With the Christmas and CNY holidays right around the corner, we asked our industry insider friend, Claire Wilson, Senior Travel Consultant for Mr & Mrs Smith, for her top getaway picks in Asia and Australia.
What are your top, under-the-radar picks for Asian destinations–and why?
Anantara Golden Triangle, Thailand
Six Senses Con Dao, a luxurious resort on the Con Dao Islands off Vietnam’s south coast, has impeccable style and white-sand beaches. I also love Siem Reap in Cambodia–if you’re seeking culture over sunbathing, the famed Angkor Thom and Wat, Banteay Srei and Bayon temples are here. Put your feet up at Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor, which has a cool jungly pool, for a night or two. Thailand’s well on the beaten path, but I can’t get enough of the scenic surrounds of Anatara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, on the Laotian border. The weather’s lovely there at this time of year, too.
What’s your favorite beach destination?
Song Saa Private Island, Maldives
The Maldives! I love relaxing on Soneva Fushi’s white sandy stretches and swimming in the clear blue water–it’s great for snorkelling and paddle-boarding. The Nam Hai in Hoi An, Vietnam has outstandingly well-kept beaches–they’re swept every evening–and it was voted Best Spa Hotel in the Smith Hotel Awards this year. Southern Cambodia is often overlooked as a beach destination, but Song Saa Private Island’s tranquil coastline makes it worth exploring. Having said that, Australian beaches are also a favourite: The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa (near Tallow Beach) is ideal for surfing or simply relaxing.
And for a city break?
Macallister Mansion, Malaysia
I love Tokyo for a city break at this time of year. If you don’t want to spend too much, Claska (runner-up for Smith’s Best Budget Boutique Hotel award) is unmissable. I also recommend Penang, in Malaysia, renowned for street art and food, or a stay at quirky, art-clad, colonial-era hotel: Macalister Mansion. Hong Kong is– of course–another great city-break destination; treat yourself to a night or two at opulent five-star stay The Upper House. High-rise dining at Café Gray Deluxe combines imaginative fusion fare (the Asian-inspired afternoon tea is a must-try) and Victoria Harbour views.
With the rise of Airbnb, what are people looking for in boutique hotels now?
Ceylon Tea Trails
I think people prefer historic stays with a story behind them. For example, guests staying in a repurposed building turned hotel feel like part of its on-going story. Two great examples of this are Macalister Mansion in Malaysia, which updated its colonial shell with modern artwork, and Ceylon Tea Trails where a genteel Edwardian style evokes the era it was built in. Guests want atmosphere too, something an Airbnb stay can’t quite match. A buzzy bar, superlative design, a personalised concierge service: the boutique experience offers romance, exclusivity and independence but with all the facilities on your doorstep!
Finally, which three recently-opened properties around Asia should design enthusiasts add to their wishlist?
Soon to join the Mr & Mrs Smith collection, Alila Seminyak in Bali, Indonesia has sleek minimalist design, which emphasises its jaw-dropping views. Smith also just welcomed Keemala in Phuket, Thailand (so you can book directly with Smith and get a free gift). It’s utterly unique, with villas inspired by traditional tribal dwellings. Also–technically it’s not in Asia– but I have to mention Halcyon House, on Cabarita Beach, Australia. Covetable interiors, organic dining won it two runner-up nods in the Smith Hotel Awards (Best Newcomer and Best Smith Hotel), but I’m sure it’s a future winner.
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