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Posts tagged ‘Jean-Michel Gathy’

Five Luxury Family Holidays in Asia

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Villas overlooking the rice field at Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

Luxury resorts catering to multigenerations have evolved enormously in recent years offering children’s cooking classes and spa treatments to wildlife excursions and cultural activities for the whole family. And multigenerational or 3G holidays where grandparents, parents and kids holiday together, are on the rise fuelling even more demand for a great family getaway. Here are five of the best luxury resorts in Asia that offer more than the usual kid’s clubs.

Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

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Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

This northern Thai resort resembles an impressive film set of a Lanna style enclave. A paddy field at its heart is surrounded by two storey teak villas some with their own pools. Both kids and adults can ride on the paddy’s resident water buffalo and learn about rice planting (above). Over at the rustic Arts and Crafts Village families can try out traditional Lanna skills such as rice pounding, bamboo weaving and paper cutting. There are also child specific activities including meditation and yoga in a one hundred year old wooden house. Leaving parents free to visit the stunning spa.

The Datai, Langkawi

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The Datai, Langkawi

With its enchanting rainforest setting, The Datai has access to mangroves and waterways as well as being close to the sea. Accommodation spans rooms in the main house to Rainforest or Beach Villas. There’s a variety of restaurants too most beguiling of which is the treehouse like Pavilion, on 30 metres high stilts and shaded by the forest (above). Monkeys roam freely around the resort. Resident naturalist Irshad Mobarak guides complementary morning and evening walks through the rainforest pointing out plants and wildlife such as flying lemurs. Families may book a number of adventures including kayaking through the mangroves to spot kingfishers and eagles, trekking though the jungle and swimming in natural pools.

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Children’s Beach Combing at The Datai

[UPDATE: The Datai closed on September 4th 2017 for refurbishment and will re open July 2018]

Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives

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Teens’ Club at Cheval Blanc Randheli

Part of the prestigious Cheval Blanc stable, Randheli has been slickly designed by the starchitect Jean-Michel Gathy. There are trademark romantic over-water pavilions but also family friendly Island villas which have two bedrooms and a large outside dining area. No details have been overlooked with specially designed mini furniture and food and drink menus for kids. As well as dedicated play areas for children and teenagers with wall to wall activities, the resort organises Mini Olympics where the whole family can take part in swim races, volleyball, beach football and rope pulling. Finished off with a barbecue on the beach.

Soori, Bali


Pool villa at Alila Villas Soori

Soori, on the quieter West coast of Bali, is an all-villa resort, all of which with plunge pools and most have direct access to the beach. The pared back, modern design carries on in the restaurants (though in villa dining is very popular here) and the spa (which has children’s treatments). Journeys for the Little Ones offer children an insight into local life and culture. Choose from visiting a nearby bat cave, traditional Balinese kite making (and flying), creating terracotta pieces with a local craftsman, learning to bake with the pastry chef or dressing up and learning to dance like a Balinese princess. Move over Disney.

Amanpuri, Phuket


A pool villa at Amanpuri

Set in a coconut grove on an isolated peninsula of the island, Amanpuri is designed to appeal as much to Aman Juniors as Aman Junkies. Two bedroomed pavilions overlooking the sea come with a private swimming pool and outdoor dining area. With their parents present, Aman Juniors may try spa treatments, snorkel and kayak in the Andaman Sea or take a dingy out to an ocean platform to feed the fish. Amanpuri also has its own fleet of boats from sleek yachts to a Chinese junk for swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving or a cruise to nearby islands.

The Rise of Bangkok’s Hotel Residences

ICONSIAM-MO_living.jpg The Residences by Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

This week sees the opening of 137 Pillars Residences, a hotel residence concept at the top of an exclusive Bangkok tower block from the owners of the luxury boutique 137 House in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

The furnished residences are available to rent and come with access to hotel-like facilities including fitness, wellness and all day dining.

“The market for serviced residences with inclusive services and convenience is expanding in Bangkok,” says Christopher Stafford, COO of 137 Pillars Hotels and Resorts.

“The trend in residential rentals is changing from long term stays to shorter term visits. We will also provide temporary storage of personal effects for this highly mobile group of business & leisure travellers.”

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The Rise and Rise of the Hotel Residence


The Residences by Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Aman is synonymous with luxury resorts so it comes as a surprise when CEO Olivier Jolivet tells us they are not in the hotel business. “Aman is not a hospitality company, but a lifestyle brand that operates much like a club. It’s about like-minded people enjoying each other’s company,” he says when Chopstix meets him in Singapore – home to Aman HQ.

