Six of the best: Heritage hotels of Asia

RAFFLES, SINGAPORE

The colonial-era hotels of Asia may represent something of a guilty pleasure, emblematic as they are of times of subjugation and prejudice. But today they still prove irresistible and such is Singapore's reconciliation with a past that included both British and Japanese occupation that Raffles is now a declared national monument. This pricey 103-room landmark, dating to 1887, is so imbued with nostalgia it can seem to fairly seep through its creaking floorboards. It will undergo a major refurbishment next year, which will see it shut for six months. Doubles from S$810 ($765). See raffles.com/Singapore

EASTERN & ORIENTAL, PENANG, MALAYSIA

The seaside E&O, as it's inevitably known, is in George Town, the capital of the island state of Penang, and has a guestbook boasting names such as Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward. In 2013, the hotel, which pre-dates Raffles Singapore by three years, added a luxurious 122-room high-rise annexe, coinciding with the establishment's 130th anniversary. The E&O is just a short stroll from George Town's vibrant World Heritage zone with its array of preserved traditional shop-houses, many of which now host restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries.

Rooms from MYR581 ($176). See eohotels.com

THE PENINSULA, HONG KONG, CHINA

A long-ago demolished railway station across the road from the Peninsula served as the terminus for the Trans-Siberian Express. Today the 300-room hotel's most well-heeled guests fly in by helicopter, landing at the Queen of Kowloon's rooftop chopper pad and passing through its memorabilia-stuffed arrival and departures lounge, officially opened by Australian aviator called Dick Smith. One of the benefits of being a more down-to-earth houseguest at the Peninsula, which opened in 1928, is the ability to jump the daily queues that unfailingly form for a table in the vast lobby lounge with its soaring ceiling, columns and gilded plasterwork. Doubles from HK$4780 ($830). See hongkong.peninsula.com

GALLE FACE HOTEL, COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

Colombo is one of Asia's most unjustifiably unloved capitals, with this hotel remaining the primary, if not sole, reason, for visiting the city for many a traveller. Once dubbed "the best hotel east of Suez", the Galle Face is one of the oldest of all colonial-era hotels, having opened in 1864. The most favoured of the hotel's 158 rooms feature magnificent ocean vistas as well as views straight up the city's stunning coastline. Other rooms overlook the popular and well-worn seaside public park from which it borrows its name. The Galle Face's original and historic north wing reopened in recent times following a meticulous renovation. Doubles from $US184 ($247). See gallefacehotel.com

HOTEL MAJESTIC, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

Once, in the heyday of long-distance rail travel, Kuala Lumpur's Hotel Majestic was enviably located to the Malaysian city's magnificent old and now somewhat tired Moorish-style railway station. Few of the Majestic's modern-day guests travel by train, of course, but, in staying at the hotel, they are assured of a journey into the past. The 300-room white-washed hotel first opened in 1931 and was beautifully restored in 2012 with the addition of a largely sympathetic 15-storey modern tower. But the original five-storey art deco building with a restaurant, bar, tea lounge and superbly appointed guestrooms remains the place to be. Rooms from MYR395. See majestickl.com

RAFFLES GRAND HOTEL D'ANGKOR, SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

Cambodia boasts not one but two important colonial hotels, both operated by the Raffles group. But it's this gorgeous 119-room hotel in Siem Reap that just pips its counterpart in Phnom Penh (a favourite of Jackie Kennedy) with its convenient location to the fantastical World Heritage-listed Angor Wat, a short drive (or cycle) away. Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor was opened in 1932 with one of its most charming features being its still-functional cage elevator in the lobby. The hotel was commandeered by the notorious Khmer Rouge and later by the forces of the invading Vietnamese. The Grand d'Angkor reopened in 1997 with thhe addition of two sympathetic guest wings. Doubles from $US263. See raffles.com/siem-reap

Anthony Dennis was a guest of the featured hotels.

Comments