Not long ago, luxury accommodations in China were confined to the large eastern cities. But new areas of the country are now opening up for those who require an elevated level of comfort and style. The Six Senses group recently opened its first China property, Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, in Sichuan Province. The Banyan Tree Huangshan opened in Anhui Province in July. Starwood’s Luxury Collection now includes The Grand Mansion in Nanjing, designed by I.M. Pei architects. However, the new property that interests me most is The Temple House in Chengdu, which joins glamorous siblings The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing. All are owned by the British shipping and property Swire group, the largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific Airways. The Temple House combines cultural preservation — parts of the property date from the Qing Dynasty — with refined contemporary design. Personally, I am extremely keen to try the “Gong Fu Panda” package, which, as well as a traditional ceremony in the hotel’s teahouse, includes two entrance tickets to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
One of the more enjoyable ways to travel through Asia is to move from one Aman resort to another. The company’s refined boutique hotels are now located in virtually every Asian country, from India to Indonesia. And if there is a bad Aman property, I have yet to encounter it. Now, such a tour has been made even easier by the advent of Aman Private Jet Journeys (created in association with Asia specialist travel company Remote Lands). From March 6-20, 2016, 16 travelers will fly on two Gulfstream jets, staying at five Aman properties in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Japan. Each couple will have their own private car, driver and guide. I expect further private jet itineraries to be revealed in the near future.
Hotels have long competed to have the most lavish and glamorous suite. In the past, this was chiefly about bragging rights, and the palatial quarters at the top of the building were seldom occupied. But times have changed with the exponential growth in the numbers of the super-affluent, whether in Asia, the Middle East or here at home. For some while, I have recommended The Mark on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for its ideal location, contemporary style and excellent restaurant. But now, the property has another distinction: the world’s most expensive suite. The new five-bedroom, 12,000-square-foot penthouse suite occupies the entire 16th and 17th floors of the building; its living room has a 26-foot ceiling; the dining room seats 24 people; and the 2,500-square-foot terrace offers views of Central Park and the distant Chrysler Building. All of this can be yours for just $75,000 a night. I wonder how long it will be before another New York hotel announces the debut of accommodations that are even more opulent?
At the time of writing, I am completing the last two volumes of the 2015 Harper Collection. The most comprehensive and reliable guide to worldwide luxury travel, the Collection makes an ideal seasonal gift. From December 1, subscribers will be able to purchase the boxed set for their friends at a cost of $225. To order, click here.