One of the hallmarks of the ultra-luxury Aman hotel group is privacy. Paparazzi are not welcome and sometimes, when royalty or celebrities check in, the staff must sign confidentiality agreements. However, occasionally the A-listers themselves reveal they have stayed with one of the world’s most prestigious hotel groups. Previous Aman guests have included Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and David Beckham.
George Clooney stayed at the seven-star Aman Canal Grande in Venice for his 2014 wedding to London lawyer Amal Alamuddin. Above their bed in the E4,290- (A$6,611) a-night Alcovo Tiepol Suite, the newlyweds could contemplate a ceiling fresco painted by 18th-century Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
The Aman in Venice fronts the Grand Canal in San Polo, one of the oldest and most desirable parts of the city. There are only 24 guestrooms in the 16th-century palazzo, which has been immaculately restored and is filled with museum-quality treasures.
That’s the thing with Aman. The philosophy is about being welcomed into the home of a friend (who has a lot of money and good taste). The personable general managers are active hosts and each property embraces the local aesthetic.
Founder Adrian Zecha opened the first Aman in Thailand in 1988. His vision was to create a collection of intimate retreats with impeccable service.
That first property, Amanpuri (“place of peace”), consists of Thai-style villas and pavilions among coconut palms on a private peninsula next to the turquoise Andaman Sea on Phuket’s west coast. The property is still described as the flagship of the group.
Vanity Fair travel editor Victoria Mather told Newsweek that Zecha “revolutionised hoteldom”, noting that “BZ – Before Zecha – top hotels were classic grand, but AZ – After Zecha – there was the seismic shift to boutique cool. Still the fabulous service, to the power of 100 plus, but much less formality – and gorgeous design.”
There are now 30 Aman hotels, resorts and residences in 20 countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, China, Cambodia, France and Turkey.
Zecha is no longer involved, with the Singapore-based luxury hotel chain recently passing into the hands of 50-something Russian oligarch Vladislav Doronin, who once dated Naomi Campbell.
Most Amans are 40 rooms, or under, to give them the intimate and homely feel, with the exception of the 84-room Aman Tokyo, designed by Australian architect Kerry Hill.
This urban resort, opened in December 2014, is the first ‘vertical’ Aman in the world, located on the top six (33rd to 38th) floors of the Otemachi Tower in Tokyo’s financial district.
There are sliding paper screens, liberal use of light wood, scattered bonsai and calming water features. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide city views and Mount Fuji is visible from the black basalt-lined infinity pool. Above the lobby area on the 33rd floor, a 30-metre high open space is designed to resemble a giant shoji lantern.
‘Aman junkies’ (the name given to frequent stayers) will be pleased another Aman is on the way in Japan, with the opening of Amanemu this year, the group’s first hot-spring resort, in Ise Shima National Park in central Japan – also designed by Kerry Hill.
In November last year, Aman opened Amanera in the Dominican Republic. The group’s first golf resort backs onto jungle on a cliff top next to the Atlantic.
There are no immediate plans to open in Australia, but Aussies can easily access the cluster of Amans in South-East Asia. One is the Amanjiwo in central Java, which overlooks the Buddhist temples of the Borobudur UNESCO World Heritage site. The property, surrounded by volcanoes, rainforest and rice paddies, has a spiritual aura.
Because of their small size, Aman resorts pride themselves in offering experiences that may not be available at bigger hotels. At Amanjiwo, those experiences include watching sunrise at Borobudur with the general manager, followed by a horse-and-cart ride through a village and a local-style outdoor breakfast next to a river. In the evenings, guests might chant with monks or have dinner in a local’s house.
Amanyara, in the Turks and Caicos, provides guests with the opportunity to help tag turtles, while this northern winter, the Amangani, near Jackson Hole in Wyoming, is lending guests exclusive Italian handmade Foil skis. The skis, best described as high-performance art, include models such as the Classico (all-mountain) and Riserva (slalom).
Aman also offers private jet journeys and cruises that include a luxury yacht sailing around the Indonesian archipelago. The yacht adventure, with two nights in luxury-tented camps, visits Komodo Island to see fearsome Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world.
The first jet journey takes off in China in March and includes the three Chinese Aman properties as well as pit stops at the country’s major attractions, and Bhutan. An April jet journey is slated for Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Venice’s Aman Canal Grande has announced that Davide Oldani is its new creative culinary consultant. The Michelin-star chef has celebrity status in Europe and is the author of several culinary books.
Mr and Mrs Clooney may just have to revisit for an anniversary dinner.