Four showstopping Asian city breaks – from the one with crazy Instagrammable interiors to the one that attracts A-listers, including Elizabeth Taylor and David Beckham…
InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, Shanghai, China
Best for… bragging rights
There’s only one word to describe this hotel: ‘bonkers’, from its rock climbing wall to the underwater suite, complete with butler service. The 18-floor topsy-turvy building is built inside a quarry pit, an awe-inspiring feat of engineering that took 12 years to complete. From one side of the hotel you look out to a rock wall, the other side overlooks quarry water. You travel down to the rooms, up to reception. It can be discombobulating with jet lag but then, that’s half the fun.
Stella loves: The private balconies, some of which have views across the water – perfect for sundowners.
Out and about: Shanghai is 30 minutes away, so the hotel is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the biggest metropolis in the world (26 million at last count). If you extend your trip and stay in the city, InterContinental Ruijin is a great choice for its cavernous rooms, dark panelling, marble and rich art deco touches. The city’s furious regeneration means that much of old Shanghai has now been bulldozed, but the sheer clash of east and west cultures make it a fascinating place to visit.
• An insider guide to Shanghai
The Reverie Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Best for… maximalist luxury-lovers
This fabulously ostentatious hotel blends theatrical Italian design with Vietnamese style. Every square inch is bedecked or bejewelled in a kaleidoscope of marble, mirror, mosaic and gilt, while each room has floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the historic heart of the city. Once your eyes have stopped popping, you’ll find it a surprisingly soothing refuge from the bustle of the streets below, with impeccable service, excellent fine-dining and a chilled-out rooftop pool.
Stella loves: The 60ft Monte Carlo 6 yacht, available for champagne-soaked sunset cruises on the Saigon River.
Out and about: Just around the corner is Vietnam House Restaurant, a French colonial building stunningly reborn as an upscale restaurant by Australian-Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nguyen.
Deluxe rooms from £272 a night, b&b; thereveriesaigon.com
Read the full expert review: The Reverie Saigon
• The best hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand
Best for… A-list vibes
This plush hotel on the banks of the ancient Chao Phraya river is a haven from the heat, humidity and hurry of this chaotic city. The Garden Wing, the oldest part of this ‘grande dame’ hotel, which dates from 1876, has been thoroughly revamped with floor-to-ceiling windows that give a grandstand view of the busy river and twinkling lights beyond. The Author’s Wing, nearer the river, celebrates the many famous names to have slept in the heavenly beds here over the years (including Tsar Nicholas II, Elizabeth Taylor and David Beckham), and is the perfect palm-filled space for afternoon tea, English or Thai-style. Meanwhile the River Wing was recently refurbished. In the evening, head to the atmospheric opulence of the Bamboo Bar, a live jazz venue that’s still a local hotspot even for the hipster crowd.
Stella loves:The daily treats left in your room – succulent mango carved into beautiful shapes, chocolate elephants and a bespoke monogrammed kimono to take home.
Out and about: Be sure to take a tuk-tuk to Wat Pho, a temple famed for its giant reclining buddha. For supper, head to Prachak, a famous roast duck joint (1415 Charoen Krung Rd).
Rooms from £440 a night, room only; mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
Read the full expert review: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Alila Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Best for… urban pool
Whatever time you arrive at this slick skyscraper hotel, drop your bags, grab your cossie and head straight up to the rooftop pool. By day, it gives breathtaking views of the city, by night, shrouded in lush greenery and gorgeously lit, it might just be the sexiest spot in town. Cool concrete and soothing white upholstery are the themes here, and as the comfortable, chic rooms occupy floors 35 to 40, they all have a thrilling, vertiginous feel. Set in the buzzy neighbourhood of Bangsar, it’s an easy hop into the city centre (and slightly closer to the airport – welcome news after that epic flight).
Stella loves: A post-dinner drink on one of the huge loungers, watching a thunderstorm in the distance.
Out and about: Head to the LRT train station and go straight to the city centre, where you can scale the Petronas Twin Towers (but be sure to book ahead), watch your kids splash in the KLCC water park below, and pick from one of the dozens of vibey restaurants along the cheesy but unmissable Jalan Alor night food court.
From £78 a night, room only for a King Bed Studio; alilahotels.com/bangsar
Read the full expert review: Alila Bangsar