Somewhere for the weekend
Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and islands — and living in Singapore means you can hop on a plane on a weekend and be delivered to a tropical paradise in just a few hours. If your idea of a short break involves total privacy, incredible facilities, spectacular views and immaculate butler services, take your pick from the slick resorts and villas listed below. Then kick back, reset and recharge.
Ambong Pool Villas, Langkawi, Malaysia
When you take in the outdoor wooden bathtubs and enormous bathrooms with glass-fronted showers overlooking the pool (there’s a curtain for shyer types), it’s a resort best explored – the first time, at least – by two. From your king bed, you can slide open the doors of the lounge area and plunge straight into your infinity pool, or stroll outside to your villa’s terrace and relish an al fresco Champagne breakfast. Sunset barbecues are also possible, overseen by a private chef who’ll grill your seafood to perfection as you relax on a sunbed above the lawn, listening to the hum of the rainforest as the sun dips below the sea.
An Lam Retreats Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang, Vietnam
Without a listed address on its site, it’ll take some effort to get to the resort. What it promises though, is isolation and secrecy needed to disconnect from the world. The resort offers just 33 standalone timber villas, each occupying at least 95sqm and outfitted with modern luxuries. But take it from us, you’ll be spending a lot more time on the private verandahs of the villas, where ocean and waterfall vistas await. Depending on the villa chosen, you may also choose to soak in the outdoor bathtub (Jungle Rock villa) or the plunge pool (Bay View, Beach and Treetop Pool villas). The rooms strive to be as self-contained as possible, but for sudden requests for afternoon snacks or activity suggestions, your private butler will see to it.
Ayana Resort & Spa, Bali, Indonesia
What can one anticipate from a resort that sits on almost 100 hectares of land? Now, don’t hold your breath, but that’s the size of Ayana Resort and Spa. And it’s also Bali’s one and only fully-integrated resort that’s home to three hotel properties, 19 restaurants and bars, 12 swimming pools and an astounding 15 wedding venues. Perched above Jimbaran Bay and a mere 30-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport, the resort offers three distinct properties for its visitors: Ayana Resort and Spa, Rimba Jimbaran Bali and The Villas. While the former two are better suited for those travelling with friends and family, the latter offers the most lavish and dreamy setting for couples on romantic escapades.
Cempedak Island, Indonesia
Located just off the coast of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago and a private boat ride away, Cempedak Island, the new sibling atoll of tropic retreat Nikoi, welcomes visitors to a rustic bamboo utopia, where both worries and footwear are left on the island banks, even if only for a moment. The adults-only haven flaunts hillside and beachfront bamboo villas, each embraced by either sandy beaches or untouched rainforest. Each two-storey villa spans over 150sqm and boasts a plunge pool and grandiose deck that invites guests to gaze endlessly at the horizon. Cempedak Island has conservation at its forefront: its structures built using bamboo, alang alang grass, recycled teak, lava stone and petrified wood. The vernacular design of the villa and its crescent shaped roof consistently channel streams of air through the villa, keeping the heat at bay, while at night, the land breeze does the trick of lulling you to sleep.
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
In the rarefied stratosphere of high-end hospitality, there is one name that will perk ears. Bill Bensley. The architect is responsible for some of the most distinctive luxury hotels and resorts across Asia, including this gem of a hotel located in the Gulf of Thailand on Phu Quoc island, which lies on the maritime border between Vietnam and Cambodia. The concept for JW Marriott Phu Quoc is hushed academic halls—or more accurately, the Lamarck University, built on Phu Quoc in 1880. Delineating the difference wings of the hotel into different educational departments – the Department of Zoology carries animal motifs, for example, with cheeky animal-shaped weather vanes on the roof – it also affords the hotel’s 243 rooms, suites, apartments and villas a sense of unique character.
Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
The name may have changed, but the superb views, service standards and satisfaction levels certainly haven’t. Nihi Sumba Island – previously known as Nihiwatu – continues to impress guests year after year. Privacy is key at the resort, with each of the 27 villas scattered across the island. Each also comes with a private pool, perfect for when you’ve no desire to leave your villa. Travelling in a bigger group? The villas come with one- to five-bedroom options, and guests can opt for a resort buyout too.
Phulay Bay, Krabi, Thailand
Phulay Bay – part of a tiny coterie of Ritz-Carlton Reserves around the world – is an exquisite slice of paradise preserved for travellers who like to get away from it all, replete with the five-star touches. The property’s 54 private villas, designed by Thai architect Lek Bunnag, are based on the five elements of wood, fire, metal, earth and water. These villas fan out onto a stretch of beach facing the Andaman Sea. Each villa has an assigned and often very intuitive butler who will happily arrange transport around the resort, dinner reservations, run a flower bath or surprise with a birthday cake.
Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
Consisting of 27 villas that can be booked individually or en masse for the true private island experience, Song Saa offers unprecedented access to the pristine Koh Rong, still unknown to most travel itineraries. The villas are sumptuous, with some clever natural accents – during construction, Melita Hunter sent fishing boats on daily excursions through the Gulf of Thailand to gather branches, warped tree trunks and the remains of painted longtail fishing boats that the organic-sculpture artist placed discreetly across Song Saa’s buildings.
