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Thailand Hotels

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Aleenta Phuket–Phang Nga
33 Moo 5, Khok Kloi
Takua Thung
Phang Nga
Thailand 82140
Tel: 66 25 085 333
reservation@aleenta.com
www.aleenta.com

The 30-minute drive to Aleenta takes you away from the resort-clogged circus of Phuket through small towns, rubber-tree farms, and rolling hills of palm trees. But the feeling once you step into your room is pure Malibu. The 30 all-white villas (the larger ones with kitchens and living areas) have floor-to-ceiling retractable glass panels that open onto expansive views of the Andaman Sea. The neutral interiors—polished concrete floors, mocha and cream bedding, beech-wood furniture—keep the focus outdoors, where teak decks open onto infinity pools. And the Cali vibe extends to the service, which lacks the stiffness sometimes found at other luxury properties. Nearly everything has been custom-designed for the resort, from the electro-lounge playlist on the in-room iPods to the complimentary yoga mats and featherlight cotton meditation clothes. The two on-site restaurants benefit from the presence of visiting Michelin-star chefs (pastries and breakfasts are outstanding). You can spend a night at the tasting table, schedule a cooking class, or have a private seafood barbecue on the beach. The hotel donates a small portion of each night's bill to support a nearby sea turtle sanctuary, which guests can visit. Aleenta may lack the laundry list of facilities that come standard at places like Amanpuri and Trisara—there are no dive instructors or tennis pros on the premises, for example—but the thoughtful design, secluded location, and mellow vibe attract the laid-back sophisticated set.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Alila Cha-Am
115 Moo 7
Tambol Bangkao
Petchaburi
Thailand 76120
Tel: 66 32 709 555
chaam@alilahotels.com
www.alilahotels.com

Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag secures his reputation as the latest Thai design wunderkind with striking minimalist work at this 79-room beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand. Guest rooms are set within six wood-and-glass buildings with pocked raw-concrete walls on the inside, but the rooms don't feel austere, thanks to beds that closely approximate sleeping on clouds, chocolate-brown cushioned club chairs, furry rugs, 12-foot-high rain showers, Apple TVs that work like iPods, and bijou balconies overlooking dense palm fronds. Chef Joel Wilkinson brings his health-conscious talents—honed at Antigua's Jumby Bay—to dishes that range from vegetarian pizzas to spicy Thai. The always attentive staff replenish cold water for guests lounging on shaded beachfront daybeds, and can arrange tours to the nearby royal palace or the night market. But most guests will be content to walk along the unbroken shore or lounge by the two pools, one surrounded by hibiscus-dotted hedges, the other for adults only between the groovy Red Bar and the ultra-relaxing spa.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Amanpuri
Pansea Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83000
Tel: 66 76 324 333
amanpuri@amanresorts.com
www.amanresorts.com

Few hotels in the world make a better first impression than Amanpuri. Upon arriving from the madness of the airport—only 25 minutes as the limo glides—you find yourself in a serene green enclave in a former coconut grove. Amanpuri is the Sanskrit word for "place of peace," and the computer-free, open-air lobby sets that tone, guiding the eye past a midnight-blue pool to the Andaman Sea. Thai sculptures, orchids, and reddish maka wood lend romantic warmth to the otherwise spare decor of the 40 enormous (1,200-square-foot) pavilions, some with private infinity pools, and the 30 villas, which include a maid, cook, outdoor living room, and private infinity pool. Service is beyond thoughtful: Attendants on the wedding-white beach deliver drinks and snacks; take guests snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, and kayaking (all complimentary); and spray water on the sand to keep it cool beneath your feet. There is another infinity pool at the beach club directly along Surin Beach. Buggies cruise around the property 24/7, stopping off at the hilltop gym, which has Andaman Sea views and a Pilates studio, and the spa, where guests glide between the black granite steam room, Thai herbal massages, and jungle-shrouded beds overlooking the ocean. The resort also owns a fleet of 20 boats, including a 90-foot cruiser featured in Architectural Digest. The isolation and expansiveness of the hotel may frustrate more social travelers, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a resort more perfectly configured for a couple's escape. Even if you can't afford to stay, come for lunch or dinner at the terrace Thai and Italian restaurants or at Naoki, the oceanfront Japanese spot, to see how the other one half of one percent lives.—Updated by Cynthia Rosenfeld

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Anantara
229 Moo 1
Chiang Saen
Thailand
Tel: 66 5378 4084
www.anantara.com

