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Asia travel and leisure guides for hotels, food and drink, shopping, nightlife, and spas | Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

The Best of 2016

T+L’s annual roundup of the hottest new offerings across the region. from stylish bars and luxury tours to trendy shops and boutique hotels, it’s been a bang-up year.

Published on Dec 8, 2016




An unmarked wooden door leads the way into this whiskey den, where the dark timber bar and seating are made from reclaimed boats and furniture. Bartenders retrieve bottles from one of Cambodia’s largest whiskey collections by climbing a sliding wooden ladder, while locally brewed beers on tap and an impressive cocktail list complement a host of hearty pub-style dishes.; drinks for two US$8.


Malis Siem Reap marries Khmer motifs with modern fare

Set in an elegant two story building along the Siem Reap River, the restaurant conjures up the nearby temples of Angkor with Khmer motifs woven throughout its design. An offshoot of the popular Malis in Phnom Penh, the menu stays true to chef Luu Meng’s blend of traditional recipes and modern cooking techniques. Definitely try the Kampot rock crab in a red curry sauce.; dinner for two US$50.


Goodies galore at The Providore

The Providore's charcuterie platters

This gourmet café and deli in central Phnom Penh feels like a chic, oversized pantry. Its walls are lined with imported wines, spirits and dry goods while chilled cabinets display enough cheeses and cured meats to send epicures into a spin. A tasting menu has been created to showcase the grocer’s offerings, featuring simple fare topped with unusual ingredients and hard-to-find produce.; lunch for two US$15.

On the banks of Kampot’s languid river, this yellow-hued 1930s Art Deco building is a true gem with extra points for history— at various stages it has served as a radio station, customs house and even a night club. Serving seafood fresh from the trawlers, The Fishmarket, named for its original incarnation, is a relaxed spot to grab a bite to eat. Go at dusk to sip cocktails while watching local Cham Muslim fishermen steering their boats out to sea as the sun sets over the Praek Tuek Chhu river.; dinner for two US$28.




Sunset at Templation

With 33 suites and villas dotted along almost two hectares of garden grounds, this Siem Reap hotel strikes harmonic accord with its lush surrounds. The flawless design of the rooms—most of which have their own private pools, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, and outdoor bathrooms—is all about maximizing interaction with nature. And, just a stone’s throw from Angkor Wat, there’s plenty of opportunity to soak in the area’s history as well.; doubles from US$148.


Avian flourishes at The Aviary

The Aviary's turquoise pool

Driven by ecologically responsible principles, this tasteful 25-room boutique hotel in the heart of Siem Reap has style points to spare. The space is a celebration of the local wildlife with animal-inspired flourishes and works commissioned from local artists giving the lodgings a distinctive Cambodian flavor. True to the name, bird statues abound, but the theme never threatens to overwhelm.; doubles from US$89. —Holly Robertson




Dare to sip the Spicy Fifty cocktail at Maison Eight

This is the first Asia based cocktail bar from legendary mixologist Salvatore Calabrese. In addition to signature drinks such as his Spicy Fifty (vanilla vodka mixed with elderflower cordial, lime juice and honey syrup laced with red chili) the menu nods to the city’s colonial past with the Queen’s Backyard, which combines gin-infused rhubarb, strawberry sherbet, elderflower cordial and apple juice to conjure up the flavors of an English summer. The roomy terrace commands knock-out views over Victoria Harbour.; cocktails for two HK$250.


Potato Head serves up pork belly in banana leaves

Where else in Hong Kong could hip Indonesian lifestyle brand Potato Head be located but in the oh-so au courant district of Sai Ying Pun? Open bookings are elusive at its Kaum restaurant, which serves dishes from across Indonesia. The Midcentury Modern-tinged space also contains a bar, a coffee shop, and boutique/ gallery that champions artisans from its native country. But the coolest innovation is the listening space, a rec room with a classic turntable that feels like a hidden house party.; dinner for two HK$550.


A Wagyu riff on Thai boat noodle soup at Samsen

Hong Kong’s first dedicated Thai noodle house has customers willing to brave the lines for its signature Wagyu beef boat noodle, while dessert high notes include pandanus coconut dumplings in warm salted coconut cream. The casual shophouse sees diners huddled together on stools around intimate tables as they keep an eye on dinner’s progress from the open kitchen.; dinner for two HK$250.


250 Melt lights set Alto restaurant aglow

At this modern grill and rooftop bar situated on the 31st floor of Hong Kong’s new V Point building in Causeway Bay, diners are bathed in a warm glow from an installation canopy of 250 gold mini Melt lights by Brit designer Tom Dixon. While the mains are as you’d expect—hanger steaks, A5 Wagyu, pan-roasted duck breast there’s plenty of innovation in the appetizers, including bone marrow with chimichurri, and watermelon salad with raisin vinaigrette.; dinner for two from HK$550.

