Off-the-beaten track experiences totally unique for Southeast Asia.
There’s no denying that Southeast Asia is a tried and tested travellers’ mecca, so finding unique and off-the-beaten-track experiences isn’t always easy.
Each year, the number of tourists visiting the region continues to increase to record-breaking highs, and in 2018, Bangkok was the most visited international destination in the world for the third year in a row.
People are infatuated with the sunshine and the melting pot of culture, cuisine and scenery that the picturesque pocket of the world offers, and it’s easy to understand the allure.
If your interest has ever been piqued by Southeast Asia, but you’ve been put off by the crowds and your heart beats faster for more offbeat destinations, we’ve found three must-visit resorts to add to your travel wish list.
We feel it’s important to warn you not to be fooled by the word ‘resorts’, for these properties are so much more than flop-and-drop properties with nice pools and extensive cocktail menus (although they tick these boxes too).
Each resort is a secluded, luxurious and exotic world unto itself. They’re all completely private, tucked away in unassuming parts of one of the world’s most coveted regions, and they all offer a plethora of totally novel and genuine cultural experiences, as well as breathtaking, unspoiled natural settings.
What’s more, the travel logistics involved are easy, and each property is so far ahead of the game in terms of sustainability and social responsibility, you can’t help but leaving with a lighter heart.
Unregulated freedom and adventure incarnate. Refined luxury on the edge of wildness. This is what you’ll find at the best resort in the world in all categories according to Travel & Leisure readers for the past two years.
Located 400 kilometres east of Bali on Indonesia’s most unexplored island, Sumba, Nihi Sumba was originally developed as a surf resort to provide guests with access to the region’s sought-after waves.
Today it has evolved into a luxury resort with a conscience and an example of a sustainable operation in harmony with the environment and the Sumbanese people.
As the brainchild of American entrepreneur, Chris Burch and South African-born hotelier, James McBride, the resort features 27 jaw-dropping pool villas built in traditional Sumbanese style set on 467 acres of tropical forest, rice terraces and grasslands that wrap around Nihiwatu beach.
The resort prides itself on being environmentally friendly, and in addition to the use of natural building materials, its impressive sustainability practices include organic gardens that produce the majority of the resort’s food and a comprehensive composting and water recycling system.
Nihi Sumba is a soulful destination where rugged meets unregulated freedom, and every activity offered to guests is designed to immerse them in the resort’s two most important pillars: nature and community.
From riding majestic horses on the beach, to surfing private breaks, and embarking on signature excursions including spa safaris, visits to local Stone Age sites, picnics under waterfalls and treks along butterfly trails, it is the perfect place to unplug and connect with the earth.
Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities to experience Sumba’s magnificently preserved ancient culture on the island, such as trips to local villages to see traditional arts and crafts, megalithic burial sites and exquisite Ikat weavings.
Sitting 300 kilometres northeast of Singapore amidst a clutch of six white-sand, forest-canopied islands and three jewelled lagoons, Bawah Reserve is currently enjoying its time in the sun as the most talked about private-island resort in the world.
Located in a remote pocket of Indonesia’s Anambas Archipelago, the resort is home to 35 villas (overwater bungalows, beachfront villas and garden suites) made by hand from natural materials such as bamboo, driftwood and recycled teak, with beautifully-styled second-hand finishes such as copper sinks and showers in the bathrooms.
What’s special about Bawah is that until a few years ago, the region was completely uninhabited. When the opportunity manifested to develop it into a resort, the owner wanted to preserve the environment and keep it exactly as it was the first time he saw it, so he implemented a strictly sustainable operational plan, protecting the land, sea and surrounding communities.
Today, Bawah Reserve is a designated marine conservation zone, placing visitors at the epicentre of marine diversity that is sadly inaccessible in many other places in the world. Grab a pair of snorkels, a glass-bottomed kayaks or stand up paddle board and enjoy a truly exceptional day on the water.
Only accessible by private seaplane from Singapore, and accommodating a maximum of 75 guests, Bawah Reserve is the epitome of barefoot luxury, a sanctuary to slow down and unwind in; a place where ‘luxury’ is about being reacquainted with your true self. Amidst nature, peace, quiet and privacy, you return to a childlike state of wellbeing.
The air is subtly fragrant with the scent of coconut oil and frangipani, and all you can hear is the hypnotic chorus of birdsong and the wind gently rustling the leaves in the canopy.
The sunshine is satisfying on your salt-kissed skin and there’s an ice-cold cocktail in your hand; ripe with freshly-picked fruit. It’s sweating slightly in the warmth, threatening to drip onto the pages of the book lying lazily discarded in the white sand beneath your feet.
There’s no one else in sight. It’s just you; the sole inhabitant of a grove of towering coconut palms… or so it feels at Soneva Kiri, a secluded, eco-luxury resort in Koh Kood, Thailand.
While it’s easy to be more carefree than usual in any holiday destination, this slice-of-paradise island is a strong contender for the most content place on earth.
If the resort’s 104 acres of ancient, untouched jungle and glittering beaches aren’t enough to entice your endorphins, the seamless fusion between your spacious, stylishly-appointed villa and its natural surroundings will surely tempt a smile.
Inspired by the undiluted beauty of Koh Kood, the resort is made from environmentally-friendly materials, featuring natural décor, and the result is intoxicating. As you’re sitting in your outdoor bath encircled by lush jungle, it’s hard to imagine a time you weren’t blissfully peaceful.
Every detail of your stay at Soneva Kiri is designed to make you comfortable and is tailored to your exact wants and needs. From the scent of your pillowcases to the detailed itineraries your dedicated hosts help you prepare, the experience is wholly yours.
There’s gourmet dining options, a wine cellar and an award-winning spa to tantalise your senses, as well as endless opportunities to reconnect with nature, including waterfall treks, snorkelling and watching the sunset over the ocean from the resort’s clifftop bar.
The resort offers intelligent luxury of the highest international standard in a remote environment that nurtures the country’s indigenous culture in design, architecture, service and experiences.
Your Koh Kood experience includes an open-air Cinema Paradiso, Benz’ mangrove restaurant, Treetop Dining Pod, observatory, chocolate and ice cream parlours, personal electric buggies and impeccable service courtesy of Mr or Ms Friday private butlers.
While you’re in Thailand, we highly recommend gathering your nearest and dearest, crossing the Gulf of Thailand and popping down to the beautiful, serene Ko Yao Noi Island with its other-worldly views of limestone karst formations for a private villa experience of a lifetime at ÀNI Thailand.
Inspired by the temples of the northern provinces, ÀNI Thailand is a stunning 10-bedroom beachfront enclave offering a magical Southeast Asian experience.
Part of the ÀNI Resorts group – which is renowned as the world’s first collection of private resorts, with villas in Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic and Anguilla – the property provides the ultimate group vacation experience.
Located on Phang Nga Bay with its dramatic sea-cliffs, beautiful lagoons and pristine beaches, ÀNI Thailand has everything you need for a tropical adventure or beach retreat, and the resort team will help you prepare an itinerary with as much action or relaxation as your group desires.
You’re welcome to plan specific meals for the duration of their stay, or leave Chef Yao to surprise you with culinary delights, all within your provided preference guidelines.
ÀNI promises an unforgettable trip that is yours alone to share with friends and family where you’ll be treated to the privacy of a villa; the facilities, staff and service of a five-star resort.
Contact us now to book your Southeast Asia escape!