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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.

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


Special Offers: Thailand’s Le Meridien Khao Lak

October 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Le Meridien Khao Lak

Found out some good news from Gadling today. The Le Meridien Khao Lak has reopened its doors after last year’s devastating tsunami. The celebratory rates? A steal at $75 per night (plus tax). From now until Dec 22, enjoy that famous Thai hospitality in style at Khao Lak. P.S. The spa rocks.

Le Meridien Khao Lak, Official Site

Le Meridien Khao Lak, Five Star Alliance


When in India, Don’t Miss the Taj Mahal

October 24, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Taj Mahal

“Don’t bother with Agra. Actually, keep away at all costs.” Fellow travelers in New Delhi warned me—on my month-long trip to India-- to avoid the grime, pushy peddlers and chaos of Agra. That the Taj is best seen in coffee table books, postcards, even on the internet. I went anyway. Fly half-way around the world and not witness “the most extravagant monument ever built for love”?!? Who were they kidding?

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra was the capital of India under the Mughals, and both the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal date from this era. This majestic mausoleum was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, whose death in childbirth in 1631 left the Emperor so heartbroken that supposedly his hair turned grey overnight.

We arrived in the afternoon, and watched the sunset fade salmon against the walls of the Agra Fort. Emperor Akbar began the construction of the massive red sandstone fort on the banks of the Yamuna River in 1565. I hadn’t pictured that the ferocious Mughal warriors would be such architecture buffs. But the fort is beautifully designed. From slat-like windows in the ramparts, you can see the Taj Mahal rising like a mirage out of the flat plain.

The next morning’s sunrise over the white marble grandeur of the Taj Mahal took my breath away. An hour within the presence of the Taj is nothing short of epic. The smooth stone was soft on our bare feet as we wandered beneath the dome, spellbound as we squinted into the irridescent rainbows shimmering from the sun’s reflection on marble. As the light increased, the Taj seemed to change with each fresh squint, the light dancing across the pearly facade. Apparently the lovesick emperor had originally planned to build twin mausoleums, one brilliantly white and one of daunting black marble. Thank God he abandoned that plan. (And spared 20,000 more artisans and workers.) It’s hard to imagine a duplicate. From sunrise to lunchtime, we could not take our eyes off of it. The only thing that could get us to leave was our growling stomachs.

Where to stay?

Just 600 meters from one of the greatest wonders of the world, The Oberoi Amarvilas is a breathtaking hotel, providing every modern service in a haven reflecting the grandeur of the surrounding monuments. Set among pools and terraced gardens, The Oberoi Amarvilas appears itself to be a Mughal palace, fusing Persian and Moorish influences in its exquisite architecture. The blue and gold domed entranced pavilion provides brilliant views of the Taj Mahal. Check into the regal Kohinoor Suite, with its separate living and dining rooms, private study and enormous walk-in closet. Even the bathroom overlooks the Taj Mahal.

Oberoi Amarvilas, Official Site

Oberoi Amarvilas, Five Star Alliance


Discover Bhutan with Aman Resorts

October 19, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Bhutan Amanresorts

The walls have come down. For centuries the Kingdom of Bhutan has been closed to the outside world, its cultures and customs a mystery to the West. Sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south, Bhutan straddles high mountain valleys and remote, unspoiled wilderness. The kingdom has preserved its beautiful Mahayana Buddhist way of life, uninfluenced by the outside world. Forget coffee-table books; now is your chance to see this marvel with your own eyes. By decree of the king, visitors are now allowed to step inside the mountain walls and experience Bhutan in style: Amanresorts is the first foreign company allowed to open a series of luxury properties throughout the kingdom. Amankora opened its first location in June 2004 in Bhutan's Paro Valley. Located 2,500 meters above sea level, the luxury hotel features magnificent wood-paneled interiors, traditional wood burning stoves and glorious views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. The eight-suite Amankora Punakha is the second resort property, accessed by crossing a suspension bridge over a river. It is situated in lush rice fields near one of Bhutan’s most significant fortress monasteries.

Take advantage of the tailor-made Aman Journey, a circuitous route through the country’s diverse landscapes, for guests to experience and discover the ancient traditions of the Himalayas at each of four luxurious Aman hotels. In November and December of 2005, the Amankora circuit will be further extended with the openings of Amankora Gangtey in the remote Phobjikha Valley and Amankora Thimphu, in the Thimphu Valley, the site of Bhutan's capital city. Amanresorts will book all flights, ground transportation and take care of visas on behalf of guests. Double suites from $900, with an additional $289 for the Tourism Development Fund tax.

Amankora, Official Site

Amankora, Five Star Alliance


What’s Up With Macau?

October 13, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Lisboa

When I last visited China’s old Portuguese colony in May 2004, it was sleazy, shady, and—I’ll admit—a teensy bit scarey. Granted, there are plenty of interesting historical sites in the old city—its historic heart full of narrow streets, pastel facades, and Chinese courtyards lined with the signature Portuguese tiles. The East-West cultural exchange is awesome, proudly manifest in the architecture: Chinese temples standing side by side the remnants of the first Christian churches in Asia. But the view from my window in the dated Hotel Lisboa was downright depressing; the casino strip seemed caught in a time warp of aged, cheezy opulence. The hang-out for the dregs of Hong Kong. So I’m amazed by the latest buzz-- that Steve Wynn is scheduled to open a sophisticated hotel and casino in Autumn 2006. Looks like Wynn follows another Vegas based gaming resort. Last year the owner of the Venetian in Vegas opened the US$240 million Sands Macau. Indeed, Time Asia has predicted an explosive gaming boom for Hong Kong’s lesser known neighbor. Is Macau the next luxury hotspot for the world’s highrollers?


Taj Mirage? Taj Exotica Maldives Ready to Dazzle in December

October 12, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Taj Exotica Maldives

Taj Hotels and Resorts has created a seemingly ephemeral paradise—smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Situated on one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives, the all-new Taj Exotica Resort & Spa will open in early December. On the 20 minute boat ride from the airport, you’ll think your eyes are playing tricks on you. The Taj Exotica is glorious. The resort seamlessly blends with the island’s natural beauty, creating your own private sanctuary in the middle of the ocean. Each of the 62 villas is built entirely over the lagoon and sea. Balconies, sundecks, and even private freshwater plunge pools open out onto the vast, surrounding turquoise. Get this: the Rehendi Suite even boasts a glass bathroom providing infinite views of the sea. Plus, there’s diving, snorkeling, fishing-- galore. But what we’re really drooling over is the authentically Indian spa. The Jiva Grande Spa is like its own private island, accessible by a bridge from the main resort. Spa Pavilions-- each containing private sundecks and relaxation space—include two luxurious Couple Suites. But on top of this, the Jiva Grande offers a Signature Indian Royal Mud and Bathing Experience Pavilion (with Hammam and couple experience showers), an Ayurveda Sanctuary Pavilion (with traditional Ayurveda treatments), and Heat, Hydro and Relaxation Experience Pavilion. Wow.

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Official Site

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa Booking at Five Star Alliance