The Buddha once said that, “Three things cannot be long hidden – the sun, the moon and the truth.” And the same can be said of Southeast Asia’s most exclusive hidden gems.
After scouring this rich and enlightening continent for years, exploring all that it has to offer, we can only concur with the sentiment of this eastern wisdom. The truth of its awe-inspiring locations and resorts cannot remain hidden for long. Drawn like moths to a flame, the bright lights of its vibrant cities, the mystique of its ancient ruins and the warm hearts of its welcoming people have attracted all comers, year after year. Take the Southeast Asian road less travelled and you’ll find that you needn’t choose between style and substance – you can have both. Amongst the wealth of ancient Asian wonders, cultures and culinary delights, we’ve found some of the most truly chic and breath-taking resorts, ensuring that even as the sun sets on a long enriching day of discovery, your quiet evenings in will be every bit as spellbinding.
Amanoi – Vietnam
Combining a stunning and privileged rural coastline location with elegant architecture and seamlessly stylish interior designs, retreats don’t come much more chic than Amanoi. Whether basking in the beauty of its secluded beach, indulging in the serenity and relaxation of its spa, or diving into its warm, inviting waters, home to protected sea corals, tropical fish and sea turtles, Amanoi has an ambience that makes for an unforgettable experience from start to finish.
Nestled amongst lush green coastal vegetation, the resort’s spacious pavilions and villas offer unrivalled privacy with far-reaching views of scenery so striking that no camera could ever capture the feeling of fulfilment that laying your eyes upon it brings. Its invigorating atmosphere rewards you with an extra spring in your step, for which there are a number of facilities and activities to put good use, from kayaking, snorkelling and hobie catting to tennis, pilates and excursions. And using up this extra energy makes satisfying the appetite that it works up all the more rewarding. The restaurant and bar in its central pavilion, overlooking the South China Sea, serves a myriad of Vietnamese culinary delights, along with international dishes to suit all tastes. Amanoi’s zen-like simplicity complements the scenery around it in such a way that it possesses an almost timeless and organic feel.
Six Senses Con Dao – Vietnam
Sitting at around a hundred kilometres off mainland Vietnam’s southern coast, this impressive island resort enjoys seclusion from the outside world by way of shimmering aquamarine waters. Its traditional Vietnamese fishing village design creates a wonderfully back-to-basics vibe, subtly encouraging you to focus on the simple yet important little things that bring us the most happiness in life. Every single villa here comes with southeast-facing ocean views, perfect for early birds to catch a glimpse of the rising eastern sun.
Reaping the rewards of being situated on an archipelago that’s almost entirely a marine and nature reserve, Six Senses Can Dao offers excursions to the nearby Turtle and Bird Islands, along with seasonal turtle nesting tours. Its surrounding mangroves and forests make for ideal hiking terrain, also presenting the prospect of spotting the rare monkeys and black squirrels that inhabit the island. Six Senses have built their reputation on building resorts that not only blend with their local surroundings, but also by providing outstanding levels of service through its staff and facilities, and Can Dao is no exception to this ethos. Foodies will be in their element in any of the island’s three different restaurants, along with the special destination and in-villa dining experiences. Perhaps the most unique feature of Can Dao, though, is the small village at its centre, with a main street and square resembling a typically Vietnamese countryside village. We’ve stayed at Six Senses resorts all over the world and it’s evident that luxury and authenticity are at the heart of what they do.
The Datai – Malaysia
Another island gem, this time situated in the Malacca Strait, just off the west coast of northern Malaysia, is the impeccable Datai Langkawi. Its placement amongst the canopy of a captivating tropical forest aids escapism like few other places on Earth can, serenading you with a gentle symphony of nature’s most soothing sounds. The gentle trickle of its streams, the exotic songs of its birds and the wind’s breeze whispering through the jungle’s leaves all harmonise to create an air of peace and permanence.
The Datai offers a shuttle boat service to the mainland on a traditional Malaysian Junk sailboat, but with such an array of natural beauty and leisure facilities on the island, you may find yourself reluctant to leave. If you or your partner are big fans of golf, we know you’ll absolutely love the resort’s 18-hole championship course, where you can tee off, drive, chip and putt your way around paradise each day. There’s also two tennis courts, a health club, water sports, mountain biking facilities, three different restaurants and two bars, including the charmingly rustic Beach Club, providing the perfect haunt for you to unwind at the end of the day, overlooking the Andaman Sea. Along with each of these stunning resorts, The Datai has been chosen not only because it oozes class and style, but because it possesses an ethereal, soul satisfying quality that you can’t quite put your finger on – je ne sais quoi, as the French put it.
Paresa Phuket – Thailand
Situated in one of Phuket’s most sought after addresses, Paresa has a prestigious position on the hilltop of an area known as Millionaire’s Mile in Kamala Bay. Beautiful and well-known as Thailand may be, knowledge of Paresa’s jaw-dropping style and ocean views is shared only by a fortunate few. In particular, the resort’s penthouse suite – the Cielo Residence – is out of this world. At 660 square metres in size, it soars above the resort, enjoying 360° panoramic views of Phuket Island and the Andaman Sea.
Paresa has the advantage of being remote enough to provide peace and quiet but is just a ten minute drive from the nearest town and an hour from Phuket city, should you wish to explore further afield. If, after hours of relaxation in the spa, pool or by the sea, you do start to feel an adventurous itch that you’re compelled to scratch, the resort offer a fantastic list of off-site activities and excursions. From heritage walks, to snorkelling on Wow Island, to lunch on a floating raft, Paresa Phuket has something to satisfy anybody’s appetite for discovery. Speaking of appetites, there are two restaurants to choose from within the resort itself. Diavolo offers an Italian menu along with fine wines to complement mesmerising ocean views, but the pride of Paresa and a real treat for the taste buds has to be its signature restaurant, Talung Thai.
These exemplary Far East escapes represent the chicest of the chic. A picture of them may speak a thousand words but what you get from an actual visit is so vast that it can’t be quantified. When it comes to your next holiday, don’t choose between style and substance – choose both.