Check out the region's healthiest hideaways to feel good and look great.

As the old saying goes, the thing you need most after a holiday is another holiday. Far from being a time for relaxation, the modern vacation too often works like this: Wake up earlier than normal; plough through a brutal sightseeing itinerary; allow your suppressed gluttony and alcoholism to run riot. Enough already—there are plenty of regional escapes that focus solely on your well-being. Whether you seek enlightenment, beauty treatments, or if you need to get back in shape, you can be certain you’ll return from these resorts reinvigorated.


Get Fit

Help is at hand in your battle against the bulge.


Sharing Bali at Ayung Sari Indah
Singaprang, Bali, +62 817-4705-579,

Set amid lush hills, rainforest and sprawling farmland, and both laid back and affordable, everything about Ayung Sari Indah is distinctly Balinese, from the stone and timber bungalows with grass roofs to its statue-filled gardens. There is a calming, village feel to the place—there are no TVs and guests are encouraged to dine together. Both group and solo bookings are available.
Programs on offer:
Sharing Bali’s series of six-day “fit in Bali” programs are tailored to get your fitness back on track where 6am jogging alarms have failed. The flagship Boot Camp Bali Style conducted by personal trainers shapes both body and mind, promising to leave you energized and refreshed. Jungle treks, a volcano climb and backroad biking might sound intense, but all fitness levels are catered for. You can look forward to healthy local fare, massages, yoga and spa sessions that will ease those aching muscles.
You’ll remember it for:
The views of Bali from up in the mountains, and being able to wear the clothes you want to wear once again.
Prices start at:
AU$1,095 ($1,425), everything included.
You might also like:
Ayana Resort and Spa (Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, Bali, +62 361-702-222., the official sponsor of the 2011 Bali International Traithlon and home to an Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool.


Rawai Muay Thai Camp
43/42 M.7 Soi Sai Yuan Rd., Rawai, Phuket +66 814-769-377,

If that beach training scene in Rocky III still plays in your head, you can finally act it out, Muay Thai style. Run by brothers Tuk, Li, Fin and Hehm, Rawai is one of southern Thailand’s most popular Muay Thai gyms. Known for its family atmosphere and dedicated coaching staff, Rawai opened its doors to foreign students in 2003.
Programs on offer:
A day here begins with a 7:30am run followed by Muay Thai training (sparring, pad work and technique development). The morning training session ends with weights, stretching or yoga and afternoon training follows lunch. Rawai recommends stays of between one and three months to get the best results, but as we aren’t all blessed with that much free time, they also offer daily training rates. However long you stay, you’ll not only leave with better fitness and combat skills; Rawai’s programs also help you detox and break bad habits like smoking.
You’ll remember it for:
Your own Rocky beach scene to boast about of course. And if anyone ever tries to cross you, they’re going down.
Prices start at:
Accommodation starts at B500 ($20) per night and training starts at B500 ($20) per day.
You might also like:
Tiger Muay Thai (7/6 Moo 5 Soi Tad-ied, Ao Chalong, Muang, Phuket, +66 (0)76-367-071,, one of the biggest names in the Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts arenas. You might remember some of their fighters kicking ass at last year’s Martial Combat.


The Fitness Holiday Bootcamp
The Spa Resort Chiang Mai, 165 Moo 4 Huaysai, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai,

The last time you were guaranteed eight to 16 pounds of weight-loss, it either involved pills, liposuction or compulsory military service. Founded by Louise and Richard Thomas, The Fitness Holiday promises to help you shed that weight amid the natural beauty and cultural wealth of northern Thailand.
Programs on offer:
The Fitness Holiday’s week-long Bootcamp is a morning-toevening holistic weight loss program. On top of the prerequisite physical activity (cardio, combat, cycling and Pilates), your journey will be aided by a delicious, low calorie menu, fat-burning sauna treatment, massage sessions and nutritional advice.
You’ll remember it for:
The sights, sounds and people of Chiang Mai (tours to the surrounding attractions are available), and the joy of not having to suck in your stomach anymore.
Prices start at:
B38,270 ($1,595), everything included.
You might also like:
Lamai Muay Thai Camp (82/2 Moo 3, Lamai Beach, Maret, Koh Samui, +66 (0)77-418-430,, a dedicated Muay Thai gym with a just-opened cardio and weights facility.


Get Soul

Look after your mind and it'll look after you.

