For the inaugural Secret Life of Fatbacks 2019 Luxury List, we researched and stayed at dozens of new hotels in the Asia-Pacific (sometimes as the first ever paying guest who checked in) to suss out the best properties for luxury hotel lovers and travellers to check out during their next holiday. From the reopening of a Grand Old Dame in Singapore and the launch of a much-anticipated sun-soaked paradise in the Maldives to the much heralded, TIME magazine-approved openings of a ultra-luxury brand’s flagship property in Hong Kong as well as a glamorous luxury tented ecotourism camp in Cambodia, scroll down to see the complete list (each entry links to their original full-length reviews).
Without the budget, manpower and access of a lifestyle/travel publication, and to preserve the integrity of this list, we researched and compiled the Secret Life of Fatbacks 2019 Luxury List on our own, having paid for each and every stay mentioned in this list. We hope the list provides a source of inspiration for your travels, and that you will enjoy the experiences as much as we did.
(We have not arranged the list in any particular order – if you think we should have included a specific property in our list, please do let us know: [email protected])
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Spanning across three interconnected islands encircling a lagoon in the South Malé Atoll, the 122 all-villa ultra-luxury resort is an unforgettable, ultra-luxurious sun-soaked paradise. Against the dreamy backdrop of soft white sand beaches, diverse wildlife, azure skies and dual-toned turquoise and aquamarine waters, the resort offers a wealth of water sports and activities for the whole family (think private diving, snorkelling, dolphin excursions, wakeboarding and parasailing) as well as a whopping 11 dining options, ranging from the romantic treetop private dining restaurant Terra to the sumptuously-appointed Chinese restaurant Li Long. However, the headliner is The Ledge by Dave Pynt, where the eponymous chef – owner of the Michelin-starred Singapore restaurant Burnt Ends, famous for the smokiness of its open-fire grilled meats – presents his signature brand of burnt in a similar format but much expanded beachside space.
Each of the resort’s spacious villas – guests can choose from beach, reef or overwater options – boasts towering cathedral-esque ceilings, outdoor and indoor rainfall shower facilities along with an oversized bathtub (with bathroom products from Salvatore Ferragamo in stone dispensers) as well as their own private infinity pool and swinging daybeds for the ultimate exercise in relaxation.
Stayed at: The 319sqm King Grand Reef Villa with Pool, which offers the dreaminess of an overwater setting plus direct ladder access to the reef below for fish-watching, splashy aquatic activities or even snorkelling.
Read full review here.
Opened: July 2019
Rosewood Hong Kong
Hong Kong is Rosewood CEO Sonia Cheng’s hometown (the family owns the $20 billion Chow Tai Fook jewellery business), so it is no coincidence that the stunning Hong Kong property – an essential component of the new Victoria Dockside development – was built to serve as the ultra-luxury brand’s flagship. The luxury on display is unparalleled – exquisite artworks such as the massive bindi-studded elephant near the concierge are showcased throughout the property, Swarovski crystals stud decorative peacocks at the Chinese teahouse concept Holt’s Cafe, and somewhere an Hermès fabric wall exists.
Designed by New York-based designer Tony Chi, the hotel’s 413 rooms offer undeniably pampering guest experiences – think breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour, Dyson hairdryers, California King beds and marble bathrooms with freestanding soaking bathtubs. Guests should definitely get a room with access to the Manor Club on the 40th level, which offers a sensational three-hour long evening food and cocktail presentation with a dedicated bar serving tipples which rival proper cocktail bars (including those from the hotel’s jazz bar DarkSide) in terms of the quality of the libations and the premium spirits and ingredients used.
Stayed at: The sprawling 123sqm Grand Harbour Corner Suite King, which offers not one but three bars within the suite as well as breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour (so close that you see the edge of the water when you peer down). Read full review here.
Opened: March 2019
Raffles Hotel Singapore
The Grand Old Dame’s unveiling after its multi-million-dollar makeover has been one of the hospitality industry’s most anticipated, especially after its feature in the Hollywood smash hit Crazy Rich Asians and the Japanese blockbuster animation film Detective Conan: Fist of Blue Sapphire. Set within an idyllic garden of palm and frangipani trees in the heart of Singapore, the 115-suite hotel’s Raffles-white colonial proceedings and signature neoclassical architectural features continue to generate the requisite awe and taking of one’s breath.
