A playground for nature lovers, Tasmania is blessed with some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country
Holders of American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards have access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. If you choose to stay at hotels that are part of the collection (which include the Keemala in Phuket and the Taj Lake Palace in India), you’ll receive benefits that offer an average total value of more than AU$700. Benefits include noon check-in and room upgrade where available, guaranteed 4pm late check-out, daily breakfast for two people, and complimentary wifi.
Taj Lake Palace, India
There’s not much chance of unwanted guests arriving at this stunning hotel, despite it being right in the centre of the busy northern Indian city of Udaipur –the Taj Lake Palace is set in the middle of Lake Pichola, and is accessible only by boat. This 83-room hotel was built in 1743 for Rajasthani royalty,
Caravan Tokyo, Japan
There is definitely nowhere else like this in Japan: a caravan, right in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities. In fact it’s so much in the middle of the city that it’s plonked in the centre of a shared office building, a creative space that guests will find just as inspiring as their unique accommodation: a Japanese-made, custom-built caravan with wifi, air-con and an ensuite bathroom. Step outside of that caravan, and the office space, and you’re right in the centre of Tokyo, in trendy Shibuya, ready to hit up the shops, restaurants and bars, before heading back to a place that no one would even believe exists.
The Waterhouse at South Bund, China
What sets the Warehouse apart from the rest? There’s nothing too crazy going on at this Shanghai boutique hotel, nothing too bizarre or outlandish. The building does have a fascinating history, but that’s still not the big difference. What makes the Waterhouse unique is its absolute perfection in terms of design and style. This is a stunning property, a 19-room guesthouse that was once a Japanese army headquarters, but these days is remarkable for the skill with which it has been transformed into a sophisticated hotel, while retaining original features like stripped concrete and brick walls. And don’t miss the views from the rooftop terrace.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
There’s no way you’ll miss the Marina Bay Sands, no way you’ll confuse it for any other building in the world. Its three towers, topped by the 340-metre-long SkyPark (that includes a 150-metre-long infinity swimming pool), are recognisable throughout Singapore, and now throughout the world. This is one huge resort, with 2,561 rooms, a shopping mall, a museum, two theatres, a skating rink, and numerous restaurants headed up by celebrity chefs. While the rooms are all spectacular, the true highlight of a stay here is taking in a drink at the SkyPark at sunset, watching as Singapore lights up below you.
There are several ways to make use of your American Express Membership Rewards points. One is to pay the full or partial amount for flights or hotels with points through the American Express Travel site, with no restrictions, no block-out dates, and no fees. Another, for certain Card Members, you can transfer your points to a choice of two hotel programs: Hilton Honors, or Starwood Preferred Guests.
Amanwana Resort, Indonesia
Few people haven’t dreamed of staying on their own private island, of luxuriating in tropical paradise with no distractions. And that’s what you get on Amanwana, a beautiful resort that has Indonesia’s Moyo Island all to itself. The accommodation here is glamping the Asian way, with a choice of jungle or ocean tents, each with hardwood floors and air-conditioning. The resort’s truly unique feature, however, is the Amandira: a private, two-masted sailing ship that takes guests on leisurely journeys to nearby Komodo National Park and the Raja Ampat islands.
LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives
When you picture beachside opulence, Lux South Ari Atoll is probably the exact thing that springs to mind. Here you’ll find the huge network of overwater bungalows with thatched roofs. You’ll find wooden boardwalks over stunningly clear, warm water. You’ll find palm trees, white sand, privacy and luxury. It’s perfect. Each overwater bungalow at Lux is a model of restrained beauty: yes, you have a private plunge pool and an uninterrupted view of the ocean around you, but the room itself is not too outlandish. The focus is on the water, the sand, and the reef. As it should be.
Song Saa, Cambodia
Cambodia might be known more for its centuries-old archaeological ruins than its beach resorts, but Song Saa could very well change that. This is one of the great hotels of the world, absolute luxury on a private island to the south of the mainland. Each of Song Saa’s 24 villas has been constructed using recycled and reclaimed timber, and is decorated with repurposed items and local materials. That they also have private plunge pools is an added bonus. The overwater villas also have glass floors, so you can while away the hours staring at the sealife below.
Casa de la Flora, Thailand
There’s nowhere else that looks quite like Casa de la Flora, an exceptional hotel on Thailand’s west coast near the town of Khao Lak. It’s the design – the sharp angles that contrast with the natural setting, the white walls that clash with rooftops laid with turf, the beautiful pools and gardens that are interwoven through the resort. There’s more to the appeal here, however, than simply looks: each villa has a private pool, Apple in-room entertainment technology, and a complimentary mini-bar. The resort also has a huge library, as well as a spa and restaurant. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
The world’s most popular ride-sharing app is perfect for travellers visiting a city for the first time. Uber operates in plenty of Asian hubs, and works the same way as it does back home: simply book and pay using your smartphone. This takes away many of the hassles involved with communication and pricing that travellers usually encounter, plus you’ll be earning points when you pay with your American Express Card.