The Kandy Samadhi Centre
Kukul Oya Rd., Sri Lanka, +94 81-447-0925,

Samadhi—a Sanskrit term referring to a state of total meditation. A 50-minute drive from Kandy, this lush hideaway is nestled high up in the hills and offers almost total seclusion from the rest of the world; you won’t get a mobile signal up here. This isn’t a five-star retreat but a tranquil, templelike sanctuary with spacious verandahs, lotus ponds, herb gardens and artistic fixtures, with breathtaking views of the nearby hills and paddy fields.
Programs on offer:
The Centre specializes in ayurvedic treatment, particularly the Sherodhara Oil drip. Its ayurvedic consultant can also recommend the right diet and treatment for whatever ails you, be it an everyday condition, a disorder or a serious illness. Tours and nature walks to surrounding areas are available, as are barefoot shiatsu massage sessions. And we wager you’ll rethink your attitude towards vegetables after a meal here, as the ingredients for the exclusively vegetarian fare are picked fresh before each meal.
You’ll remember it for:
The morning mists, the tasty organic food, the stunning greenery and the feeling of absolute rejuvenation upon leaving the place.
Prices start at:
US$45 ($57) a night.
You might also like:
Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort (Samanthara Rd., Pothupitiya, +94 38 428-4996,—yet another serene, lush niche on the south-western coast of this teardrop isle. The sparkling blue waters of the Indian Ocean are postcard perfect. Further afield and higher up in Bhutan, Uma Paro (Paro, +975 (8) 271-597, is an incredible blend of luxury, nature and Himalayan Zen.


ONEWORLD retreats Kumara
Jl. Suweta, Banjar Sambahan, Ubud, Bali, +62 361-972-685,

Perched high above slopes of beautiful paddy fields, Bali’s artistic and cultural nerve center is a refreshing antithesis to the backpacker-laden towns to the south. The Kumara, as it’s fondly known, has 10 sophisticated rooms, verdant gardens, two pools and lots of nature-based fixtures, from gorges to a small river.
Programs on offer:
You can opt for packages that include yoga lessons for beginners, spa treatments ranging from massages to facials, and meditation classes. Meals are clean, fresh, organic and utterly delicious. Regulars who flock here annually describe this place as heaven on earth.
You’ll remember it for:
The ultimate detox, de-stress and rehab holiday. We’re not for flippant marketing catchphrases, but you’ll definitely leave this place “a new you.”
Prices start at:
US$117.60 ($148) per night.
You might also like:
Zen Resort Bali (Ds. Ume Anyar Seririt, Singaraja, +62 3629-3578)— away from the crowded southern parts of the island, it’s situated on the laidback northern coast. Zen touts itself as Bali’s “first integrated ayurveda, yoga and nature resort.”


Get Better

The path to wellness involves lots of lying back, soaking, sinking into things and being kneaded.


The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Ipoh, Perak, +60 (5) 210-7777,

This eco-friendly retreat spreads traditional Chinese, Malay and Indianesque treatments across its extensive menu. Just a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, within the Tambun mountain range, it’s surrounded by natural wonders. Banjaran’s villas offer three different bathing options—the rainforest shower, geothermal hot dipping pools and ice baths.
Programs on offer:
Programs last from three to 21 nights and include accommodation. Targeting those battling their biological clocks, the Longevity program features organic anti-ageing facials and body polishes, antioxidant restoration and a Pranayama Breathing session. The Rejuvenation program lets you enjoy organic rejuvenation facials, traditional Malay and Warm River Stone massages and a Reiki or Chakra Balancing treatment. For those who need inner and outer cleansing, the Detox program comes with organic detox facials, a nutrition consultation, a colonic hydrotherapy session and Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massages.
You’ll remember it for:
The KuuSh 24 Carat Gold Facial. Touted as the most powerful antiaging element, this ayurvedic treatment promises healthier, refreshed, more elastic skin through the removal of toxins. Gold diggers take note.
Prices start at:
RM1,800 ($750) a night.
You might also like:
The Datai, Langkawi (Jalan Teluk Datai, Pulau Langkawi, Kedah, +60 (4) 959-2500, is another rainforest retreat specializing in massages, body polishes and bathing ceremonies with Balinese, Indian and Tibetan themes. Across in East Malaysia, Borneo Highlands Resort (Jalan Borneo Heights, Padawan, Kuching, Sarawak +60 (8) 257-7930, is known for its treatments inspired by the native Bidayuh tribe.


Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa
102/9 Moo 3, Laem Set Rd., Na-Muang, Koh Samui, Suratthani, +66 (0)77-429-800,

Away from the tourist bustle of Koh Samui and atop a secluded hill, accommodation options include rooms, suites and villas with private pools overlooking the open sea. The resort’s ethnic and rustic furnishings and statues of deities give it a real spiritual vibe.
Programs on offer:
Detox, yoga, stress and burnout management, fitness and weight control. The Kamalaya Personal Yoga Synergy program, a private session for both beginners and experts, is an obvious choice—it helps you master asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathing) and meditation. The three- to seven-night packages include accommodation, airport transfers, meals, usage of fitness facilities, a wellness consultation, Body Bio-Impedance Analysis, and Vital Essential Oil ayurvedic and Indian massages.
You’ll remember it for:
The Monks’ Cave. Contemplate on your boo-hoos and midlife crises in these silent chambers, where the monk Arjan Daeng, renowned for his ability to communicate with other life forms, once resided.
Prices start at:
B6,500 ($270) a night.
You might also like:
The Spa Resort Koh Samui
(Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Suratthani, +66 (0)77-230-855,, a rustic beachfront retreat hosting themed yoga programs.


