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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Travel in Rajasthan, India: Jaipur’s Taj Rambagh Palace and Oberoi Rajvilas

November 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Raj Women

First Stop: Shop Til You Drop in Jaipur

Known as the “Pink City,” Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1727. The rosy color of the city is alluring and magical at sunset, set against the backdrop of desert sky. By decree of the Maharaja, the entire city was painted pink when the Prince of Wales visited in 1876. Today, laws dictate that every building maintain this hue. The walled city of Jaipur was designed with the City Palace at its center, with tiers of public buildings and noblemen’s residences spreading out from it. Main attractions include the Amber Fort—the temple within showcasing the exquisite Sheesh Mahal (hall of Mirrors)—and the Hawa Mahal, the “Palace of Breezes.” This palace’s latticework is like a beehive, the red and pink sandstone intricately carved. The elaborate facade has 953 windows, where the royalty used to glimpse secretly the city life below. The old city boasts some of the best shopping in the world. At the bazaars and markets, visitors find world-renowned jewelry (semi-precious stones, silver, bangles), brilliant fabrics, prints, embroidered textiles, shoes, and rugs.

Where to stay?

Taj Hotels operates the Rambagh Palace, a destination resort that used to be Jaipur’s Royal Palace residence. Spread over 47 acres of gardens, courtyards and fountains, the Rambagh Palace embodies the rich culture and history of the former rulers of Rajasthan. The palace hotel was first built in 1835 as a hunting lodge, converted to a palace in 1925 as the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur and finally converted as India’s first palace hotel in 1957. Pampered by personalized butlers and exemplary service, guests are invited to relive the royal lifestyle within this architectural masterpiece. Rambagh Palace offers 90 opulent rooms including the former chambers of the Maharaja.

The Oberoi Rajvilas is set in an oasis of thirty-two acres of beautiful gardens, pools and fountains, just seven kilometers from the city. Like the surrounding palaces and architectural treasures, the hotel is designed with reflective pools, decorated pillars, cool interiors and tented canopies with hand-embroidered fabrics. The hotel combines the royal elegance of the past with the modern conveniences of the 21st century to provide guests with an indulgent experience. Enjoy the very best of Western, Ayurvedic and Oriental therapies in the fabulous spa.

Taj Rambagh Palace, Official Site

Taj Rambagh Palace, Five Star Alliance

The Oberoi Rajvilas, Official Site

The Oberoi Rajvilas, Five Star Alliance


Travel in Rajasthan, India: A Journey of the Senses

November 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Brahmin cow in the street

Opening Scene: Backdrop and History

The Rajasthan landscape flies by outside the car window. A wash of sandy beige interrupted by dazzling color: the bright-orange turban tightly coiled on the head of a passing motorcyclist, women clad in magenta or turquoise saris with water jugs balanced on their heads, carts of lemons piled high. And the ubiquitous water buffalo and Brahmin cows with their cute, dropping ears.

Even on a short trip to India, it’s easy to become intoxicated by the country’s chaotic energy, noise, and cultural history. Rajasthan’s temples, palaces and forts are architecturally magnificent. The bazaars are brimming with handicrafts and clothes you’ll see in trendy Soho boutiques (marked up umpteen hundred times.) But more than that, traveling through Rajasthan is an experience of the senses: tiny clay pots of sugary chai tea, the smells of spices and sweet fragrances, the kaleidoscope of color in the markets, delectable tastes dancing on the tongue. It’s a constant sensory explosion.

Rajasthan’s history is shrouded in myth. For over 1,000 years, the northwestern desert state was fiercely guarded by the Rajput clans. These legendary warriors defended their turf with a serious code of chivalry and honor. Thus Rajasthan remained independent from all the encroaching great empires throughout history. Indeed, Rajasthan’s city of Jaisalmer was the last kingdom to succumb to British colonization.

No longer just a budget backpacker’s paradise, India has become an inspiration for the international jet-set as well. Rajasthan’s beautiful Palace hotels can make anyone feel like a modern-day maharajah. The winter is the perfect time to make the trip; the monsoon rains are kept at bay for at least half a year. Hire a driver, bring out the map, and dream up your perfect itinerary.


Take a Trip to Rajasthan, India

November 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Taj Mahal

Today is devoted to travel in Rajasthan. I’ve outlined a circular itinerary through the mythical land of the Maharajahs that I hope will entice you to click and scroll away. But what have I missed? Where would you go, what would you see, on a winter’s trip through India’s cultural oasis? Would you endorse a camel-trek into the dunes of the Thar desert, fully-aware of the sore ass that results, and the nasty stink that the camels emit with each clomp through the sand?

