10 new standout hotels in Asia, from India's Raffles to a digital nomad's haven in Cambodia
An eight-suite hideaway in a Himalayan pine forest. The latest Banyan Tree in Ubud, Bali. A Phnom Penh hotel aimed at socialising and working collaboratively. We found 10 accommodations that span countries, tastes and budgets.
From ryokans overlooking rice fields to resorts on private islands, there’s no shortage of inviting places to stay in Asia.
Here are 10 noteworthy newcomers – a modest selection given the hundreds of tantalising properties that have opened since the beginning of the pandemic.
Yet, taken together, this handful of hotels spans countries, tastes and budgets, from less than US$100 (S$143) a night to thousands of dollars a night (all the properties below provided their rates in US dollars).
Individually, each has some quality that makes it stand out: Its architecture, unconventional location, creative social spaces, debut as a new brand, intimate size or sheer opulence.
Whether you’re considering a trip to the pine forests of Bhutan or the bustling capital of Vietnam, let these hotels be a departure point for your imagination.
SIX SENSES BUMTHANG
There are just eight suites at Six Senses Bumthang, a graceful hideaway in a Himalayan pine forest. Some trees grow through the stone flooring of the terrace used for al fresco dining. Others rise from the open-air vestibules of the suites. (There’s also a two-bedroom villa to accommodate families or friends traveling together.) Sitting atop a hillside, amid farmland and ancient monasteries, it’s a plum spot for forest bathing, and a bucolic base from which guests can set off for a Buddhist pilgrimage site, bike through fields dotted with prayer flags or spend an afternoon foraging for mushrooms.
Such activities seem fitting in a kingdom known for its environmental consciousness and pioneering quality of life indicator, Gross National Happiness. Speaking of quality of life, guests can partake of different types of massages as well as rituals like the traditional dotsho, a hot stone bath that uses mineral-rich stones from riverbeds.
Bumthang is the most recent of five lodges from Six Senses to open in Bhutan’s western and central valleys, forming a collection of properties called Six Senses Bhutan – the others are known as Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Paro – that enable visitors with the time and money to valley-hop through the kingdom.
Prices from US$2,100 a night, including taxes, service charge and daily full-board meals.
TRIBE PHNOM PENH POST OFFICE SQUARE
Aiming to attract the growing number of digital nomads, the 260-room TRIBE Phnom Penh Post Office Square – the first TRIBE hotel in Cambodia – is designed to be a place to not only rest your head, but to also socialise and work collaboratively. The lobby lounge beckons with candy-coloured couches and work pods with desks, enabling visitors to hang out or work remotely while sipping coffee from local roasters.
A 24-hour lobby bar, TRIBE Express, means snacks and beverages are always on hand. There’s a gym, or, as the hotel calls it, the Workout Atelier; an outdoor saltwater pool overlooking the Mekong River; a rooftop restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating; and a rooftop bar shaped like a small truck and known as Mezcal Mad Memories 21, where guests and locals can rub shoulders and imbibe mezcal-based drinks.
Rooms are modern and affordable, with floor-to-ceiling windows and – for digital nomads who happen to be night owls – blackout blinds. When you’re ready to explore the capital, you’re within walking distance of Wat Phnom temple and the Royal Palace.
Prices from US$89 a night.
MOXY SHANGHAI XUHUI
Although only certain groups of travellers can enter China right now – and those who do may be subject to movement and access restrictions because of the government’s “zero-COVID” policy – Shanghai will likely be a top destination for many foreign tourists when the country fully opens. It’s a city of sumptuous hotels, and the 253-room Moxy Shanghai Xuhui offers young travellers a lively and affordable place from which to explore it.
Check-in takes place at the lobby bar and comes with a complimentary cocktail called “Got Moxy.” Foosball and board games await in the hotel’s communal spaces. And there’s a 24-hour “ironing room” (you read that correctly) for those who wish to smooth the wrinkles out of their clothes before hitting the streets.