The Farm at San Benito
119 Barangay Tipakan, Lipa City, Batangas, +63 2884- 8074,

If you’re after the charm of a kampong stay, The Farm at San Benito won’t disappoint. Set against misty mountains, its suites and villas resemble the traditional rice barns and thatched-roof houses of the Philippines with a muster of roaming peacocks sealing the deal.
Programs on offer:
The prevention program promises better health, vitality, energy and longevity for guests. This four-night stint offers nutritional microscopy, colon hydrotherapy sessions, wheatgrass infusion therapy and kidney cleansing, coupled with spa treatments such as Hampol, Hilot massage, skin kayud and kawalag body detox—all of which utilize local herbs and methods. The package includes return airport transfers, accommodation, meals, holistic health consultation and activities such as yoga, meditation and Mandala flower arranging. Their vegan restaurant Alive! prepares food using dehydrators which lock in nutrients and enzymes usually destroyed by cooking.
You’ll remember it for:
The Chlorophyll Body Wrap. That green pigment is a powerful antioxidant which cleanses your lymphatic system and alkalinizes your body. It’s also an excuse to look like The Hulk.
Prices start at:
PHP7,000 ($200) a night.
You might also like:
Mandala Spa and Villas (Boracay Island, Malay Aklan, +63 362-885-858,—situated on a private beach on Boracay Island, they offer three- to 14-day detox programs.


73/4 Petchkasem Rd., Hua Hin, Prachuab Khirikhan, +66 (0) 3253- 6536,

This retreat bagged six major industry awards in 2010 alone. Located on the Thai royals’ favorite beach Hua Hin, accommodation options include ocean view rooms, traditional pavilions and suites. It brings in renowned practitioners to conduct wellness classes and programs. The usage of cameras and other electronic devices outside the rooms isn’t allowed, so don’t even think of “checking in” on Facebook.
Programs on offer:
Their three- to 28-night packages feature holistic therapies, beauty services from the Niranlada Cosmetic Beauty center and the usage of water therapy suites on top of an impressive list of massages, facials and manipedis. If you stay longer, you’ll benefit from their crystal therapy, incorporating ancient art and modern energy techniques to balance the body’s chakra system.
You’ll remember it for:
Its exclusive treatments for men, such as the Volcanic Pumice Polish that revitalizes and hydrates tired skin. We’re glad someone finally got round to addressing men’s spa needs.
Prices start at:
B44,550 ($1,850), everything included.
You might also like:
Six Senses Sanctuary (32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok, Amphur Thalang, Phuket, +66 76-371-400,, another beachfront retreat featuring oriental spa services such as Chinese acupuncture, Taoist Chi Nei Tsang detox, full-body Shiatsu and foot acupressure.


COMO Shambhala Estate
Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, Bali, +62 361- 978-888,

Sitting on the pristine hills of Ubud, COMO Shambhala Estate impresses guests with its dramatic surrounds of rice fields and the Ayung River Gorge. Rooms and suites echo elements of Javanese and Balinese tradition, each with a distinct personality.
Programs on offer:
Customized packages running the gamut of therapies, fitness, retreats and wellness, as well as tai chi, trekking and yoga. The estate’s Cleansing program incorporates good nutrition and daily elimination to keep the liver, bowels, kidney and skin in top-notch condition. Its three to seven-night packages include accommodation, meals, return airport transfers, wellness consultation, massages and cleansing treatments. Another favorite is the Javanese Royal Lulur Bath, a beauty ritual from the Royal Palaces of central Java.
You’ll remember it for:
Guinot Hydradermie Facial. Promising cell-repair and a radiant glow, it penetrates the skin with an electric current. One can only hope that the people who operate this thing know what they’re doing.
Prices start at:
US$535 ($675) a night.
You might also like:
The Golden Rock Retreat (Dusun Aas, Desa Bunutan, Abang, Karangasem, Bali, +62 828-9700-8592, www. sits on Bali’s east coast and offers cleansing programs like Bio-Magnetic Resonance which realigns the body’s energy field


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Simon Westcott is the Managing Director (Asia-Pacific) of Mr & Mrs Smith talks about its growth and popularity in this region.

What’s fuelling the growth of luxe, boutique hotels in the Asia-Pacific region?

Southeast Asians are getting better educated, savvier and more urbanized. As travelers get more experienced, they want to experience the adventure of lesser known brands. Also, the rise of no-frills carriers over the past 10 years has encouraged travel to short haul destinations, allowing people to spend more on nicer accommodation.

There is a tendency these days to brand any new small hotel as “boutique.” What defines a proper boutique hotel?
The word “boutique” is a little overused these days; at Mr & Mrs Smith we define it in four ways:

1) It has to be boutique scale–as a rule of thumb there are less than 50 rooms at most of the hotels in our collection; intimacy and privacy are big components of this. Of course, there will be some exceptions to this.

