Travel has returned, and new hotels that were hindered by an unfortunate launch at the start of the pandemic or had to delay opening due to restrictions are back in force. “Many beautiful new properties are now open in desirable locations that are still quieter than before and need tourism support,” explains LUCY JACKSON, founder and director of Lightfoot Travel. Here, she reveals some of the best offerings for 2023 around the region, including hotels in Bangkok, Bali, the Maldives, India and more!
New Hotels in India
Raffles Udaipur, Rajasthan
Raffles Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio opened its first property in India in swanky style. Less of a hotel, more of an entire country estate, you’ll find it on a 21-acre private island in the middle of Udai Sagar Lake. The magic hits you before you set foot in the white frangipani-clad property thanks to a captivating 20-minute drive from the airport, followed by a tranquil boat ride involving potential sightings of the greater flamingo. Inside, 101 luxurious rooms interweave Western culture with Rajasthan’s royal heritage amid décor that includes balconies, plunge pools and handcrafted furniture. Honouring the iconic Raffles brand, guests can relax at The Writers Bar with a book, Bolly or both, and sample India’s version of the Long Bar complete with Udaipur Sling.
Out & about: Go mystical with grounding walks around the magnificent gardens, try a star-gazing session, or find your peace at a hosted full moon ritual.
New Hotels in the Maldives
Want a fresh archipelago with your new Maldivian bolthole? Bring on Patina Maldives, the only property on the manmade Fari Islands so far. Despite the youth of the location, all the paradise crowdpleasers are fully intact: lush greenery, golden beach and gentle gin-clear waters all await. Overwater villas present a soothing palette of earthy shades and tactile textures alongside open-air decks with a prime position at sunset. Patina’s spa is a particular standout, with fitness activities and treatments to replenish body and soul. And plant-based restaurant Roots keeps it clean with seasonal ingredients from the hotel’s organic garden.
Out & about: The island is also home to the Fari Marina Village, a 20-berth marina and social hub ideal for dining and mingling. Make sure to stop by the ice cream cart in the afternoon for complimentary ice cream for the kiddos!
New Hotels in Vietnam
Regent Phu Quoc
As the first resort in Southeast Asia under IHG Hotels & Resorts’ upper luxury brand, Regent Phu Quoc has big, glamorous shoes to fill. Situated alongside the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, on its own private white sands on Long Beach, it’s already off to a cracking start. The design of this all-suite-and-villa resort was inspired by blue ocean and glorious sunsets, and facilities include a spa, pool, gym and a whopping six dining outlets. Ocean Club serves Mediterranean-inspired food while you keep your feet on the sand. Around sunset, kick back at Fu Bar, an infinity pool-lined rooftop spot with a gin-based drinks list and soothing sax jazz.
Out & about: Explore the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, ride the five-mile-long cable car, or embrace local life at a ramshackle fishing village – big bowl of pho, essential!
We know if designer Bill Bensley is involved in a hotel opening, it’s going to be a goodie. Just like his previous projects (Capella Ubud, Shinta Mani Wild), this latest addition to his portfolio pulls out all the style stops. Located in the French influenced Old Quarter, Bill’s boutique baby is reminiscent of a rendezvous spot for opera singers, composers and artists of bygone era. Guests are whisked back in time through the 47 themed rooms that place history and fine art at the forefront. The VIP Madame Butterfly-inspired Grand Opera Suite, for example, features an antique kimono, theatre binoculars and objets d’art that tell the tale of Madame Butterfly. The drama continues at signature restaurant Backstage, where northern Vietnamese-inspired specialties come with a side-order of theatrical costumes and vintage tableware. In addition, Diva’s Lounge pays tribute to leading ladies of the 1920s.
Out & about: Discover the lesser-seen parts of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem quarter and enjoy expert-led classes in bamboo paper fan making, Vietnamese coffee cupping, and cookie making.
New Hotels in Bali
Anantara Ubud Bali Resort
Sanctuaries on the Island of the Gods are easy to come by, but few of them shine like Anantara Ubud. Set amid the tropical jungle slightly out of town with verdant rice fields, Hindu temples and shrines, there’s every chance you’ll be completely chill by checkin. Cascading down a wooded hillside, the resort’s rooms and villas are decked out with Balinese and Javanese artworks and offer breathtaking views at every turn. This is the place to point children in the direction of the kids’ and teens’ clubs while you put yourself first: an infinity pool, foot massage pods, hair and nail salon, and gorgeous treatment rooms offering holistic healing have your name on them. If you’re feeling flush, the hotel’s branded residences tick all the boxes if you’re looking for a new home.
Out & about: Balance the culture and buzziness of the city with the lesser-known surroundings of Anantara Ubud. Enjoy bike rides and hikes through the terraced rice fields and head into the village of Payangan for an authentic slice of local life.
New Hotels in Bangkok
Shun the bustle of Bangkok’s streets by slipping into Rosewood Bangkok. Despite being in one of the city’s most flourishing districts, all is calm, captivating and decidedly chic once you enter. Phones at the ready: the interior is begging for an Insta-brag. Pared-back marble and teak blends old and new Thailand; duplex penthouses come with glass-fronted sky pools; sliding doors open onto luxurious dressing rooms and bathrooms. Go higher and the swimming pool is on the ninth floor, Nan Bei restaurant is on the 19th floor, and speakeasy-style Lennon’s Bar on the 30th floor serves a cocktail menu inspired by retro tunes alongside a collection of over 6,000 records (remember those?!).
Out & about: Soak up Bangkok’s indomitable atmosphere on a guided walk around Chinatown or treat yourself to a private tour of a silk factory or Thai cooking class.
New Hotels in Australia
Sequoia Lodge, Adelaide Hills
Make a connection to the land, community and animals of South Australia at new Sequoia Lodge. Located in the scenic Adelaide Hills and set amongst 150-year-old sequoia trees, the property comes with 14 open-plan rooms featuring neutral accents with a sunken lounge, balcony and freestanding elevated bathtub. Avoid animated splashing and you might spot wallabies, kangaroos and koalas roaming the hills as you soak. There’s a main infinity pool perched on the valley rim and two private naturally spring-fed hot pools for couples. The Gatekeeper’s Spa, which was once a National Trust building, has been revamped to house treatment rooms.
Out & about: Many of Australia’s showstoppers – deserts, forests, bush, oceans and rivers – are within easy reach. Make time to hear ancient stories told by indigenous people and learn from local artisan producers as you go.
New Hotels in Bhutan
Six Senses Bumthang
Six Senses Bumthang is one of five lodges set in the western and central valleys of Bhutan. Each one delivers its own unique character, environment and experiences, and Bumthang’s remote location amid a dense blue pine grove has won it the nickname “Forest within a Forest”. Home to just eight suites and one two-bedroom villa (ideal for families), it’s a place that oozes personality. Sustainability is paramount here, from eco-friendly water and waste management to green energy. Décor that blends seamlessly into the surrounding greenery and a personalised service contribute to making this hideaway a winner for escape, calm and to dream of a simpler life.
Out & about: Head to sacred monasteries, go hiking and horseback riding, and visit Tamzhing Lhundrup Lhakhang, the most important ancient temple in the Kingdom.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022/23 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.