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Must-visits in Asia | KIOSK

These days it’s hard to keep track of all the new hotel openings in Asia, let alone around the rest of the world. Like mould growing in spring humidity, new launches are a dime a dozen and here we present you with a round-up of some of the best so far.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Ritz Carlton Hong KongSoaring 490 metres above Victoria Harbour, on the top floors of the fourth tallest building on the planet is the new Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong and the extraordinary hotel marks the beginning of a new era for Asian hospitality.

At a measly 333 metres, the Rose Rayhaan in Dubai was the previous world’s tallest, and – for now at least – The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong now can proudly claim the title of the highest hotel in the world instead. The sweeping 360-degree panoramas are beyond comparison, with every one of the sleek modern-oriental-styled guestrooms featuring either views of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, or, in some privileged cases, all of the above.

Ritz Carlton Hong KongThe Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is a hotel that turns people into ants and buildings into structures of cards – a place where the world looks differently and where one literally stands above it all. The lobby sits on the 103rd floor, and the hotel continues its vertical climb to the highest bar in the world – the Ozone Bar on the 118th floor (which, yes, does have an outdoor terrace). Other food and beverage highlights include an all-day Lounge and Bar, a cute pastry shop, a Chinese restaurant called Tin Lung Heen, a south Italian-focused outlet called Tosca, plus a lounge called the Chocolate Library. There is also an 860-square-metre spa by ESPA, which comes complete with a glass-enclosed infinity pool, an LED screen ceiling, plus nine deluxe treatment rooms and two couples’ suites.

Location: International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Phone:             +852 2263 2263

Hansar Samui, Bophut Bay, Thailand

hansar%20samui%20poolThis exquisite little gem of a property is proving itself to be a charmer, entering in as easily the best hotel in Bophut Bay – if not the whole of Koh Samui itself.

While the property does not offer as much as mega luxury resorts, the select offerings on hand are of the highest quality. These top-notch offerings include a spacious spa, 74 comfortable and airy guestrooms, an open-air waterfront bar, a beach-side saltwater infinity pool, plus a well-equipped gym and what could easily be considered Samui’s best restaurant – H Bistro.

Although slightly cosily-sized at 8,862 square-metres, it is exactly this cosiness which makes the property so successful, with intimate public areas and a simple design keeping everything at guest’s fingertips. Arranged in an orderly U-shaped layout, the warm brick-coloured structures of the property have been expediently arranged around the garden-edged infinity pool at the centre of the resort, which can be reached within 30 seconds from anywhere on the property. In addition, every single one of the rooms unobstructedly looks onto the sea, with each boasting massive flat-screen televisions, centrepiece terrazzo bathtubs, teak floors, restful king-size four-poster beds and oversized glass-walled rainshowers as well.

Other highlights of the property include the generously sized treatment rooms of the Luxsa Spa and possibly one of the finest and most well-equipped restaurants in Samui, H Bistro, where fresh foods and molecularly enhanced dishes tantalise and exert a pull on one’s senses. Although newcomers on the scene, Hansar is managed by hospitality veterans Ativa, and as a result the service is second-to-none, with every one of the staff making guests feel like family. This superior service is another element that contributes to the subtle sense of working luxury that makes this place the diamond in the rough that it is.

Location: 101/28 Moo 1, Bophut, Koh Samui, Suratthani, Thailand 84320
Phone:             +66 7724 5511

W Retreat Koh Samui, Thailand
The overuse of words beginning with the letter ‘W’ employed at W Hotels around the world gets kind of galling after a while, but this is one annoyance we are willing to forgo at the W Retreat Koh Samui, which really is, by definition and design, whimsical and wonderful (*shudder*).

At the entrance one is greeted by interactive digital floor projections and a large architectural recreation of a lily pond complete with glowing psychedelic floating globules and sunken seats that look like oversized lotus flowers. From here on in a whole world of chicness awaits where quirky design features abound and create a serious sense of place. In the 75 colourful glass-walled pool villas red marshmallow-resembling light fixtures, modish asymmetrical ceiling fans and other playful eye candy combine to make an impact on the senses, whilst around the resort a number of alluring food and beverage outlets beckon and entice.

These include the open kitchens, dramatic glass ceilings and vivid bright blue tones of The Kitchen Table; the raw wood, concrete, and glass elements of the beach-side Sip Bar and Namu Japanese restaurant; plus a healthful juice bar connected to the Away Spa (which boasts Asia’s first Thai/Mexican steam treatment facility). Being a W property, the exceptional design is matched by an exceptional location, which features two separate beaches that converge at a sandy tip. While villas scatter a hillside on one side off from the beachfront, there is a flat plain that stretches out on the other side, overlooked by the various levels of public areas that impressively cascade down the hillside. It is all just a day’s work for this hotel group of cool unconventionality.

