I have so many fond memories from our time in South East Asia, but there is one in particular which will forever be etched on my mind for all the wrong reasons. We were having lunch at a popular Chiang Mai restaurant, and all around us families, couples, and large groups of friends were all happily devouring the delicious food while drinking water from plastic bottles, poured into plastic cups, sipped through plastic straws. The ridiculousness of that sight is one I will never forget; what brief amusement it caused soon gave way to despair. Single-use plastic consumption is a hot topic right now. We can no longer deny the damage it is causing to our environment and I think we all have a responsibility to do something about it. A certain someone and I are slowly but surely reducing our plastic usage which means being more conscious about sustainability when it comes to making all sorts of consumer choices… and hotels are definitely one of them!
We have become those guests who leave some constructive feedback as to how a hotel might consider changing some of their habits to become more sustainable – we’re not evangelically demanding anything, merely planting the achievable seeds for change. We did, however, recently come across one hotel where no hints or suggestions were needed because they have already gone ahead and eliminated all single-use plastic from their property, the first hotel in Asia to do so. Let me introduce you to akyra TAS Sukhumvit, a five star boutique hotel which is the newest property in the akyra portfolio and the first to implement the company’s stance on being single-use plastic free…
Still half asleep and in my morning daze, I was momentarily perplexed as to exactly where I was when I woke up that first day at the Luang Say Residence. The familiar crow of an energetic rooster is one we have heard all over our travels through Asia, and yet, my immediate surroundings took me to another world. ‘You’re in Luang Prabang’, I reminded myself… a pretty little town with a UNESCO Heritage Site title under its belt and an unshakable French influence. Which brings me right back to the Luang Say Residence and all makes sense again. This gorgeous hotel is well-regarded as one of the best in town, and within minutes of our arrival, I knew exactly why.
In stark contrast to the small but heavily-populated streets of the town centre, the Luang Say Residence is a sanctuary for those in need of rest and relaxation. At this point in our travels, we welcomed that idea and are not ashamed to admit that we spent a lot of our time in Luang Prabang simply chilling out at the hotel. If we weren’t in our suite we were most likely to be found down by the pool… The stunning French colonial style buildings set in lush, tropical gardens made for an inviting combination. Add the excellent restaurants and impeccable service, and the thought of spending the day at the Luang Say Residence was simply irresistible!
I have never been so happy to see a sunset and call an end to the day. A day which started before sunrise, involved a lot of waiting around, and an excruciating eight hour slow-boat journey down the Mekong River with about a hundred drunk backpackers for company. It was neither pretty nor comfortable and when we finally got to the port at Pakbeng, I could have kissed the ground just to be on dry land again. One by one, all 150 of us clambered off the boat to be welcomed by hoards of guesthouse hustlers ready to pounce on anyone who seemed lost and looking for a room for the night. This frenetic scene made me even more grateful that we’d made a reservation at Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge and their tuk tuk was already waiting for us at the top!
When we arrived at the lodge just a short and bumpy drive later, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. We made it; it was calm, the outlook over the Mekong River was stunning, and I had no doubt that the lodge would be infinitely more comfortable than any of the guesthouses in town. The standard journey down the Mekong from a small town by the border between Thailand and Laos to Luang Prabang takes two days so most people only stay in Pakbeng for just one night. We decided to stay for two, this gave us a much needed break between slow-boat journeys and a chance to take in the idyllic surroundings and quiet village life.
When you are living in hotels for months on end, the last thing you want to do is stay in more than one in the same city. I have to pack my bag enough times already, thank you very much. So you can imagine the amount of convincing it took for us to leave our sleek haven at G Hotel Gurney to spend the rest of our time in Penang at their sister hotel, G Hotel Kelawai. It was just a short buggy ride round the corner, but I didn’t see much point… surely they would be the same? They’re similar but definitely not the same. As an elder sister, it’s not really in my nature to admit this but sometimes our younger sisters are much cooler than we are. It is true for me, and it seems, for G Hotel Gurney too. At Kelawai, there is a distinctly different atmosphere – the focus is less about business and more about leisure!
