Interesting Hotels

Monday, 3 October 2005

I sleep in a lot of hotels, there were about 90 different ones in the last year – as well as some nights in tents, a few nights in trains and boats and rather too many nights on aircraft. I kicked off this hotel list with 14 hotels I found particularly interesting over the past 12 months. Now I’ll add interesting recent stays, starting with two in Africa. Not every place was as expensive as the places that follow, last year’s cheapest was the Chayya Hotel in Battambang, Cambodia where a comfortable single with attached bathroom cost me US$4.

Kanaga HotelKanaga Hotel, Mopti, Mali – US$60
Saturday, 19 November, 2005
Our trip through Africa in November was definitely deluxe – we usually stayed in the best place on offer – but that was often very straightforward (in the Central African Republic you were pleased to have a roof over your head) or very bland (the Cotonou Novotel could have been a Novotel almost anywhere in the word). This hotel in Mali was an exception. I quickly decided Mali was to Africa as Rajasthan is to India, ie very colourful, romantic and more than worthy of a return trip, and the Kanaga Hotel, right on the banks of the Niger River, had real local flavour as well as air-con and a swimming pool.





Riad Maison BleuRiad Maison Bleu, Fez, Morocco – US$300
Friday-Saturday, 25-26 November, 2005
Staying in a riad, a classic old Moroccan courtyard house, has become all the rage and Riad Maison Bleu is a fine example (if a rather expensive one) of the craze. At the end of our Africa air safari Maureen and I spent another week in Morocco, kicking around by ourselves. We started off with two days in Fez and the Riad Maison Bleu, perched on the city wall on the northern edge of the ancient medina, was a fine place to get a taste of Riad style.

Shame it rained so much and neither of us were adequately prepared for how cold it gets in Morocco in November.

1.  The Chedi, Muscat, Oman – US$560
We got criticised for staying in this very expensive hotel in the New Yorker article about us in early 2005 but if you’re in the capital of Oman this beautiful beachside boutique resort is definitely worth a look. Even better if you can stay there.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion2.  Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Malaysia – US$66
In the heart of Georgetown this beautifully restored mansion was once the principal home of a Chinese trader and businessman who made his colourful fortune in South-East Asia. It combines history with all mod cons, including free wireless internet access.


3.  The Zetter, Clerkenwell, London, England – US$280
Finding a hotel that’s value for money is a near impossibility in London but the Zetter is stylish, modern and very well located in upcoming Clerkenwell. Of course the rooms are tiny and the traffic can be noisy but hey, the bar’s good.

4.  Mornington Wilderness Camp, Gibb River Road, Western Australia, Australia – US$225
It’s 90km (and they’re real 4WD km) off the Gibb River Road to this Australian Wildlife Conservancy reserve but it’s worth every km. Beautiful Kimberley country, canoeing on the Dimond Gorge is superb and the ‘safari tents’ are stylishly comfortable.

5.  Gallery Hotel, Singapore – US$68
Nicely situated right on Robinson Quay on the Singapore River you can stroll along the riverbanks right into the business centre of the city. Modern, stylish, high tech (free broadband internet connections in every room) and very reasonably priced.

6.  Komaneka Suites & Komaneka Resort, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia – US$200
Komaneka Suites overlooks a valley just outside the artist village of Ubud  while Komaneka Resort is right on the Monkey Forest Road in the village. The more expensive rooms even have their own plunge pools, they’re both delightful.

7.  Alla Giudecca, Ortigia, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy – US$125
In the convoluted heart of Ortigia, the old island part of Syracuse, this charming apartment hotel is built above an ancient migwe, a Jewish ritual bath. The location is terrific, the prices are reasonable and Syracuse itself is wonderful.

8.  Hotel Rialto, Warsaw, Poland – US$215
It’s pricey as well as classy but this beautifully restored boutique hotel is luxuriously equipped (right down to broadband internet access) and is also home to one of Warsaw’s best restaurants. Warsaw is much more interesting than its reputation.

9.  E Guest House, Vilnius, Lithuania – US$80
The location in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, may be a bit run down but this brand new and moderately priced place has all mod cons including free internet access.

10.  Hotel Centra, Riga, Latvia – US$130
It’s an old building right in the heart of a very old city but the rooms themselves are modern as tomorrow, right down to broadband internet connection, and it’s as comfortable feeling as it’s stylish looking.

Bougainvillier Hotel11.  Hotel Bougainvillier, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – US$49
Right on the waterfront this recently opened hotel is a good example of the explosive growth in tourism in Cambodia; colours, fabrics, furnishing and style are clearly very important.



12.  Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, India – US$350
The Imperial has always combined a hefty dose of Raj era style along with a terrific location and an extensive collection of Raj artwork. An extensive renovation has brought the comfort standards up to the top level and the prices have followed suit.

13.  Hengshan Moller Villa, Shanghai, China – US$93
The eccentric building which fronts the hotel was the
home of a pre-WW II Swedish businessman and although the new block is nondescript and the service is haphazard the location is good, there’s free broadband internet and the prices are reasonable.

14. Hotel Elimo, Erice, Sicily, Italy – US$210
The rooms are romantic but modern, the setting in the postcard-pretty hilltop town of Erice is perfect and the views down to the coast, from every room, are superb. What’s not to like? Well the restaurant looks great but the food isn’t so special.