It’s been a big year out East. Blossom Green traverses the continent to bring you our pick of the game-changing launches from the past year
Go for creative cool Katamama, Bali
The Island of the Gods is not short of ‘just-got-to-go-there’ hotels, but it’s Katamama’s unique artisanal ethos that piqued our interest and made it one of our favourite openings of the past 12 months. On the southern tip of the island, the Seminyak address affords it ‘cool’ status (it’s known as a playground for the global arty crowd) but it’s the architectural design headed up by Indonesian craftsmen that really makes it stand out.
It starts with the facade – clad in more than 1.5million hand- pressed Balinese temple bricks – and flows effortlessly to the ironwood-decked pool, finished with handmade Batu Sukabumi tiles. The mid-century furniture and exposed walls of the suites sit in stark contrast to the ubiquitous bamboo/darkwood combo that dominates the island’s hotels. As does the note- worthy range of Spanish tapas served up at restaurant MoVida
Immersive activities such as ikat weaving and ceramic workshops take guests to the heart of the area’s vibrant creative community and help to make it one of the most seamlessly thematic hotels that we’ve come across.
ROOMS 58 suites, three with private pools
PRICE Prices start at £190, including breakfast
NEAREST AIRPORT Ngurah Rai International, 14km
THE VIBE Artsy, sun-kissed hedonists permeate the pool
HOT TIP Seminyak has a buzzing food scene. Sardine’s bamboo structure and paddy-side locale make a superb backdrop to fresh local seafood.
Go for playful luxury Kandima, Maldives
One of the newest properties to make the cut, Kandima has had one hell of an impact since it launched in February. The 50 shades of blue may scream ‘Indian Ocean’, but the family- friendly approach of this resort is a refreshing change from the honeymoon-focused hotels dotted across the Atolls. It’s stylish, hip and doesn’t take itself too seriously, encouraging guests to let their hair down with the relaxed vibe that pervades throughout.
Spread across a 3km island on the dreamy Dhaalu Atoll, it boasts a jaw-dropping lagoon and the country’s longest pool. Modern rooms are splashed with whimsical colour, and range from beachside to overwater to suit different budgets. We’re particularly digging the Sky and Beach studios, which feel like a take on a Fifties Miami holiday (pack your blazers). Explore the grounds on the back of a bike to discover tennis courts, yoga sessions, beach volleyball and eight restaurants. You’ll be kept busy with scuba dives and windsurfing but save a day to laze on the nets of one of the hotel’s catamarans. This is ‘New Maldives’ at its best and we’re seriously into it.
ROOMS 274 studios and villas, 40 with private pools
PRICE Prices start at £320, half board
NEAREST AIRPORT Dhaalu Airport, 20 minutes by speedboat
THE VIBE Everyone’s welcome; come on in, the water’s lovely
HOT TIP Daytime temperatures in the Maldives hover at around 30C all year, but the hours of sunlight can vary. Jan-Mar averages nine hours of sun per day with minimal rainfall
Go for on-trend escapes Shangri-La Hambantota, Sri Lanka
India’s Teardrop is the country on the tip of everyone’s tongue at the moment. Sri Lanka has recently seen huge improvements in its infrastructure, numerous new tours and more hotel launches than you can throw a coconut at. The island reminds us of Bali 15 years ago and it’s amid strong competition that Shangri-La’s chic style and world-class facilities have earned the top spot.
There are few things better than kicking back for a lazy day under an awning of swaying palms, and this gem, which sits on the old Spice Route, is the ideal spot. Hambantota’s location hits the mark, as on the southernmost tip you’re promised a swimmable coastline (not the case elsewhere in the country), local villages that feel more like botanical gardens and heavenly equatorial climes. You’re also close to Udawalawe National Park with its unique birdlife, and Yala, which is home to the largest concentration of leopards in the world, is easily accessible.
The fresh, modern design of the bedrooms feature inviting colours, four-poster beds, contemporary furniture (such as hanging lounge chairs) and huge balconies with magnificent sea views. The 60ha grounds make it the country’s largest resort and provide room for both a lagoon and a golf course. An artisan village aimed at preserving regional culture introduces guests to wood carving, and thrill seekers can hop on a flying trapeze, brushing the treetops like the resident violet-faced monkeys. A spa, three pools and barefoot bowling are alternatives for more sedate days.
ROOMS 300, including 21 suites
PRICE Prices start at £202, all inclusive including green fees
NEAREST AIRPORT Hambantota Mattala Rajapaksa, 35km
THE VIBE For those who like a side of culture with their tan
HOT TIP Book a garden room, framed by plantlife, to be at one with nature. Don’t be surprised to find swinging monkeys, kingfishers and peacocks strutting in front of your sun lounger
Go for design-led jungle retreats Keemala, Thailand
If the thought of waking up in Phuket’s rainforest to the turquoise sparkle of the Andaman Sea has you swooning, just wait: it gets better. Keemala rises in a swathe of stilted basket-like pods and curvaceous clay villas that cup the hillside and float among the canopy. It’s a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in The Jungle Book, though here you’re more likely to come across a water buffalo than Shere Khan. Set on the west coast of the island, it’s Keemala’s design that has won it our vote as the top Thai launch.
