From a Bhutanese retreat to a converted 20th century ryotei, SLH’s newest properties fuse ancient traditions and landscapes with modern luxuries
Travel is once again on the horizon as the possibility of national and regional getaways within travel bubbles become increasingly possible. Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s newest properties offer tempting Asian destinations.
Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary in Shaba, Bhutan
24 rooms from USD677
Guests arriving to Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary will be transported through the ‘Transformation Room’, giving guests the chance to settle into a restful frame of mind. Located in a remote location, this sanctuary provides holidayers with the possibility of gazing out on deep valleys, snow-capped mountains and an ancient way of life. Each room features four poster beds while private balconies or terraces that overlook the valley below. Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary boasts a Bhutanese Executive Chef and farm-to-table meals sourced from the property’s own greenhouse and garden. With no fixed menus, meal times or locations, guests can enjoy a different Chef’s Special every day, at any time and place. When it comes to venturing off the property, guests are well situated for day trip excursions to places such as Paro, Thimphu and the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
SLH Insider Tip: “Based on Bhutanese traditional medicine practices, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary offers an all-inclusive well-being concept designed to create direct, tangible effects on a guest’s feeling of well-being. Since all wellness facilities and services are complimentary, guests can easily unwind with well-deserved daily traditional treatments, yoga and meditation classes.”
Sowaka in Kyoto, Japan
23 rooms from JPY21,780
Restored from a 20th century ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant) in one of Japan’s most alluring destinations, Sowaka Kyoto fuses the elegance of Japanese tradition with modernity. Guests are greeted with serenity as they set foot inside the ryokan, paying testament to Sowaka’s namesake, which means “happiness and well-being” in sanskrit. Bedrooms and suites line green courtyards, with long corridors designed to evoke Kyoto’s alleyways. Traditional ryokan elements such as paper sliding doors and tea ceremony rooms are enhanced with modern comforts such as handmade cedar wood speakers and cushioned, cashmere mattresses.
Sowaka’s details showcase Kyoto customs hewn by local craftspeople and artisans. Skin and haircare products are infused with organic Japanese camellia oil and crafted by Kazurasei Shinise while the hotel’s water is drawn from its own underground spring. Meals are overseen by the Michelin-starred La BOMBANCE Gion, the latest outpost of the award-winning Tokyo restaurant. While Sokwaka may pride itself on its serene atmosphere, Kyoto’s most famed sites are within walking distance. Such destinations include the Yasaka Shrine, Kodaiji Temple, Ryozen Kannon and geisha-spotting. Two train stations, Keihan Railway Gion Shijo and Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station, can transport guests throughout Kyoto and beyond.
Insider Tip: “At Sowaka Kyoto, the ancient capital of Gion is at your doorstep, with hotel-exclusive private tours available to escape the crowds and experience the culture, craftsmanship, and community of Kyoto first-hand. Immerse yourself in the wonders of Kiyomizu-dera Temple where priests will give you the inside track and off-limits access to its 1,200 years of history. Time your visit for sunrise and see the first rays hit Kyoto’s jumbled rooftops.”
Shima Kanko Hotel The Bay Suites in Ise-Shima, Japan
50 rooms from JPY64,000
Shima Kanko Hotel The Bay Suites has many strings to its bow: a Michelin-starred French restaurant, La Mer, which prides itself for the locally caught Ise Shima seafood cuisine; Japan’s first Clarins spa; and a place in world history as the 2016 G7 Summit venue. The Ise-Shima region is a bit off the beaten path for international travellers and features sacred site such as Shinto’s holiest shrine, Ise Jingu, making Ise-Shima a popular domestic travel destination.
The hotel’s spacious suites come with separate living rooms and balconies that offer sunset views of the coastline of Ago-wan Bay, which is peppered with rafts culturing pearls for Mikimoto pearl necklaces and the hilly islands of Ise-Shima National Park. At night, “star sommeliers” are on hand to guide guests through the Kashikojima night sky. Adventuring beyond the hotel’s bounds is achievable by bicycle, through diving adventures with authentic ama divers or on a day tour arranged by the concierge that visits the region’s cultural sites. Shima Kanko Hotel The Bay Suites offers guest a luxury getaway while experiencing the famed Japanese country lifestyle’s slow tempo and unspoiled landscapes.