Residential sales, Jolivet says, are at the heart of the Aman business. “The majority of our private residence owners are ‘Amanjunkies’ who returned many times to our resorts, often with friends, and wanted to have a permanent piece of this lifestyle,” he says. “It gives our guests a sense of belonging and is a legacy that is passed onto the next generation.”

Real estate experts in Southeast Asia agree that demand for residences by luxury brand hotels in the region is on the increase fueled by High Net Worths.

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Amanoi, Vietnam

At the very least they are second homes and often third or fourth. “Our guests are buying one, two or three residences,” says Jolivet whose customers are celebrities and Ultra High Net Worths.

The appeal is understandable: you’re buying into the ethos of your favourite hotel brand with added benefits such as 24 hour concierge services. Some are seeking privacy as well.

“Typically, the buyers residences managed by five star operators are end-users who want the hotel services,” says Julien Naouri, Director of Investments, Asia Pacific at Savills. “On the other hand, some buyers seek an investment return, where the unit is going back in the hotel unit managed pool.”


Amanoi, Vietnam

Sarkunan Subramaniam, Managing Director of Knight Frank Malaysia says it can be a combination of both: “Most buy as holiday homes for themselves as well as capital appreciation and rental yields.”

Having well known architects and interior designers linked to the property also increases the appeal, Willson Kalip, Country Head of Knight Frank Indonesia points out.

Currently Aman residences for sale include Amanoi in Vietnam where buyers have the chance to collaborate with star architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston on designing their home. Gathy is also working on the upcoming Four Seasons Bangkok residences, adjacent to a new Four Seasons hotel on the Chao Praya river. The all corner apartments are due to open in 2018.


A rendering of The Four Seasons Residences, Bangkok

Due to open around the same time, on the same stretch of the river is the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Residences where buyers will have the option of a full interior design service by renowned designer Joyce Wang who recently revamped the guest rooms at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.

LMHKG redesigned L900 dining & living room Sheer down (1MB)-2

Joyce Wang designed suite at The Landmark Oriental Hong Kong

“Hotel residences are often second or third homes so owners have a “plug and play” expectation,” says Wang. “The design has to function intuitively so they don’t have to learn new ways of operating a household, from light switches to bathroom and kitchen fittings. A hotel residence should make one feel pampered and looked after.”

This marks the first Mandarin Oriental residences in Southeast Asia with a second slated for Bali. Situated diagonally opposite the Mandarin Oriental hotel, each unit – ranging in size from 130 to 230 sq m and penthouses from 380 to 710 sq m – will have a river view.


A rendering of the Mandarin Oriental Residences, Bangkok

The Peninsula has chosen Shanghai for its first foray into residences. Based right next door to The Peninsula hotel, overlooking the Bund, it comprises an exclusive clutch of 36 one to four bedroomed apartments. All are designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon who was also responsible for the hotel and so share the same 1920s influenced aesthetic.


The Peninsula Residences Shanghai have similar designs to the hotel rooms

While residents can order room service and catering from the hotel’s chefs, they are given priority bookings at The Pen’s restaurants as well as the spa facilities. They also have access to its famous fleet of Rolls Royces.

Expect to see more Aman residences in city locations too. “We are listening to our customers, they are telling us that when they are travelling they want a pied-a-terre right in the centre,” says Jolivet.

Aman Tokyo guest room

Aman Tokyo suite

They’ll be based on the suites at the recently opened Aman Tokyo. These 141 sq m spaces encompass lounging, dining, sleeping and bathing areas in a minimalist apartment-like setting that can be cleverly divided or opened up by slick sliding doors.

As Jolivet puts it: “a perfectly managed, top of the top property that is a club of the happy few.”

Designers in Demand

Joyce Wang
Hong Konger Wang has designed projects in LA and London as well as her home town. Most recently she revamped the guest rooms at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong bringing a residential feel to them with the use of tactile, luxurious fabrics and creating different experience areas such installing a cocktail cabinet rather than a minibar.

Jean-Michel Gathy
Gathy is one of Aman’s go to architects and has also designed iconic resorts such as the Chedi Oman and the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives. He is responsible for many hotel design trends including over water hammocks and spa like bathrooms.

Pierre-Yves Rochon
The acclaimed French designer is behind stunning hotels such as the Shangri-La Paris, Grand Hotel Cap Ferat in the South of France and The Savoy, London and has brought a deluxe Art Deco yet contemporary feel to The Peninsula Shanghai hotel and Residences.

The Starriest of Starchitects

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc Randheli


[UPDATE: Jean-Michel Gathy’s newly designed Four Seasons Bangkok, along the Chao Phraya river near the Peninsula, is now accepting bookings for early 2020.]