Soori Bali, Indonesia
Perched between the mountains and the sea – the perfect equilibrium in feng shui – Soori Bali commands attention. Relaunched as the introductory salvo to luxury lifestyle brand Soori, the property exemplifies the group’s ethos of ‘living exceptionally well through holistic design’, which, in this case, comes in the form of 48 refreshed villas and residences, each with its own private pool. There is also the ten-room Soori Estate, an enclave within an enclave, with its own infinity pool, gym, spa, kitchen, chauffeured car, private butler and, by the end of the year, a unique cantilevered platform hovering over the sea.
Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand
Sri Panwa gently hugs the curves of Panwa’s coastline, occupying nearly 60 hectares of land, and, at its highest, sits at 60m above sea level. The roads form a labyrinth of paths, meandering to secret nooks and crannies for one to explore. The resort can be broadly split into two categories. Social areas at Sri Panwa include Baba Poolclub, Baba Nest and Cool Spa amongst others, while private areas include villas, residences and its latest addition, The Habita. It consists of a collection of restaurants, pools, 20 pool suites (70sqm) and 10 penthouses (140sqm). While the penthouses are equipped with a kitchen and larger living area, both options include a balcony with an infinity lap pool. It isn’t difficult to hole yourself up in the room, but for those who wish to socialise, a communal 50m pool sits just below. Apart from a kid’s play area, the curvaceous pool ends with a waterfall feature that leads to a splash pool.
The Anam, Nha Trang, Vietnam
Clarity. It’s the first word that springs to mind at The Anam. There is crispness in the views, and a bracing brine as the wind rushes up from the sea to disperse around the resort’s pathways and pavilions. It wakes you up. Named after one of Vietnam’s historical titles, The Anam rests on a slight rise, tumbling towards the ocean. The Deluxe Collection building (with its 96 rooms) and 12 double-storey villas command the back half of the property, a perch that affords panoramic views fringed with palm trees. For a resort so new, it is surprisingly verdant; foresight led the landscaping team to use plants from the area, which adapted faster and better to transplanting. The result: instant lushness.
The Residence Bintan, Indonesia
If you’ve visited The Residence in Mauritius, Zanzibar, Maldives or Tunisia, then you’d have an idea of what to expect at Cenizaro Hotels & Resorts’ Indonesian outpost. Think pristine beaches, a respite from the city, barefoot luxury, unobstructed, panoramic views of the South China Sea, open landscapes and tropical gardens. Select your abode that comes in the form of Beachfront and Estate Villas, along with Vista and Garden Terraces. Depending on which you pick, sheltered open verandas, private outdoor decks and infinity pools await. Those travelling in a group can also opt for interconnected units.
The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, Thailand
Situated on a sprawling 58 acres of an alcove reaching from coastline to cliff on the north-eastern part of Thailand’s most exclusive island, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui comprises 102 Ocean View Suites; 12 two-bedroom Ocean View Suites; 37 Ocean View Pool Villas; 23 Ultimate Pool Villas, and the Villa Kasara. Room amenities include high-definition LCD televisions with a wide range of satellite channels; complimentary Internet access, a powered safe; as well as tea and coffee making facilities.
The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Upon stepping into the newly built The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, you may feel that you’ve travelled through a time capsule and landed in Malaysia in the 60s. For one, the designs reminisce of a traditional Malay village. Take for example the overwater spa: locals will point out that this is how a kelong (floating village) looks like. The main lounging areas also feature gabled roofs, which are still used in huts located in rubber plantations. Each of the 29 villas is a gem in itself (there are also 75 guest rooms and 15 suites), looking out to the Andaman sea or rainforest. In particular, the three-bedroom Villa Mutiara feels like you’re living in a modern treehouse. It comes with not one, but two private pools that’ll let you enjoy both sea and forest views. Excessive? Perhaps. But what’s luxury without excess?
The Sanchaya, Bintan, Indonesia
It’s everything you see on its website and on its social media accounts. Let’s face it, a picture paints a thousand words, and the team at The Sanchaya Bintan has done a fantastic job in ensuring that the property always looks #pictureperfect and #instaworthy. Couples can opt for the Sanchaya Suites, while families should head for The Villas, available from one to four bedrooms with direct beach access. Then, there are Thai-styled Villas that overlook a man-made lily pond. Intending to throw a party? We recommend the four-bedroom Vanda Villa, or the Three-villa Leelawadee Thai Villa, both of which house a private pool.
Villa Layan, Phuket, Thailand
Located on the northwestern strip of Phuket, Layan’s quiet charms has attained its reputation as one of the island’s most desirable residential locations. It lies somewhat secluded among lush rainforests, quaint thoroughfares and a scenic beach which bears the same name. Aquatic pursuits range from snorkelling and diving to windsurfing and kite-flying. In this setting, The Hideaways Club has earmarked a property at the gated and guarded neighbourhood of Layan Estate. Villa Layan, as the property is called, sits among a crop of Thai-styled buildings amid manicured lawns fringed by palm trees. The set-up is ideally configured for holidaying couples or families on vacation. Peaceful Buddhist inspired sculptures and art infuse the villa with a sense of serenity, as does the inviting blue of its salt treated private pool.