The rich, earthy decor throughout is on point. Villas reveal warm mushroom tones and heavy wood juxtaposed with fresh white and olive-green linens. Rustic bathrooms with raw stone tubs merge effortlessly into the natural landscape thanks to retractable floor-to-ceiling windows, while private pools are ideal for languid toe dipping. It’s a tough call when it comes to naming our favourite villas, but the almost 360-degree views afforded by the two-storey, seedpod-shaped Tree Pool Houses just about clinch it. Elsewhere, lofty jungle walkways connect to a communal pool, holistic spa and the glass-fronted restaurant, Mala, which focuses on macrobiotic and slow food.
ROOMS 38 pool villas
PRICE Prices start at £358, including transfers and a villa host
NEAREST AIRPORT Phuket International, 30km
THE VIBE Stylish bohos and the occasional inoffensive blogger
HOT TIP Avoid the throng of sunburnt tourists at Patong Beach. Kamala has clear waters for snorkelling; Laem Singh, five minutes further on, is picturesque and far less crowded
Go for postcard-worthy scenery Alila Anji, China
A serene oasis made for shutterbugs, Alila Anji’s mysterious mountain panoramas captivated us on first glance. It’s tucked away in China’s Zhejiang province, on a lake shrouded by eerie mists and framed by 60,000ha of dense bamboo groves and tea plantations. The resort itself, designed to replicate a traditional Chinese village, doesn’t jar, and the delicate design and calming neutral tones in the suites allow the surrounds to speak for themselves. Art throughout the hotel is in keeping with the setting, botanical sketches back up the verdant landscape and muted yellows run through the soft furnishings.
The well-preserved landscape is guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing. You can recce from the raised balcony of your room or via the panoramic views of the indoor pool beforegrabbing the camera and heading out. Be inspired by fishermen and pretty blooms on Tian Fu Lake in spring, or book for winter when receding water levels reveal ancient shrines jutting out from the depths. You’ll come across phenomenal birdlife and iconic temples amid the wooded thicket all year round, and the team will introduce you to some secret spots, too.
ROOMS 74 suites and villas
PRICE Prices start at £175, room only
NEAREST AIRPORT Hangzhou International, 110km
THE VIBE Classy, outdoorsy-types with an eye for detail
HOT TIP Add on a day in Hangzhou to visit the oh-so pretty West Lake with its temples and pagodas before checking out charming Hefang Old Street for its ancient-style vendors and teahouses
Go for beachside beauty Theanam, Vietnam
It was the ‘No shoes. No news. No stress’ motto that first caught our eye at The Anam. You’ll find the resort in Vietnam’s up-and- coming Cam Ranh area, close to Nha Trang, amid palms that dance on warm sea breezes and lush tropical gardens kissed by 300m of pristine private beach. It’s the perfect place to drop and flop after exploring the region’s myriad charms. A visit is like stepping back in time as French colonial touches, such as airy, columned pavilions and verandas, ease you in to a restful stay. Nothing’s brash or overdone and it’s just a short walk from your plush villa to the beach, tennis courts or one of the three swimming pools on the 12ha property, making it ideal for R&R.
The South China Sea tickles the luxurious beachside villas, where the design fuses old-world charm and modern-day comfort to perfection. Expect decorative tiling and a tasteful scattering of colour in the textiles. Sunken bathtubs and private pools seal the deal, while garden suites are ensconced in greenery of every shade. Guests can look forward to an Asian take on cicchetti at Indochine Café, while the spa focuses on Balinese massages for the ultimate chill out.
ROOMS 105 suites and villas, 27 with private pools
PRICE Prices start at £151, including breakfast
NEAREST AIRPORT Cam Ranh International, 18km
THE VIBE Coastal haven for couples looking to explore
HOT TIP Branch out and barter at Nha Trang ’s bustling markets. Cho Dam is our pick for food and handicraft, while Xom Moi is less frequented by tourists offering a more authentic experience
Go for minimalist escapism Amanemu, Japan
A winding driveway, flanked by maple trees that curve like the hint of a smile, are your welcoming committee at Amanemu. It opened last year amid the Japanese foliage of Ise-Shima National Park and it’s the harmonious way in which it sits in its idyllic locale that has us in rapture. Far from the country’s madding crowds, this resort is all about restorative wellness from the design down to the amenities. An okami (female manager) is key to the experience – trained in the art of hospitality, she ensures your every need is pre-empted. This is the place to redress your work-life balance.
Amanemu is set on a bed of natural onsen (hot springs) and carefully incorporates the elements, with each suite featuring a private, mineral-rich hot bath. The low-slung dark-stained cedar exteriors, light Japanese timber and bathrooms adorned with charcoal basalt provide a tangible synergy with nature. Nothing is overly fussy: don’t expect bolshy colour; do expect simple feminine elegance and calming forest vistas.
Hike among camphor, red pines and Japanese cypresses before visiting the water-inspired spa for bathing and a herb- based kampo treatment to reunite body and mind. Afterwards, a no-pomp, izakaya-style supper is in order. Don’t miss fresh seafood and herbs from the Mie Prefecture, once hailed as the breadbasket of the ancient Imperial Court.
ROOMS 24 suites and four two-bedroom villas
PRICE Prices start at £644, room only
NEAREST AIRPORT Nagoya Chubu International, 185km
THE VIBE Zen – don neutral linen and chant your mantras
HOT TIP Nearby is the beautiful, pearl-studded Ago Bay. Visit late afternoon to catch the reflections of the cultivation rafts
This article was published on 10th May 2017 so certain details may not be up to date.