2) Boutique Style: We’re a style arbiter; we’re very keen on style with a purpose featuring both function and form. We use good textiles, good art and bespoke furniture.

3) Personalized, attention-to-detail service.

4) Sex appeal. The getaways we feature have an X-factor that appeals to couples and are intrinsically romantic destinations.”

Mr & Mrs Smith is one of the world’s leading boutique hotel experts. The Mr & Mrs Smith Boutique Hotel Collection: South East Asia ($50) is the latest addition to their collection and offers detailed insights into some of the finest boutique hotels in the region. Available at major bookstores. Log on for more information.


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City Slickers

Stylish, urban hotels for the perfect weekend getaway

W Hong Kong, Hong Kong
1 Austin Road West, Kowloon Station, Kowloon, (852) 3717 2222,

Urbane yet intimate, the trendy W is known for high sophistication and the finer things in life. This design-driven, innovative address is known for its wow factor the world over and its Hong Kong branch is among its best. The rooms and suites come stylish decked with designer furnishings, high-end toiletries, rainfall showers and snug bathtubs in spacious bathrooms and ultra comfortable beds. Granted, the location leaves a little to be desired (although, we hear Kowloon’s where it’s at these days) but once you get here you’ll not care too much about that. 
Amenities/facilities: Spa, WiFi ($20 a day in rooms), business center and a kickass pool. The W’s renowned Whatever/Whenever service also allows you to request anything you want at any time. 
You’ll remember it for: Its extraordinarily modern design, dreamy suites and stunning views of the harbor. 
Rates start at: HK$3,300 ($550) per night. 
Elsewhere in Hong Kong: for a funky 4-star boutique hotel experience try the Jia Boutique Hotel (1 Irving St., Causeway Bay, (852) 3196-9000,, which has the distinction of being the first Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel.

Ma Maison, Ho Chi Minh City
656/52 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, Ward 11, District 3, (84) 8384-60263,

With bright pastel walls and gorgeous French windows, this feels more like a rural Provençal country home than a contemporary, metropolitan Asian boutique hotel. Barely two years old, it’s one of Saigon’s better kept secrets and we almost feel guilty letting le chat out of the bag. The rooms have a Laura Ashley-esque quality to them (no, not necessarily a bad thing) and their wooden floors and antique-styled furniture further accentuate the summer cottage feel. The showers are a little small (we know boutique hotel fiends love their dinner plate showerheads and all), but that would be nitpicking. The view from the roof terrace is another feather in this hotel’s cap. Although it overlooks a busy street, Ma Maison manages to retain a quiet, calm feel and, needless to say, the service here ranks among the best found in the country. 
Amenities/facilities: The Art & Souvenir gallery has a collection of evocative black and white photos; and the Little Bistro cafe serves up some decent meals. Rooms come with simple mod cons, like flat screen TVs and free WiFi. There’s no elevator, so you better come prepared. 
You’ll remember it for: A slice of France amid the hubbub of one Southeast Asia’s most bustling cities. A few foreign residents have even moved in long-term. 
Rates start at: US$70 ($90) per night. 
Elsewhere in Vietnam: Tired of the city? Then head for the picturesque harbor town Hoi An mid-way up the country’s east coast and check into the fabulous The Nam Hai (Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, (84) 510 394-000,, where you can enjoy expansive views of the South China Sea from your villa. Stunning in every sense of the word.




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Beach Season

Sun, sea and personalized pampering

Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali
Jl Belimbing Sari, Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu, (62) 361 848-2166,
So young, so many awards. This delightful venue recently scooped the World’s Best Holiday Building at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) and won the Best Hotel Design—Resort award at the prestigious Gold Key Awards in New York last November, to name just a couple. Perched above some of the world’s best surf breaks on the southernmost tip of the Bukit Peninsula, the resort’s architecture adroitly combines Zen elements, contemporary designs and traditional Balinese features that will absolutely floor you. Choose from the one,-two-and three-bedroom villas, which all come with private pools. The villas are minimal yet elegant; the dark timber trims and décor perfectly contrast the white floors and walls. There are both Indonesian and Western dining options and a visit to the spa (think Decleor products and Shirodara massages) is a must. 
Amenities/facilities: Free WiFi, gym, library with DVDs, PCs and books. Rooms come with iPod docks, DVD players, espresso machine and TWG Tea.
You’ll remember it for: The views of the Indian Ocean from the infinity pool are great, but more than anything it’ll live in your memory for being the closest you’ve ever come to paradise. 
Rates start at: US$560 ($725) for a one-bedroom villa per night. 
Elsewhere in Bali: For something completely different, head for the verdant hills of Ubud in the geographical heart of Bali. The Como Shambhala Estate (Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod Payangan, Gianyar, (62) 361 978-888, has 30 exquisite suites nestled up among branches and trees.

