Lifestyle Curators for Thailand + Southeast Asia

By Design

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Some hotels that offer a stylish, fashionable fresh take by design and make travel to Thailand even more unforgettable.

By Percy Roxas

Call them “hip,” call them “boutique,” or lump them together under the genre, “design” — but whatever we call them these hotels are the “in” places to stay. And, despite the changing trends – some hotel design experts are saying that yesterday’s “cool” hotels are now being replaced by “cozy (read: comfort and functionality)” — they are the veritable hotspots that discerning modern travelers from around the world are presently gravitating around to for their holiday homes in Thailand.

Many of these properties are seriously stylish. Some are luxuriously cool and classic, while others deliberately and “minimalistically” hip. But almost all can be considered among the most fashionable hotels in Bangkok today. Fabulous hotspots, indeed.

Truth be said, there are so many hotels in Thailand that boasts dramatic design, distinctive architecture, and overall artistic sensibility; and therefore make the task of listing just a few a bit challenging. But in the spirit of our “Style” theme this month, Lookeast essays a cross-section of hotels that redefine the experiences of discerning travelers with these parameters above all.

One hotel design expert said it succinctly: ‘It is not just about designing a place (hotel) anymore. It is about designing an experience!” Without prejudice to the many other stylish, fashionable hotels and resorts around the country, the following places give us just that!

The Houben
The emphasis is on comfort and relaxation, but The Houben is truly a sanctuary for those with a trendy lifestyle. The private family-run villa-style hotel comprises 15 sea view-rooms graciously perched on a cliff overlooking a striking panoramic view of the Andaman Sea. The concept combines modern style living with a touch of Thai, creating a simply irresistible experience. The design is thoughtful, minimalist, relaxing, inspiring, and yet eco-friendly. Address: The Houben Hotel, 272 Moo 5, Koh Lanta Yai, Krabi; Tel: 075 665-144
Chiang Mai
Chedi Muscat_Exterior View_Water Garden Courtyard 02_v-1The Chedi
Behind renowned architect Kerry Hill’s four-story bamboo-clad wall stands one of Thailand’s most striking modern compounds, where “Japanese ryokan meets Louis Kahn.” Eighty four sleek guestrooms with daylight streaming into each of the polished, wood-clad accommodation through the wall of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors leading onto a generous balcony, and you can observe the peaceful flow of Thai river life along the Mae Ping River.
Address: The Chedi,
123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Rd,; Tel: 053 253-333; E-mail:

phoca_thumb_l_1-baba-nest-12-04-12SRI PANWA
Sri panwa Phuket is a seriously stylish resort made more seductive by the breathtaking views of the Southeastern Andaman Sea, and making it a consistent easy bet for the “Best Resort in Most Natural Environment” awards. Staying at the resort, one becomes at a loss for superlatives – but glamorous, fabulous, and stunning are among the most common descriptions. Indeed, the 60-villa resort – with its interiors that embrace the essence of Tropical Contemporary design — integrate its natural surroundings with the modern comforts of luxury living. The villas are designed to feel like private homes, and thus guests enjoy the finest bed linens, customized toiletries, gourmet mini-bars, and traditional handcrafted furnishings. The entire resort is meant to satisfy those in need of occasional glam-fun escapes. My kind of place indeed. Address: Sri panwa Phuket, 88 Moo 8, Sakdidej Road, Vichit, Muang, Phuket; Tel: 076 637-1000; E-mail:

“Is there an Amanpuri out of place with its surroundings?” A fan of the resort rhetorically asks one time. Most of us who know hotels and resorts know the answer: “none.” Amanpuri Phuket, a flagship property of the Amanresorts, was designed with much thought and concern about its surroundings indeed. The graceful architecture of the pavilions and villas – set in a coconut plantation on a headland overlooking the Andaman – reflect the style and elegance of Thai culture. The trademark Aman mixture of authentic architecture, supreme comfort and impeccable service remained largely unaltered since the resort’s opening in 1988. Contemporary and yet very Thai, an amazing example of Asian tropical resort design that has been imitated but never equaled. A true “place of peace” as its name implies – awaiting those in search of true luxurious pampering during their holidays. Address: Amanpuri, Pansea Beach, Phuket; Tel: 076 324-333; e-mail