Location: 4/1 Moo 1 Tambol Maenam, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, 84330 Thailand
Phone:             +66 7791 5999

Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai
The Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai is the first of a new luxury hotel brand from the Shangri-La group and, being a debut, the property is of course a real stunner. With first-rate facilities, spacious guestrooms, professional meeting and conference solutions, and some of the best food and beverage outlets in Shanghai, the brand new 31-storey hotel is quite a force to be reckoned with.

The hotel houses 574 plush guestrooms and suites, which all come with specially designed bar counters and high stools, plus massive flat-screen televisions, iPod docks, complimentary Internet, and marble bathrooms with glass-enclosed baths and shower cubicles. However, although faultless and perfectly fine, these guestrooms take second place to the forward-thinking food and beverage concepts on offer at the hotel. These include an eye-catching à la carte restaurant (COOK) with 11 live show kitchens, and a refined steakhouse (MEET) where one can choose a slab of meat from the dedicated ‘Ageing Room’ and have it carved up tableside by the in-house butcher. The Kerry Hotel is also the first hotel with its own craft brewery (BREW) where their own signature beers are brewed in-house by the resident alcoholic (I mean ‘brew master’). Other highlights of the property include an opulent Chinese restaurant with private dining rooms galore (Blossoms) and a 6,000 square-metre recreation destination spanning over three floors.

Location: No.1388 Hua Mu Road, Pudong, Shanghai 201204, China
Phone:             +86 21 6169 8888

Anantara Bangkok Sathorn, Thailand
Silently expanding at a swift pace, Anantara has grown to be a major player in the Asian hospitality industry. Now, after a decade of relaxing and pampering their guests, the comfort experts have opened their first true city hotel in Bangkok. Although most recognised for their resort-style accommodations – often with pool villas and verdant natural locations – their new Bangkok property refreshingly goes against the grain which they are normally used to.

However, this is not to say the property lacks the Anantara signature – it is in fact the opposite, with plenty of Thai-inspired ornaments running throughout and a massive outdoor pool and garden area set in between the two towering twin buildings that make up the property. Available for short- and long-term stays, their chic-looking accommodation offerings range from 40 square-metre rooms to 121 square-metre two-bedroom suites.

Some of the guestroom highlights include balconies with city or river views, plus oversized bathtubs and separate living and entertainment areas. The dining options on hand include Zin Bar, a refined and contemporary yet uniquely Anantara take on the lobby bar concept; Crust, a restaurant with its own wood-fire pizza oven serving up some of the best Italian pizzas in Bangkok; and 100°East, an outlet with indoor and outdoor seating with a refined interior marked by hardwood furniture and sensuous textiles.

Location: 36 Narathiwat-Ratchanakarin Road, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Phone:             +66 2210 9000

Andara Resort & Villas, Phuket Thailand
Although not the newest property to have launched in Phuket, Andara is certainly one of the more luxurious and well-equipped resorts off the list of recent openings. Sited on a lush, gently-sloping hillside overlooking the picturesque waters of Kamala Bay on the pristine west coast of Phuket, the resort has an exclusive has-to-be-experienced feel about it.

There are 26 free-standing pool villas and 37 suites, each ranging in size from one to six bedrooms, spread across low-rise buildings layered up the hillside. Apart from the Thai-inspired ornamentation, the rooms feel more like well-equipped urban pads as opposed to accommodation in an island resort, with surround-sound Bose speakers in every room, exceptional kitchens outfitted with a shiny array of appliances, plus bathroom rainshowers and some of the most comfortable beds in Phuket. Other high points include Silk Restaurant and Bar (which fuses time-honoured techniques, fine local ingredients with a dash of contemporary flair), the large 40-metre infinity pool, the spacious spa, plus two of their own Italian-designed private motor yachts that are available for private charter.

Location: 15 Moo 6, Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
Phone:             +66 7633 8777

Mandarin Oriental, Macau

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has always had a strong footing in this part of Asia and so this Macau property opened to a fanfare when it launched. Taking over from the old Mandarin Oriental Macau (now branded as the Grand Lapa Hotel), the new property is located on a prime spot on the waterfront – coming in as part of the massive One Central Macau development (which also houses residences managed by the Mandarin Oriental).

Being the hospitality veterans that they are, the hotel features Mandarin Oriental’s trademark fineness, which comes in alongside a modish design scheme that merges subtle inspirations from the territory’s European heritage with sleek interior decor. The 213 spacious rooms (including 26 suites and 1 presidential suite) come complete with such comforts as hydro massage-equipped showers, television-side bathtubs, iPod docks, yoga mats, Nespresso coffee machines, large flat-screen televisions, surround sound systems and stunning panoramas over the adjacent lake or harbour. On site also are a state-of-the-art Fitness Centre and an outdoor swimming pool, with these both being connected to the award-winning Spa at Mandarin Oriental.