Abaca Boutique Resort, Cebu
Punta Engano Rd., Lapu-Lapu City, (63) 32 495-3461,
This wonderful resort ups Cebu’s ante as a genuine tropical paradise even further. Intimate and suitably luxe, you’ll find just six suites and three villas here—getting away from it all is a cinch. Comparatively, it’s modestly priced. But that doesn’t dilute the sophisticated vibe. Soak in its designer fixtures and fittings, gorgeous paneling and breathtaking views through floor-to-ceiling windows, and laze in its infinity pool. 
Amenities/facilities: Spa, gym, book and DVD library. Rooms come stocked with iPod docks and standard mod cons, and if you want an iPad they can loan you one, too.
You’ll remember it for: Being a luxurious seafront hideaway with lots of privacy which also offers high haute cuisine and a great bar.
Rates start at: US$320 ($415) per night.
Elsewhere in the Philippines: We’ve heard good things about the Hotel Celeste (02 San Lorenzo Drive corner A. Arnaiz Ave., Makati, (63) 2 887-8080, So if you’re ever in Manila on business and want the boutique experience, this centrally located hotel ticks most boxes, including a chef boasting a destinguished career in numerous Michellin-starred establishments.

Angsana Ihuru, The Maldives
North Male Atoll, (960) 664-3502,
Perfect for honeymooners, this. Sensual, idyllic and secluded, stroll out of your beachside villa onto powder white sand and sparkling azure waters. The thatched-roof villas are sleekly designed with minimalist trimmings and dark accents. The timber patio is a star here, as are the private jet pools and outdoor swings. Absolute paradise!
Amenities/facilities: Private beachside dining and cooking classes are available. And, of course, the Angsana Resorts are known for their spas and the one here more than lives up to the billing. Villas come with outdoor showers, private gardens and air-conditioning. 
You’ll remember it for: Making all future holidays a major disappointment.
Rates start at: US$850 ($1,100) per night. 
Elsewhere in the Maldives: For yet another luxuriant barefoot experience in this part of the world, check into the Soneva Gili Resort & Spa (Male Atoll, (960) 664-0304,, which is just a 15-minute boat trip from Male.

The Beach House, Sri Lanka
18 Upper Dickson Rd., Tangalle, (94) 91 438-0275,

Not quite a boutique hotel, but as far as luxe hideaways go this one is hard to beat. Comprising just five en-suite bedrooms, Tatler once described this outpost on Sri Lanka’s southernmost tip as “a shining example of barefoot luxury.” So secluded is this former retreat of American artist Douglas Johnson, that even the locals will struggle to give your cabbie directions. Replete with antique furniture (we love the four poster beds) and artistic fixtures and fittings, verandas, outdoor baths, seductive gardens and a sleek coconut tree-lined infinity pool, this is an unforgettable, magical pocket of the planet. And if things get too quiet and lazy, there are daytrips out to temples, turtle hatcheries, bird sanctuaries and vibrant local markets. 
Amenities/facilities: No air-conditioning in the rooms, but that’s a non-issue, what with the sea breeze and ceiling fans. Stroll from your room to the sea, or arrange for snorkeling and scuba diving trips. The cooks will also whip up whatever you fancy. 
You’ll remember it for: A quiet, luxurious beach getaway (rated by those in the know as Sri Lanka’s “finest private swimming beach”), spent frolicking and gamboling with your partner on the soft Indian Ocean shoreline, and for the sumptuous Sri Lankan spicy fare on offer. 
Rates start at: US$1,000 ($1,295) per night. 
Elsewhere in Sri Lanka: If you’re transiting in Colombo then stay at The Park Street Hotel (20 Park St, Colombo, (94) 11 576-9500, This superb 12-room hotel in the center of the capital takes up the premises of a 250-year-old colonial bungalow and is fast becoming the hippest address in town.

Away Koh Kood, Koh Kood
43/8 Moo 2 Baan Klongchao, (66) 81 835-4517,

Located on the west coast of Koh Kood, some 80 kilometers off the coast of Trat province, this jungly, intimate resort has only 20 bungalows and 13 tented accommodations. Run by the Centara Boutique Collection (a brand under Thailand’s largest hotel chain, Centara), this boutique destination was named Outstanding Secluded Boutique Hotel at the Hotel Club 2010 awards. The views from the rooms (and tents) are stunning and there is ample exploring to do at the beaches and the rainforest waterfalls nearby. Modestly priced, this makes for a breathtaking, idyllic getaway. 
Amenities/facilities: Private boats for hire, spa, water sport activities. Rooms come with free WiFi, satellite TV and coffee maker. 
You’ll remember it for: A sense of what Thailand used to be (quiet, clean, naturally beautiful) 30 years ago before tourism took hold. 
Rates start at: B4,500 ($200) per night for a deluxe ocean-facing bungalow.
Elsewhere in Thailand: Billing itself as a “radical reimagining of what a city center hotel can be” the LIT Bangkok (6/1 Soi Kasemsan 1, Rama 1 Rd., Bangkok, (66) 2 612-3456, was designed by trippy architectural firm Vaslab. With its deconstructivist look, it’s a fitting addition to an already arty part of town. It opens in March.

