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Asia’s 2019 travel hot list

So many of recent openings have excited us lately that it’s been quite a feat to narrow down the latest and hottest news to a mere handful… we love taking travellers out of their ‘comfort zones’ and introducing people to new or unusual experiences that engage them with deeper and unexpected layers of a destination. From private dawn audiences with Buddhist Lamas in 16th century monasteries, to front-row seats at the fabulous South Africa Fashion Week; travelling with us is all about finding the pulse of a country, city or culture and in turn creating memories unlike any other. Here’s our carefully handpicked hotlist to get you up to speed with the best of the best: 1. Ardh Kumbh We are so excited by the upcoming once-in-six years occurrence of Northern India’s Ardh Kumbh. This is one of the largest gatherings on the earth and can even be seen from space! Taking place in the city of Allahabad between 15 January to 4 March 2019, the Ardh Kumbh is a rare offering, second only to the main Kumbh Mela which occurs once every 12 years. Magnificent tented camp Sangam Niwas, from The Ultimate Travelling Camp, will be on hand to give exclusive excursions into the very heart and soul of the Kumbh. Access will include unique interactions with sadhus and seers in a sea of fervent devotees. The camp is renowned for being fit for a king, with four-poster beds and an Ayurveda spa, as well as a live kitchen featuring soulful vegetarian meals prepared in accordance with the ancient Indian philosophy of Satvik food – you are bound to experience true holistic luxury here. A Diya Light Flame 2. Wa Ale Island Resort To the mystical country of Myanmar, we go for the long-awaited opening of Wa Ale Island Resort. A privately-owned island off the southern Burmese coast, Wa Ale is both spectacular and intimate with an emphasis on sustainable luxury. The sheltered cove lies within the wild landscape of the Mergui Archipelago and the resort has 11 Tented Beach Villas and three glorious Treetop Villas. The whole paradise sings in harmony with the land – the buildings are created from reclaimed materials, the power comes from an alternative source and, deliciously, the food hails from the Chef’s own kitchen garden, local farms and freshly caught seafood from the archipelago. The beaches are pristine perfect for both honeymooners and families. We love the fact the Wa Ale has its own foundation giving back to the community including Sea Turtle conservation and supporting local schools. We Ale 3. COMO Uma Canggu Surf in a whole new style at Bali’s COMO Uma Canggu, a breathtakingly designed luxury resort just steps away from where the waves break on one of Bali’s finest surfing beaches, Echo. The property has partnered with Tropicsurf to offer surfing experiences and lessons for guests. A must visit are the sea temples of Tanah Lot, 12 kilometres to the north west. Standing on tide shaped rocks, the temples were built, according to legend, by a priest who communed with a poisonous sea snake. This is a place for unforgettable sunsets. Echo Beach 4. Rosewood Phnom Penh As much as we love the colonial Raffles Hotel Le Royal with its beaten copper crests and motto ‘For those who know not to put a Faberge egg in a frying pan’, we have been looking forward the recent opening of contemporary Rosewood Phnom Penh. The soaring location on top of the top 14 floors of Vattanac Capital Tower ensures panoramic views of the city, including the fabled Mekong River. The property, set to be a future icon, takes the shape of a rising dragon and its clean lines and considered design are a triumph of eastern minimalism. Plunge into Sense, the enveloping spa with therapies using Khmer traditional healing herbs and dine on Gallic (whole roast chicken in truffle jus), Cambodian or sizzling Japanese. Best of all is the fleet of leather-lined tuk-tuks on hand to whizz you around the city in sleek Rosewood style. Statue in Phnom Penh 5. Galle Literary Festival Literary Festivals are the new rock festivals – increasingly cool and offering a rare chance to listen to and interact with some of the best minds in the world. From Hay to Jaipur, we have tried them all with gusto and a recent favourite is Sri Lanka’s upcoming Galle Literary Festival. Taking place from 6 January to 20 January 2019, confirmed speakers include playwright Sir David Hare, novelist Anthony Horowitz and writers Rachel Johnson and Justine Picardie. Base yourself at the atmospheric Amangalla and escape along the coast post-festival to the hidden beaches, towns and villas that make Sri Lanka such a dream of a destination. Galle Literature Festival 6. Bawah Reserve  Indonesia’s remote Anambas Archipelago in the South China Sea is paradise: crystal-clear waters and uninhabited islands abound and now, much to our delight, Bawah Reserve – the absolute epitome of a luxurious eco-resort – calls it home. Safari meets the tropics at this one-of-a-kind property, as pristine marine wilderness blends seamlessly into primary forests, untamed jungles and lush mangroves; making it a prime position for adventurers and nature lovers. A destination in itself, this hotel is also heaven for those that want to relax and sunbathe on the palm-fringed beaches and take the occasional dip in the aquamarine lagoons among tropical fish and vivid coral reefs. Giving Bali a run for its money with its idyllic setting and lack of crowds, this new hotel is one to watch – we also love its azure-hued soothing interior design and rustic architectural structures by Singaporean mastermind, Sim Boon Yang. Bawah Reserve 7. Rosewood Luang Prabang We’ve been waiting with bated breath for the opening of the Rosewood Luang Prabang and it was worth it! When it comes to sophisticated secluded retreats with luxurious amenities, the latest hotel from renowned designer Bill Bensley, is hard to beat. Located within an atmospheric jungle, it is an oasis brimming with lush greenery, a scenic waterfall and eye-catching exotic birds and butterflies. If one follows the river at the heart of this peaceful sanctuary upstream, they wspa, but our favourite rooms – the wonderful Hilltop Tents – can also be found here perched on the edge, in all their glory. Rosewood Luang Prabang James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel. Ampersand Travel create bespoke and luxurious travel experiences to Asia, the British Isles and Southern Africa. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