As the only non-gaming, five-star hotel on the Macau Peninsula, the Mandarin Oriental, Macau places its focus on areas other than gambling and, as well as the spa, there are also convenient and exclusive meeting and conference facilities, plus a wide range of food and beverage outlets. These dining options include the Lobby Lounge, the Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop and the signature Vida Rica Restaurant and Bar, which boasts soaring columns and a double-height ceiling.

Location: Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen, NAPE, Macau
Phone:             +853 8805 8888

Originally published in Kiosk Magazine, April 2012

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Area Guide – Singapore

Compass Offices (Singapore Land Tower) / Studio M Hotel –

Being a globally connected, multi-cultural city, Singapore is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dynamic places for work, living and business.

It’s little wonder then that the Lion City is the regional hub of choice for many leading multinationals, a fact that has helped spur many opportunities for local business-support companies.

Serviced office provider Compass Offices is one such entity. Its recently opened central-Singapore branch – it’s fourth in the city – raises the bar in the short-term commercial space arena.

Housed on the 30th floor of the centrally located Singapore Land Tower, it also offers easy access to transportation, with the Raffles Place MRT Station a stone’s throw away.

The 14,000 square-foot facility is fitted with the latest gadgetry. Office clients can use a dedicated reception desk, secretarial and concierge services, communal spaces and well-equipped meeting rooms. The offices can be rented on a monthly, daily or hourly basis.

Another trendy business destination is Studio M, a new hotel from the folks at Millennium and Copthorne Hotels. Designed for the new generation of savvy business and leisure travellers, the venue offers refined accommodation and a high degree of connectivity, technology and top-notch hospitality.

The centrepiece of the designer hotel is an open-air tropical deck with private spaces for informal meetings and corporate gatherings. Most of the 365 loft guestrooms have a view of the deck below, with each of the four types of modish rooms boasting flat screen LCD televisions, free wireless internet and plug-and-play connectivity.

Other offerings include a 25-metre lap pool, an open-air gym and three food and beverage outlets ideal for gatherings such as corporate events. Hotel guests can even have information about dining and nightlife options sent to their mobile devices.

Located in the heart of the Robertson Quay entertainment precinct, the hotel is near the Central Business District, with Orchard Road, Chinatown, Clarke Quay and Boat Quay all within spitting distance.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, January 2012

St. Regis Bangkok

As far as luxury city hotels go, the new St. Regis Bangkok is pretty much as good as they get, with a world of well-appointed convenience and luxury on offer to guests lucky enough to stay here. This luxurious world is a world where every room gets complimentary well-made coffee and tea and on request at any time of the day; a world where every room category comes with its own on-call butler; and a world where high-class amenities appear alongside top food and beverage outlets and expedient business facilities.

The 176 guest rooms and 51 suites range from 45 to 250 square-metres, and all come equipped with DVD players, LCD televisions, a multimedia hub, wifi internet and floor to ceiling windows which bring unobstructed views of the city skyline into the rooms. Unique to Bangkok and pretty new to Asia as well is the St. Regis butler service, which is easily the highlight of the hotel.

The indulgent services on hand for all guests include packing and unpacking, garment pressing, bathtub preparation and beverage service as well. In addition to the refined service, there are also a collection of fine dining outlets serving up cuisines from all over the world ranging from Japanese at Zuma (imported from London and Hong Kong), Italian at JoJo (named after one of the founders, John Jacob Astor) and international at Viu (which offers sweeping views of Bangkok). There is also a wine bar, a poolside bar and the St Regis Bar. Recreational facilities include the first Elemis Spa (1 of 4 in the world) in Southeast Asia, an outdoor swimming pool and a gym.

If it is work guests are visiting for though, the hotel comes equally equipped for business as well as leisure. Equipped with the latest technology, the 1,515 square-metres of flexible meeting space ensure large and small business groups can be graciously accommodated at any given time, and the highlight of these is the elegant and sizeable 515 square-meter Astor Ballroom. There is also a designated business centre, plus plenty of parking spaces as well.

For longer-staying guests and those in the know there are also super-luxe residences at the top of building the hotel which are frequented and inhabited by the upper crust of Bangkok. It is no wonder that these types visit the property though, as the design is incomparable. Overseen by the leading New York-based Brennan Beer Gorman Architects with interior design by Studioaria, the property was designed as a contemporary abstract monolith and it features emotion-injected motifs and detailing. If one is in Bangkok on business or simply looking to impress a client, one could do a lot worse.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, September 2011