Prefer to pump iron instead? The fitness center is also open 24 hours. And so is a spot to grab snacks, juice, coffee, wine and beer. Moxy’s gathering areas and its cheerful, industrial design seem tailor-made for travellers who value socialising and sightseeing more than square footage. The 253 rooms are small and streamlined, with peg walls rather than closets, fold-up worktops and bedside USB ports so there’s no crawling around hunting for an outlet. When it’s time to hit the town, guests needn’t go far. The hotel is close to the Bund, the historic promenade along the Huangpu River, and about a 15-minute car ride from the China Art Palace and the Shanghai Film Museum.
Prices from US$72 a night.
Set on a 21-acre private island in Rajasthan, Raffles Udaipur is the first Raffles hotel to open in India. Getting there is part of the fun. After about a 20-minute drive from the airport, guests board a private boat for a trip across Udai Sagar Lake. Bird spotting is encouraged. Along the way travellers might glimpse a greater flamingo, a painted stork or a pied kingfisher.
Once on the island, visitors enter a grand hotel with nods to Mughal architecture, composed of 101 rooms and suites, each with features that make it hard to leave, be it a plunge pool, private garden, balcony, lake view or some combination. For those seeking the sort of serenity you might expect from a hotel on a private island, there are ornamental gardens to stroll and spots from which to admire the surrounding hills of the Aravalli Range.
If a quiet cocktail sounds appealing, the Writer’s Bar is where guests can sip and settle in with a favourite book. Didn’t bring your own? Choose one from the bar’s library. Champagne and caviar are also on the menu. There is no shortage of places to drink and dine on the island, including Raffles Patisserie, for treats such as French desserts and baked breads, and Sawai Kitchen, which draws on recipes from regional royal households to serve up Indian specialties.
Prices from US$650 a night.
BUAHAN, A BANYAN TREE ESCAPE
The adults-only villas at Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape in northern Ubud, Bali, are part of a new “no walls, no doors” wilderness concept from Banyan Tree.
That may sound a bit like camping to some, but while the 16 spacious villas immerse guests in nature, they’re a far cry from roughing it. Each villa has a private pool, gazebo, open deck and breathtaking views of Balinese mountain peaks and jungle. Wood roofs hover above furnished indoor-outdoor living and sleeping areas (shades on the sides can be rolled down for privacy or to keep out rain) with minibars, safety boxes and that rare jungle amenity – Wi-Fi.
In keeping with the hotel’s theme, open dining and lounge spaces were designed to encourage community and to share with guests the property’s zero-waste, farm-to-table philosophy, which it puts into practice: Much of the menu is plant-based and sourced locally.
The resort also serves up local adventures, including jungle trekking and crossing the Ayung River, visiting the Buahan waterfall and practicing yoga by moonlight.
Prices from US$1,000 a night for a villa.
HOSHINO RESORT KAI YUFUIN
Lovers of architecture may want to pack their bags for this hot spring ryokan designed by Kengo Kuma, renowned for buildings such as the Suntory Museum of Art and the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo.
A long way from the capital, Hoshino Resort KAI Yufuin is in rural southern Japan in Yufuin Onsen, home to abundant spring water and hot spring sources – and to stirring views of Mount Yufu. Guests can dip into baths fed by the hot springs, or relax and gaze out over the rice fields from the rice terrace deck. As the seasons change, so do the rice terraces, transforming from green to gold and then to rice straw after the autumn harvest.
The spare, 45-room resort endeavours to bring the outside in. The prefecture’s giant timber bamboo was used for headboards and sofas. Even the scents of the region have found their way indoors thanks to lighting that uses shichitoi grass, filling the air with its faint aroma. (After a long period of being largely closed to most travelers because of COVID-19, Japan has recently refined its policies for allowing independent tourists to visit the country.)
Prices from about US$269 a night per person in a two-person room, including tax and service charges as well as breakfast and dinner.