Indigo Pearl Phuket_Private Pool Villa_liging roomIndigo Pearl Phuket
The design concept is on bold luxury, raw sensuality, and industrial chic. In a world-of-its-own way, Indigo Pearl Phuket seduces against a dense rainforest filled with rare wildlife and sheltered shore of golden sand and uninterrupted views of the Andaman Sea. Wichit Na-Ranong, owner and managing director of the award-winning resort used tin mining – once the main industry in Phuket – to realize a personal vision that is unique. Historic details and surreal twists meet Thai warmth: rough timber and sleek polished metal, sun-kissed beaches and a palette of ochre and rouge. And expanses of lush green are punctuated by striking objets d’art. As many describe it, Indigo Pearl is a striking, poetic reminder of the raw beauty, vision, and richness of a bygone Phuket era. Address: Nai Yang Beach and National Park, Phuket; Tel: 076 327 006; E-mail

the-naka-islandThe Naka Island
An exclusive boutique resort on Naka Yai Island just off the Phuket coast, this resort is nestled among stunning beaches, lush coconut groves, with never-ending views of the emerald-green Phang Nga Bay and idyllic landscapes of the Phuket coastline. The 67 magnificently appointed villas, most with spectacular views over Phang Nga Bay and Phuket, are furnished in refined Thai décor that it is easy to describe them as “haven of sophistication and sublime comfort in an evocative setting.” Address: The Naka Island Phuket, 32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok, Naka Yai Island, Phuket; Tel: 076 371-400

Upni Duniya
With its six-star private villas that offer tranquility and exclusivity, Upni Duniya epitomizes the very best in luxury villas with its heady combination of premium amenities and high-tech facilities. Breathtaking furnishings swathe the four enchanting beach villas and four well-appointed suites. Each villa boasts its own individual style; ensuring guests always feel they are the No. 1 priority. From the beachfront infinity pool to the traditional features and local artifacts that blend effortlessly with high-tech facilities and luxury amenities, guest can enjoy real serenity that only select places on earth can offer. And booking the entire resort may be better value for money than taking multiple rooms in a five-star hotel.
Address: Upni Duniya, 25/25 Moo 4, Tambon Bophut, Koh Samui; Tel: 077 246-6310; e-mail:

The Library
Someone who loved “to see things close to her rather than look farther to nowhere” designed the Library. She saw how travelers everywhere spend hours and hours reading on the beach, by the pool, at the restaurant and thought – “to complete one good vacation, what else do you expect, apart from a nice room, delicious meals with good ambience: one good book, memorable movies, and music in style?” From that idea, was The Library born. The result was a relaxing place where fine collections of books, movies and music are available for guests’ entertaining pleasure but at the same time very cosmopolitan, hip, and trendy. Address: The Library Koh Samui, 14/1 Moo.2 Chaweng Beach; Tel. 077 422-767/8; e-mail:

beach republic2Beach Republic
With a design concept that marries contemporary, hip Mediterranean beach lifestyle with a twist of irreverent fun, Beach Republic is instantly sexy, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan. It also has a unique feel and culture of its own.

The self-contained destination boasts stunning restaurants, an indulgent spa, and a collection of private pool villas, deluxe suites, and penthouse sky pool villas that echo places like St. Tropez, Cap d’Antibes, and St. Barth’s. As British real estate developer and investor Tim Dean-Smith simply puts it, “With Beach Republic, we brought the chic cosmopolitan beach lifestyle experience to Koh Samui. Address: Beach Republic, 176/34 Moo 4, Tambon Maret, Koh Samui; Tel: 077 458 100; e-mail:

Hotel Muse
Drumbeaters said the hotel was “inspired by the social and artistic milieu of fin de siècle Europe and King Rama V-era Thailand»”and indeed one is amazed at how it combines cosmopolitan chic with playful period elegance. Hotel Muse’s lobby is quite dramatic — to say the least, perfect for the kind of check-in we sometimes seek. There is a sense of exclusivity, a sense of the discreetness that even Garbo, running away from the paparazzi, will love. Fabrics, the subtle colors, the ornate picture frames, even the staff uniforms — in fact, every detail of the interior — suggests cosmopolitan panache and good taste. The feeling of opulence is everywhere. All the way into your room, classic European influences are juxtaposed against a charming collage of Asian motifs. All the 174 rooms and suites are spacious, and lavishly designed with a heightened period feel. As one recent guest said, “It’s a luxurious and unique base – but very welcoming — from where to explore one of the world’s most liberal cities.” Address: Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan, 55/555 Langsuan Rd, Bangkok; Tel: 02 630-4000; e-mail:

Ariyasom Village
Designed around the 1940s and 50s Bangkok theme, this hotel is well appointed with local and imported materials: old recycled teak floors, antique and reproduction furniture, Thai silk drapes, and the like – giving it a unique personality that matches its pedigree. The hotel is owned by the descendants of Phra Charoen — the first and the longest serving dean of the Chulalongkorn University faculty of engineering and the father of Thai modern engineers – and his wife, and in fact the main house was their private residence during WWII. His granddaughter Pariya Sheanakul and her English husband, David Lees, were responsible for developing this heritage architecture “in it’s best environment and spirit.” The lush tropical gardens are a welcome reprieve from the bustling, busy city outside the gates. Address: Ariyasom Villa, 65 Sukhumvit Soi 1, Bangkok; Tel: 02-254 8880/3; E-mail:

Luxx Hotel
Still one of the most underrated hotels in the city, this one can spring a surprise especially those used to staying with hotel without any personality at all. Guestrooms that feature chrome and wood furnishings and Zen-like decoration, endearing wooden bathtubs big enough for two (including a rain shower that adds an extra touch of flair to the overall minimalist simplicity), luxury beds, and wonderful timber flooring — these are just some of the surprises in store at this supposedly budget class hotel that reeks of so much luxury. Address: 6/11 Decho St (Silom), Bangrak, Bangkok; Tel: 02-635-8800

Sofitel So
Still one of the most underrated hotels in the city, this one can spring a surprise especially those used to staying with hotel without any personality at all. Guestrooms that feature chrome and wood furnishings and Zen-like decoration, endearing wooden bathtubs big enough for two (including a rain shower that adds an extra touch of flair to the overall minimalist simplicity), luxury beds, and wonderful timber flooring — these are just some of the surprises in store at this supposedly budget class hotel that reeks of so much luxury. Address: 6/11 Decho St (Silom), Bangrak, Bangkok; Tel: 02-635-8800

There is no doubt about it – Thailand’s hotels are becoming more daring and more dramatic in design terms, as the tourism industry becomes bigger at the top end of the market, and the number of premium brands in the country increases. Centara Hotels & Resorts has been leading this surging trend for several years. Here are some proofs:

CGCW-Lobby_ground_floorCENTARA GRAND & BANGKOK CONVENTION CENTER AT CENTRALWORLD, in the heart of Bangkok, is a prominent example, with its lotus-inspired tower rising 55 floors above the streets, the petals of the blossoming flower illuminated at night and providing a setting for Red Sky, the hotel’s dramatic rooftop restaurant and bar, which has outdoor and indoor seating and provides breathtaking views of the city.

In Pattaya, CENTARA GRAND MIRAGE BEACH RESORT broke new ground in the hospitality business when it opened in late 2009. Designed to a Lost World theme, its two towers resemble the face of a cliff, linked by bridges and surrounded by large waterfalls. Its grand entry lobby stands like a giant cave 15m-tall with open sight lines to the seafront across a jungle-like water park, with a meandering river and multiple water slides. The resort was the first-ever themed hotel in Thailand. In the past few years it has become an enormously successful destination resort and a major reason why many people come to Pattaya.

CMBR-Lazy_River_04On the beachfront at Hua Hin is a Centara resort hotel that predates the founding of the company by many decades, but which has been modernized with such sensitivity that it is regarded as a classic hotel of Asia, and has recently been included as a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. CENTARA GRAND BEACH RESORT & VILLAS HUA HIN was originally opened in 1923 as the Railway Hotel, built when the railway line from Bangkok to Malaysia was completed, and as such it was the first resort hotel in Thailand. Designed in colonial style, the hotel today retains its atmosphere of an elegant age, and its rooms and villas, as well as its restaurants and meetings rooms, evoke this long-gone era while providing everything that today’s traveler may desire.

A resort with a charm all of its own is CENTARA GRAND BEACH RESORT PHUKET. Set directly on the sands at Karon Beach, the resort takes its design inspiration from the classic 19th century Sino-Portuguese style shophouses that are so characteristic of Phuket Town, and gives them a modern makeover.
The resort is set around a water park and has a mix of rooms, suites and villas, all facing the ocean. Many of the accommodations offer the choice of a Jacuzzi or a plunge pool on the balcony. The resort is family friendly as well as providing unrivalled comfort for couples, with the choice of a king bed or two double beds in most room types.

Other hotels in Thailand to check-out in for their delightful design and structure: Le Fenix Sukhumvit, Le Meridien Bangkok, Sofitel Sukhumvit, Metropolitan Bangkok, S15 Sukhumvit Hotel, Siam@Siam, TENFACE, The Lit Bangkok, Vie Hotel Bangkok, Hansar Bangkok, and the newcomers that are really changing the face of Bangkok hotels; Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, and the iconic W Bangkok. Indeed, the list is getting longer and longer.