From white colonnades and marble floors to oak wood furniture and crystal chandeliers, these iconic hotels’ Victorian charms are impossible to resist.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Galle Face Hotel
Perhaps the oldest colonial hotel in Asia, it opened in 1864 next to the Galle Face Green, a sprawling lawn by the ocean which gave it its name. Today the hotel features 156 rooms in two wings: Classic and Regency, and it has previously hosted famous guests like astronaut Yuri Gagarin, actor Roger Moore and US president Richard Nixon. The hotel has a whopping three restaurants and four bars but the must-do highlight is taking a high tea at the hotel’s veranda overlooking the Indian Ocean.
From US$360 [B10,595] (US$139 [B4,367] on Agoda). 2 Galle Rd., Colombo, Sri Lanka, +941-1254-1010/16, www.gallefacehotel.com
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Hotel Continental Saigon
This famous hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) sits at a prime location on Dong Khoi Street, HCMC’s shopping and business district—think Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong—within short walking distance to shopping malls, the gorgeous Louis Vuitton flagship store, Ho Chi Minh Monument and the Opera House. Eighty-three guestrooms and suites are housed behind its French-colonial-style facade, which has recently been renovated.
From US$103 (B3,236). 132-134 Dong Khao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, +848-3829-3201, www.continentalhotel.com.vn
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The first property of the Sarkies brothers, a hotelier family who pioneered a number of hotels in Southeast Asia, including Raffles Singapore and The Strand Yangon, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel was became built to serve rich merchants and travelers when Penang was the first British port in the region. The hotel’s location at the harbor front of Georgetown means it’s just a short walk to Fort Cornwallis, the City Hall and Penang State Museum. Eastern & Oriental went through a major renovation during 1996-2001 and is now home to 100 well-appointed suites in its Heritage Wing and an additional 132 modern rooms and suites at the Victory Annex. Famous guests include writer Rudyard Kipling, actor Charlie Chaplin and pop superstar Michael Jackson.
From US$146 (B4,587) for Heritage Wing and from US$263 (B8,262) for Victory Annexe. 10 Lebuh Farquhar, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, +604-222-2000, www.eohotels.com
After the success of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang, the Sarkies brothers refurbished a bungalow into a 10-room luxury hotel named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. The neo-renaissance building opened in 1899 and has become one of the best known colonial style hotels in the world. In 1991, the Raffles reopened after a two and a half year renovation, unveiling 103 rooms and suites that combine Victorian decor and modern comforts. Famous guests include renowned writers Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, after whom the hotel named its Writers Bar. Its other bar, Long Bar, is the birthplace of the wolrd famous cocktail Singapore Sling. Now under renovation, with a planned reopening in the second half of 2018
1 Beach Road, Singapore, +65-6337-1886, www.raffles.com/singapore
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
With a classic French-colonial facade and a terrace where you can sit back in a lounge chair and watch the streets, just ignore the buzz of the motorcycles and you might feel like you’re back in Paris circa 1930. After several renovations and additions, this legendary hotel, which has welcomed guests like actors Charlie Chaplin and Jane Fonda, now features 364 rooms and 22 suites decked out in a neo-renaissance theme. Moreover, the Hanoi Opera House is only 100 meters away, as well as several other main attractions.
From US$232 (B7,288). 15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kien District, Hanoi, Vietnam, +844-3826-6919, www.sofitel-metropole-hanoi.com
The Strand is another hotel started by the Sarkies brothers at the height of the British empire, following on from the success of its sisters in Penang and Singapore. The Victorian-influenced mansion is set on Strand Road, overlooking the Yangon River. As Myanmar’s most luxurious hotel, it has witnessed the country’s troubled past and was only open to white guests until World War II. Then came financial struggles, various owners, coup d’etats and a general lack of renovations throughout the 1950-80s. The Strand was reopened in 1993 and renovated into an all-suite hotel with 24-hour butler service. Even if you are not staying there, we highly recommend their afternoon high tea.
From US$411 (B12,912). 92 Strand Road, Yangon, Myanmar, +951-243-377, www.hotelthestrand.com
Manila, The Philippines
Built by the Americans after they acquired The Philippines from Spain, Manila Hotel is placed on the grand Roxas Boulevard, facing Rizal Park, a memorial park named after a national hero, with Manila Bay to its back. After a major renovation in 2008, its 570 rooms now feature local decor touches, meaning Spanish-influenced architecture using local materials like natural linens and rattan. Manila Hotel has hosted numerous American stars and politicians, including Michael Jackson and John F. Kennedy
Since: circa 1920s
Malacca has come a long way, arguably too far, since it became a UNESCO World’s Heritage City in 2008 and is now a mega tourist hub. But a visit to The Majestic will let you turn back the clock to when it was just a simple port town welcoming Chinese, Tamil, Arab and Western merchants. Although all 54 rooms and suites are now housed in a modern tower, the original mansion built around 1920 still serves as a lobby, library and restaurant. Its charming Peranakan architectural details, with classic porcelain, teakwood furnishings and artifacts on exhibit, are best enjoyed in the library.
From RM392 (B3,200). 188 Jalan Bunga Raya, Malacca, Malaysia, +606-289-8000, www.majesticmalacca.com
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hotel Majestic Kuala Lumpur
The Hotel Majestic was immediately the classiest hotel when it first opened in 1932, welcoming jetsetters and socialites. But after World War II, it experienced a decline and was closed down in 1984. Last year, it came back to life after a head-to-toe renovation. The facade and its classic timber floors are preserved while minimal furnishings with an art-deco feel, now decorate the rooms in both of the two buildings—modern comforts included.
From (B3,672). 5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603-2785-8000, www.majestickl.com
Settha Palace is Vientiane’s most charming accommodation and lies in the heart of the city. Lush trees and gardens hide this French-colonial mansion, once a residence of a wealthy Lao family, from the bustling streets nearby. With both rooms and suites, the hotel evokes La Belle Epoque through its marble and teak wood furnishings. That’s also the name of its restaurant, one of the city’s most charming spots to enjoy French cuisine along with a fine selection of wines.
From US$211 (B6,628). 6 Pang Kham Street, Vientiane, Laos, +856-2121-7581/2, www.setthapalace.com
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is among the longest-running hotels in Asia. The Author’s Wing, home to the Author’s Lounge and a collection of suites named after world famous writers, is the only remaining 19th-century structure. Bamboo Bar opened in 1947 while Le Normandie turns 55 this year. The hotel also had Thailand’s first elevator in its Garden Wing.
48 From B17,850 Oriental Avenue, Charoen Krung Rd., 02-659-9000, www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
Hua Hin, Thailand
Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin
This former Railway Hotel opened during the reign of King Rama VI as a 14-room lodge to serve a growing number of posh visitors to the popular resort town of Hua Hin thanks to the newly-built Southern railway. Today, Centara Grand Hua Hin comprises three wings: the Railway Wing, the Colonial Wing and the newest Garden Wing. But those who wish to experience with all the original charms must book a room at the Railway Wing, which is the only original structure. As always, we recommend the tea set for those who can’t afford a night.
From B 5,355 1 Damnoen Kasem Rd., Hua Hin, Prachuab Khirikhan, 032-512-021/-38, www.centarahotelsresorts.com/chbr
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