Our man in the East, the redoubtable writer, food-blogger, and high-life liver Aun Koh, has been busy roaming the wilds of China in search of more stylish stays for the Smith collection. And, judging by this month’s quintet of new hotels, he’s really come up trumps.
We may be a touch late for the Olympics, but newly glammed-up Beijing is the fast becoming one of the most desirable destinations in Asia, on account of both the astonishing Forbidden City at its centre, and the striking and innovative new development that surrounds it. The Opposite House, a gloriously glassy modern hotel in the heart of the glitzy new Sanlitun Village complex, is ideal for city-slickers, while those of a more rustic bent might prefer the back-to-nature serenity of the Red Capital Ranch, which is sat right beside the Great Wall itself.
Joining Fuchun Resort in Shanghai, we’ve also introduced Jia Shanghai (sister hotel to the Phillipe Starck-designed Jia Hong Kong), and Urbn Hotels Shanghai, a smart and modern city bolt-hole which has the distinction of being China’s first carbon-neutral hotel.
Finally, Aun ventured into the karst-cragged landscape around Yangshuo and discovered a mind-blowing modern sculpture park amid the mountains. Homa (or ‘the Hotel of Modern Art’, acronym-fans) is sprinkled with sculptures and other artworks, surrounded by over 1,000 acres of gorgeous manicured parkland and even features its own atelier.
We’ve also been ferreting around closer to home: Katy, Mary and Aline have uncovered some wonderful hotels in Italy. In Rome, we have Crossing Condotti, a five-suite treat situated just behind the Spanish steps, not far from the equally sexy Portrait Roma (check out Bee Shaffer’s hotel re view). Coming dangerously close to knocking DD724, Venice off the top spot as our favourite hotel in the romantic canal-riddled city, Palazzo Barbarigo blends modern boudoir glamour with Twenties deco chic. Another new addition, The Chedi Milan, brings a touch of contemporary Asian fusion to the world’s fashion capital.
South of the country’s stately toe, we’ve a brace of boutique hotels in Sicily: Azienda Agricola Mandranova, a family-run farmhouse that also hosts cooking classes, and Casa Talia, a smart designer bed and breakfast overlooking ancient Modica.
Crikey, we’ve been busy. But not quite as busy as we’ll be next month when we unleash our colossal Australia collection…