NEXT: City Slickers / PREVIOUS



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I-S checks into the region’s hottest new boutique hotels.

Holidaying in style no longer means checking into an opulent, soulless, five star monster. Although the word “boutique” is nowadays bandied about a little too freely—enough with calling your windowless hellhole a boutique just because it has less than 10 rooms—the trend for smaller hotels, boasting striking designs, personalized service and real character shows no sign of letting up. The best of them offer you one-of-a-kind experiences that you’ll still be talking about when you’re old and grey. With so many opening up across Asia in recent months, we figure we’d undertake the arduous task of finding out which of them are really worth a visit. You’re quite welcome.

Cultural Exchange

Luxe retreats in the region’s finest heritage towns

Heritage Suites Hotel, Siem Reap
Wat Polanka, Slokram Village, (855) 6 396-9100,
With Angkor Wat on your doorstep, it’s hard to argue in favor of a lie-in and lounge–about in your hotel. But this kind of luxury really is something to be savored—perhaps Lara Croft’s stomping ground can wait a while. This is a boutique hotel in every sense of the word; the service is attentive to a fault (you’ll even get a goodnight gift) and the 26 rooms (20 of which are suites) come in the boutique hotel uniform of dark paneling contrasted with light walls, bedding and curtains. Some of the pricier options come with steam baths and private gardens with open air showers. The only Relais & Châteaux hotel in Cambodia, this little colonial outpost is away from the popular tourist haunts, tucked snugly in a posh residential neighborhood.
Amenities/facilities: An excellent spa and free WiFi throughout the hotel. Rooms come with incense, free bottled water and iPod docks. Elsewhere, the Lobby Bar is a cozy haunt for a digestif.
You’ll remember it for: Being a palatial (yet calm and intimate) pitstop from the hustle and bustle of booming Siem Reap.
Rates start at: US$150 ($195) per night.
Elsewhere in Cambodia: For an understated, value-for-money boutique experience in the Cambodian capital try the River 108 (#2, Street 108, Sankat Vat Phnom, Phnom Penh, (855) 23 218-785, which overlooks the Tonle Sap. The rooms (some sport Art Deco themes) are comfy, clean and come equipped with sleek mod cons.

Courtyard @ Heeren, Malacca
91 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, (60) 6 281-0088,
Smack in the heart of Malacca’s historic Jonker Street enclave (it’s a couple of minutes’ walk from the popular Geographer Café) is this gem of an inn; proof that boutique doesn’t always mean pricey. A little over a year old, this intimate Peranakan-style boutique hotel is situated in an old shophouse on a street that once housed wealthy Chinese merchants and businessmen. Don’t be deceived by its narrow street level frontage; the hotel extends some 80-100 meters to the back, allowing for some nice quiet rooms. You’ll love the old-world-meets-new-world vibe here, with its individually decorated rooms that boast dark floors, gorgeous bedposts and wooden chest drawers, tastefully complementing the sleek mod cons present.
Amenities/facilities: Fourteen rooms and suites; including flat-screen TV, free WiFi, free parking and a limousine service (airport transfers to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore).
You’ll remember it for: Its antique collection at the lobby, spacious showers with rainfall showerheads, comfy beds and its ultra-personalized service; although breakfast is a straightforward affair, they’ll cook you anything you ask for!
Rates start at: RM200 ($85) per night.
Elsewhere in Malaysia: If you want something away from the madding crowds, how about a quaint island retreat. The Bon Ton Restaurant & Retreat (Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, (60) 4 955-1688, in Langkawi is a rustic kampong-style getaway with just eight villas that’s nestled in between lush hills and the Andaman Sea.

Travel expert Simon Westcott of Mr & Mrs Smith talks boutique hotels

Amantaka, Luang Prabang
55/3 Kingkitsarath Rd., Ban Thongchaleun, (856) 71 860-333,
Mr & Mrs Smith, purveyors of all things boutique, describes the Laotian capital Luang Prabang as “the best preserved and most authentic small town in the whole of former Indochina.” And we couldn’t agree more. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a quaint, modern-day Shangri-La and has one of the best new boutique resorts around. Housed in a former Catholic hospital, Amantaka has 24 suites (16 with private pools) decked out in dark wooden furniture, boasting spacious rooms complete with luxurious trimmings. It is sophisticated yet tastefully sparse and minimal, with lots of privacy to be had.
Amenities/facilities: Charming hotel bar, spa and a yoga studio among others. Free Wifi throughout and rooms come with Bose speakers and iPod docks, ensuring a kind of aural utopia.
You’ll remember it for: The unsurpassable romance of it all; perfect for rejuvenating stressed out bodies and minds.
Rates start at: US$700 ($900) per night.
Elsewhere in Laos: Heads up on an upcoming magical mystery tour. Combining jungle treks near the Namno mountains and through the Nam Khan river, Shangri Lao ( is Laos’s first 5-star tented experience. The luxurious camps will boast teak furniture, bathtubs and even a Jacuzzi. Opens in October.

