Sightseeing in Asia often means huge crowds and long queues. Here are four hotels in the region that help you beat daily mob scenes by arranging private performances and tours of museums and galleries. By SANA BUTLER
Published on Jul 13, 2010
AMANSARA, SIEM REAP
Nearby the Angkor temples, the government stores more than 6,000 priceless statues and other relics for safekeeping and research in a separate building that is usually off-limits to the public. Fewer than 200 scholars and visitors a year are allowed access—and you can be one of them, thanks to the Amansara. Like a scene out of the Indiana Jones movies, a private guide escorts Amansara guests into the warehouse for a close-up view of the sandstone inscriptions and sculptures from the 12th-century ruins. And if you’re really eager to experience the full majesty of the temples in private, the hotel can organize an exclusive tour with an archaeologist followed by dinner under the towering edifices—long after the roughly 5,000 visitors who flock to Angkor daily have gone home. Advance booking for both is essential.
Road to Angkor; +855 63 760 333; www.amansara.com.
SOFITEL METROPOLE, HANOI
A perennial favorite, the show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater always draws admiring and bewildered gasps from the audience. During the show, intricately carved life-size puppets emerge from a pool of water—the surface acts as a stage—to depict 10th-century folktales. With the Sofitel Metropole, you can learn the ancient trade secrets of the puppetry techniques. It’s well known that wetsuit-clad puppeteers, who stand in waist-deep water behind the curtains, control the wooden dolls and use submerged rods and wires. But how they manipulate the puppets was once a fiercely guarded secret. With one of the 14 puppeteers as a guide, you can pick your favorite doll from the storage room and try your hand at the intricate maneuvers of this age-old craft.
15 Ngo Quyen Street; +84 4 826 6919; www.accorhotels.com.
NEW MAJESTIC HOTEL, SINGAPORE
Get in touch with your inner child and spend the night with more than 50,000 toys housed inside Singapore’s first toy museum, the Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys Museum (MINT). The equally quirky and charming New Majestic Hotel has launched a new dining program that features after-hours access to the five-story treasure trove of vintage playthings. The museum is the brainchild of a local toy fanatic who amassed his collection, valued at US$5 million, from some 25 countries. Children can roam free as nostalgic parents take a tour led by the museum’s curator. Dinner for adults is served by candlelight on the 4th floor, among the action figures, while children chow on chicken fingers on the 5th floor, where the robots are found. Serious toy mavens also have the option of renting a floor or the entire museum for the night.
31–37 Bukit Pasoh Road; +65 6511 4700; www.newmajestichotel.com.
ST. REGIS, SHANGHAI
Shanghai’s art scene is fast challenging Beijing’s supremacy in China’s contemporary art world. If you’re keen to explore the city’s art scene, the expertly trained butlers at the Street Regis can arrange and escort you to galleries and museums, such as the landmark ShanghART, after hours or to advance previews of upcoming exhibits at the city’s first contemporary art and design museum, Shanghai MOCA. The Chinese Painting Academy, a fine arts institute of highly acclaimed master painters and rising new stars, is off-limits to the public but opens its doors to the hotel for shows long before works appear in public. With more than 100 artists in its little black book, the hotel can also send you images of the type of artwork you might be interested in and take you to artists’ homes for private viewings.
889 Dong Fang Road, Pudong; +86 21 5050 4567; www.stregis.com/shanghai.