The renovated rooms exude romantic colonial elegance with their four-poster beds, high ceilings, whirling ceiling fans and polished teakwood floors, while dining options within the premises – including the iconic peanut-happy Long Bar as well as new concepts by celebrity chefs Anne-Sophie Pic, Jereme Leung and Alain Ducasse – provide numerous exquisite gastronomical possibilities.
Stayed at: The 70sqm Palm Court Suite, located within the historic Palm Court Wing with verandah seats which overlook the tranquil Palm Court. Read full review here.
Opened: August 2019
Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
The Bill Bensley-designed luxury tented camp, comprising 15 luxurious safari-style tents set deep within a waterfall-laced private wildlife and nature reserve in southern Cambodia, sports a vintage aesthetic inspired by a theatrical reimagining of Jackie O’s travels with King Sihanouk in 1967 as a glamorous romp in a Cambodian jungle safari.
Your arrival at the camp via an adrenaline-charged 380-metre zipline starts the proceedings on a suitably adventurous note, and throughout your stay you can choose from the camp’s extensive selection of excursions and activities ranging from mountain biking, a luxury expedition boat ride down an estuary and an anti-poaching patrol with armed Wildlife Alliance rangers to more leisurely activities such as bird-watching, Tenkara fly fishing and ingredient foraging in the forest with the camp’s sous chef. Those seeking a more relaxing experience can take advantage of the unlimited spa treatments or laze at the Landing Zone bar for endless tipples – both are covered by your room rate.
Stayed at: The 100sqm Butterfly Tent, which overlooks a series of rushing rapids. Read full review here.
Opened: December 2018
Six Senses Maxwell, Singapore
Set in a block of colonial-style heritage shophouses within the bustling Tanjong Pagar district in Singapore, Six Senses Maxwell bears the distinction of being one of the first ever city hotels from the acclaimed luxury hotel and spa group (the other being its sister property Six Senses Duxton, located in the same neighbourhood). Designed by French architect and designer Jacques Garcia, the 138-room hotel is classic European in persuasion, featuring velvet chairs, pleated silk lampshades, hardwood flooring and stone tiles salvaged from Italian medieval institutions. There are two distinct room themes across its room categories – oriental dragon-skin red and peacock-feather blue – and even within the same room category the rooms may come in different design configurations.
Guests can choose to have their breakfast at either Six Senses Maxwell’s heritage cuisine-influenced Cook & Tras Social Library (an actual library stocked with books available for guest perusal or rental) or Six Senses Duxton’s Cantonese restaurant Yellow Pot (which serves a revelatory chilli crab omelette). One of the hotel’s signature experiences is their Spa Pods, equipped with state-of-the-art So-Sound Legato Healing Loungers which use soothing sound vibration technology to relax and ease bodily tensions and blood pressure.
Stayed at: The 34sqm Maxwell Junior Suite, with skylights which welcome energizing natural light into the living room, bedroom and bathroom spaces. Read full review here.
Opened: December 2018
Located in the upscale Phloenchit neighbourhood, the ultra-luxury hotel’s architecture is visually striking – two connecting high-rise structures resembling the Thai greeting gesture “wai” – while the interior design incorporates lush greenery and exquisite water features, the most notable being the soaring 10-storey indoor waterfall which cascades down the hotel’s central atrium towards the heated indoor-outdoor saltwater pool. Boasting luxurious amenities such as Dyson hairdryers and bottled cocktails in your private bar, the hotel’s 159 guest rooms play it all sophisticated, art-cultured urbanite luxury apartment living, with the building’s sloping exterior giving the guest spaces a cosy, loft-style vibe.
The dining spaces are gorgeous – breakfast venue Lakorn European Brasserie possesses an understated elegance, Chinese restaurant Nan Bei sports a sleek and uber-sexy vibe despite its authentic Northern and Southern China cuisine underpinnings and vinyl bar Lennon’s features live music, an extensive 6,000-vinyl collection as well as a cigar mezzanine accessible via a spiral staircase.
Stayed at: The 79sqm Manor Suite, which offers sweeping views of the Bangkok skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows. Read full review here.