A conversation with Jean-Michel Gathy, probably the world’s top architect of exclusive hotel resorts, is an entertaining reel of anecdotes, ideas and design history delivered at lightening pace. At the start of the interview, over the telephone from Gathy’s Kuala Lumpur office (he’s lived in Asia for 33 years), he asks: “Are you taking notes or recording? It determines what speed I talk at.”

Think of an iconic hotel – The Setai Miami perhaps, or maybe the Chedi Oman or the Aman at the Summer Palace – and chances are Gathy designed it. Last year his nine hotel openings included the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives, Point Yamu by Como Shambhala on Phuket and two Amans (a brand he has become synonymous with) including the Canal Grande Venice, venue of the much hyped George Clooney wedding. With over 40 years in the industry, the luxury hotel market is Gathy’s oyster, so how does he go about choosing?

“First of all it’s gut feeling. I just feel that I would like that project. Secondly I have to feel good about the hotel operator. That’s fundamentally important.” He reels off a list of five star-plus hotel groups as fitting the bill. “Thirdly, I have to feel that it’s a client who is passionate, that it’s not just a business.”

What about a client who may want to hire Gathy just for his name? “I have this situation often. When that’s the case we always say no.”

LVMH, Cheval Blanc, Randheli

His company – Denniston, formed in 1983 – currently has 13 hotels in construction. An impressive seven out of 10 pitches come to fruition. “That is unreal,” Gathy says. “Most people get one out of ten.” He thinks his three point pre selection is part of the success as he rejects what he’s not sure of. “And because we’re not newcomers, the people who contact us are a certain section of the market. You’re British?” I reply affirmative. “Well, If I’m [Wayne] Rooney I’m only going to get calls from Real Madrid and Barcelona – top class teams.”

How it usually works is that the land owner will contact Gathy and he’ll ask which hotels they are pitching to. “If they tell me that they’re negotiating with five star hotels, that’s fine. If they say [names a number of mid market hotel chains] I’m not interested.”

And if you hire Denniston, you get Jean-Michel Gathy himself. “I’m the one person who will go and see the site. I’m like Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, I design I’m not doing management,” he says. “When I visit the site, I’m like a little boy in a toy shop. I just walk about, look at the view, what the prevailing winds are… I’m extremely thorough in my investigation of the site. Within the first day I have decided. I know how it’s going to look, which way it’s going to face and know the organizational circulation…“People ask me how do you see this? And I say I have no idea! I love geography, I love maps, always have since I was a child. And I love nature, so did my father. It’s just inside me. Like a musician or an artist. It’s my strength. And so far it works!”

LVMH, Cheval Blanc, Randheli

He pin points the upcoming Mandarin Oriental in Bali, one of three projects along with Raffles and Fairmont he has on the go on the Indonesian island. “We had the ground breaking ceremony today and they said out of 250 hectares why did you choose this specific spot for the hotel? No one would choose it. They were just stunned.”

Gathy is particularly excited about this project as he is about Bali itself, a place where he’s lived along with Hong Kong and Singapore, before Malaysia. “Everything has been done in Bali. You have the most beautiful and disgusting architecture.”

The Mandarin won’t be a pastiche of Balinese design: “There won’t be thatched roofs, the Mandarin will be nothing to do with Balinese architecture but everything to do with Balinese culture. We’ve translated Balinese values and respected the materials.”

LVMH, Cheval Blanc, Randheli

His newest project, a One & Only in Montenegro, invokes similar emotions of fear and excitement. “I thought, Jean-Michel, what the hell are you doing to yourself?” he says. Based on the hotel’s location and the history of the Silk Route he’s combined Ottoman, Balkan and Venetian ideas. “Yesterday, I submitted the presentation and I was so excited.” He gives a little chuckle, “I think we just nailed it.”

At least four hotels are in the works in mainland China and with the growing Chinese market comes differing needs. “You must have retail in a hotel in China otherwise you’re wasting your time,” says Gathy. “The Chinese don’t like the sun so you need a swimming pool with shade and huge TVs in the bedrooms.”

As for his own holidays he likes active ones – previously skiing but these days safaris which he is passionate about, “I love and worship those times in the jeep. I must have been to 50 camps”. On a city break he likes to get out and explore. “I don’t spend time in the hotel as then I critique and that tires me.”

LVMH, Cheval Blanc, Randheli

Having started several trends from over-water hammocks to statement swimming pools and spa like bathrooms how does he feel about seeing his vision replicated in hotels around the world? “It flatters me. It’s good for the ego,” he says. “One day the guy who copies me will beat me and good for him but that day is not here yet.”

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