NEXT: Beach Season


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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Editor's Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Noomi Rapace
Michael Nyqvist
Directed By: 
Daniel Alfredson

After the flat in-betweener that was The Girl Who Played with Fire, the final installment of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy bounces back with terrific aplomb to close out the series. Not quite as brilliant as the fast-paced whodunit that was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but still, not bad.Yet again, Noomi Rapace as the brooding lesbo-goth Lisbeth Salander steals the show with her sparkling on-screen presence. This finale picks up immediately where the last one ended; opening with Salander being airlifted to safety with a bullet lodged in her head.

Opening Date: 
Thu, 2010-10-21
Ramesh William
Cast your nerves aside and get your adrenaline pumping in time for F1. Illustrations by Adhitama Hertanto.

Formula One is a ballsy sport. That’s part of the attraction. That’s what makes next weekend’s Singapore night race the visual extravaganza that it is. Otherwise why cough up a chunky wedge to see drivers sling their machines around the city as such insane, inhuman speeds? (If it’s to watch a howling Mariah Carey, please keep it to yourself.) These guys hawk their talents in front of crowds that bay for a crash just as vociferously as they would a goal at a football match. So, is it any wonder then that in the quiet hours before strapping in for the race, these outwardly fearless heroes head for the privacy of their trailers … dealing with jangled nerves and knotted stomachs. Away from prying eyes, some throw up, others try and sleep. But at the end of the day, they still go out and get the job done—facing their fears and testing their mortality. Why, you might ask, do they do it? For one, the rush of adrenaline is incredibly fun—especially after conquering one’s nerves. (Alright, so the prospect of untold riches if they win helps a little.) We too all have our own fears; things that make us nervy, testy, jumpy. Instead of being held down by such fears, why not channel your daredevilry and live a little by doing something that’s well out of your comfort zone? Here are some of the best places to get your freak on.

High Flyer

Do you fear heights, yet find yourself digging documentaries on okto which extol the joyous, acrobatic virtues of Cirque du Soleil performers, batty flying lemurs and Sumatran orangutans? Then get up early one morning, sprinkle some carpe diem on your toast and head off to the enchanting utopia that is Sentosa. At the Flying Trapeze you’ll be coached on the various stunts and moves that go into becoming a passable amateur trapeze. Here, you’ll improve your coordination, get your vertigo fixed (you’ll do knee-hangs and somersaults 10 meters above the ground) and be fully prepared next time your company wants to do team bonding exercises (a horribly frightful prospect) down at Pulau Ubin’s Outward Bound School.
Where: Rasa Sentosa Resort, 101 Siloso Rd., Sentosa, 6371-2943. $10/swing; $20/3 swings.

Bike This Way

Not one for the faint of heart, this. If you want to combine extreme sports with the genuinely wild environment of a tropical jungle, mountain biking at Bukit Timah is it. After trying the six-kilometer “kamikaze trail” here, you can (with only a little exaggeration) say you’ve tested yourself against monitor lizards, icky tree snakes, nutty monkeys (bring extra bananas) and the prospect of slamming face first into a pile of mud, rock and chunky tree roots (fear not, Singapore’s rhinoplasticians are among the region’s best, we hear). Hey, it’s not all bad: It’s still better than cycling on the idiot-strewn roads of the city, and you won’t be the only headcase around, as this place is packed on weekends.
Where: Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trail, start at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Car Park. Get off at the bus stop opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and Beauty World Centre, or along Jalan Anak Bukit, opposite Courts, and walk to the end of Hindhede Drive.

Get Physical

Not since Chuck Palahniuk wrote Tyler Durden into our imaginations more than a decade ago has white collar boxing been so popular. If you can look past the macabre irony (that of lieutenants of industry subjecting the very brains that gave them the right collar color to participate in this sport to a pummeling) then step right in. On a more serious note, there’s a lot to learn here. If you’ve always wanted to be more confrontational and assertive in the office, this is the perfect breeding ground. After a walloping (or, better still, thumping the daylights out of your opponent), office skirmishes will be a cinch—just be sure to keep your fists to yourself in the workplace.
Where: Vanda Boxing Club (#03-00 Ganges Centre, 554 Havelock Rd., 6305-2288) has classes for both men and women, and will schedule fights.

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

Although it’s ridiculous that Singapore wants to send a team to the Winter Olympics in the not-too-distant future, we think that ice hockey is a pretty decent way to expend some excess adrenaline on a weekend. The reason why most give this sport a miss is the fear of landing ass over tit on ice. But once you learn how to stand, move and skate, the rest is a cakewalk. OK, we lie, it’s a little harder than that, but it’s still no biggie. Ice hockey builds concentration (take your eye off the puck and you might find someone’s skates slicing your jugular), engenders teamwork and keeps you lean (unless you spend the rest of the weekend a recovering wreck nursing a case of Tiger).
Where: Log on to or for more information.

