By Devorah Lev-Tov
July 08, 2020
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Courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Buildings throughout Southeast Asia showcase a range of architectural styles that embody the long history of each country, beginning from indigenous styles like Khmer and Buddhist, continuing through colonialism, and then on to postcolonialism and modernism. Through it all, an emphasis on sustainability and the use of natural materials has remained at the core. All the resorts on this year’s list combine various architectural and design elements from their location’s history to create a thoroughly modern example of luxury. Utilizing local materials like teak and other woods, bamboo, rattan, and silk, their thoughtful designs echo the past while feeling exceptionally of the moment.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Thailand captured five of the top six spots on the 2020 list. In addition to highlighting Thai architecture, the resorts all provide a deep sense of place through local food, culture, and wellness offerings. Another thing at which these resorts excel: top-notch service. “The staff is beyond perfection,” wrote one reader who stayed at the No. 6 Four Seasons Chiang Mai. Another respondent praised the No. 4 JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa by sharing they had a “fabulous experience with everyone.”

T+L readers genuinely appreciate a solid introduction to the local culture — something Aman properties always take seriously. Amantaka in Luang Prabang secured its No. 9 spot in part by going  above and beyond to engage guests with the local community. “The early morning rice offering to the monks was very special,” wrote one reader. Another respondent had equally glowing remarks for the No. 5 Amansara in Siem Reap, citing a few particularly memorable evenings when the property “invited in local dance groups, allowed us the opportunity to attend the local circus, and had a monk come and bless us for our anniversary.”

Below, find the full list of this year’s best resorts in Southeast Asia, including this year’s winner: the spectacular Anantara Chiang Mai.

1. Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

Score: 97.57

More information: anantara.com

The minimalist aesthetic and neutral color palette found across this waterfront retreat allow the lush scenery to truly shine. The centerpiece of the property is the old British consulate, which houses the excellent Service 1921 Restaurant and a rooftop lounge with panoramic river and city views. Thai artifacts and sculptures, deep soaking tubs, platform beds, and pops of colored textiles give each of the 84 teak-paneled rooms a sophisticated look. It might be tempting to spend full days luxuriating by the sleek pool, which overlooks the Ping River, but guests can also immerse themselves in local culture with cooking or kickboxing classes, guided market tours, or a host of other activities.

2. Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Courtsy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

Score: 95.09

More information: anantara.com

3. 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Courtesy of 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai

Score: 94.82

More information: 137pillarschiangmai.com

4. JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, Phuket, Thailand

Courtesy of JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa

Score: 94.09

More information: marriott.com

5. Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Courtesy of Aman

Score: 93.00

More information: aman.com

6. Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 92.80

More information: fourseasons.com

7. Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, Siem Reap, Cambodia

NOI Pictures/Courtesy of Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Resort & Spa

Score: 92.16

More information: sofitel-angkor-phokeethra.com

8. Anantara Angkor Resort, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

Score: 92.12

More information: anantara.com

9. Amantaka, Luang Prabang, Laos

Courtesy of Aman

Score: 91.70

More information: aman.com

10. Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 91.43

More information: fourseasons.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.