Hong Kong’s largest HMV store has introduced F&B into the mix with a 230-seater restaurant that serves up surprisingly upscale fare—the HMV Burger is made from Australian Wagyu and roasted game hen appears on the menu. The 3,716-squaremeter space in Pearl City Mansion also acts as a showcase for local musicians; Wednesday is jazz night while recent weekend spots have been taken by everyone from pop/rock duo Lil’ Ashes to Beatles-tribute band Old Boys.; dinner for two from HK$300.



The Olympian Hotel

With the West Kowloon Cultural District now up and running —M+ Pavilion, which features an exhibition space dedicated to visual art, recently opened, and free monthly festival Freespace is a regular fixture—the area is becoming more of a tourist magnet. If you’re in town to hang out in this artsy, up-and-coming hub, then check into the Olympian, a sumptuous 32-room hotel with uncharacteristically large rooms for Hong Kong (its starter Deluxe Olympian rooms measure in at 43 square meters) with high-end touches like Acca Kappa toiletries and fresh flowers in rooms.; doubles from HK$1,750. —HELEN DALLEY





Steak and lobster at Dava

Nothing beats good old surf and turf, and this restaurant at Ayana Resort grills it up to a perfection matched only by the view. Hovering over the river pool, Dava is a stellar spot for sunset ocean vistas. Sure, there is a wine expert on hand to guide you through the walk-in wine cellar, but there is also a beef sommelier and a salt sommelier, all ready to help you nail your order.; dinner for two US$100.


Chef Ragil Imam Wibowo at Nusa Gastronomy 

Modern cooking meets traditional Indonesian ingredients and flavors in a creative menu that is full of surprises. Nusa Gastronomy is helmed by chef Ragil Imam Wibowo, host of the popular cooking show Makan Besar, who has scoured the archipelago for the most special spices to bring his dishes to life, like the Na Niura fish ceviche using asam jungga, an indigenous lime from North Sumatra.; three-course set from US$27.



Hop on a private helicopter and fly to Bali's best surf

How far are you willing to go to claim your own waves? Tropicsurf has launched a heli-surfing experience offering guests of the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay a 45-minute helicopter flight across the strait from Bali to a landing area right in front of Grajagan’s famed breaks on the edge of a national park in East Java. Spend the day braving the tubes in total seclusion, or, for the less aquatically inclined, just exploring the nearby beaches and jungles, before heading back to the resort for sunset.; US$10,000 all inclusive.



A tapestry of greens and blues surrounds this 10-villa health-centric refuge among the rice paddies of Sanur, Bali. The Indian Ocean winks in the distance and turquoise pools dot the property’s shockingly chartreuse lawns, in hues so saturated you’re practically swimming in a color wheel. In Sanskrit, samata represents a state of balance between the body and mind, and this property by Lifestyle Retreats aims to satisfy both. The tennis court, gym and yoga studio will get your heart pounding, while the calming landscape provides a visual lullaby.; doubles from US$215.

The city may be bustling, but nothing ruffles Raffles. The new 173-room property hotel in Kuningan is going for an artist-retreat vibe, inspired by local icon Hendra Gunawan, so guests can experience the vibrant culture of Jakarta without the chaos. The fluidity of the women and trees Gunawan paints is reflected in the architectural flow, and his work hangs in the rooms and suites, which are among the city’s largest.; doubles from US$220.


Eco-friendly elegance at Menjangan Dynasty Resort

Serving up adventure with a side of extravagance, this beach camp and dive center is set on 16 hectares of land by Banyuwedang Bay in Northwest Bali. The safari-style resort is eco at heart—the rooms are crafted from canvas and the common areas are made of bamboo—but frills like private infinity pools amp up the luxury.; glamping from US$190. —MERRITT GURLEY




Hidden behind thick drapes in an unmarked doorway (you’ll need to ask the hotel reception at the Marriott for directions), this ambient speakeasy is manned by a bartender who disdains fancy, tricked-up cocktails. Instead, drinks are based on 150 spirits that are cask- or spice finished and served neat, in flights, or as close to the original cocktail recipe as possible.; drinks for two S$45.

Built in the 1960s for the Singapore Customs Police, these days the Customs House focuses on less clandestine pursuits, like drinking and dining at the clutch of stylish restaurants and mood-lit watering holes that fill its waterfront. The latest addition, Super Loco, a largely gluten-free, modern Mexican menu, including roasted chicken, Monterey Jack and cilantro mayo; and soft corn tortillas nuzzling crispy soft shell crabs.; dinner and drinks for two S$70.