Sharma Springs, Bali
There’s an amazing range of unique accommodation options in Bali, but this bamboo house in the jungle near Ubud might just be the most impressive. It’s six storeys tall, for starters – the highest bamboo structure on the island. It’s also a work of art, with bamboo slotted together in intricate patterns, whorls, spirals and circles that create a lodging of four bedrooms, each with an ensuite, as well as spacious living areas with views of the surrounding jungle. Even the entrance to Sharma Springs is impressive: access is via a 15-metre bamboo tube, which leads into the fourth-floor living area. There’s also a yoga pavilion, an outdoor spa, a pool, and, of course, plenty of bamboo furniture for lounging.
There’s something about the private villas at Keemala, near Phuket, that will immediately make you smile. Maybe it’s the shape of the villas, like giant raindrops that have settled into the forest. Maybe it’s the incredible views those villas command of the surrounding countryside. Or maybe it’s the choice of accommodation available to you, from those raindrop-shaped “tree houses” to the ultra-luxury Birds Nest Pool Villa. Of course it could also simply be the air of serenity that permeates Keemala, with its natural streams and waterfalls running throughout the resort, its impressive facilities, its jungle walkways, and its air of exclusivity.
Shakti 360, India
This is not the India you might be expecting, the chaotic India, the loud India, the stressful India. Shakti 360, set high in the Himalayas in India’s north, is the complete opposite. There’s peace here in the serene mountains. There’s luxury in the glass-and-stone buildings that make up this Relais & Chateaux property. There’s adventure in even accessing the hotel, as you wind up the mountains to almost 3,000 metres in altitude, through rugged landscape that leads to this tiny, isolated slice of heaven. There’s plenty to do at Shakti if you want, from hikes to community engagement – however, there’s nothing wrong with just sitting back and enjoying the view.
180-degree view, Bali
There are two ways to do a Bali jungle stay: one is the traditional way, in a bamboo hut with a thatched roof, and the other is the modern way. This villa in northern Bali is very much the latter, a beautiful two-bedroom space with amazing views across the surrounding mountains. The design of the villa makes perfect use of those views, too, with plenty of outdoor living areas, including a dining area and an infinity pool that you’ll never want to get out of. Witnessing sunset here, cocktail in hand, hanging out in the water, staring at the mountains is one of life’s great experiences.
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4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Cambodia
Picture your classic overwater bungalows, only now transport them from the ocean to the river, surrounded by forest instead of by sea, with the sounds of the jungle instead of the waves. That’s what you have at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge in Tatai, in eastern Cambodia. This resort is made up of a string of 12 plush glamping tents that float on the river – the only ones of their kind in the world – surrounded by the virgin land of the Cardamom Forest. There are hiking adventures available in that forest, or there’s the chance to swim in the river, or just hang out on your private balcony, taking in the scenery.
Sanctuary Ananda, Myanmar
Perhaps the best way to spend time on the river is to actually stay on the river – and the best way to do that is with Sanctuary Ananda. This beautiful 21-suite riverboat makes leisurely journeys through the heart of Myanmar, travelling between Mandalay and Bagan, capturing the best of the country while offering guests a unique accommodation experience. The ship is all suites, each with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies, wifi access on board, award-winning food and access to a private dock in Mandalay. And the great thing is that, as well as the onboard comforts, the scenery outside is always changing, always amazing.
River Kwai Jungle Rafts, Thailand
There’s a rustic beauty to this floating resort, tucked away on a quiet bend of the River Kwai in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province. It’s the thatched roofs and the timber furniture; the quiet outlook over forested mountains. It’s also in the fact that there are no distractions: as an eco-resort, River Kwai Jungle Rafts uses no electricity, which means you’ll be reading books by the light of kerosene lamps rather than checking emails on your phone. After all, there’s no internet here, and nowhere to charge your gadgets even if there was. It’s old-school on the River Kwai, peaceful and serene. You’ll never want to leave.
Banyan Tree Ringha, China
The setting of this boutique hotel is truly spectacular, up in the highlands of ethnic Tibet, more than 3,000 metres above sea level. Farm animals including horses, pigs and yaks, roam the property. Local farmers in traditional Tibetan dress wander down to the nearby river. And all around, spectacular mountains reach for the sky. The accommodation itself is also stunning, with rooms set in a traditional Tibetan-style house, a luxury lodging with all of the mod cons despite the rural setting. This area is where the mythical Shangri La was situated, and you’ll feel like you’re in a fantasy of your own while staying here.
A playground for nature lovers, Tasmania is blessed with some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country
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