Asia has long lured travelers with its fair share of exotic locations and ancient cultures. U.S.-based luxury travel firm Kipling & Clark has issued a list of its favorite hotels in the region.
This list, complied by the firm's founder and seasoned traveler Randy Lynch, is not endorsed by Reuters.
1. Tawaraya Ryokan and Hiiragiya Ryokan (tie) — Kyoto, Japan
Two of the most famous ryokans, or Japanese inns, in Kyoto are located directly across the alley from each other. It's difficult to distinguish Tawaraya from Hiiragiya — they both represent the highest levels of service. Both ryokans successfully integrate the finest Japanese traditions and wabi-sabi philosophy, which emphasizes simplicity and purity, with contemporary conveniences that seasoned travelers expect. An added once-in-a-lifetime experience is arranging for a private Geiko and Maiko geisha dinner at either ryokan.
2. Four Seasons — Chiang Mai, Thailand
Smaller in scale than the much more expansive Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai, the Four Seasons projects a more understated sense of luxury, engendering an intimate, Zen-like feel. Similar to the Mandarin, the Four Seasons staff is truly sincere and kind. With the expansion of the Four Season's Kid's Club, the family luxury travel experience here is similar to the Mandarin's. The spa and cooking class are extraordinary.
3. Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (tie)
The Mandarin in Hong Kong truly represents understated luxury, a peaceful oasis from the noisy, frenetic city outside. A recent renovation has resulted in the Mandarin's former balconies being converted to lounge/study area extensions, with stunning Victoria Harbor views.
The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok boasts a 130-year history of tradition and the highest level of service, making it a truly unique luxury property. It's unpretentious, understated and attentive and may have the largest, most varied breakfast buffet in all of Asia.
4. Gora Kadan Ryokan — Hakone, Japan
A short 45-minute bullet train ride from Tokyo, the Gora Kadan is a quiet, Shinto-Buddhistique oasis from the big city, offering rejuvenating hot mineral springs. Proprietress Mikawako, the third generation of Fujimotos to run Gora Kadan, has blended traditional Japanese ryokan hospitality with modern Western design in creating a luxurious spa experience. The Gora Kadan's original building dates back to 300 years and was the summer home of the Kan'in-No-Miya imperial family.
5. Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor and Amansara — Siem Reap, Cambodia (tie)
Most hoteliers would describe the Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor as a luxury five-star hotel/resort, while Amansara, part of the Aman Resorts, fits into the elite category.
The Grand Hotel D'Angkor boasts an early 20th Century French colonial style property while the Amansara is formerly the guesthouse of Cambodia's King Sihanouk. The friendly, airy Raffles offers guests many opportunities to mingle with others, while the Amansara may be better for couples and high-profile travelers wishing privacy.
6. Peninsula — Tokyo, Japan
The 24-story Peninsula has the best luxury hotel location in Tokyo, directly across from lovely Hibiya Park, Imperial grounds, and adjacent to the Ginza shopping district. Envisioned by architect Kuzukiyo Sato to look like a giant Japanese lantern, the Peninsula combines subtle, Japanese hospitality with the Peninsula tradition of understated luxury.
7. Four Seasons — Shanghai, China
There is no disputing the level of service here — personal, friendly and focused on individual comfort. The corner executive suites even have an extra room for the kids.
8. Banyan Tree Lijiang — Yunnan, China and Hotel of Modern Art — Guilin, China (tie)
Located just outside the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, the Banyan Tree Lijiang has created the perfect harmony of the local matriarchal Naxi culture and Banyan Tree's predictably friendly customer service.
With all 55 of its villas looking out at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, this place has a spiritual soul-searching feel. The spa offers wonderful massage service from its Thai staff.
The Hotel of Modern Art was founded by a Taiwanese business entrepreneur in 1997 and represents a lovely balance of world class sculpture, architecture, and art set against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the lush grounds. Despite the somewhat limited English among the staff, the genuine kindness and warmth delivered here is truly heartwarming.
9. Sofitel Metropole — Hanoi, Vietnam
Conceived in 1901, the Metropole combines wonderful French colonial architecture and history with Vietnam's cultural traditions of hospitality and service. Although there are really no bad rooms at the Metropole, the Opera Suite is a treat.
10. Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel — Luang Prabang, Laos
Formerly the residence of Prince Souvannaphouma, the small Maison Souvannaphoum is a boutique French-colonial inspired property that is the perfect place to immerse oneself in the local Laotian culture. The friendly, intimate service here is like staying with close relatives. An added bonus of staying here is that the Maison is located on the street for the daily early morning Buddhist monks' rice offerings.