10 hotels for the curious traveller
Choosing what hotel to stay in when going on holiday can often be an incredibly difficult task. Just exactly how accurate is that TripAdvisor review from ‘texastraveler7'? Not very, I’ll tell you that. And with the sheer proliferation of social media and the ever-growing presence of supposed hotel “reviewers” online it can be nigh-impossible to work out whether a hotel is actually worth your visit these days.
Thankfully for those of us who find ourselves baffled by inconsistent star ratings, there are men like Hatem Chatter that exist to separate the wheat from the chaff. As Senior Director of the Middle East for Leading Hotels of the World it is Hatem’s job to judge various hotels all around the world and deem whether they are worthy enough to be a member of the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World group. Think of it as the hotel equivalent of receiving a Michelin Star, with Hatem’s palate for hotels being one of the most refined the world has to offer. Though don’t just take that from me, as Esquire was lucky enough to speak to the man with 9 passports himself in order to find out what he considers to be 10 of the world’s best hotels which no-one’s really heard of.
1. Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, Johannesburg
A hotel consistently frequented by Nelson Mandela himself (and if that’s not a sign of quality, we don’t know what is!), this hotel offers a refreshing change of pace for anyone tired of the typical chocolates-on-the-pillow sort of hotel affair. Though slightly off the beaten track, the Saxon doesn’t compromise on comfort either, with the services of a private butler ensuring that your stay is as pleasant as humanly possible.
2. Laucala Island Resort, Fiji
What’s better than a luxury hotel on a secluded island? How about a secluded island that is a luxury hotel? Bought by the owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz in 2003, presumably in order to add ‘island’ to his growing portfolio of all-things Red Bull related, Laucala Island Resort is a true untainted gem of the Pacific. When Chatter spoke about this Resort being host to “every activity imaginable” he really wasn’t kidding, as Laucala Island allows you to do everything from playing a 72-par round of golf to riding an immaculately groomed Fijian horse on the very same day. Just not at the very same time. Oh, and did we mention it’s all-inclusive?
3. Royal Mansour, Marrakech
Commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Royal Mansour provides the perfect fusion of Moroccan tradition with the modern luxuries we have come to expect from high-end hotels. Belying the conventional formula of rooms and suites, the Royal Mansour is instead made up of 53 traditional Moroccan Riads to deliver an authentic experience truly fit for a Royal.
4. Palace Hotel, Tokyo
Found in the very heart of Japan – a country which Hatem holds close to his own – the Palace Hotel offers its visitors the perfect introduction to Tokyo’s bustling nightlife. That being said, even if you didn’t leave the comfort of the Palace Hotel for your entire trip we reckon it’d be pretty hard for you not to enjoy yourself. The supreme quality of the food on offer alone is enough for a visit.
5. Rayavadee, Krabi
Far from the tourist trappings of Bangkok, the Rayavadee Hotel is situated within what Hatem described to me as Thailand’s “real jungle”. Having scoured pictures online and been filled with an immediate feeling of envy; I would have to agree. Located near the Phranang Peninsula on the border of Krabi Marine National Park, the Rayavadee Hotel is a true slice of natural paradise and a far-cry from your typical image of Thailand. As noted by Hatem, its places like this that remind you why it’s known as the ‘Land of Smiles’.
6. Shutters on the Beach Hotel, Santa Monica
Only a 30-minute drive from Beverly Hills and featuring artwork from the likes of Roy Lichenstein, this hotel is the perfect A-List getaway. Straying away from the over-the-top gaudiness that can often mar L.A.’s hottest spots, the casual chic of Shutters on the Beach is earnestly cool without ever trying too hard. It’s the hotel equivalent of that laidback kid in school who everyone adored. And also got straight As. And laid. A lot.
7. Brenners-Park Hotel Spa, Baden-Baden
The city so nice they named it twice, Baden-Baden is simply stunning. It’s surrounded by the scenic landscape of Germany’s Black Forest and is even home to the one of the world’s most beautiful casinos. Despite all that, Brenners-Park Hotel and Spa remains a jewel in Baden-Baden’s very impressive and very heavy crown. Renowned as a location able to rejuvenate one’s body and soul, the most surprising (and downright magical) fact about Brenners-Park is that the Hotel’s residents are often able to lose weight and dramatically improve their health despite the Hotel also housing a two Michelin star restaurant.
8. Hôtel Royal, Evian
Complete with panoramic views of Lake Geneva and the Alps, there aren’t many hotels around the world that can beat the Hôtel Royal in terms of its potential to rake in those ever-important Instagram likes. Having recently been refurbished in 2015, Hatem was keen to recommend the Evian Thermal Spa as a must when visiting this stunning location. After all, when else in your life are you going to be able to bathe in Evian water?
9. Faena Hotel, Miami Beach
The brain child of Argentinian developer Alan Faena, this hip and trendy creation ideally located on the Miami Beach oceanfront is host to just about anything and everything you could ever want from a hotel. No, really. Aside from laying claim to the largest Argentinean cabaret act outside of the country, the Faena also boasts a gold coated skeleton of a three-metre tall woolly mammoth designed by none other than Damien Hirst. Surely that alone makes it worth a visit.
10. Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam
Formally a bank and a music school, the Conservatorium Hotel is an architectural wonder to behold only a stone’s throw from Amsterdam’s city centre. Even in a city as downright beautiful as Amsterdam the Conservatorium still stands out as impressive. And that’s no mean feat. A big fan of the hotel’s 60s style throwback, Hatem noted how visiting the Conservatorium was almost like being transported back in time. A timeless classic in every sense of the word.