From chic urban escapes to high-end beachside boutiques, spring has brought a flurry of Asia’s best new hotels to our attention. Whether it’s stargazing into undimmed skies, taking a personalised local history tour with your host, or eating breakfast in the afternoon just because you can, take a peek at what makes the sharpest new properties worth sitting up and paying attention to...
Sometimes a hotel’s location is simply in a class of its own. In cases like this, the skill lies in finding the right ratio between the luxurious experience and an aesthetic that doesn’t distract. The Wild Coast Tented Lodge on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park strikes the ideal balance.
A scattering of organically-shaped accommodation pods (appropriately named ‘cocoons’, as they are designed to nurture and envelop) nestle gently into natural spaces between the vegetation, enclosing all the extras of a top hotel suite within cosy canvas walls. Some have private pools which are so skillfully concealed behind trees that you barely notice them until you’re almost in the water, and the family accommodation includes ever-so-cute separate ‘urchin’ tents for the kids.
As a result of this thoughtful design, the wild coast itself remains centre stage. The low-growing trees peter out, giving way to the smooth curve of sand dunes that lead to a rocky shore and the powerful crashing of the waves. Enjoy picnics and sundowners on the rough dunes as you stare at the rise and fall of the ocean swell, un-interrupted stargazing away from the light pollution of the city, and the thrill of leopard-spotting right on your doorstep: the full works.
Borneo’s Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort sits on a biodiversity crossroads, where several rare habitats meet, making it home to a bewilderingly vast array of wildlife and plant species. From the extensive use of solar-generated electricity to the filtration of rain and river water to use onsite, this resort is 100% committed to preserving the pristine surroundings.
You reach this cluster of discreet lodges via an hour-long boat trip along the Kinabatangan River, which is a particularly visceral way to leave the trappings of urban life behind. Compelled to slow down and look around, you’ll catch glimpses of Proboscis monkeys leaping through the jungle, and maybe even spy a pygmy elephant or two. As for luxury? The chic modern interiors and high-quality finish are remarkable in such a remote setting: cosy beds where you can curl up and continue gazing into the raw rainforest even as you fall asleep. Stunning.
With a dedication to leaving a pro-actively positive footprint on their surroundings, the recently-completed Mu Cang Chai Eco-lodge in Vietnam focuses on community involvement and feeding back into the local economy. Set on a hill overlooking the famous rice terraces in the heart of Mu Cang Chai, the resort’s hospitality teams are staffed by members of the local Hmong community and the buildings are carefully designed to compliment the region’s traditional architecture and picturesque landscape.
An admirably strict sustainability policy ensures maximum ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, the boats’ electric engines are recharged using renewable hydro-power and, at a breezy 1430m above sea level, there’s no need for air conditioning! High-quality ingredients are sourced daily from local farms and suppliers, which you can enjoy in a variety of freshly-prepared dishes as you look across the smooth curves of the rice terraces below: a pretty special dining experience, to say the least.
Neighbouring the Khoo Khongsi temple in Penang’s UNESCO Heritage-listed Georgetown quarter are a row of beautifully restored 19th century houses which make up the Clans Khongsi boutique hotel. Built in the 1860s to house travellers arriving from China, the Sixteen Houses (as they were originally known) are architectural time capsules displaying a unique mix of Hokkien, Western and Malay influences seen only in this area of Malaysia.
The houses were painstakingly restored to revive their original character, while simultaneously bringing them up to top contemporary standards, before the hotel finally opened its doors in July 2017. The elegant complex now consists of 15 residences, each with three expansive guest suites, lounge-style living areas where you can enjoy leisurely afternoon teas, and sheltered courtyards for savouring quiet moments.
Many of Penang’s historic sites are within comfortable walking distance, including the Acheen Street Mosque and Sri Mahamariamman Temple, and guests at the Clan Khongsi can visit the elaborately-decorated main Khoo Khongsi House as many times as they wish during their stay. Depending on the weather, early risers can head out each morning on a free 45-minute history-focused walking tour to chat with the hotel hosts and get a local perspective on the area’s rich cultural heritage.
In an era where the stakes get ever-higher in the race to be ‘king of the (sand) castle’, beach-side hotels have to think outside the box to give themselves an edge. This often comes in the form of creating an idyll where every aspect of your stay is slickly attended to and you never have to lift a finger (except perhaps to turn the pages of your book or sip your cocktail.) Though we all crave this bliss once in a while, there’s more to standing out from the coastal crowd than extravagance alone.
Vietnam’s new all-inclusive Fusion Spa Resort, on the tropically picture-perfect island of Phu Quoc, has all the high-end wellness facilities you could want, including 20 spa treatment rooms and a full programme of yoga, qi gong and meditation. All of the above and more is included in the cost of your stay, so you don’t have to worry about any added extras, and you’re guaranteed a minimum of two spa treatments per day.
There’s a refreshingly light touch to it all so that, in their words, the wellness aspect doesn’t ‘get in the way of your holiday’ – it’s there when you want it and in the background if not. This philosophy is best exemplified in the (rather genius) ‘breakfast any time, anywhere’ concept which implies absolute approval to lay-in until 4pm and enjoy breakfast by the pool at 5 if that’s your style! Wander through the fragrant spice gardens that celebrate the famous Phu Quoc pepper, enjoy the benefits of the fruit itself with a Natural Living Pepper massage, then take a walk on the beach or chill out with an open-air movie (coming soon to this Fusion Spa...)
COMO Uma Canggu on Bali’s west coast is one of a handful of uber-luxury resorts that have taken the evocatively-named Echo Beach (are you humming the song yet?) from off-the-radar surfers’ paradise to beach holiday hot-spot. Seclusion is one of this location’s biggest draws - if you want more of the infamous Bali high-life, head a little further south.
COMO makes this seclusion their top asset too with elegant, private pods where you can hunker down away from the everyday rush with the bonus of high-end luxury on tap. Enjoy lazy days with views over the ocean from your well-positioned penthouse bed, glow from the inside out with a virtuous concoction from the juice bar, and take up a prime position to watch the best sunsets in Canggu with your favourite sundowner in hand. Especially good for honeymooners looking for a laid-back getaway.
Last, but very far from least, is the shiny new Royal Sands resort on Cambodia’s ever-gorgeous Koh Rong island. To out-do the expanding market in Cambodia you’ve got to take things up a notch, and the Royal Sands are making it their long-term mission to be Top of the luxury holiday Pops in their neighbourhood. As the resort only opened in 2017, there are still a few details to be ironed out here and there, but this is really worth a visit before the hype brings in the crowds. As reflected in the high-end cost, this is one for splashing out on so don’t hold back: take advantage of the helicopter transfer service and arrive in style, enjoy spa treatments as you watch tropical fish swim under the glass floor and settle in round the campfire for al-fresco dinners and drinks with front-row ocean views.