Chinatown Heritage Centre

Located along a long stretch of touristy shops hawking trinkets and tchotchkes in Chinatown, the Chinatown Heritage Centre has just emerged from an extended refurbishment, and what a treat it is. Carved out of three early 20th-century shophouses, the museum is an intriguing peek into the past. Alongside new gallery spaces and exhibits, entire room sets from the era have been faithfully recreated, right down to dimly lit kitchens and cramped bedrooms of the original Chinatown tenants.



A hot mineral pool at Calla Spa

Spas are a dime a dozen in Singapore, but few match the sheer scale of this 920-square-meter cocoon, or its imaginative menu of treatments that incorporate everything from trehalose and baobab extracts to aromatic oils infused with sandalwood, peony, jojoba, and water lily. Separate his and hers hot mineral pools are powered by NASA technology that pumps the waters with oxidized ions; the couple’s suite incorporates a private infrared sauna.; treatments from S$98.


Conceived by Wee Teng Wen, the hospitality maven behind the two Michelin-star Odette, Looksee Looksee is an unusual creature. Located in a fin de siècle shophouse in Singapore’s Kampong Glam quarter, its gray-tan-pink interior houses a cozy, light-filled public reading room. The books, ranging from Buddhist philosophy to architecture and cookbooks, are regularly curated by a blue-chip corps of Singaporean influencers, chefs and fashion designers. Peruse while sipping tea brewed by local tea specialists A.muse Projects.



Order whiskey, hold the nonsense, at The Other Room

Billed as the world’s tallest greenscaped building, the Oasia Downtown’s green-clad façade looms over the historic red-tiled roofline of Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar neighborhood. The Aga Khan laureate architects WoHa have stacked the rooms in alternating volumes around a central core perforated with sky gardens whose terraces are festooned with lush creepers and flowering varietals. The 314 rooms, each furnished in soft hues of pastels, stylized leafy screens and patterned rugs, offer dizzying views of the city, as does the rooftop pool.; doubles from S$189. —DAVEN WU



Nouveau American cuisine may be hard to define, but out of the clever kitchen of locavore-leaning chef Arnie Marcella, it’s exceedingly easy to eat. Pair your roast baby carrots, local ricotta tortellini and dry aged squab with one of their alcohol-forward cocktails, international craft brews or wines from a broad but accessible list. No, let beverage director Andreas Pergher pair for you; he’ll do it with a wink and a smile.; dinner for two Bt2,000.

Bangkok’s most authentic American burger has found a permanent home, and has invited some tasty pals over to play. Mark and Honey Falcioni, of the Daniel Thaiger food truck, have opened a casual temple to carnivorism, where the dripping Tomahawk and the juicy pork chops impress. But they haven’t forgotten their roots. Get the newest flavor burst: the Mac’N’Blues, a burger topped with blue cheese, dijon and their excellent mac and cheese. Also, just get the mac and cheese.; dinner for two Bt1,200.


Fresh catch at Morimoto Bangkok

Iron Chef extraordinaire Masaharu Morimoto has entered the ring with his signature fusion fare (tuna pizza; hamachi tacos; lobster pad Thai) abetted by fat, fuss-free cuts of sushi. Both the famous Morimoto chicken noodle soup and the clam miso are such perfect tonics that you’ll wish sickness upon yourself to eat them every day. Hit the outdoor bar for a close-up of the flash new Mahanakorn Tower and a nightcap or seven curated by Vibhi Harnvarakiat, sweetheart of a sake wunderkind.; dinner for two Bt3,000.



The Himalayan salt room at Amatara Wellness Resort 

The world’s first Thai hammam is a pampering process, steam to scrub to salt room. But this newly retooled luxe resort in Phuket bursts with wellness options, from a deceptively delicious spa menu, to personal training and yoga, to its lengthy list of retreats. There’s even one to help you better bond with your partner. Sounds like the definition of heart healthy to us.; doubles from Bt8,050.



A Residence at Anantara Layan

Calling all ballers. In the market for a sevenbedroom duplex with lawn-topped living and dining villas, a sunken sala for barbecues served by an army of butlers, and a 21-meter infinity pool with a hottub, submerged loungers, and glass-bottom windows so you can swim a peak into your personal spa room below? On this northwest Phuket hilltop, the service will stun as much as the Andaman Sea views—just wait til the firepit erupts at sunset.; residences from Bt89,500 for two-bedroom.


Riva Arun

Straddled by Wat Arun across the river and the four kings’ spires of Wat Po in its backyard, Riva Arun seems suitably blessed, even before you toss in a private pier offering aquatic access to Bankok’s newest Old Town boutique. The clean white and green palette helps maximize a feeling of airiness, which is most apparent in the three top-floor suites with vast balconies and whirlpool tubs.; doubles from Bt3,359. —JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN


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