Opened: March 2019
The St. Regis Hong Kong
Designed by interior designer André Fu and his design studio AFSO, with design inspirations drawn from both the city’s rich cultural heritage as well as the spirit of the original St. Regis in New York, the 129-room Wan Chai property retains the brand’s hallmarks such as the 24-hour butler service while being a daring departure from its typical grand opulent stylings. The guest experience is more akin to that of a contemporary luxury residence, with the rooms playing it all Manhattan loft-chic informed by Hong Kong heritage.
In terms of dining, the highly instagrammable St. Regis Bar (the stylish mural of Hong Kong behind the bar demands to be photographed) delivers cocktails inspired by both Hong Kong and New York, while Michelin-starred chef Olivier Elzer helms the French gastronomy concept L’Envol. My favourite F&B concept was Chinese concept Rùn, which I found an absolute triumph – aside from its extensive selection of exquisite Chinese teas, their Barbecued Iberico Pork (a masterclass in dovetailing sinewy and melt-in-mouth fattiness) and Roasted Crispy Pork Belly (shiveringly good in its salty agenda through both its crisp and chewy elements) were memorable, show-stopping highlights.
Stayed at: The 50sqm Grand Deluxe Room, which is equipped with a freestanding bathtub for a relaxing, customised butler-drawn bath. Read full review here.
Opened: April 2019
Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
Occupying the first sixteen floors as well as levels 55-57 of the dramatically magnolia-shaped Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard in the upscale Ratchaprasong area in Bangkok, the 171-room hotel has the distinction of being the first ever Waldorf Astoria property in Southeast Asia. The Andre Fu-designed property sees subtle traditional Thai motifs infused into the hotel’s very contemporary design, with the wonderfully high ceilings, marble and brass elements as well as the sumptuous application of various opulent shades of blue/green lending a significant degree of stateliness to the proceedings. As with most other Waldorf Astoria hotels, the property features a variety of dining options, from the Nordic-Thai concept Front Room, French dining concept The Brasserie and bar lounge Peacock Alley on the lower levels to the dazzling, AvroKO-designed three-storey dining complex on the highest floors of the 57-storey building building comprising seafood and steakhouse concept Bull & Bear, cocktail den The Loft and secret speakeasy The Champagne Bar. In terms of wellness, guests can enjoy the canopied outdoor temperature-controlled infinity pool or go for a traditional Thai massage at the Waldorf Astoria Spa.
Stayed at: The 75sqm King Deluxe Suite, which has floor-to-ceiling windows in both the bedroom and bathroom areas, a ridiculously deep and massive bathtub as well as impossibly luxurious Boca Terry bathrobes with ethereal inner linings possessing the velvety caress of forty-seven chinchillas. Read full review here.
Opened: August 2018
Kimpton Da An Hotel Taipei
The first Kimpton hotel launched in Asia, Kimpton Da An Hotel Taipei occupies a former apartment complex within Taipei’s buzzy Da An district known for its lanes and alleyways of shopping and dining experiences. Designed by Shanghai-based architectural design firm Neri & Hu, the 129-room property channels Grafunkt and Kinfolk across its various spaces with arched doorways, contemporary stylings and bold colour choices. Service is uniquely Taiwanese in congeniality and the hotel’s atmosphere is warm and intimate, most prominently observed during Social Hour at the lobby’s Honor Bar where guests mingle over drinks and let their pets (yes, the property is pet-friendly) roam and interact freely against the backdrop of live music or performances from local artists.
Stayed at: The 58sqm Da An Suite, the only suite category offered at the property. Read full review here.
Opened: March 2019
Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur
Located in the bustling Golden Triangle neighbourhood and overlooking the KLCC Park, the 209-room hotel takes up the first 21 floors of the 65-storey Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur, which also comprises six-floor luxury retail and dining The Shoppes. The hotel plays it all high ceilings, generous brass and cream marble, with never-ending mirrors and reflective surfaces which play on your spatial perception and draw you into its sense of expanse and opulent infinity. The property is the frequent destination of choice for both local and international celebrities, including a certain world-famous diva who purportedly stayed a week here during the Kuala Lumpur leg of her worldwide tour in 2018. Two of the hotel’s dining concepts, Cantonese dim sum concept Yun House and discreet cocktail joint Bar Trigona, have since emerged as crowd-drawing smash hits in their own right.
Stayed at: The 74sqm Park-View Junior Suite, which overlooks the verdant and water-centric KLCC Park and pairs brassy accents with broody shades of grey in its brand of understated opulence. Read full review here.
Opened: July 2018