Anantara's superb setting on a sylvan hillside above the Mekong River, an hour north of Chiang Rai, is not the only reason to love this 103-room hotel. The accommodations, all with balconies, have teak floors and are decorated with northern Thai objects and textiles. The infinity pool has superb Mekong views, and there's a first-rate spa and two excellent restaurants, one serving spicy northern Thai and the other surprisingly good Italian. What really puts this place over the top, however, is the sweet, attentive, and welcoming staff, who fall all over themselves trying to anticipate your needs.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Anantara Resort and Spa
888 Moo 3
Tumbon Mai Khao
Phuket
Thailand 83110
Tel: 66 76 336 100
phuket.anantara.com

A large private pool, an outdoor tub for two, and an alfresco dining sala are standard room fare at this newly built resort along Phuket's longest beach. The 83 high-ceilinged villas are done up with natural fibers, and there are plenty of plush components: a pillowtop bed canopied by mosquito netting, a walk-in closet, an expansive bathroom with French doors leading to the outdoor soak, as well as overwater decks with daybeds in some villas. Landscape artist Bill Bensley lavished the grounds with indigenous greenery but kept the look authentic. In between the copious breakfast spread and sunset cocktails in the Infinity Bar, guests can venture out for cave canoeing, diving, or touring a village being rebuilt since the 2004 tsunami. A packed schedule of on-site activities includes power walks, batik painting, and Thai language lessons, which come in handy, as the staff still struggle with English.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Andara Resort and Villas, Phuket
15 Moo 6
Kamala Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83150
Tel: 66 76 338 777
info@andaraphuket.com
andaraphuket.com

It's tempting to want to veg inside one's cozy suite at this hillside resort on Phuket's Kamala Bay. There's the wicked 52-inch LCD television in your living room, for one. Other in-room gadgetry is equally generous, with a second, 46-inch TV in the bedroom and a Bose stereo and speakers in every room, while an exceptional kitchen comes outfitted with a shiny array of appliances, including a Gaggia espresso maker. The 37 antique-filled suites are also bedecked in warm, polished wood, plenty of cushions, and beds that are arguably Phuket's plushest. Room category configurations here are unusual: Opt to upgrade from the standard suite and another door of these three-bedroom units is unlocked for one's use. The black-bottom infinity pool attracts an array of beautiful bodies, and the poolside restaurant, Silk, was already a local favorite when it moved here; stick to Thai classics and avoid the uninspired Western dishes. While not on the beach, the hotel does have a private beach club on the public sand and a shuttle to ferry guests (party central Patong Beach is also close by). Others will prefer to hop aboard the 92-foot air-conditioned yacht that cruises around Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island, and the Similan Islands.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
At Niman Conceptual Home
37 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 9
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50200
Tel: 66 53 224 949

After overseeing the sprawling, $75 million Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, architect Rachen "Taam'' Intawong went for up close and personal with this eight-room "conceptual home.'' Located one mile west of the old city, the hotel appeals to budget-minded bohemians of all stripes with decor that reflects Chiang Mai's cultural bond with India and the Himalayas. The lower floors are heavy on Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan trappings, such as hand-carved teak door jambs and lintels, while sleeker, Lanna-style accessories like bud-shaped lamps enliven the top tier. No two rooms are identical, though all are larger than 1,000 square feet and have the requisite modern comforts: Wi-Fi, mini-bar, candles, and aromatherapy products. Downstairs, there's a small library, a swimming pool, and a restaurant, the whimsically named Le Muang de Cuisine Snob. One of the city's best shopping areas, Nimmanhaemin Road, is just a five-minute walk away; a free shuttle connects to the Night Bazaar.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Avatar Spa Mountain Suites
654 Moo 3
Uthai Thani
Thailand
Tel: 66 25 136 171
info@avatarsuites.com
avatarspamountainsuites.com

Those seeking total escape now have a fantasy sanctuary in a remote mountain-girdled valley on the fringes of northern Thailand's large Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Avatar, a jarring two-story, fan-shaped edifice edged by lagoons on 99 acres, is comprised of 44 lairlike suites with wavy ceilings and rough walls. The outlandish scheme works: Surfaces take on lovely hues of blue and amber from the soft light, and touches such as specially designed box-spring mattresses ensure plush comfort. Staff may be a little laid-back—typical of Thai sabai-sabai (fine-and-easy). The excellent fusion cuisine and treatments at the impressive spa are included in the price, as are the minibar and selected excursions, making the room rate worth it. 