THE CLAN HOTEL SINGAPORE
Named for a time when 19th-century settlers formed clan associations as they began new lives in the city, the 324-room Clan Hotel Singapore is the first property under the Clan hotel brand by Far East Hospitality.
Knitting together old and new traditions in a neighbourhood of shophouses and skyscrapers, the hotel restaurant and bar, QĪN, offers fresh takes on classic Asian dishes and serves cocktails with names inspired by the Zodiac, including the Ox, the Tiger and the Dragon. An outdoor terrace lounge is an escape from the bustling streets. And the aptly named Sky Gym and Sky Pool (shower and changing facilities are available for those checking in early or checking out late) offer soaring views of the city.
When you are ready to come down, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum and Thian Hock Keng Temple, among the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore, are a short walk away. Popular tourist destinations, such as Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and SkyPark Observation Deck, are also nearby.
Prices from about US$350 a night (that includes a 10 per cent service charge and Singapore’s goods and services tax).
JOSUN PALACE, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, SEOUL GANGNAM
While Josun Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seoul Gangnam considers itself part of a tradition dating to the early 20th century when one of the first luxury hotels in Korea was built, it’s a sleek getaway in the heart of modern-day Gangnam – the stylish neighbourhood known for tony shopping and nightlife (not to mention the earworm K-pop song).
The first Luxury Collection hotel in South Korea, it’s near some of the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, and the Bongeunsa, a Buddhist temple dating to the eighth century, enabling guests to spend the morning travelling through history and the afternoon indulging in retail therapy at the vast Starfield COEX Mall or checking out the sharks at the COEX Aquarium.
Upon returning to the hotel, travellers can choose from several places to sate their appetites, including modern Cantonese fine-dining at the Great Hong Yuan and Korean contemporary food at Eatanic Garden. A sweet tooth may be satisfied lickety-split with pastries, cakes, coffee and tea from Josun Deli the Boutique. Afterward, you can wind down while soaking up impressive views of the cityscape from one of the 254 cream-coloured rooms and suites.
Prices from US$245 a night.
AVANI CHAWENG SAMUI HOTEL & BEACH CLUB
Inspired by midcentury modernism, the Avani Chaweng Samui Hotel & Beach Club aims to evoke 1950s Miami and Palm Beach, Florida, on a sandy beach in Koh Samui. Among its 80 rooms and suites are Funky Poolside rooms with terraces that open to a courtyard pool, and Groovy Sea View suites with balconies and vinyl record players. You can spin a soundtrack to your vacation or, for a soiree in your suite worthy of Instagram, the hotel will loan you costumes and wigs at no cost.
For revelry on a grander scale, the retro-style SEEN Beach Club Samui has pool parties, live bands, DJs and a menu with something for most any craving, be it sushi, tacos, pizza or Thai specialties. Comfort food and cocktails are also available at the hotel 24 hours a day at Social Bar. And for those who work out as hard as they party, there’s a 24-hour fitness facility, too.
Prices from US$170 a night, which includes a number of amenities, such as an arrival airport transfer, a welcome drink at Social Bar and daily breakfast.
On a quiet, leafy boulevard in the city’s capital, steps from the Hanoi Opera House and the Old Quarter, Capella Hanoi conjures the glamour and high society of opera in the Roaring ’20s.
The hotel’s theatrical, art nouveau style is the work of Bill Bensley, the architect and designer known for creating transportive environments for luxury hotels around the world. Almost everywhere the eye lands is an ode to opera. The 47 plush rooms and suites (some with French balconies, others with terraces) are decorated with operatic memorabilia.
At the Backstage restaurant, opera costumes set the scene for fresh takes on Northern Vietnamese cuisine, while at Diva’s Lounge, cocktails and Vietnamese-inspired tapas can be savoured against a backdrop of mirrors and red velvet curtains.
Even the indoor swimming pool was made to look fit for a prima donna. Referred to as La Grotta, it’s a glossy respite illuminated by chandeliers and mirrors.
Prices from US$380 a night.
By Stephanie Rosenbloom © 2022 The New York Times
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.