The Best New Hotels in Southeast Asia
Travelers' tendency to visit more than one Southeast Asian country on a single trip means the region is sometimes mistakenly regarded as a monolith, the nuances of each nation's landscape and culture lost on first-time visitors from the West.
And while it's true that proximity makes some overlap inevitable, this corner of the globe is so richly diverse it would take a lifetime of return trips to take it all in. That applies just as much to the region's hotel offerings — and thanks to a slew of new openings, the luxury hotel scene in the region is quickly becoming as varied and dynamic as the countries themselves.
Sleepy towns are now beachfront destinations, backpacker havens are adding intimate, well-heeled boutique hotels, and cities once dominated by business travelers are becoming leisure destinations with the arrival of tony, escape-from-it-all resorts. With so many new ways to experience Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, why travel anywhere else?
In historic Hoi An, travelers have traditionally spent more time along the waterways of the city’s old town than on its beaches. That’s changing, thanks in part to the newly revamped Nam Hai (doubles from $575), now a Four Seasons resort, located on a half-mile stretch of private oceanfront just outside town.
The 100 villas and public spaces have been given an elegant makeover, with liberal use of local silk and teak, while additions like a cooking school, kids’ club, and beachside cocktail bar make it feel like a whole new place.
Meanwhile, a half-hour south of the resort town of Nha Trang, the new Anam (doubles from $175) promises to elevate a quiet part of the Cam Ranh peninsula into a fully fledged destination. This beachfront property comprises 96 rooms and suites and 117 private villas — each one airy and bright, with rosewood floors and mosaic tiling.
Farther south, on an island 25 miles offshore, JW Marriott debuted its 244-room Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa (doubles from $390) in March. Here, jewel-tone upholstery, graphic tile floors, and lacquered moldings add a boutique feel to stately, French-colonial-inspired architecture.
As one of Thailand’s oldest resort towns, Hua Hin isn’t typically associated with edgy hotel design. Which makes the tiny Hotel Bocage (doubles from $160), a six-room property that debuted in April, all the more surprising. Its minimalist aesthetic (think polished concrete floors, glass walls, and a hyper-neutral palette) gives it a contemporary, urban feel.
Later this year, three more arrivals will breathe new life into the island resorts of southern Thailand. On Koh Samui, Beach Samui (doubles from $300) — part of the Design Hotels portfolio — will have 21 ocean-facing suites with whitewashed oak walls, chesterfield ottomans, and crystal chandeliers.
Ever-popular Phuket is soon to get an update, too. In October, Baba Beach Club (doubles from $740) will bring a party-ready vibe to Natai Beach, with 16 oceanfront suites and villas of up to five bedrooms catering to groups of friends.
And later this year, Rosewood Phuket (doubles from $750) opens on a quiet stretch of sand in the island’s southwestern corner. The hotel will have four restaurants and 71 villas along 2,000 feet of shoreline, some with private pools for guests seeking total seclusion.
In sleepy Laos, any new property is big news, so the arrival of two landmark resorts constitutes
a major event. January saw the opening of Azerai (doubles from $250) in the temple town of Luang Prabang, where a former French officers’ quarters has been reimagined as a 53-room retreat. The new hotel, on a spit of land between the Khan and Mekong rivers, has a light, modern feel. Though the lush central courtyard and pool make all-day lounging a temptation, you’d be remiss not to take advantage of the prime location, just a short walk from the attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Later this year, in a forested setting a few miles outside the town center, Rosewood Luang Prabang (rates unavailable at press time) will unveil a riverfront retreat with 23 villas and tents modeled on traditional Laotian teak houses. It’s purpose-built for a romantic getaway, with outdoor showers and tubs, porches for private dining, and a spa for unwinding à deux.
Thanks to openings in the capital, Phnom Penh, and along the coastline, travelers to Cambodia will have more reasons to venture beyond the temples of Siem Reap. The shift starts this fall when the 175-room Rosewood Phnom Penh (doubles from $250) launches on the top 14 floors of the Vattanac Capital Tower, Cambodia’s tallest building.
There’s also a boom in island retreats since the addition of air routes to the coast from Kuala Lumpur and
Ho Chi Minh City. On Koh Russey, Alila Villas (doubles from $300) occupies 61 acres of forest and beachfront, and each of the spacious villas has a private pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited debut is the 40-villa Six Senses (rates unavailable at press time), which is slated to open on remote Krabey Island early next year. The amenities will be abundant: plans include four dining options, cooking classes, a spa, plunge pools for every villa, and an observatory for stargazing.