Insider Tip: “Each of the suites at Shima Kanko Hotel is truly special. But one stands out. The Royal Suite gives you space to eat, sleep and entertain in contemporary Japanese style. For a taste of tradition, there is also an elegantly designed tatami room – a private space for studying, taking tea or meditating for added Zen.”
Distance from Tokyo Station via Shinkansen: 1hr 40mins; Distance from Kyoto Station via Shinkansen: 2hrs 40min
Nearest airport: NGO Nagoya Chubu Centrair International Airport
Hinode Hills Niseko Village in Hokkaido, Japan
77 rooms from JPY46,000
Named to pay homage to the rising sun, the luxury apartments of Hinode Hills embrace wabi-sabi aesthetics. The latest luxury addition to join YTL Hotels’ Niseko Village alongside Kasara Niseko Village Townhouse, Hinode Hills is the perfect getaway for ski lovers. The hotel occupies a prime position at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri with stunning Mount Yotei views, ski-in, ski-out access, an in-house onsen and a host of on-property ski services. Guests can choose between multiple room and suite configurations that offer up to three-bedrooms. Personal touches at Hinode Hills include snowboards waxed while guests sleep and suite kitchens stocked before arrival. Guest can explore the mountain’s dining and shopping areas with ease as the Upper Village Gondola is located adjacent to Hinode Hills’ front door.
SLH Insider Tip: “Even if you are visiting in summer, the greenery of Niseko Village offers plenty to do, including the outdoor nature park Pure, horseback riding, mountain biking, rafting, golfing, and hot air ballooning in the fresh mountain air.”
The MIST Hot Spring Hotel in Xuchang City, Henan, China
51 rooms from CNY2,988
Taking its name from the natural steam that rises around it, The MIST Hot Spring Hotel aims to greet visitors with an initial view of the property that makes it seem as if it is floating above the landscape. Located in the small ancient city of Xuchang in Central China, the property offers guests access to China’s most famous hot spring destination since the Tang dynasty era. Designed by renowned Thai architect Amata Luphaiboon, the hotel design is inspired by the hot spring steam. Guest rooms are joined by a series of bridges floating in an atrium, with each room featuring cotton linen beddings, customised wood furniture and modern interior designs. When it comets relaxation, guests can enjoy 14 outdoor and five indoor hot spring pools that offer some of the country’s finest geothermal water.
SLH Insider Tip: “Kungfu enthusiasts can make a day trip to see one of Henan Province’s most famous Buddhist temples, the Shaolin Monastery.”
YiuTeung Mansion in Chengdu, China
131 rooms from CNY1,018
YiuTeung Mansion is a tribute to one of the city’s most famous authors Ba Jin, with its name coming from the author’s birth name. The hotel is designed as if it were a scene from the 1930s era mansion depicted in Mr Ba Jin’s novel 《家》“The Family”. The hotel provides a peaceful respite in the city centre of thriving Chengdu. YiuTeung Mansion bedrooms provide guests with bright and spacious areas for relaxation no matter whether they are staying in the Deluxe rooms or the Executive Suite. The subtle interior design of YiuTeung allows the displayed local Chengdu artwork to shine. Such aesthetics have boosted the hotel to Chinese social media prominence. Guests looking to explore the thriving city centre of Chengdu need look no further that the hotel’s front door, where the city’s must-see destinations are on the property’s doorstep.
SLH Insider Tip: “As a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Chengdu is bursting with fiery and hugely varied flavours of its own. Sample everything from the original mapo tofu and spicy Bang Bang Chicken to street food classic guo kuei pancake. When you’ve had your fill, learn about Chengdu’s history at Chengdu Museum, Zhaojue Temple renowned as ‘The First Buddhist Monastery in West Sichuan’ or gush at one of China’s most famous national treasures at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base.”