Jan 28, 2020
1. A massage so good it’s heritage listed.
Kneading, stretching, rhythmic prodding—few spa experiences are as invigoratingly uncomfortable as nuad Thai, or Thai massage. With roots in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, this healing art has been practiced in Thailand for centuries, and has just achieved UNESCO status as part of the kingdom’s “intangible cultural heritage.” A different beast from passive massages that entail oils, bare skin and drifting off into sleep, Thai massage uses interactive yoga-like pretzel poses to lengthen muscles and increase flexibility, and intense pressure-point stimulation with fingers, elbows and knees. While there are thousands of spas and massage centers across Thailand that offer nuad Thai, there are some spinal twists and stretches with which only therapists certified by Thailand’s Public Ministry of Health should be trusted. To tap into nuad Thai from the source—or even learn how to administer it yourself—there’s no better option than Wat Pho Massage, Thailand’s national HQ for traditional medicine and massage, based out of Wat Pho temple and with outposts around Bangkok and Chiang Mai. — Bek Van Vliet Owen.
UPSCALE DAY SPAS FOR TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE
A Bt250 foot massage after walking the length of Bangkok’s old city is entirely acceptable, but for a quality nuad Thai experience, you’ll want a well-known spa with a good reputation—especially if you’re going to submit to a traditionally two-hour workout. Here are some tried-and-tested spas around the country:
RarinJinda Wellness Spa. If you can’t get to the award-winning center’s hot- spring onsen resort in Chiang Mai, try their downtown Bangkok outpost. Online bookings earn a discount. rarinjinda.com; Bt2,000 for 120 minutes.
Oasis Day Spas scattered through Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya are noteworthy for their serene Thai garden settings that deliver the quintessential ‘sanctuary’ ambience. oasisspa.net; Bt1,700 for 120 minutes.
Thann Sanctuary Spa aromatherapy brand has four spas within Bangkok luxury malls, and a wellness resort an hour’s drive outside the city. Their boutique spa and skincare products make great gifts. thann.info; Bt1,500 for 90 minutes, Bt2,000 for 120 minutes.
Harnn Heritage Spa. At their two Bangkok outlets, Harnn’s ‘Pranakorn Thai Massage’ gives you the option of an hour-long abridged version in sweet-scented surrounds. harnn.com; Bt1,800 for 60 minutes, Bt2,400 for 90 minutes, Bt3,000 for 120 minutes.
Panpuri. This now-global Thai brand is renowned for its high-quality organic and sustainable aromatherapy and spa products. They offer a ‘Royal Treat Thai Massage’ that includes a foot ritual and refreshments. panpuri.com; Bt2,800 for 60 minutes, Bt3,200 for 90 minutes.
Myth Massage. This converted townhouse in Bangkok’s embassy row offers 25-minute massages if you’re in a hurry, and will pick you up in their branded tuk-tuk. mythbangkok.com; Bt550 for 80 minutes, Bt700 for 100 minutes. — B.V.V.O.
2. A crop of art-forward new stays.
Color pops always make a hotel rock, and here we salute three new openings rebelling against the minimalist aesthetic with snazzy prints, playful graffiti and cozy, characterful spaces.
Ink Hotel Melbourne Southbank (doubles from A$202), adds vibrancy to the buzzy neighborhood of Southbank on the Yarra River, minutes from Melbourne’s CBD. Striking lobby murals by The Blender Studios and guestrooms with quirky bedspreads, throws and artworks by Australian artist Brolga result in Instagram hotspots wherever you turn. Service is bright and bubbly to match, complete with an eco-friendly philosophy that favors sustainable local brands and gets its all-day complimentary coffee from Streat, an organization that supports under-privileged youth.
Bringing extra color to the former Singaporean red-light district of Keong Saik, now the place to go for atmospheric restaurants and cocktail bars, is the Wes Anderson–inspired boutique gem Hotel Soloha (doubles from S$235). Channeling urban jungle vibes, and dotted with original pieces by local artists (including a 13-meter mural in the elevator shaft), the hotel features fun elements in each room—think pillowcases spouting local colloquialisms and cute loft spaces to crawl into. Set your room ambience to ‘party’ or ‘romantic’ as appropriate and grab a customized bowl of ramen from the futuristic Takeshi Noodle Bar in the lobby—it’s all about a have-it-your-way urban stay.
Port Muziris (doubles from INR5,000) in Kochi, Kerala, draws on local history to inspire its whimsical interiors. The design story is told through the eyes of fictional character Lila, whose depictions of the ancient trading port of Muziris adorn each space. The lobby in particular is a sweet spot for kicking back, with its massive backdrop of toucans, jackfruit trees and bamboo painted on handmade tiles. So too are its rooms, with their interplay of bright fabrics, patterned prints and subdued natural hues. — Grace Ma
3. Hotels are raising the bar.
It’s hard to keep up in a bar scene as hot and heady as Asia’s, but a few hotels around the region are at the vanguard with their own beverage trends.
ZERO-WASTE COCKTAILS Sundara, the all-day beach club at the Four Seasons Bali Jimbaran Bay (fourseasons.com; doubles from Rp8,301,334), gives you the chance to imbibe sustainably. Head bartender Sufian Mahmoud’s Liquid History menu features “zero-waste” cocktails made from his own lovingly slow-cooked infusions, many using botanicals foraged on the resort’s three-hectare grounds. Enjoy concoctions made with Sufian’s house-made ingredients—slow-cooked arak, amaro, ginger beer, falernum, tamarind marmalade, secang bark–infused whisky, banana rum—and feel good that any organic waste from the cocktail- making process, like fruit rinds and pulp, ends up in another infusion. — B.V.V.O.
BIODYNAMICS IN BANGKOK
It seems unlikely that grapes from France’s Côtes Catalanes would find a flavor match in Wagyu beef in Thailand’s Isan region, but that’s currently what’s happening at Taan restaurant in Siam@Siam Hotel, Bangkok (siamatbangkok.com; nine courses Bt2,100). Chef Thep’s new nine-course tasting menu takes a journey through premium Thai ingredients— fermented pork from Nan Province, Royal Project caviar from Ranong, squid from Surat Thani—and pairs them with biodynamic drops from Domaine des Enfants, where a low- intervention, horse-and-plow approach to cultivation yields natural, unfiltered bottlings of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah varietals. — B.V.V.O.
A CLUB LOUNGE ON WHEELS
Want lounge benefits, but don’t want to leave your room? Oakwood Premier AMTD Singapore (oakwoodasia.com; club rooms from S$423) has you covered with their new Mobile Club Lounge, which brings the fun to you. Sign up and a jolly bartender appears at your door between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. with unlimited canapés (don’t miss the chicken satay and crispy wings) and cocktails (the Se7enth Wonder and Downtown Mojito hit the spot). Have a favorite drink that’s not on the list? Just ask, and if he can shake it, he’ll make it. Oakwood’s Mobile Club Lounge will eventually roll its way across all Oakwood Premier properties in the Asia Pacific. Next stop: Oakwood Premier Tokyo. — G.A.