Hotels can make or break a trip. Sometimes they bring you closer to a destination, sometimes they elevate your experience, and other times they are the destination themselves. Trevor and I have been lucky enough to stay at a lot of interesting and memorable properties across Asia over the years, and today we’re going to share some of those experiences with you. From high-end to charming and local, there’s a wide range of winners here you’re sure to want to make a part of your next trip to the region.
Scott and Trevor banter about how they came up with this episode, explaining what they mean by “most memorable”, i.e. not necessarily luxury hotels but the most unforgettable experiences.
Trevor: My base criteria for an acceptable hotel: clean bedding, relative quiet, good breakfast. Memorable needs to mean something as I’ve stayed in SO many hotels in my life. I’ve certainly forgotten more hotels than I could count. But sometimes a great hotel breakfast is memorable. Sometimes the worst hotel experiences are the most memorable!
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The following show notes are only an outline.
To listen to the full episode, listen now!!!
Most Memorable Beach Hotels:
Trevor: Generally want beachfront and water that I can swim in at night. That puts quite a few places on the memorable list simply for epic skinny dipping. Koh Nang Yuan is a great late-night swimming place even if not beachfront rooms and a few other issues. Otherwise, it’s mostly about the beach but occasionally about the amenities and service. Soneva Kiri was pretty awesome in all regards.
Scott: Soneva Khiri, yes. Also Song Saa: really gorgeous villas (should be at way more than US$1,000/night); kayaks complementary and booze for that matter – they brought me a bottle of JD to the room; had a tour to a nearby village (didn’t do) but it provided a local touch; GM came to say ‘hi’; nice dinner choices; good balance between personal service and personal space
Trevor: Beach mid-range Railey Beach Club.
Scott: Green Beach Hut – Ko Phayam: very simple A-frame, with just a fan, cold water and simple sheets, but it was clean and right next to the beach. Had a chair and hammock on the balcony, which made you want to hang out there. They also had hanging platforms from trees with pillows to lounge on, read, eat, whatever. We didn’t go anywhere for three days and ate most of our meals there – a huge plus when staying somewhere is good, well-priced food. Also a 5km long beach, flat for great runs and walks. Run by the owner couple which was super charming.
Trevor: Beach: budget (was Kellys in Bingin) – now… Lazy Beach, Cambodia
Koh Ra eco-lodge was memorable as I was the only guest at the only resort on the island.
Most Memorable Jungle / Nature Hotels:
Scott: 4 Rivers Floating Lodge – Tatai, Cambodia: personally run, quality tents and furniture, quiet and contemplative, offering of tours but absolutely fine to do nothing, decent food and beers available, kayaks to use to enjoy the river, swim right off your tent balcony, that real out-there feeling
Trevor: Luxe Jungle – Shinta Mani Wild (Four Seasons Tented Camp is up there too.)
Scott: Phu Chaisai – Chiang Rai province: some of the original bamboo bungalows (with comfortable amenities) but all obviously one-of-a-kind in design, blends in with the local environment, walking trails around, ability to cycling in/out of the resort, a garden where they produce their own veggies, great views of the valley below, nice bar area that feels like you’re in someone’s house and run by the Thai owners. Magical. Now run by Jason Freidman who was on Ep.110.
Trevor: Mid-range Jungle: Cardamom Tented Camp, even V-kirirom. Tented camps are cool.
Scott: Sanctum Inle Resort; almost Spanish in design, nice white facade, well-appointed rooms, right on the lake. Nice bar, patio for enjoying, good food at a reasonable price, and boat rental with driver available to head out onto the lake. Real luxurious feeling, with locals working there, without feeling pretentious. A perfect family hotel (adult families).
Scott: Sala Done Khone Hotel – Don Khon – Laos; they have a variety of rooms, but two that are in the original governor’s house there – belonged to the French I believe. I almost felt like there were ghosts, in a good way, here. Ceiling fan, tiled floor, not fancy, but definitely felt every inch of history. Good floating balcony for watching life on the river.
Trevor: Budget Jungle – Rajan Jones Guest House, Lake Cini, Malaysia
Scott: La Folie Lodge – Laos; Don Daeng; charming boat ride across the river to get there; nice wooden rooms looking at the Mekong River; quiet, quiet, quiet. Nice pool, and little restaurant. Reasonably priced for what it is with a good menu and beers. Can use their bicycles to ride around the island, which is larger than you might think. I did about 50% of it and went 14km in pouring rain. Really nice property that made me feel that I was in a remote spot along the Mekong River. Friendly staff too.
Trevor: Coolest decor: Dhara Devi Chiang Mai. I forgot I was in a hotel. Listen to the episode and hear why. *** And why I was only there to sleep plus an hour before / after.
Scott: Capsule Hotel – Hiroshima and Kyoto; this is a top experience; not private, but unique in all respects. Small tv in the roof, climb in, put bag inside or one I stayed at had locker facilities. Sometimes they have onsen as well and complimentary corn soup machine in the lobby, which my wife loved. This is a Japanese experience (popular as the trains stop at midnight and taxis home are more than a capsule hotel for the evening).
Trevor: Best City Hotel: Don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a wow Asian city hotel
It really should be about the view, yeah? Usually travel alone, rarely write about cities, and therefore never could justify the expense of splashing out on a city hotel in Asia. The Venetian in Macao was pretty cool. Got a tour that included the Whale Suite.
Scott: Governor’s Residence – Yangon; it is a small hotel that was actually a governor’s residence at one time. Colonial build and feel, you really do feel like you’re living in an Orwell novel and it reeks of history (not all good). I do think they are partially owned by the government which is a consideration to not stay.
Trevor: Governor’s Residence at Terres Rouge in BL. Wooden floors, doors, windows, amazing bathrooms, the plumbing, the black and white photos around the pool table.
If you’re going to stay somewhere remote, it’s cozy staying in old-world luxury. Until you think of ghosts.
Scott: The Dwarika’s Hotel – Kathmandu: there is simply no hotel I’ve been in before that felt more authentic like stepping into a different time and world than here. Enter through large wooden doors, huge courtyards, servers in traditional dress, incredible wooden window frames, superb staff, pillows, exquisite rooms, this place is awesome!
Trevor: Bucket List – Gibbon Experience Treehouse, some floating hotel – perhaps in Kanchanaburi
- Robe Report hotel reviews on 2-mag.com
- Hotel Majapahit Surabaya
- Talk Travel Asia Episode 144: Best Beaches in Asia
- Talk Travel Asia Episode 110: Creating a great hotel experience with Jason Friedman
- Talk Travel Asia Episode 95: Cambodia’s evolving hotel scene with Alexis de Surmain
- Talk Travel Asia Episode 141: Asia’s Nex-Gen hotels with Tomo Hamakawa
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