(Photo credits: yours truly and my dear friend Maggie)

Posted in: Articles, Asia, Hot Spots

From Singapore to Hong Kong: Shopping Festivals Across Asia

November 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Shopping Bag

Check this out. A recent article in the International Herald Tribune highlighted a fantastic new trend: shopping wars escalating across Asia. With every big city in Asia competing to draw tourists, shopping festivals have become the focus of retail-themed vacations. July’s Great Singapore Sale generated incredible retail sales and record visitor arrivals. For the eight-week shopping fest, 1.9 million tourists indulged in tourism-shopping sprees. And these folks know how to shop. Apparently, more than half tourist expenditure went to shopping. Likewise, Kuala Lumpur has consolidated three discount shopping periods into the six-week Mega Sale Carnival, running from the end of July to the beginning of September. Not to be outdone, Hong Kong has created its own HK Shopping Festival, which transformed the usual slow end-of-summer-season into another peak travel season. Bangkok’s Amazing Thailand Grand Sale also runs during June and July.

What does this mean for consumers? Aggressive marketing campaigns and hefty competition means consumers score big with competitive pricing, give-aways and promotional gimmicks, like free foot massages in Malaysia and Lucky Draw prizes in HK (including diamonds and luxury watches.)

PS. In case you missed the summer’s shopping extravaganzas, never fear. The Dubai Shopping Festival takes place from January 4 to February 5, and includes raffle prize give-aways worth $2.7 million, 100 kilograms of gold and 10 cars.


U.S. Embassy in Beijing Warns of Attacks in Four and Five Star Hotels in China

November 10, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Devastating news about Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers attacking Jordan Hotels (the four- and five-star Radisson SAS, Days Inn and Grand Hyatt) yesterday. After these sickening acts of terrorism, the U.S. embassy in Beijing has issued warnings of attacks at four- and five-star hotels across China.


Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong Wins Best New City Hotel in Asia

November 7, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Chuan Spa

The most outstanding new city hotel across all of Asia? The award goes to the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong-- bestowed at the 16th Annual Travel Awards 2005, presented by TTG Asia. The hotel is a business traveler’s dream. With Omnipresent WIFI, IP Telephony and 42 inch Plasma TVs, the hotel is the most technologically advanced in Asia. The hotel’s Chuan Spa—perched on the top three floors of the hotel—is arguably the best in Hong Kong. And with a location directly above the MTR subway station, the hotel provides easy access to all of Hong Kong. (And let’s not forget the 600,000 square feet of shopping at Langham Place Mall, connected to the hotel by walkbridge.)

Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Official Site

Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong, Five Star Alliance


A Feast for Foodies: The New Gourmet Restaurant Scene in New Delhi

November 4, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

This week’s International Herald Tribune applauded the new restaurant revolution in New Delhi. In a city where the restaurants traditionally failed to do justice to the national cuisine, restaurant culture has been revived. Say hello to Veda, the uber-glamorous nouvelle cuisine curry house, where the sophisticated Indian food is only matched by the fashionable ambience. (After all, the place was created by one of India’s top designers—Rohit Bal.)


Bangkok’s New Suvarnabhumi Airport

November 1, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

It’s about time. Bangkok is scheduled to open the new Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006, which will feature a high-speed rail link and five alternative routes to the city center to avoid that nasty Bangkok gridlock!


Special Travel Offers to China

October 31, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Suzhou Gardens

Check out Frommer’s list of special travel offers to China, during the quieter (and immensely better) low season. Though I’m usually a fan of independent travel, some of these packages look too good to pass up. For example: $1,899 for 13 days of sight-seeing (Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Guilin) and roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco.


Travelers are Flocking to China; Our Pick? Yunnan’s Banyan Tree

October 26, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Great Wall

Numbers don’t lie. According to the World Tourism Organization, China recently replaced Italy as the 4th most visited nation. Is this due to more tourism among the country’s ginormous population? If anything, an increase in tourism among the Chinese themselves is a fabulous indicator of previously-rigid walls coming down…. (Last year I remember watching the sun set behind snow-capped peaks near China’s Myanmar border, with Chinese tourists who had previously never left Shanghai and Beijing.) And Westerners are discovering that China offers a lot more than the Great Wall and Forbidden City. The southwest province of Yunnan, for example, is a wonderland of geographic marvels, history and cultural tradition. Luxury resorts have already staked an interest in Yunnan; Banyan Tree just opened a resort there, in “Shangri-La country,” complete with heavenly spa.

Banyan Tree Ringha, Official Site

Banyan Tree Ringha, Five Star Alliance