At the end of a day exploring what’s new in our destinations, the Selective Asia team all look forward to sitting back with a glass of something cool and soaking in the sunset. We’ve compiled a list of our favourite places in Asia for a sundowner, from the tops of skyscrapers to blissful beachside bars, so you can find your ideal spot…
If you’ve got a serious head for heights, the only place to see the Bangkok sunset is from a rooftop bar. While there are many to choose from, the original and most hyped is the Sky Bar at the Lebua Hotel, which practically shimmers with Hollywood heritage. This open-air bar on the 63rd floor is not for the faint-hearted, and can get pretty crowded at cocktail o’clock, but the 360˚ views of the Bangkok skyline make braving the crowds and the vertigo worth it.
While we’re up close to the clouds, the chic EON51 complex on the upper floors of the Bitexco Financial Tower offers sophisticated surroundings where you can spend the twilight hours. Order the ‘highest coffee in Saigon’ at Café Eon, enjoy fine dining with floor-to-ceiling skyline views and dance the night away at the cooler-than-cool Heli Bar. Stay until closing and you might see the sun come up again!
Made famous as the nightly haunt of Bill Murray’s character, Bob, in ‘Lost In Translation’, the New York Bar at Tokyo's Park Hyatt radiates the sort of achingly hip chic that compels you to order a Suntory whisky and contemplate life’s complexities. A programme of sultry live jazz adds the perfect soundtrack as you watch the silhouettes of Tokyo’s iconic skyline light up in their vivid nocturnal neon.
A world away from the dizzying modernity which rises around it, Jack’s Bar is an antidote to the rush of Bangkok’s 24/7 timetable. There’s something refreshing about stepping away from the skyscrapers and the traffic to this little shack by the river, cracking open a Singha beer and taking a breath. Gazing up at the buildings from ground level gives you a chance to slow down and notice the spaces in between, which might otherwise be missed.
With only the soothing gurgle of the Nam Ou river to interrupt the silence, a seat on the terrace at the Mandala Ou, Nong Khiaw delivers the pure peace and quiet that’s needed when you crave some time away from the beaten track. After a day exploring the Nong Khiaw region, take a seat at the poolside bar and let the staff mix you up a classic cocktail, or try a shot of Lao Lao to warm your cockles as the night draws in.
Staying near the water, the Le Moon rooftop lounge at the Amanjaya may not have the towering perspective of a skybar, but rewards you instead with uninterrupted views across the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. From your elevated vantage point you can see the comings and goings of Phnom Penh as you sip one or two of Le Moon’s speciality cocktails and watch the last rays of the evening sun illuminate the city’s pagodas.
Phnom Penh has a few true rooftop bars too, of which Eclipse is certainly the highest. With just a row of half-height glass panels and chrome fences separating you from the open sky, this bar is as stylish as it is vertigo-inducing. Though only 23 storeys up, you get full 360° views of Phnom Penh’s relatively low-rise cityscape, and often across to the Cardamom Mountains on the horizon, making it the ideal setting for pre-dinner drinks and a sunset selfie.
When you’ve whiled away the day exploring Vientiane’s temples, and the chill of the evening is just beginning to prickle at your skin, what could be better than sitting on the riverbank with a Beer Laos? If you’re not in the mood for painting the town red, just find a quiet spot by the water’s edge and watch the blue sky turn amber. If you’re further north, check out the terrace at Luang Say Lodge in Pakbeng, where you can enjoy a chilled-out evening looking across the river to Thailand.
Staying by the water, the Sailing Club at the Knai Bang Chat is ideal for stealing an hour or so to savour life’s pleasures. Nestle back into a deep chair on the terrace as the breeze from across the Gulf of Thailand sweeps away the heat of the day. As for our pick of sundowners to sip as your daydreams sail into the horizon? It has to be the poetically-titled house cocktail, consisting of rum, vodka, orange, pineapple and grenadine, called (naturally) Essence of Sunset.
It’s not difficult to find picture-perfect locations for sundowner cocktails along Thailand’s miles of pristine coastline, and hard to pick a favourite, but Tubkaak Resort is right up there. Tucked away in Phang Nga Bay, and sheltered from the weather by the distant archipelago, this heavenly gem offers total serenity. Find a seat next to the sand and listen to the wash of the waves and the sounds of the forest as sunset turns to twilight and the sky fills with stars.
Having seen the sunset from the beach, the next step is to venture out onto the water (where light pollution is at its lowest) and sail to where the sea meets the sky. The phinisi boats that sail the Flores sea give you a glimpse into an older way of life, before the dawn of our technology-heavy age. During the day, you can hop between prehistoric-looking islands where ‘there be dragons’ (Komodo ones!), before raising a glass as the sun sinks below the horizon.
One of the most spectacular ways to see a sunset in Luang Prabang is from the top of Mount Phousi, when the effort of the climb is rewarded with panoramic highlights of nature’s nightly light show. Drinking is inappropriate while at this sacred site, so reward yourself later with a relaxing drink in a bar down at sea-level. For a virtuous, non-alcoholic boost, try fresh coconut water sipped straight from the shell.
Coming full circle, the Shangri-la Sky bar sits high above the city sprawl, but this time the city in question is Kuala Lumpur. On the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel, the Shangri-la can get crowded at peak times, so arrive early and grab yourself in one of the poolside booths. Once you’ve settled into your cosy corner, order one of the house speciality cocktails (such as the gin and elderflower Selangor Sling) and watch the Petronas Towers sparkle in the sunset.
The combination of comforting surroundings, refreshing drinks and the satisfaction of a day well spent is what gives the sundowner hours their magic. Chat with our Destination Specialists about the best place for a sundowner in your chosen destination. I’m off to mix up something fruity...