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In Your Element: Hotels Where You Can Balance Your Qi

Ahead of Chinese New Year, we've identified a hotel inspired by each of the five elements. Find out which is best suited to your birth year

According to Chinese wuxing philosophy, which underpins fields such as feng shui and astrology, five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – form the foundation of everything in the universe. Every human body contains the complete range of elements, though one element is most prominent depending on your birth year. According to the theory, maintaining harmony between all five elements is important: otherwise bad energy can sneak into your life and affect your mood, health, career, relationships and more. In honour of the Year of the Ox, we explore five hotels where you can balance your qi in style.


Best for: Snake, Horse

Healing Stay Kosmos, South Korea

There are few places as otherworldly as Healing Stay Kosmos. Set on a cliff edge on the volcanic island of Ulleungdo, three hours by ferry off South Korea’s eastern coast, the sculptural white address overlooks the East Sea and a ring of dramatic mountains. The hotel’s ultra-luxe private wing, Villa Kosmos, promises to boost your qi with spa-like surrounds, dual yin and yang spas (depending what you need that day), and four element-themed suites – Mars (fire), Mercury (water), Jupiter (wood) and Venus (metal) – which guests are assigned based on their birthday. The interior design changes dramatically from room to room, with the firey Mars suite kitted out in rich red accents, terracotta stone tiles and a view of the sunrise.


Best for: Ox, Dragon, Goat, Dog

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Abu Dhabi

The largest uninterrupted desert in the world, the Rub’ al Khali (also known as the Empty Quarter), stretches across large swathes of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Smack in the middle of the towering golden dunes, you’ll find Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. About 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi, this luxurious desert retreat offers a front-row seat to the lunar-like scenery from your suite’s private terrace. Rebalance your qi and bolster your inner earth element by filling your days with outdoorsy experiences like camel trekking, fat-biking, desert yoga and sandboarding – or, come evening, kick back on a plush cushion for a Bedouin-style feast surrounded by rolling dunes.


Best for: Pig, Rat

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

Credit: Justin Nicholas

What better way to ensure your water element flows freely than by sleeping under the sea? In 2018, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island unveiled The Muraka – the world’s first underwater residence. The expansive villa sets the tone on the first floor with an elegant dining room, infinity pool, outdoor deck and direct access to the Indian Ocean. Once you head down a spiral staircase, things get really interesting: a dedicated ‘tunnel viewing theatre’ showcases rainbow-hued fish and fanning coral, while the view from the master bedroom feels like your own personal aquarium. In addition to some serious architectural chops, The Muraka offers a slew of amenities: private speedboat, personal chef, round-the-clock butler service, personal trainer, masseuse, jet skis and an optional film crew to capture it all.

Credit: Justin Nicholas


Best for: Monkey, Rooster

The Slate, Thailand

Need more metal to balance your qi? Pack your bags for Phuket. Long before the Thai island was a hotspot for sunseekers and honeymooners, it was home to a thriving tin mining industry that spurred economic development from the mid-1700s to the 1970s. ‘Black gold,’ as it was nicknamed, was so integral to the island that it was traded as legal currency until the 1930s. Though the industry has since declined, Phuket’s black-gold legacy has been embraced by The Slate (formerly Indigo Pearl), an avant-garde luxury hotel that’s run by the descendants of former mining magnates: Phuket’s ‘father of tourism’ Wichit Na-Ranong and his daughter Prakaikaew Na-Ranong. Brought to life by the ever-imaginative architect Bill Bensley, The Slate captures the concept through myriad design details, from industrial-chic steel pillars to cool concrete floors, hammered metal, mining lamps and charcoal-hued bathtubs.


Best for: Tiger, Rabbit

The Birdhouse, Philippines

Winding bamboo staircases, glamping tents nestled in the trees, panoramic views of Bacuit Bay: The Birdhouse in El Nido immerses guests in the tropical jungle of stunning Palawan in the southwestern Philippines. A passion project by husband-wife duo Mark-Anthony and Camille Dimson Villaflor, the eco-minded boutique property is home to five tents, a yoga pavilion, a relaxed treehouse-inspired restaurant, permaculture garden and sylvan scenery everywhere you look. Ideal for those craving some uninterrupted time with Mother Nature, The Birdhouse provides a great base from which to explore El Nido’s famed lagoons, beaches and subterranean rivers.

This story was originally published in January 2020 and updated in January 2021

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