New Delhi, Agra, Calcutta,
Mumbai, Hong Kong, Macau,
Bangkok, Saigon, Angkor,
Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka
In the early 20th century, travelers who entered the bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore were practically certain of coming across hunting enthusiasts sipping their cocktails or playing a game of pool, reminiscing about an unforgettable tiger hunt. At the time, inveterate travelers dreamed of the Far East, of adventures in the humid depths of Burmese jungles, of drinks among friends in some colonial bar in a newly opened hotel in Singapore, Vietnam — in Annam — or Malaysia. The Asian legend had huge appeal, and travelers fond of distant destina- tions would see themselves braving all sorts of dangers in the heart of impenetrable forests, wearing their colonial helmets and white twill suits. It was the time of great expeditions, of Citroën’s Croisière Jaune from Beirut to Peking via unexplored routes, of epic journeys that sparked vocations and incited countries to build luxury hotels, where an adventurer could recover and boast about his exploits.
In around 1915, the Chinese bartender of Raffles, Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon, invented the Singapore Sling (originally composed of gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, and pineapple juice). He was far from imagining that his cocktail would later be mixed by barmen all over the world. The Long Bar was the obligatory stop-off for all the great travelers who passed through Singapore. It was more or less inaugurated by Joseph Conrad, one of the first travel writers on the hotel’s long list. People came to enjoy the shade of the verandah, dance in the ballroom, and, when they weren’t at the hotel, cross town in a rickshaw, winding through the patchwork crowds of Chinese, Malays, Armenian, Jews, and Bengalis, among others. In 1921, the hotel was already so well known that it published its own travel guides. Sophisticated adventurers could also be seen in the very Victorian-style Strand Hotel opened in Yangon, Burma, in 1901, considered one of the most elegant establishments of Asia; or at Peach Hotel in Shanghai, where Noël Coward had just finished writing his play Private Lives. In Cambodia, the Grand Hotel in Angkor offered all sorts of eccentrics, lady travelers, local notables, fortune hunters, pleasure seekers, and writers an extraordinary place to stay during their journey, near the Khmer temples that were almost engulfed by the jungle. Among the first to inaugurate these favorite stopovers were Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and Somerset Maugham, who recounted his journey in his usual caustic manner in The Gentleman in the Parlour: A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong.
In Japan, many writers found inspiration in the traditional ryokans. Kawabata Yasunari was fond of Kyoto’s Hiiragiya, open since 1818, a haven of Japanese refinement and culture with its stepping-stone garden, kaiseki meals, tea ceremony, and fantastic baths. Travelers visited Hakone and Kamakura, on the Izu peninsula, nicknamed the “Japanese Riviera,” and relaxed in the hot water springs of Unzen, an extremely popular tourist destination since 1910.
About World Tour
Louis Vuitton and Editions Xavier Barral published an original travel book: World Tour, a genuine journey around the world in twenty-one stopovers with 1,000 hotel labels from the collection constituted by Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Formerly stuck to the luggage of travelers, these small posters tell us their fabulous adventure and inspire an initiatory journey, a Grand Tour back to the mythical past of the Art of travel.
This fascinating volume by well-known travel writer Francisca Mattéoli draws on his collection to pay tribute to the most famous hotels of the world, evoking 21 world destinations through texts, illustrations, archive documents and quotations from famous travelers.
Learn more about Louis Vuitton’s World Tour.
Images via Louis Vuitton