence hosts 10 bedrooms with private en suites, each with its own theme and featuring original antiques, custom furnishings and contemporary art. Set amidst grey stone hutong rows, crimson doors beckon guests into a secret world set around a sunny courtyard. Squeeze into the doll's-house White Russian bar for a pre-dinner kick.
DUGE. Tel: [86-10] 6445-7463, (e-mail: email@example.com or www.dugehotel.com).
Warehouse escape in rambunctious art district
Beijing's zany 798 Art District lies en route to the airport bereft of subways, and cabs are as rare as dragon's teeth. In this exuberant sprawl of old warehouses turned art paradise, spot the delightful 30-room Grace Beijing. This Beijing boutique hotel is in a brick building with a small garden patio and each room is an exercise in pure whimsy - with mod-cons and glass partition baths. Feel your way through cobalt corridors packed with framed mirrors.
GRACE BEIJING. Tel: [86-10] 6436 1818, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gracebeijing.com).
Vintage Shanghai with a modern twist
Pei Mansion Hotel, at 170 Nanyang Road, is an intimate restored setting in a small, classical three-storey stone building dating to 1934 with an ornamental garden. It was one of architect I M Pei’s family homes. There are 25 rooms in classical mould with chic touches, patterned tile floors, deep-seating leather chairs, velvet divans, and assorted memorabilia in a faux-Euro setting. Spot vintage radios – that work – tiny balconies, old almirahs and free WiFi.
PEI MANSION. Tel: [86-21] 6289-7878, (e-mail: email@example.com or www.peimansionhotel.com).
From policing pirates to private hideaway
A real charmer, but not the easiest to get to, is the tiny Tai O Heritage Hotel at Lantau's Tai O Fishing Village. With just 10 rooms and suites decked out in colonial fashion with white French windows, classic lines and a comfortable homey feel, this is spot for adventurers or true-blue romantics. Built in 1902 as a police station to guard against marauding brigands, the building has been carefully restored though not without the odd quirk or two.
TAI O HERITAGE HOTEL. Tel:  2985-8383, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.taioheritagehotel.com).
Time for a gin and tonic in Rajasthan
Ajmer Bungalow is a three-bedroom house (dating back to 1908) with just enough plaster crumble and wet grass underfoot to feel at home. Trawl through family memorabilia, old furniture (each piece yielding a historical footnote, like the dining room chairs dating back to the Delhi Durbar of 1911), a functioning pedal organ, a record player and the garden with its fragrant raat ki raani that releases its scent at night. Excellent home-cooked food.
AJMER BUNGALOW. Tel: [91-145] 262-8759, (e-mail: email@example.com or ajmerbungalow.com).
Royal palace escape in Rajasthan
Not far from Jaipur, the 400-year-old Samode Palace is an essay in magnificence that will have jaws dropping. The hand-painted Durbar Hall with its earth-red frescoes can host a small corporate meeting in style. In days of yore, royal ladies peeked down from the blue shuttered windows of the jarokha. The 42 spacious rooms are fittingly regal and set around sun-drenched yellow plaster courtyards with terraced suites on the higher floors. There is an outdoor pool too.
SAMODE PALACE. Tel: [91-141] 263-2407, fax: 263-1397, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.samode.com).
How to attain nirvana in Ubud
In Ubud, Bali, a series of hairpins lead up to Penestanan where the road mysteriously peters out. This is the preserve of villagers, cyclists, beatific chickens, and a few travellers in the know. Here you'll find tiny hideaway Villa Nirvana with six thatch-roof villas set on individual green terraces, and two lavish suites on an adjacent private estate. Expect blue-tile pools, chill-out music, friendly staff, and healthy juices. Do yoga or grab a dosa.
VILLA NIRVANA. Tel: [62-361] 979-419, (email@example.com or www.villanirvanabali.com).
Secret frangipani courtyard in old Penang
Seven Terraces, a restored 14-room heritage boutique hotel in the heart of Georgetown, Penang, is the island's most recent addition to its slew of creaking timber finery. Salvaged by local-born Christopher Ong the seven terrace houses feature antique Chinese furniture - like the huge wedding beds - mother-of-pearl inlay rosewood chairs, gilt wood carvings, lattice-work, and ceramic tiles. It even has a lap pool and scented frangipani in the courtyard.
SEVEN TERRACES. Tel [60-4] 264-2333, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.seventerraces.com).
More luxury angles for anglers in NZ
Coddled between leafy trees on a lush green 17-acre wooded estate, Huka Lodge, traces its antecedents back a long way as it peruses the burbling Waikato River. This luxury boutique hotel is a splendid spot for anglers. Enjoy a stroll and the outdoors unless engaged at the annual Bolinger Champagne Dinner. Lodge Suites offer heart-pounding river views with a timber verandah for reflection. Queen Elizabeth II has stayed here so don't tarry.
HUKA LODGE.. (http://www.hukalodge.co.nz/
Finally, a Pacific playground for grown-ups
Royal Davui Island Resort is an adults-only sanctuary on Beqa Lagoon, Fiji, reached by seaplane and launch transfer. The emphasis here on seclusion and privacy. Think in-room dining, luxe spa treatments and private plunge pools at many of the 16 breezy villas. Four-poster beds with dreamy drapes sit atop gleaming timber floors looking onto patios with stunning ocean views. The island offers lots of opportunity to snorkel and swim.
ROYAL DAVUI. Tel: [61-2] 9365-2648, (e-mail: email@example.com or www.royaldavui.com).
Why whimsical adults still crave Kandy
An eccentric choice in Kandy is Helga’s Folly, whimsically termed an “anti hotel”, a sprawling red Bauhaus-style building clutching the hillside, with phantasmagorical décor. “If this is a folly,” wrote a guest, “it’s foolish to be wise”. Helga, who presides over her erstwhile home with the grace of a duchess, has created a fantasy-land with outrageous colour schemes and candle-lit parlours full of antiques and whimsy. Good nosh too.
HELGA'S FOLLY. Tel: [94-81] 223-4571, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.helgasfolly.com).
Secluded Samui chic and service with a smile
In the southwest of Koh Samui is the private luxury villa retreat Baan Wanora, set in 17,000sq ft of manicured estate. Serious thought has gone into the guest experience with a sensibly strong focus on staff. The 10,000sq ft villa with five en suite bedrooms is an all-wood construct drawing on Thai traditions but with a contemporary feel. Find shingle roofs, fish ponds, gleaming wood floors, rich fabrics, soaking terrazzo tubs, and iridescent cushions.
BAAN WANORA. Tel: [66-81] 968-5384, (e-mail: email@example.com or baanwanora.com).
Calm Cham culture on muscle beach
On storied China Beach in Vietnam, is the Pulchra Resort Danang, with its design inspiration drawn from ancient Cham culture. Spacious villas in this manicured green estate face the sea or are set around a lagoon. They offer high ceilings, lazily whirring fans and mod-cons for lux purists - is a BOSE sound system good enough? The distinctive design is what sets this retreat apart. There is space and a sense of intimacy with private pools offering extra indulgence.
PULCHRA RESORT DANANG. Tel: [84-511] 392 0823, (www.pulchraresorts.com/vietnam/).
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