Doc Holiday, news.com.au
It's said that there's no place like home, but don't believe it.
There are some hotel rooms so comfortable and so well-designed for which in your fantasy moments you'd happily swap your own home if you could (particularly in light of the prevailing attitude of Australian banks towards downward interest rates).
On one recent trip I tried to figure out how many hotel rooms I've stayed in over the years in my rather fortunate life as a travel writer and inveterate traveller.
I quickly abandoned the count since there must be hundreds, possibly thousands, of rooms to which I've checked in and out.
But then I thought, what if I created my ultimate hotel room from my favourite features at the various hotels where I've been a guest over the years, and which hotels would qualify? As an exercise it's proved a lot harder than I imagined, but here goes:
One feature that I find overrated is the view. After a day or so you tire of it and then you're just left pondering the extra expense incurred in securing it. But, then again, anyone who tires of looking at the enduringly elegant Eiffel Tower is surely tired of life. Few Parisian hotels match the location of the posh Plaza Athenee, which affords spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower from many of its rooms, including the nightly light-show during which time the structure is dazzlingly illuminated with thousands of choreographed fairy-lights.
Special mention also goes to the Oberoi Amarvillas in Agra, India, which boasts the only full-frontal view of the Taj Mahal, while at Longitude 131 you can recline the bed in your luxury tent accommodation as you watch the sun rise over Uluru. Heaven.
Hi-tech hotel rooms drive me mad. Give me a standard light switch that I can find in the dark anytime (and please don't hide them behind heavy curtains so that I can't find them when I want to go to sleep). But at the luxurious Peninsula Tokyo, located in the famed Ginza district, they've somehow managed to make hotel hi-tech accessible. When your bedside room phone rings in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning for a wake-up call, a soft blue down-light beam on it, meaning you needn't switch on the room-light to answer it. Elsewhere in the room theres a display panel with the current outside temperature and wind-speed (perfect for deciding on how to dress for the day).
Then, in the walk-in wardrobe theres a nail-dryer for female guests on the run. Of course, this being Japan, there's a fully-automated electric toilet with a lid that raises the moment you approach it. (Unfortunately, it annoyingly kept opening each time I passed the cubicle on the way to the hand-basin).
The bath in my suite at Tobira Onsen Myojinkan near the small, central Honshu city of Matsumoto, was actually outside, just a few steps from the room itself. When I stayed at this Japanese spa some years ago it was winter.
There were icicles hanging from the roof over the bath overlooking a gently flood-lit snowy, cedar-studded hill. Undeterred I plunged in with the water at a reassuring 40C-plus. Pure bliss, but don't dawdle getting back to the room proper.
It wasn't necessarily the best shower I've ever experienced but it was certainly the quirkiest. At Klapsons, a design hotel in Singapore, the spa-age shower recess, in a clever room-saving measure, is enclosed in a Perspex cylinder in the middle of your room.
The One&Only Cape Town is a contender for my best view from a hotel room award as it's located right below the South African city's iconic Table Mountain. But the one (though not only) memory I took away from this hotel was the extraordinary, open-plan bathrooms. There were double basins and vanities and a large, egg-shaped jacuzzi tub from which you could linger and savour the view of Cape Town's broody landmark as well as a daily aromatherapy bath menu.
This item has become standard kit, and not just at five-star hotels. Ideally it should feel new (or near new), it should not be scratchy and it must be sufficiently discreet and long enough to be able to greet room service or housekeeping without any unfortunate mishaps. My most recent favourite was found at The Fullerton on the Bay in Singapore. It was so damned soft and fluffy that I could have released it off my balcony looking across from the Marina Bay Sands casino complex and it could have been mistaken for a low cloud.
This is a hard one - not the bed itself, but the task of choosing one. Hotels these days go to great lengths to get the guest bed comfort factor right, even to the point of having them custom-made to their own specifications and available for sale to appreciative guests. As I find this one too difficult to answer, I'm going to defer to my partner's advice. She has never stopped enthusing about the bed in our room at the Le Royal Siem Reap, near the fantastic ruins of Angkor Wat, though we did stop short of buying it.
At the Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris the legendary designer Philippe Starck has solved the problem of oversized TVs hogging vital room space by embedding them in full-length feature mirrors. Just use the remote control to switch on the TV and the screen magically appears, right where the reflection used to be. When the TV is not in use you can use the mirror as normal, or groom yourself while simultaneously watching CNN.
The espresso machine
When I checked the room service menu during a recent stay at aforementioned The Fullerton on the Bay, I almost fell out of bed when I saw the charge for a cappuccino delivered to the suite. Fortunately the room featured an espresso machine, increasingly (and happily) a standard feature at many hotels, and not just five-star ones, with an open box displaying the largest selection of coffee pod varieties imaginable. It also meant I didn't have to worry about greeting room service in my bathrobe.
The room service
Speaking of room service, it helps if you love Japanese cuisine but in my (travelogue) book the best room service in the world is that offered at Japanese ryokans, or traditional inns. Inevitably delicious, lavish Japanese meals, both breakfast and dinner, are included in the tariff, and are graciously delivered to your tatami-matted, paper-walled room. The food usually includes local seasonal ingredients and specialities, providing a true sense of place. Of course, you sit on the floor to partake your meal and you're encouraged to slip in your cotton yukata (Japanese bathrobe) for extra comfort.
Read Doc Holidays weekly travel advice column in the Escape lift-out the News Ltd Sunday papers nationally. Send your travel-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org