Wonderfully Unconventional – W Retreat Koh Samui

The overuse of words beginning with the letter ‘W’ employed at W Hotels around the world gets kind of galling after a while, but this is one annoyance we are willing to forgo at the W Retreat Koh Samui, which really is, by definition and design, whimsical and wonderful (*shudder*). At the entrance one is greeted by interactive digital floor projections and a large architectural recreation of a lily pond complete with glowing psychedelic floating globules and sunken seats that look like over-sized lotus flowers. From here on in a whole world of chicness awaits where quirky design features abound and create a serious sense of place. In the 75 colourful glass-walled pool villas red marshmallow-resembling light fixtures, modish asymmetrical ceiling fans and other playful eye candy combine to make an impact on the senses, whilst around the resort a number of alluring food and beverage outlets beckon and entice. These include the open kitchens, dramatic glass ceilings and vivid bright blue tones of The Kitchen Table; the raw wood, concrete, and glass elements of the beach-side Sip Bar and Namu Japanese restaurant; plus a healthful juice bar connected to the Away Spa (which boasts Asia’s first Thai/Mexican steam treatment facility). Being a W property, the exceptional design is matched by an exceptional location, which features two separate beaches that converge at a sandy tip. While villas scatter a hillside on one side off from the beachfront, there is a flat plain that stretches out on the other side, overlooked by the various levels of public areas that impressively cascade down the hillside. It is all just a day’s work for this hotel group of cool unconventionality.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, May 2010

Ozone, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Unless you’ve been reading censored news, you’ve probably heard about Ritz Carlton’s return to Hong Kong, and the crowning glory of the hotel is Ozone, the highest (and quite possibly one of the most stylish) bars in the world.

Ritz Carlton Hong KongThe Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has been pretty busy of late. After the 2008 closure of their elegant property in Central the group went silent for a while both here in the city and the region, but now they have returned with a palpable bang, as The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong and their latest properties have shown. Recently the brand has changed their positioning in the market slightly and a slight shift in their design philosophy and service evolution has emerged across their stunning portfolio (particularly in the newer properties). Up on the top floor of The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, Ozone is a testament to this fact, with the bar and light eatery boasting top-notch service and a conspicuously eye-goggling design scheme.

While the ICC is sadly not the highest building in the world, Ozone is, vertically speaking, the highest bar in the world – period. This alone is reason enough to visit the 118th floor venue, but thankfully this is not the only incentive, with the stunning views complemented by top-quality drinks and food, fine service, plus a stunning interior. The interior design was overseen by Masamichi Katayama and his self-owned company Wonderwall Inc., a design company with a difference that has an incredible catalog of exclusive interiors which includes impressive store spaces designed for Bape, Uniqlo and I.T, plus a Tokyo restaurant interior for Harrods, a Parisian restaurant called Collette and more. Although Wonderwall Inc. is anything but typical, their typical atypical design style can be seen all over Ozone, with playful contemporary plastic features appearing alongside first-rate materials and creative atmosphere-building gilding. There is a distinct Alice-in-Wonderland vibe about the whole interior, which was created around the theme of an ‘Edenic Experiment’ – “a man-made environment of nature in an imaginary world,” as the designer overview states. In other words, blown-up inspirations of nature can be seen everywhere, from the dim neon color-changing forest-like entrance through to the beehive-resembling ceilings and marble-shaped bamboo.

Ozone-Ritz-Carlton-Hong-KongAfter being zoomed up to Ozone in an elevator which reaches ear-popping speeds of nine meters per second, one is greeted by an atmospheric entrance area, where layered mirror ceilings, curtain-shaped walls and rock-resembling floor patterns tease and tantalize one’s expectations before entry. Once inside one is greeted by an eccentric white pillar which resembles oversized stacked marshmallows and acts as a visual centerpiece. Further in the interchanging neon colors continue to shine out along the ceiling, where they are complemented by beehive-like ceilings, geometric shapes and flower petal patterns on the walls below. The beehive shapes run behind the bar as well where they take on a web-like appearance. Along from the main bar is a sushi bar, and things get taken down a notch here, where a whitewashed marble counter is matched by marble bamboo-shaped pillars behind. In the main dining area the hive ceiling continues, but globular bubble light fittings add a different touch here. Outside, in the semi-al fresco area where 12-foot walls of glass offer panoramas of the city, there is another bar, and this one takes on an iceberg appearance. Various bar tables correspond with the white ice theme while a few rattan seats and bar stools provide a nice place to admire the view from.

Of course all this perfection would not be complete without a good selection of food and drink, and luckily, Ozone does not disappoint in this area either. Covered with custom-made holograms, the menus contain wonders such as wines that hover around the $100’000 mark, custom-made cocktails and signature drinks, plus a fine selection of sushi, sashimi, tapas, tempura and caviar.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, July 2010

Whisking it Up – Whisk, Mira Hotel

With their face lift and rebranding now fully complete The Mira Hotel has emerged as a top contender forHong Kong’s most stylish hotel, and Whisk is the latest and greatest outlet just recently launched in the property.

