I like to brag that Singapore is the most perfectly positioned country in Asia. It’s true, we are geographically blessed to have prime positioning and excellent flight routes to access a diversity of hassle-free mini-break options. At The Hunt Guides we favour smaller, more intimate hotels that have a story behind them, unusual architecture or an interesting provenance.
It’s not about grandiose luxury and white-gloved waiters, rather we prefer the more unique offerings with a high standard of hospitality that is tailored to each guest. A hotel can make or break your getaway, so read on to see which hotels made our shortlist, then get cracking and start packing!
THE SIAM, Bangkok
Best for: A city getaway
Who doesn’t welcome a weekend in the Big Mango? And where better to base yourself than from this serene art deco-esque beauty sitting pretty on the Chao Praya riverfront. The impeccably designed 39 suites and pool villas are the perfect escape from the heaving Bangkok bustle, combing the best of contemporary and traditional aesthetics, with Thai accents throughout. Elegant and understated is the name of the game here. There’s butler service from warm staff who can’t do enough for you, divine breakfasts, (isn’t one of the best parts of going away a good morning spread?) muay thai gym complete with kick-ass trainers, and spa treatments fit for the sybarite. Frankly, I’d be happy to move
The Siam is located at 3/2 Thanon Khao, Vachirapayabal, Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand, Tel: +66 2206 6999. For more information go to www.thesiamhotel.com
CASA COLOMBO, Colombo
Best for: Design doyens
I simply adore Sri Lanka; tasty food, beautiful landscapes and friendly people. There is a lot to discover in this vast country of tea plantations, historic forts and sandy beaches. Yet, Colombo is often overlooked as a mere stopover or entry point. With a rich history brought by Malay, Chinese and Arab settlers, it’s got bags of heritage and history to soak up. Check into Casa Colombo for a dose of funk. The 200 year old colonial mansion was given a makeover by owner Lalin, ensuring sartorial splendor in the 12 commodious suites with 15 foot high ceilings and bold, individually designed interiors with all the electronic gizmos you could want. And when you emerge, a splash in the flamboyant pink-tiled pool or a snooze on the glass sunbeds is in order.
Casa Colombo, 231, Galle Road, Bambalapitiya, Colombo 4, Colombo 00400, Sri Lanka, Tel: +94 11 4 520130. For more information, go to www.casacolombo.com
BON TON RESORT, Langkawi
Best for: Poolside bliss
A mere 45 minute trip away by plane, Langkawi really is accessible for those seeking sun, sand and sea. Bon Ton Resort isn’t the newest or shiniest kid on the block, but it has loads of charm and a real sense of cultural identity about it. Comprised of eight individually restored antique Malay villas on the grounds of a 100 year old coconut plantation and lagoon, the rustic barefoot vibe is super relaxing and all that you want in a laid back tropical vacay. The restaurant is renowned as being one of the island’s best and serves up lip-smacking Malay fare. Best of all, Bon Ton funds an animal shelter, so there may be a few furry friends wandering around that like to ‘adopt’ guests who who are missing their own Fido or Tigger.
Bon Ton Resort, Jalan Pantai Cenang, Langkawi 07000, Malaysia, Tel: +60 4-955 364. For more information, go to www.bontonresort.com.my
WAPA DI UME RESORT & SPA, Bali
Best for: Switching off
No matter how many times I visit the island of the Gods, Bali, it never ceases to amaze me how peaceful and tranquil it is. I always feel rested and rebalanced after I’ve been ‒ aside side from when I do the Seminyak thing and overdose on cocktails at Potato Head and Ku de Ta. At this gorgeous Ubud retreat, Wapa di Ume Resort & Spa, you get a full tech detox as there are no TV’s or iPod docks here, so it’s all about nature’s soundtrack of croaking frogs, crickets and bird song. Wapa di Ume has the rustic earthy décor thing down pat, with the whole place done up in smooth woods, local textiles and alang-alang thatched roofing to soothe your stressed out city slicker senses. The doctors orders: Yoga, Balinese Bureh spa ritual, a bath in the sunken tub overlooking the rice fields, then off to see the sandman in your canopied crib. Oh, and there is a free shuttle to Ubud, although I don’t know why you’d want to leave this heavenly cocoon.
Wapa di Ume Resort & Spa, Jalan Suweta, Br. Bentuyung, Ubud 80571, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, Tel: +62 361 973178. For more information, to go www.wapadiume.com
SEVEN TERRACES, Penang
Best for: Epicureans
Heading to Penang to stuff yourself silly? Check out boutique hotel Seven Terraces in the heart of Georgetown. The owners have converted a row of 19th century shophouses into a timeless retreat packed with their own collection of antiques and capturing the essence of Peranakan culture. The 18 lofty suites are set around a frangipani-lined Chinese granite courtyard and evoke a bygone era in their bijou elegance. Some have terraces or a mezzanine, and all are unique. The restaurant is definitely worth a visit once you’ve had your fill of hawker fare. Think classic Indo and Straits Chinese Nyonya dishes with a French twist.