Get Karting

The need for speed is as old as time. This controlled environment is perfect for stepping on the gas—big time—and channeling the ghost of Ayrton Senna. Though it’s one of the more expensive pursuits around, go karting is nevertheless a thrilling activity that allows you to pit your skills, bravery and determination against friend or foe.
Where: Kartright Speedway, #01-05 511 Upper Jurong Rd., 6265-3303, Adults $32-45, students $22-$34; 2-seater kart $50-$66 (Prices depend on time and day and are for a 10-minute session).

Kill with Color

Let say that due to some quirk of circumstance, you ended up being a sorry 9-to-5 clerk during your national service days. Now, when your office mates are busy swapping tales of removing leeches in the jungles of Brunei or careering down a mountain face in Taiwan, you sit sheepish in the corner wondering whether to offer up the anecdote of the missing medical docket circa 1996. Well, you can undo your pansy cred by rounding up those combat guys for a spot of paintballing. Get that adrenaline fix you’ve always craved for and put the rest to a skirmish test and try to get one up for the long-suffering, oft-misunderstood service vocation.
Where: Bottle Tree Park, 81 Lorong Chencharu, 6755-7537, From $10 (for 30 paintballs) to $84.90 (for 250).

Shark Attack

Ichthyophobia (fear of fish) is one of the most underrated phobias around. Many of you have it, we know; don’t even ask us how many people we’ve seen fainting at the sight of a busy aquarium. And since 1975, we’ve had a (horribly rational) fear of sharks (hey, how many can be as heroic as Roy Scheider or Richard Dreyfuss). So what better way to douse such a crippling fear than by plonking yourself in a public aquarium and swimming with sharks. You’ll even get a free t-shirt for your efforts. After all, we Singaporeans like nothing better than a free tee.
Where: Underwater World Singapore, 80 Siloso Rd., 6275-0030. $120 for 90 minutes.

Go Fly a Kite

Does spending the weekend with your arms raised skyward and your feet secured to a plank appeal to you? Perhaps you should give kite boarding a go, down under the flight path of Changi Airport by Stinky Bay (the newish patch of reclaimed land on which they have the airshow). Basically, its wakeboarding with flaps; but it’s quite a thrill being propelled so fast (and so high) by waves and wind. And don’t worry, you won’t drift off and get sucked into the engine of an A380; there are in-built safety release systems on these mod kites.
Where: Log on to to get the latest information on the price of training and equipment, or alternatively, contact Vincent Lam on 9666-4625.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Much more satisfying than raiding the National Library dressed as Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman and Ray Stanz, ghost hunting involves expeditions with local paranormal interest societies to spooky outposts throughout the island. If you can summon the courage to investigate the alleged vengeful ghosts at the Old Ford Factory, to go on a pontianak hunt in Sembawang or even investigate UFO sightings island wide, then call up the relevant intrepid ghost hunters and tag along. You may even want to make a watchable docu-film (unlike the recent one about the Old Changi hospital) about your exploits.
Where: Log onto the websites of the Singapore Paranormal Investigators ( or the Asia Paranormal Investigators (

Smooth Ass Scrotum

Yanking follicles off one’s privates in a sterile environment isn’t for everyone. But, in the spirit of trying everything once, we dare you to give it a try. A tip from those who know: Once you get your boyzilian done, you’ll want to keep it powdered for a few weeks. (Ladies, since you not unfamiliar with this, how about doing something else just as scary—like holding a snake?)
Where: Pink Parlour, #01-229 Marina Square, 6 Raffles Blvd., 6100-5489. $68.

Feel this Snake

Easily the most loathed reptile around, snakes induce the kind of fear that nothing else can. Face your fear, like they always say, and allow one to coil itself around your hands or neck. It might not cure your ophidiophobia, but on the plus side you’ll learn all sorts of interesting facts, including that a mini reticular python has the strength of a WWE wrestler and that it’s not slimy at all; just cold and dry. Try to keep your brekkie in.
Where: Singapore Zoo, 80 Mandai Lake Rd., 6269-3411. The chance to feel up a snake comes as part of the Jungle Breakfast buffet. $25++ (adult); in addition to entry fee of $18 (adult).

Standup and Curl

Easily one of the most nerve-wracking things you’ll do—far scarier than getting a boyzilian in a haunted attap kampong house full of cobras. Jerry Seinfeld once remarked in his standup routine that people are more terrified of speaking in public than death: “This means to the average person, if you’re at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than give the eulogy.” So give standup a go (it’s far scarier if you’re not funny) and experience the horror of mentally disintegrating in the moments before you go on stage. You’ll find that a mere five-minute set can feel like 20 years in a Soviet gulag.
Where: First Wednesday of every month, 9:30pm. BluJaz Café, 11 Bali Lane, 6292-3800.

PLUS: Around The Region

PLUS: Around The World


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