What would the Empress Dowager Cixi have said? Here I stand beneath the soaring ceilings of the grand pavilion in Beijing’s Aman at Summer Palace hotel, facing an intricately carved, floor-to-ceiling wooden screen depicting cypress-lined lakes and terraced hills, and what am I wearing? Not a flowing silk gown, but jeans and a T-shirt.
Thankfully the empress, known as the Dragon Lady, who ruled China from 1861 until her death in 1908, is not here to enforce a dress code. But after a 14-year restoration, the hotel—much of it occupying rooms where visitors once waited for an audience with Cixi— gives me a glimpse of what her luxurious life, if not her wardrobe, might have been like.
To get to my room, I stroll past weeping willows and through arcades painted bright red, a color that represents happiness in Chinese culture. Off a courtyard filled with ancient pines, I enter my suite. I...
A luxury hotel in the shadow of Arenal Volcano features a series of pools—one equipped with slides—and waterfalls set amid tropical gardens. Lava streaming from the volcano may provide an after-dark show.
Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, (877) 277-8291, from $245. Photo courtesy of Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This appeared in the December/January 2010 issue.
Just an hour (and a world) away from the skyscrapers of Dubai city is Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, located within a nature preserve founded to protect the Arabian oryx and its habitat. Today, the spear-horned antelope freely roam the resort’s red sands. Visitors stay in luxurious, Bedouin-inspired tent suites equipped with binoculars for animal sightings and easels for the artistically inclined. During the day, staffers encourage guests to try out a variety of ancient Arab pursuits, such as camel riding, archery, and falconry. At dusk, I retired to the terrace for cocktails as gazelles congregated around an illuminated watering hole in the distance. After the sun slipped behind the mountains, I sank into my own private pool under the desert sky’s stars.
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, 971/(0) 4-832-9900, from $980. Photo courtesy of Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa. This appeared...
Sri Villas on Induruwa Beach, Sri Lanka (accessible by the Galle Road between Colombo and Galle just south of Bentota) can be rented by the room or by the house. 12 friends and I had the entire compound to ourselves for a few days last week - what a wonderful luxury. It is immaculately clean, comes with a private chef and staff and the beach and pounding Indian Ocean surf are just steps away. I recommend taking an excursion to Galle at sunset, visiting a turtle hatchery and the mask museum and taking a Balapitya river cruise. On alternate days do nothing but enjoy the pool and the luxury of the private villa compound. Heavenly.
I6 private villas in the middle of Marine National Park, where you can boat out with a fisherman and find a private small spit of sand in the middle of the blue Indian ocean...The photo above was the view from my Villa, and I never got enough of it... Time goes a little slower out there, while you break open huge lobster tails, and sip beautiful wine... a bit luxurious for sure, but an experience you'll never forget! Benguerra Island is a quick helicopter ride from mainland Mozambique, where you'll find Azura Villas. Beautifully detailed and all your needs are looked out for in an unpretentious environment. You are steps away from amazing white sand beach, and the villas' private pools are such a treat to hang out in after a long day of snorkeling, island exploring in a landrover, and sand dune climbing to amazing views. The Bar is a great open place looking at the ocean, where you...
This is where I love to stay when I am in East Africa. Sabora Tented Camp - one of the Singita Grumeti Reserves Lodges on the beautiful and breathtaking Serengeti. During the migration wildebeest and springbok surround the tents. It can get a little noisy at night, but the feeling you get living on the plains among the animals is unforgettable.
Set on cliffs above the Indian Ocean, this posh resort is made up of 59 spacious villas that blend local stone and wood with Bulgari-made fabrics. It’s a luxurious combination of contemporary Italian design and Balinese traditional architecture. From $880. 62/(0) 361-847-1000. Photo courtesy of Bulgari Hotels.