When one sees the curvaceous exterior and enters the ethereal realm that is the lobby of the freshly refurbished Mira Hotel one can immediately tell that this is no ordinary property. Reincarnated and renamed as The Mira Hotel, the 51-year-old Hotel Miramar has been reborn after a hefty metamorphosis. A hotel modernization would not be complete without contemporary food and beverage outlets, and The Mira boasts plenty, with Whisk coming in as the dining climax of the hotel.

Whisk is the high point of the Mira’s dining outlets for a number of reasons, but the one that we’re going to start on is the connecting terrace – just because we like it best, and because it is a rarity to have such a substantial outdoor area inHong Kong. While the terrace is technically part of Vibes – Mira’s outdoor bar cum lounge – it is still joined to Whisk (with 20 outdoor seats) and is part of the lush view that gives Whisk’s interior its extra appeal. With exquisite landscaping consisting of eye-catching fire, water and green features, the 4,000 square-foot open-air space is an al fresco haven, complete with barbeque-tapas and innovative drinks. There is also a DJ booth, rattan cabanas and plenty of bamboo, frangipani trees and many more plants to help one get in touch with their green side.

However, the terrace is but a small ingredient adding flavour to Whisk’s overall scrumptiousness, because inside things hot up all the more so. The interior design was overseen by the international interior stylist Charles Allem of CAD Associates, and – having designed exclusive residences, hotels and commercial spaces in places like Palm Beach, Las Vegas, New York, and Bel Air – he shows what he is good at, with atmospheric lighting, frequent spots of natural light and lively retro circular-patterned carpets patterns giving Whisk an uplifting yet unpretentious feeling. With monochromatic black, greys and platinum silvers, circularly galaxy-like chandelier fixtures and plenty of nonstandard low-slung dining chairs, there is a cosmically retro vibe to the interior, but enough touches of elegance keep the space sophisticated and formal. There are various areas to the restaurant, with a barcode-patterned bar greeting one upon entry, a mezzanine area complete with views over Kowloon Park, two cosy private rooms and, of course, the main dining room, which connects up to the terrace.

The good taste doesn’t stop at the interior, with a menu assembled together by Justin Quek, a European chef trained under many Michelin-star eateries throughoutEurope. Quek’s specialty is French fare sprinkled with a touch of orientalism – a forte that he perfected when he was at the widely acclaimed French establishment, Les Amis, inSingapore. At Whisk he brings in a few more European flavours and refines a number of Asian favourites, with items like roasted crackling suckling pig and baked Miso Marinated Cod. In addition there are plenty of juicily fresh seafood options, plus a cellared selection of carefully selected European wines. If these features aren’t reason enough to check out this new establishment then you’re either still feeling the economic pinch of 2009, or simply suffering from cibophobia (totally true definition; fear of food).

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, February 2010

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Boutique Restoration – The Waterhouse, Shanghai

Proving once again that Shanghai has a better idea of heritage preservation than Hong Kong, The Waterhouse is another boutique design-led commercial restoration project that has rocked the economic powerhouse in the mainland.

As the pride and joy of Shanghai, the Bund has always played an important role in the city, and held a special place in the heart’s of residents. Back in the day the riverside strip was home to trading firms and financial houses, and further along there were factories and working houses. Now, all those places have long-gone, and as gentrification sets in, many of the interesting Art Deco edifices are being done up and converted into unique commercial projects. The Waterhouse is precisely one of these and, as the most recent and possibly most attractive addition to the area, the boutique hotel is already turning heads.

Designed within a restored 1930s Waterhouse, this boutique hotel project was destined to stand out from the start. Much of the original Art Deco appeal has been retained, and the internal and external spaces stylishly merge together with designer furnishings throughout. Looking onto the public areas of the hotel is a bit disorientating, but the guest rooms all have adjustable shutters faced with mirrors. There are 19 rooms in total, and these have each been designed differently, but collectively together all still ooze the same rustic designed chic. With designer furnishings clashing with rustic bare walls, dated fixtures and copious amounts of space, there is a distinct sense of minimalism – the kind commonly found on the pages of Wallpaper Magazine.

The hotel was designed by the Shanghai-based Neri & Hu design firm, and they choose to keep many of the original fixtures, with bare walls cropping up alongside dated oxidized fixtures. The hotel is also home to one of the largest authentic collection of designer furniture in any hotel inChina, with the management and designers having thoughtfully selected works by leading designers and legends such as Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, Antonio Citterio and more.

