Note those long-weekend dates on your 2016 calendar now – these new (and uber-cool) hotels in Singapore and around the region are essential escapes. By TAN MIN YAN
Photos of Phum Baitang Design Hotels
FOR A TRUE NATURE GETAWAY Six Senses Qing Cheng, Chengdu (2 Dong Ruan Road, Qingcheng Mountain Town, Dujiangyan, tel: +86 28 8728 9871, www.sixsenses.com/resorts/qingcheng-mountain/destination)
To visit the majestic Qingcheng mountains is to disconnect from the bustling modernity of Chengdu. Six Senses Qing Cheng, flanked by the rolling mountains, is only an hour’s drive from the Sichuan capital, but affords serenity a world away from the hubbub of the city. True to the resort’s philosophy of “responsible luxury”, its grand, ancient-China-inspired architecture blends almost seamlessly into its natural surroundings. And drinking water is purified and bottled on-site, while a Tesla electric car provides airport transfers. The resort’s numerous dining options serve dishes using produce from its own organic garden, and from the local community. Chengdu is also home to the Dujiangyan Research Center of Giant Panda Breeding, so it’s the perfect opportunity to visit and cosy up to the gentle creatures there.
Room rates from $2,765 yuan (S$613) a night.
FOR A ROYAL CAMBODIAN EXPERIENCE Phum Baitang, Siem Reap (Phum Svaydangkum, Sangkat Svaydangkum, tel: +855 0 6396 1111, www.phumbaitang.com)
Many luxury hotels in Siem Reap favour regal colonial designs, but the 45-villa Phum Baitang has eschewed that trend for a traditional village style. Owned by the Zannier Hotels group founded by Arnaud Zannier, the resort has thatch-roofed villas on wooden stilts, modelled after the houses that local farmers live in. The dedication to replicating the local experience doesn’t end there: tuk-tuks service the grounds, and in-house restaurant Bay Phsar offers guests the chance to pick out fresh ingredients and spices for their Khmer dishes, accompanied by rice from the surrounding paddy fields. In case you doubt that Phum Baitang is anything but a luxurious resort, kick back with a dip in your villa’s personal plunge pool, a massage at the Spa Temple, then a tipple at the grand cocktail-and-cigar lounge, converted from an ancient farmhouse. No extra convincing needed. Room rates from $604 a night.
FOR A SUPERCOOL HOLIDAY The Old Clare Hotel, Sydney (1 Kensington Street, tel: +61 2 8277 8277, www.theoldclarehotel.com.au)
Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng has taken his knack for restoring derelict heritage buildings and transforming them into chic boutique hotels to Sydney. He has carefully restored the iconic Clare Hotel and the Carlton United Breweries buildings in the hip Chippendale area, and combined them to give birth to the 62-room The Old Clare Hotel. Lik Peng was adamant about preserving the buildings’ heritage, which translates into rooms with modern creature comforts juxtaposed with exposed brick walls, timber panelling and upcycled vintage items. As is de rigueur with Lik Peng’s hotels, the in-house restaurants pack star power: Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton helms casual eatery Kensington Street Social; Clayton Wells, previously from the popular Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney, takes the reins at the set-menu-only Automata; while Sam Miller, former sous chef of world-famous Noma, brings his northern European culinary techniques of pickling, curing and smoking to the fresh local produce at Silvereye.
Room rates from A$279 (S$282) a night.
FOR AN ULTRA-GLAM STAYCATION Hotel Vagabond, Singapore (39 Syed Alwi Road, tel: 6291 3203/6677,www.hotelvagabondsingapore.com)
It’s not every day that we get a superstar designer like Jacques Garcia (interior architect of the famed Hotel Costes in Paris) leaving his mark on a building in our very own backyard. The 41-room Hotel Vagabond sits in a restored Art Deco building in Kampong Glam, and boasts decadent artinspired furniture as well as quirky artworks curated by the hotel owner himself. Naturally, in a destination of this calibre, the F&B offerings are in a class of their own. Loh Lik Peng’s 5th Quarter quells hunger pangs with its cured-meat dishes, while Vagabond Bar – by drink collective Proof & Co. – keeps revellers happy with handcrafted cocktails. Also true to the hotel’s experience-driven philosophy is its Artist in Residence programme, where artists are invited to stay for up to three months in two special Artist Atelier rooms, in exchange for knowledge-sharing with guests and an artwork for the hotel. Room rates from about $200 a night (varies with the travel seasons).