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Resorts – five-star and lower – India, Bhutan, Burma and Borneo

Ten years ago, budget-minded backpackers traipsing through India in search of pampering might have treated themselves to a meal or cup of tea in a “fancy” hotel. That couldn’t happen in today’s India, where fancy hotels really are fancy.

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These are larger hotels, again, either placed in cities where no other facility exists. The standards will be excellent, many are splendid architectural icons or occasionally, they simply may be lacking in character, but will be excellently placed and have wonderful views.

Explore the gateway to India in The Lodhi a city-based resort with an air of sophisticated calm. Located in the heart of the cosmopolitan city, you're close to the architecture of the Mughal Era and the grand monuments of the British Raj. Arrive in style, in a reconditioned traditional Indian 'Ambassador', now sleek gray, with power steering but still the as-always high leather seats.

 The resort's design is Indian-contemporary with handmade rugs and jaali screens. In rooms, cool stone floors, rich timber panels, discrete lighting, and the heady scent of fresh flowers will compliment your stay. Step onto your private terrace and you'll notice a daybed and plunge pool.

 Unwind in the resorts several restaurants and bars. In The Lodhi you can enjoy informal and delicious favourites at ELAN, lounge at the Pool Café, enjoy the best of pan Asian through the Middle East to European at On the Waterfront, and night owls are well catered for at Anidra.

Some of the prominent five star hotels belong to the Oberoi Group. Founded in 1934, the firm owns or manages 32 hotels and luxury cruisers across five countries under the Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and Trident Hilton brands.

10 years ago, Oberoi Group opened Rajvilas in Jaipur. Set among 32 acres of gardens and reflecting pools, the property’s 54 rooms (some of them air-conditioned luxury tents) have four-poster beds and sunken, white Italian marble bathtubs looking into their own walled ornamental gardens.

Two more “Vilas” properties followed: the Amarvilas in Agra, built in a style inspired by Moorish and Mughal architecture, less than a mile from the Taj Mahal and offering breathtaking views of the monument; and Udaivilas in Udaipur, where from the moment guests arrive by boat on Lake Pichola, they are made to feel like Rajput royalty.

No doubt encouraged by their success, in 2005, Aman resorts, the ultra-luxury worldwide chain known for its Hotel Bora Bora and Amangani resort in Jackson Hole opened Amanbagh in Alwar, a much less travelled part of Rajasthan.  Set on the site of a maharajah’s former hunting lodge and pleasure garden, the walled resort’s grounds are lush with eucalyptus, fruit and palm trees. The 40 rooms are some of the most spacious in the country–the smallest is 900 square feet and has a 550-square-foot terrace. The resort is near the Sariska Nature and Game Sanctuary, which is home to panthers and tigers.

These are just a sampling of the spots on our list of the top luxury hotels in India. All are famous first and foremost for their overall standard of service and style, then for their unique distinguishing features or amenities, like standout views or tent accommodations. Most are in Rajasthan, home to scores of heritage palaces, with some in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.

Now that the luxury market is firmly planted in India, some hoteliers have been inspired to deviate from the Oberoi formula.  Devi Garh Fort Palace, for example, is a luxury hotel in Rajasthan with a sexy, minimalist modern design that completely defies its 18th-century palace exterior. The hotel, with its cutting-edge use of semi-precious stones as a design element, is the talk of the interior-design world and has been used for fashion photo shoots.

Bustling, kinetic, thrilling Mumbai is India’s economic hub, a city where anything feels possible. But on picturesque Marine Drive, the Trident Nariman Point combines immaculate spaces, big views and seamless service to make you feel like a one-of-a-kind traveler, even in this city of 20 million.

With views of the Arabian Sea, the outdoor pool is great for sun — or for sunsets.  The 550-room hotel manages to have both an intimate vibe and an undeniably businesslike atmosphere.  The Marine Drive location is the hotel’s crowning jewel. Strolling along the waterfront is a popular pastime here, and the rooms have enormous windows to drink in the views — shimmering sea by day and sparkling lights by night.

The windows are the focal point in the otherwise simple rooms. After a dip in the tub, slip on the cushy bathrobe and simply take in the view.  The restaurants are usually bustling. Frangipani serves fresh Mediterranean fare, while India Jones has a full menu of pan-Asian favorites, from dim sum to Korean-style dak dori tang.

There are similar offering in South India. The Taj Coromandel is a fusion of rich South Indian design cues and classic European elegance. Offering guests the best of both worlds - business and leisure in the heart of the city it has elegantly appointed and a wide range of distinctive dining options, and more.

Sitting on the nib of Willingdon Island, in the middle of Cochin’s atmospheric harbour, Vivanta by Taj - Malabar enjoys beautiful backwater views and remote, peaceful and relaxed surroundings. Ninety-six guest rooms and suites are divided between the Heritage Wing, featuring 1930s Victorian interiors, and the Tower Wing, which boasts recently renovated accommodation.

A traditional ambience, neat interiors, modern technology and an impeccable, personalised service is found throughout, while outdoors there is a large swimming pool and a poolside bar from where you can watch the ships sail by or embark on a luxurious sunset cruise.

The first 5 star resort in the Paro Valley to be owned and operated by a Bhutanese enterprise was the 45-room Zhiwa Ling that combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of modern day technology. Envisioned and created by a local Bhutanese company, the hotel’s elaborate hand-carved wooden cornices and masterful stonework coexist beautifully with improved telecommunication systems and Swedish under-floor heating.

Thimphu, the vibrant & charming capital of Bhutan that rests in the heart of the Himalayas overlooking the Wang Chu river valley offers accommodation at the international standard Taj Tashi. The hotel offers spacious luxuriously appointed rooms that reflect the essence in Bhutanese art and architecture in a contemporary setting with both Thimphu city and mountain views.

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