Of course, a designer hotel would be nothing without some tempting dining options, and these come in the form of Table No. 1, The Roof and the Lounge, which together form quite the alliance. While the formal European restaurant Table No. 1 boasts a sleek and simplistic interior, with select glimpses into hotel rooms and onto the street; The Roof and the Lounge are more informal, with the Lounge coming complete with a fireplace and books, and the wooden-decked rooftop bar providing stunning views of the Huangpu River.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, August 2010

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Spas with a Difference

With the highest percentage of spas per square mile in the world, Thailand – that timeless land of sea, sand and sun – is pretty much synonymous with pampering and is known to have the best health resorts in the world. But such profusion results in a glut of choice which makes deciding on a place to spoil oneself a chore in itself. Like hedging a bet certain places have more appeal than others, with some having superior design and others boasting better treatments. So whether you’ve bitten the bullet and laid a wager or not, our carefully-selected list of top 10 Thai spas should obligingly assist you in your pampering quest and hopefully guide you to the money.


Chiva-Som is a place where relaxation and rejuvenation are an obligatory prerequisite. Over the past 15 years this self-professed ‘destination spa’ has racked up a considerable number of awards for good reason. Guests don’t come here to be spoilt by your conventional body massage – they come here to escape, to be revitalised and to be healed. Upon check-in, personalised programmes and treatments are designed for all visitors and, blending Eastern philosophies with Western diagnostic skills, these are then followed through for the course of the visit. The resort also specialises in healthy spa cuisine, with many organic ingredients even grown on site.
In a Nut Shell:
58 rooms and suites, 70 treatment rooms, a kinesis studio, a gym, a Watsu pool, a flotation pool, an outdoor swimming pool, a bathing pavilion with a Kneipp bath, a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and an indoor swimming pool all set on a picture-perfect seven-acre plot on the water’s edge of Hua Hin.
What sweetens the kitty:
There are over 150 specialist treatments on offer with the on-site Niranlada medi-spa even offering Botox and laser skin rejuvenation.

Dheva Spa, Chiang Mai

Considering this place is named after the goddess of spiritual enlightenment, the vast collection of accolades it has managed to rack up really come as no surprise. Dheva Spa is set amidst lush tropical environs in the secluded grounds of Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi. With a rustic and exotic sensibility, the palatial 3,100 square-metre sanctuary is modelled on an ancient Mandalay palace and at the heart there lays an exquisite seven-tiered roof which symbolises the seven steps needed to attain nirvana. During construction, 150 specialised Chiang Mai artisans worked on the spa for a period of three and a half years, and authentic sculptures and carvings now scatter the resort. It is against this backdrop that the first-class rituals and treatments are carried out, performed in tranquil treatment rooms complete with Thai silks, polished teak wood and marble tiles.
In a Nut Shell:
More like a wellness compound or a mini-resort in its own right, Dheva Spa has 18 treatment suites plus a modern fitness centre. On site also are private colour therapy whirlpools, steam rooms, an Ayurvedic centre, and even an Aquatherapy area complete with a hydrotherapy room, a Vichy shower, a heated scrub table, a Hammam, a Rhassoul and a Watsu pool (Google is your friend ). There is also a herbal garden featuring organic herbs that are used in treatments and in meals.
What sweetens the kitty:
Although they specialise in exclusive Northern Thai treatments and offer some of the best Ayurvedic treatments in the world, the full range of treatments are drawn from three continents, with their origins spanning over 4,000 years, including all sorts of exotic hard-to-pronounce treatments.

Away Spa – W Retreat Koh Samui

W Retreat Koh Samui is not only W’s first foray into the Thai hotel market, but it is also their first entry into the Thai spa scene – and what an entrance it is! Following the concept of their pre-existing AWAY® spas, the ease-inducing venue is full of W’s signature idiosyncrasy and hipness, with refreshingly bright, naturally-illuminated interiors standing out in stark contrast to the average gloomy treatment room on offer at cookie-cutter spa joints. With a fair balance between indoor and outdoor spaces, there are seven creatively-named treatment rooms (i.e. ‘Thaim Out’) nestled within five luxurious pavilions.
In a Nut Shell:
Adorned with neutral colours and natural materials, the interior has a distinct sense of calmness and coolness, which is complemented by playful scents, imaginative sounds and energising light. The spa boasts Asia’s first Thaimazcal® treatment facility which fuses local Thai spa ingredients with Mexican tribal rituals (exfoliation under a waterfall anyone?). There is also a nutrient-supplying juice bar called Tonic.
What sweetens the kitty:
There are an equal number of progressive and traditional treatments available here. Some of the more interesting offerings include combination massages, healing body wraps, purifying facials and couple packages. There are also manicures, pedicures, yoga and detoxifying programmes.

