Amazing Heritage Properties in Asia You Can Actually Stay in (Part 1)
In a continent full of historical sites from across the ages, superlative natural wonders, and a wonderfully rich and diverse collection of ancient cultures, it’s not surprising that Asia is home to some of the world’s most remarkable historical houses and palaces.
Throughout history, the palaces of the wealthy and royal have thrilled visitors with their opulence, ostentation, and the fascinating histories held within their walls and grounds. These heritage properties help to tell the story of a culture and a place. They remind us of the importance of history in preserving cultural identities and in so doing promote understanding and appreciation of cultures perhaps different to our own. In valuing and understanding the past we can both preserve culture and tradition and help to maintain these unique identities and keep them relevant in the modern age.
To share the best experiences of our Asian homes with you we are always on the lookout for unique and incredible places to stay, places full of character and with their own stories to tell, and these fabulous historical homes and palace boutique hotels certainly do that, and in spades. In this edition, we discover 4 of Asia’s most enchanting residences, each one housing incredible stories that capture the imagination.
Here’s our list of our favourite historical houses and palaces you can actually stay in and enjoy a right royal experience at least once in your lifetime. Grab your cup of joe, and let’s dive right into this guide on Must-Stay historical homes and palace boutique hotels in Asia!
Stok Palace Heritage Hotel
Built by the rulers of the Namgyal Dynasty, essentially the Ladakhi Royal Family, this palace, which still belongs to the Namgyal family today truly reflects a royal lifestyle. It has numerous intriguing features from the architectural principles behind the design, the royal apartments lined with ancient murals, the family’s private prayer chamber with monks through the ages providing spiritual security and guidance, mystery and wonder abound at Stok Palace. Arranged around multi-level interlinked courtyards with colourful decorative balconies at the upper levels, the five-storied main building supports service space, an entry courtyard, a ‘yabkhor’ (veranda) and a ‘lhakchung’ (temple) on the upper floor and the rooftop terrace is today the perfect spot for dining, sharing as it does breathtaking views of the Indus valley below.
The cultural significance of this palace is undeniable, and the palace museum shares its stories with visitors, students and guests alike. You can experience one of the palace’s six heritage rooms situated on different levels within the main building or book the Queen’s Room lined with ancient magical murals. There are four Standard Suite Rooms, The Royal Suite and The Queen’s Room available from 15 May to 15 October. There are also three wonderfully eco-sensitively constructed luxurious villas set under the trees in the apricot orchard at the rear of the palace that are open from 15 February to 30 November.
Talabgaon Castle Heritage Resort
This beautifully restored legendary 150-year-old family castle in regal Rajasthan, Talabgaon Castle, has been converted into a boutique hotel and heritage resort. Tucked away in the heart of Rajasthan, Talabgaon Castle has been in the family of Dileep Singh Rathore, a direct descendant of Thakur Vijay Singh ji Rathore, for centuries and overflows with tales of battle, honour and fearless warriors, that can all trace a heritage back to an ancient and mysterious Indian dynasty of the sun.
The restoration of Talabgaon Castle’s palatial estate grounds and extensive facilities are an expression of Dileep’s desire to share his family history and culture with fellow travellers. Each of the 18 heritage suites and 8 guestrooms overlook the gardens and swimming pools. Activities include camel safaris, horse trekking, visiting surrounding villages and temples, lunch in a traditional mud house on a local farm, and watching (or taking part in) a polo match on their polo field.
In 1908 Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath built a private villa residence on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River on Rattanakosin Island in the heart of royal Bangkok. Built as a family retreat away from palace life the Prince really couldn’t have selected a more perfect location graced as it is with breathtaking views towards the glistening spires of the Temple of Dawn – views enjoyed today from the restaurant and restaurant’s riverside terrace, timeless and wonderful views to accompany some of the best Royal Thai cuisine in Thailand. The villa has stayed in the Chakrabongse family, handed down the generations, and today rests in the hands of Khun Narisa Chakrabongse, the granddaughter of Prince Chakrabongse. Under her guidance and influenced by her passion (Khun Narisa is a keen advocate and champion of Thai history and culture and has also founded a publishing house, River Books, which specializes in publishing wonderful books on art, culture and history).
The villa is the apogee of a heritage boutique hotel, while still very much a family home. Chakrabongse Villas invites discerning travellers to experience the serene and privileged lifestyle of a bygone era. Each of the 7 suites is nestled in a lush, mature tropical garden that surrounds the original, and still standing, family villa-home. Chakrabongse Villas location is incredible too, this tranquil haven is the perfect base for anyone who wants to truly get under the skin of this incredible city and experience old Bangkok whilst still have the convenience of modern Bangkok on your doorstep thanks to a Skytrain station a few steps from the gates of Chakrabongse Villas and a pier linking you to the network of river boats that will share with you all the best sights, sounds, tastes and touches of what makes Thailand tick.
Brijrama Palace Heritage Hotel
‘Wow’ will be the first word you will utter as you cruise up to check-in by boat from the mighty river Ganges, and the incredible Brijrama Palace is revealed to you, its great carved sandstone façade standing majestically on the Darbhanga Ghat and overlooking the myriad variety of rituals and devotion that play out beneath the palace’s gaze in this holiest of holy cities. Brijrama Palace is one of Varanasi’s oldest landmarks located in one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Superlative in every sense, the palace is set on the banks of the River Ganges that flows through Varanasi. It was built in 1812 by Shridhara Narayana Munshi who was the minister for the Nagpur estate. In 1915, the Brahmin King of Darbhanga (Bihar), King Rameshwar Singh Bahadur, acquired the palace and the Ghat below the palace came to be known as the Darbhanga Ghat in honour of this royal resident.
In 1994, the palace was bought out by the Brijrama Hospitality group. At that time, it was in a complete state of disrepair and in dire need of restoration. The team took 18 years to completely and sensitively restore the palace, ensuring the property’s cultural and architectural heritage, and history, was preserved to be shared with generations of guests to come, and for the people of Varanasi. The completed property, now a heritage-boutique hotel, was then subsequently renamed the Brijrama Palace as a tribute to the founder of the Clarks Group, and his wife, who bought the ruined palace and resorted it in 1994.
Today the palace houses 32 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, with perhaps the Varuna Burj Room being the room to book offering as it does a not to be missed view from its turreted position which gives a 180 degree view of the river and city below. The central atrium of the palace is home to music and dance, traditional classical music and dance are performed every day, as would have been the case when the royals were home. The palace’s privileged position on the banks of the Ganges and the Dharbanga Ghat shares mesmerizing views of the river life with guests and the nightly rituals that take place on the ghat, as well as being perfectly located for exploring the wider city. A ‘must-visit’ and a ‘must-stay’ for any visitor to India.
…so what are you waiting for, book your stay now in some of Asia’s best heritage boutique hotels with Secret Retreats!