James Jayasundera

James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel in London. Ampersand Travel is an award-winning tour operator specialising in tailor-made holidays to Asia and Africa. James was raised in Rome by a Sri Lankan diplomat father and British mother, and from an early age he was travelling throughout the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Although he loves comfort, he is not blinded by five-star luxuries – the Ampersand motto is “luxury is in the experience” and it is that indefinable quality that makes something special which James is always on the look-out for. James founded Ampersand Travel in 2003, and since then the company has developed an excellent reputation for in-depth knowledge of its destinations, candid and impartial opinions on hotels and locations and a formidable network of contacts within the industry and its destinations.

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  1. I am a huge fan of literary festivals and can there be any better location for a literary festival than Sri Lanka’s beautiful and historic Galle?

    Of course most writers tend to be very articulate and entertaining as it goes with the territory. Then being at a Festival puts them under pressure. They are looking to grab the festival’s headlines and to make sure that they make a name for themselves and get invitations to other festivals.

    Consequently they tend to reveal rather a lot about themselves and indulge in gossip about other writers and celebrities. Being discrete and guarded will not get them a return invitation.

    It is short notice but I wonder if I could get create a window in my diary for Galle.

  2. I’m not sure that I fully understand who a sadhu is or why I need to interact with one but I am completely sold on Ardh Kumbh. It must be one of the world’s great spectacles.

    I’m not a lover of crowds, particularly when they are so large that you can see them from space, but tented luxury accommodation may well make it more bearable.

  3. There is something wonderfully mystical about one of the lines in the Rosewood piece. I couldn’t help but laugh at, “For those who know not to put a Faberge egg in a frying pan’.

    Anyone remember that Eric Cantona poetic line about seagulls? Or going back does anyone remember some of the mystical lines from the TV series “Kung Fu”?

    If I had a Faberge egg I would get it into my safe as quickly as possible and make sure that I had it fully insured.

    But seriously this Rosewood Hotel really appeals.

  4. Sadly, I’m no longer a surfer, my knees just ain’t up to it anymore. I still like to hang out in surfers’ haunts and hear the lingo and watch their exploits.

    My new take on surfing is photography, you need some long lenses and a lot of patience. Heading back to luxurious Como Uma Canggu after a day on the beach in Bali would be perfection. Haven’t been to Bali for ages, about time I did.

  5. To create something different that is unique needs an inspiration that is very broad and profound, not just talking about money, the experience of a journey with nuances that people might rarely do is extraordinary.

    Thanks Paul, you made a story that inspired me.

  6. I’m more of a beach kind of person than a festival one. And I’d rather stay away from the crowds because that just means prices of anything skyrockets. It’s a good thing this list has both and considers different preferences. I must say though, that Ardh Kumbh is interesting. Never knew that before.

  7. Echo beach and the COMO Uma Canggu in Bali sound perfect for surfers. Hadn’t heard of the Tanah Lot temples before, I’ll have to Google those. I wonder what the Galle Lit festival is like and how it compares to the types we have in the UK. That’s definitely my cuppa tea, and a wonderful location for it too.

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