Banyan Tree Phuket

A spa article would not be complete without some reference to Banyan Tree, who are a group of firsts. They not only pioneered the Asian luxury spa resort concept, but they can also be credited as the creators of the pool villa. With award-winning resorts now sprinkled all around Asia and the world, these comfort specialists know what they are doing. For evidence of this one need look no further than their flagship destination resort, which started it all – Banyan Tree Phuket. While perfect as a resort, it is even better as a spa, but the two concepts blur into one here, where there are 150 exquisite villas in six different categories. The highlights of the accommodation offerings are the Double Pool Villas and the Spa Pool Villas, which feature bedrooms surrounded by lily ponds, private steam rooms, outdoor sunken baths, swimming pools and jet-pools. Oh yeah, and did we forget to mention the well-equipped spa itself is one of the best in Phuket, if not the whole of Thailand?
In a Nut Shell:
While one would certainly come here for the specialist treatments and expert therapists, it is really the top service and lush environs that make it what it is, with elegant open-air pavilions, serene lagoons, and lush coconut groves and gardens being the perfect backdrop for a perfect pampering.
What sweetens the kitty:
The fineness of the Banyan Tree spa experience is in the training of its spa therapists. With all the therapists having undergone training at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy Phuket one can be sure they are, literally, in good hands. Touting their resort as a place for physical, mental and spiritual renewal, Banyan Tree focuses on a non-clinical and holistic approach to their treatments, emphasising a ‘high-touch, low-tech’ approach that takes a lot of influence from traditional Eastern healing therapies.

Six Senses Sanctuary, Phuket

Building on more than 15 years of experience as a global pampering leader, the aptly named Six Senses Sanctuary really is sensational in every sense of the word. Covering an area of over 3,000 square meters, it is the only resort on Naka Yai – a picturesque island covered in pristine beaches of fine white sand and shady coconut groves located a mere 25-minute drive and five-minute boat ride away from Phuket Airport. The convenient travel time is nothing compared to what is on offer though, as the resort specialises in multi-day integrated health programmes which focus on preventative wellness and lifestyle-enriching programmes and treatments.
In a Nut Shell:
Guests don’t come to the Six Senses Sanctuary for massages. They come here to get healed and back into balance. It is more of a place to help one through a mid-life crisis or reassess their entire existence (in a good way). As they state themselves, it is a destination spa to provide “a cocoon of nurturing surroundings to help cultivate wellness, where guests are transformed – like caterpillar to butterfly – toward a new stage in life.”
What sweetens the kitty:
Assimilating Indonesian, Indian, Thai and Chinese healing traditions, Six Senses Sanctuary centres on therapeutic and curative therapies which aim to balance the mind and calm the spirit. Japanese treatments can also be found, on offer alongside a diverse array of treatments such as Chinese acupuncture, Ayurvedic massages and more.

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Although the golden triangle is recognised as a main production centre for a certain type of psychedelic drug, there are plenty of other more natural ways to get high here, and the experts at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai are some of the best suppliers to go to for this. With spacious exquisite Lanna-style pavilions overlooking terraced rice fields and mountains in the beautiful Mae Rim Valley, the distinctive location of this resort puts one in a relaxed state of mind before they have even checked in. Disguised as a traditional village of northern Thailand, this resort has acclimatised to the culture perfectly, and one can feast on authentic Thai dishes, explore traditional artwork and experience some textbook treatments from masterful therapists – all in the same day.
In a Nut Shell:
Surrounded by rice paddies and frequented by the resident hotel water buffalo (who may or may not be able to give massages), this is a place of absolute tranquility. The top-notch Garden Pavilion rooms have deep-soaking tubs and outdoor salas complete with Thai daybeds.
What sweetens the kitty:
With a strong focus on Eastern therapies, a lot of the treatments here build on thousand-year-old traditions. Alternative treatments are offered up alongside time-honoured Ayurvedic, Thai and Indian massage techniques.

Chi, the spa at Shangri-La Bangkok

Although urban city hotels often have lacking spa facilities, the Chi spa at the Shangri-La Bangkok pleads to differ, with the 1,000 square metre spa featuring some of the biggest spa suites in Bangkok. The Garden Suite is one of the largest in the city and measures over 107 square metres, coming complete with its own garden area and an infinity bath set into a lotus pond.
In a Nut Shell:
With a focus on atmospherics, the design of this spa was inspired by the architectural principles of a Tibetan temple, using Himalayan artefacts and design elements, whilst applying the Chinese principles of harmony and balance. The suites also come with expansive views of the Chao Phraya River and private access to a secluded swimming pool and outdoor Jacuzzi.
What sweetens the kitty:
All the spa treatments here have been based around the Chinese philosophy of the five elements, which aims to bring metal, water, wood, fire and earth into balance. Signature therapies include the Chi Balance, the Chi Healing Stone Massage, the Yin Yang Couples Massage, Element Vitality, the Sen Chi, the Tsangpo Ritual, the Thai Herbal Harmony and a selection of other revitalising spa rituals.