G Hotel Kelawai opened its glossy doorsonly a couple of years ago and brought another level of style to the Gurney area. Its location is just as good as its sister property, with easy access to popular malls and food outlets, however it is far more intimate with fewer rooms and cosier spaces. The team said we would like it better and while it initially felt disloyal to G Hotel Gurney to admit it, we did… the more relaxed atmosphere and laid back vibe at Kelawai was more in line with our travel style, and as a result we felt more at home here!
I love Georgetown as much as the next street-art-obsessed slave to the ‘gram, but I also love getting away from it at the end of the day. The excitement of navigating its narrow streets in search of quirky street art, colourful colonial gems, and insanely great food in this UNESCO World Heritage site is probably what entices people to Penang in the first place, but it does not mean you have to spend every moment of your trip in the thick of it. We like to stay somewhere that’s close enough to the action to let you experience the essence of a city, but just far enough way to have an oasis to escape to. So we ruled out staying in Georgetown, considered Batu Ferringhi but remembered that it was just a tad too far for our liking the last time we were in Penang, which left us with that sweet spot right in the middle – Gurney Drive. Once that was settled, G Hotel Gurney was the obvious choice.
This modern 312-room property has a prime spot on Gurney Drive, making it a firm favourite for both business and leisure travellers. It was always a looker, but since getting a facelift last year it is more popular than ever. The open lobby is huge and airy, the atmosphere is really swish but inviting, and the ever-so-smiley staff lined up behind the desk were friendly and welcoming… G Hotel Gurney sure knows how to make a first impression. As much as I would have enjoyed lingering in lobby which seamlessly flows into the G Lounge, we were whisked up to the Executive Lounge to complete check in formalities. It was a much more intimate space – just where we wanted to be to enjoy our welcome ice creams (can more hotels do this please) after a long, hot journey!
Since being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, the little city of Melaka has seen itself transform into quite the darling of the Malaysian tourist scene. The people are coming in droves to explore the history, culture, and cuisine of Melaka and as a result more and more hotels seem to be popping up all over town. In the midst of the old stalwarts, international chains, and boutique guesthouses, is Rosa Malacca. This new property is a rare gem that provides both the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of a cosy boutique hotel and the stylish, modern design of the larger chains – the perfect combination, if you ask me.
Rosa Malacca is located away from the busy streets of Jonker Walk, which we found to be more of a blessing than a curse. It’s only a brisk fifteen minute stroll or short Uber ride away, but once you step through their huge double doors, you will feel like you’re in another world. After a day of sightseeing in the hot Melaka sun, we were grateful for this oasis. The industrial chic look and feel of the hotel is quite striking, and it’s obvious that Rosa Malacca has been designed with a lot of care and attention to detail. I loved that every inch of the hotel looked beautiful, but also felt casual and comfortable – this new kid on the block is definitely not just a pretty face!
By the time we pulled up to the gates of the Anantara Peace Haven in Tangalle, I was more than ready to step into this small slice of paradise. We had been travelling around Sri Lanka for close to a fortnight and had experienced some spectacular highs and very frustrating lows, but regardless of which end of the spectrum they sat, each day was exhausting! We wanted nothing more than to put our travel-weary feet up for some proper rest and relaxation, and we could not have chosen a more luxurious place for it. From the moment we were warmly welcomed through the gates by a traditional Sri Lankan folk song, we felt right at home in this stunning resort where nothing was too much trouble and we were greeted by smiles at every corner!
One of the newest additions to the Anantara family, this haven has been created in what used to be a coconut plantation only a short drive away from Tangalle town. This location on Sri Lanka’s southern coast is quite breathtaking and Anantara Peace Haven have used this to their advantage, ensuring all their 152 rooms and villas face out towards the Indian Ocean. The property also has all the usual facilities you would expect from a luxury resort, but at no point did it feel too big or impersonal. There was a lot to love here, but what really stuck with me was their commitment to ensuring their guests’ comfort while also respecting the natural surroundings. I think they struck the perfect balance so come take a peak inside this luxurious property and see if you would agree…