Seven Terraces, 2-16 Stewart Lane, Georgetown 10200, Penang Island, Malaysia, Tel: +60 4 264 2333. For more information, go to www.seventerraces.com
MEKONG ESTATE, Luang Prabang
Best for: Romantic colonial vibes
Luang Prabang is a sleepy little Buddhist Unesco World Heritage town, and I hope it stays that way. It’s teeny tiny and easily done in a weekend. Down a bumpy dirt road off the main drag sits a glorious villa hotel on the banks of the Mekong River. Designed by Swiss architect Jean-Pierre, Mekong Estate incorporates a colonial sensibility with local artisanal touches. It’s the sort of place that just begs for a G&T at sunset on your private balcony or by the glorious lap pool. There’s no restaurant, but they do serve up breakfast. When you’re ready to explore, borrow a bike to cruise around town, everything is within easy access and it’s great being in a local neighbourhood where you can observe authentic Lao life. This is your Luang Prabang home away from home.
Mekong Estate, Ban Saylom 1, Mekong River Bank, Luang Prabang 06000, Laos, Tel: +856 71 212929. For more information, go to mekongestate.com
RACHAMANKHA, Chiang Mai
Best for: History & temple buffs
I think I’m done with the Thai islands – been there, done that. The north however, remains terra incognita. Chiang Mai has a lot to offer and I love Thailand’s second city. The walled, older part of the city was founded in 1296, while the Rachamankha, situated next to Wat Phra Singh and arguably the most famous temple, dates back to 1345. There are four more temples within walking distance to take in, but the hotel is worth a tour in itself, with its exquisite Lanna architecture, hidden courtyards and gardens. The library is my favourite place, housing a splendid collection of over 2000 antique and modern tomes and a decanter of brandy for you to help yourself to. I fear it may instill a rather anti-social evening routine, but let’s face it, a holiday is all about R&R, and what better way to take it easy than with a stiff drink and a good book pre or post a toothsome Thai curry?
Rachamankha, 6 Rachamankha, 9 Phra Singh, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand, Tel: + 66 53 904 111. For more information, go to www.rachamankha.com
VILLA SAMADHI, Kuala Lumpur
Best for: Urban escapes
Villa holidays in Asia aren’t just for Bali and Phuket. There are a fair few springing up in cities too, and I’m intrigued by Villa Samadhi in Kuala Lumpur. KL is so close, but I rarely get there as often as I’d like. Now I think there is good reason to go more frequently. With 21 plush rooms decked out with all the mod cons, and an Asian eco-luxe design, it’s only 10 minutes from the city centre (KLCC) so you can get your urban food and shopping fix hassle free. The no kids under 12 policy means you can laze by the lagoon pool cabanas sans screaming babies, my absolute travel pet peeve. Perfect for a romantic weekend, or when you just need to chill, eat and sleep.
Villa Samadhi, No. 8, Persiaran Madge, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tel: +603 2143 2300. For more information, go to villasamadhi.com.my
COVE 55, Kuching
Best for: Group holidays
This sleek, white-washed villa sleeps 24 party people, and is the ideal escape for a group celebration. It’s fully staffed with smiling butlers to tend to your every whim, you’ve got privacy in spades and a stellar outdoor audio system by the pool to get your groove on and let your hair down. If you get cabin fever, the Sarawak Cultural Village, as well as a fabulous seafood restaurant are just 5 minutes away. The Talang Satang National Park is accessible via speedboat and well worth a gander to learn about marine turtle conservation. Fancy a foray into town? You’re only 25 minutes away.
Cove 55, Lot 55, Block 3, Salak Land District, Telok Nipah, Santubong Damai Road 93010, Santubong, Sarawak, Malaysia, Tel: +6082 846068. For more information, go to cove55.com
VIROTH'S HOTEL, Siem Reap-Angkor
Best for: Angkor Wat first-timers
If you haven’t been to Siem Reap yet, it’s time to go! Yes, the ruins may be touristy, but they have to be ticked off the bucket list. Three days is all you need – more than that and you’ll develop a severe case of temple-itis. I also advocate splitting your days in two parts. Do your exploring in the mornings when the weather is a bit cooler, and then enjoy lazy afternoons by the salt-water pool or spa of this sweet and petite seven room Khmer pad. Take your evening libations at their rooftop bar and ask the front desk about their fantastic little restaurant around the corner. The location is also prime for escaping the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap while still being walking distance from the market.
Viroth's Hotel, #14 Street 23 Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap-Angkor, Cambodia, Tel: +855 12 778 096. For more information, go to www.viroth-hotel.com
The Hunt Guide to Singapore, second edition, is coming out soon but you can keep up to date with the best independent eating and shopping experiences in Singapore via its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheHuntGuides.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Viroth's Hotel was previously titled Samar Villas & Spa Resort by mistake apologies for any confusion this may have caused.