Anantara Spa, Anantara Bophut Resort and Spa, Koh Samui

From the moment one enters through the stone pillar walls (dramatically illuminated by flaming torches at night) at the entrance of the Anantara Spa in Anantara Bophut Koh Samui, one gets the sense that this place is miles apart from your everyday spa. Further in one is greeted by private glass-walled treatment rooms with bamboo exterior walls set amidst lush water gardens. All of the spa suites are set within private courtyards and the treatment beds have been positioned to look onto the landscaped outdoor areas.
In a Nut Shell:
Like a Thai version of Alice’s secret wonderland garden, this harmonious sanctuary is lavishly set amidst 3,100 square metres of lush tropical greenery, masterfully planned by the award-winning landscaping master Bill Bensley. A deep, outdoor terrazzo bath designed for two and a dual alfresco rain shower are some of the suite highlights.
What sweetens the kitty:
The trained therapists infuse natural elements of Southeast Asia into the treatments here, which tactfully integrate traditional essences such as sandalwood, ylang ylang, patchouli, mandarin, lavender, lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon, bergamot and natural ingredients like yogurt and coffee beans. The signature treatment is the 3-hour ‘Culture of Anantara’ which starts off with a four-hand massage (by two therapists, duh!) and then moves onto a scrub and a steam bath.

The Spa at Rayavadee Resort, Krabi

Frequented by A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss and Colin Farrell, this is the kind of place that should be on your do-before-you-die inventory. Set at the foot of breathtaking limestone cliffs and situated amongst 20 acres of mature untouched coconut plantations, the resort is a treat for the senses before one even gets to the spa. However, the spa is an attraction in itself, with their extensive range of therapies drawing on ancient Thai healing traditions and a philosophy of well-being that aims to ease the body, mind and spirit.
In a Nut Shell:
With dramatic limestone cliffs towering over the resort and the spa, Rayavadee is a spiritual place for the mind and soul. Adjacent to three beaches, the resort is a real retreat and that is what makes the spa so good as well. Personalised treatments can be arranged in-room, and there are even eight luxurious Spa Pavilions (decked out with exotic gardens and outdoor Jacuzzis), plus Hydro-Pool Pavilions as well.
What sweetens the kitty:
The Rayavadee Spa offers revitalising facials and scrubs, energising body wraps, soothing massages, salon treatments and spa packages that can be individually-customised as well. Recommended are the deep tissue Revitalizing Massage, the Aromatherapy treatments and the unique night time candlelit massage.

Coqoon Spa, Indigo Pearl, Phuket

With intentionally oxidised furnishings and features running throughout, this Bill Bensley-landscaped resort is guided by design and it would only make sense that their spa would follow suit. While there were already a whole bunch of quality treatments on offer, the design stakes of the spa increased two-fold this year, with the opening of the stunning Nest treatment suites which are, in essence, oversized nests suspended midair and accessed only by a bridge. Now branded as the Coqoon Spa, the spa is one of the more distinctive in Thailand and the soon-to-be opened spa suites will further secure this standing.
In a Nut Shell:
The surroundings for the treatments on offer here include eight double rooms, six immaculately presented deluxe treatment rooms, plus a luxurious spa suite (complete with a private swimming pool, steam showers, a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a waterproof shower treatment table). There is also a beauty salon on hand for the more vainly inclined.
What sweetens the kitty:
Drawing on timeless Asian herbal remedies, Coqoon Spa uses a perfect blend of specially selected ingredients and essential oils. Using Anne Sémonin branded products, the treatments and ingredients encourage harmony for all kinds of skin types.

Originally published in Kiosk Magazine, January 2012

Equipping Paradise – Millennium Resort Patong Phuket

Officially opened back in July of this year, the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket is one of the latest launches from one of the fastest growing hospitality groups in Asia, and it is obvious to see why this is when one experiences the top-notch design that the resort is made up of.

With Thailand’s tourist appeal fully restored, interest has once again returned to the beautiful collection of South-eastern Asia islands. The Millennium Resort Patong Phuket is a concrete indication of this, and when the hotel soft-opened last year it was actually one of the first international hotels to launch since 2004. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make the hotel any less spectacular, with the newly-built 421-room property emerging in a sea of well-designed splendour. The resort incorporates Thai elements in its design, but there is also the trademark contemporariness that is characteristic of the hotel brand. For example, while the poolside private-Jacuzzi rooms feature Thai-inspired decorations on the outside patio, there is also a selection of mod-cons and stylish furnishings within.

The hotel consists of two wings – with each building featuring its own open-atrium lobby, and each with its own picturesque rooftop swimming pool. In addition, there is a well-equipped gym centre and spa; two bars and two restaurants; plus 14 meeting rooms. Being one of the only hotels that comes close to 5-star in this area, the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket also boasts a prime location on theRat-Uthit Roadat the intersection ofBangla Streetnear the popular Patong Beach. This makes the resort part of the new landmark that is the mega Phuket Jungceylon shopping mall, and together these developments are rejuvenating Patong Beach and bringing new life toThailand.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, Jan 2010