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Banyan Tree Phuket
33 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Road
Bang Tao Bay , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 866 822 6926 (toll-free)
Tel: 66 76 324 374
spa-phuket@banyantree.com
www.banyantree.com/en/phuket/index.html

Between its resorts in the Maldives, the Seychelles, and here, Banyan Tree has nailed the fine art of lounging by the sea. It's got the beachy ambience, but it's also rife with we-take-care-of-you amenities (if Amanpuri is booked up, you'll be quite happy here). The big difference is location: The Banyan Tree is part of the 988-acre gated Laguna Phuket complex, seven resorts that share amenities but sacrifice a bit of exclusivity. These 115 luxurious villas, sandwiched between the beach and a par-71 golf course, have sloping pavilion roofs and other nods to traditional Thai architecture. The lobby is a marvel of water and light, with an open roof and a decorative, pebble-bottomed pool. If you're here to relax, request one of the 13 Spa Pool Villas, which have an open-air sunken bathtub, outdoor shower, and in-room space for spa treatments. Or go for the ultimate upgrade to one of the 24 one-, two-, and three-bedroom Doublepool Villas, Banyan Tree's resort-within-a-resort next door. Guests of both properties share facilities like the spa. Golfers should also take the short drive up Highway 402 to Blue Canyon Country Club, which is said to have the best 18-hole course in Thailand (66-76-328-088). Restaurant options include Thai, Mediterranean, and spa-minded; Banyan Café is the casual choice, though when we visited, the kids' menu had an item called Finding Nemo's Fish Nuggets—which just seems wrong.—Updated by Cynthia Rosenfeld

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Banyan Tree Samui
99/9 Moo 4
Maret , Koh Samui
Thailand 84310
Tel: 66 77 915 333
reservations-samui@banyantree.com
www.banyantree.com/en/samui/overview

The party-happy sands of Chaweng are just over the ridgeline to the north of Banyan Tree's private, palm-lined bay, part of a hidden valley on the eastern shore of Koh Samui. In a feat of engineering and architecture, the villas dramatically ascend the hillsides on stilts, clinging to the slopes. The golf cart–driving chauffeurs mean it when they tell you to hold on. Each of the 78 villas has a sizable swimming pool outside and earth tones inside. No razzle-dazzle here. The real magic is in thoughtful details—a built-in head cushion in the bathtub, perfectly focused reading lights, and not one but four rain-style showerheads. Best of all, the resort delivers a real sense of place, particularly in the restaurants' authentic Thai dishes, the confident masseurs in the spa, and, of course, this being Thailand, a genuinely hospitable staff.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Cactus Bungalow
175/7 Moo 1
Bophut Beach
Bophut , Koh Samui
Thailand 84320
Tel: 66 77 245 565
cactusbung@hotmail.com
www.sawadee.com/hotel/samui/cactus

The reception desk is on the beach—just past the pool table—at Cactus Bungalow, an easygoing and easy-on-the-wallet property along Bophut Beach on Koh Samui's north shore. All 14 bungalows are simple but spotless, with comfortable platform beds made up with cheerful local textiles, enough closet space to unpack for quite a while, and cable television. Cobalt-tiled bathrooms are spick-and-span, with an open shower and a generous countertop. Rooms with powerful air conditioning are closer to the sea, but the swankiest pad sits on the sand, facing the water: It's well worth the slight premium (about $40) to wake up to the sound of the rolling waves. What sets this waterfront inn apart from its many nondescript neighbors is the excellent food, including Koh Samui's best pizza, fired up in the wood-burning oven by Guillaume, a perennially tan Frenchman who emerges from the surf to perform his mealtime duties.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Chakrabongse House
396 Maharaj Road
Tatien
Bangkok
Thailand 10200
Tel: 66 2 622 1900
reservation@thaivillas.com
www.thaivillas.com

This little-known waterside oasis hides in plain sight among Bangkok's top tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The accommodations are housed in three traditional Thai houses, constructed up-country then brought to the Chao Phraya riverbank for HRH Prince Chakrabongse in 1908. His heirs have lovingly maintained the buildings, making them comfortable for modern travelers with ornate beds piled with silk cushions, sparkling floors, and refined Thai details throughout. Each suite has a spacious balcony overlooking the well-tended tropical garden and the river. The Riverside Villa even boasts an unobstructed view of Wat Arun ("Temple of the Dawn") from the bedroom. Tall palms and tropical flowers encircle the swimming pool and there is a riverfront sala where scrumptious Thai meals are served upon request. A private tuk-tuk takes guests sightseeing around the old Rattanakosin quarter, and a motorized boat is available at the private pier. But don't expect typical hotel accoutrements here: Instead of business centers, plasma televisions, and concierges, you'll get smiling service that's more personal and less rushed.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Chedi, Chiang Mai
123 Charoenprathet Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50100
Tel: 66 53 253 333
chedichiangmai@ghmhotels.com
www.ghmhotels.com

An instant classic since its 2005 opening, the four-story Chedi occupies the former grounds of the British Consulate, a 1920s building retained as the hotel's centerpiece restaurant and bar. Nothing else is old-school about the hotel, where the 84 teak-paneled minimalist rooms have low platform beds and modern wicker furniture. Club suite rooms at the end of each north-wing floor have the best river views; the higher-priced rooms also include a free mini-bar, laundry and butler service, and evening cocktails. A spa, swimming pool, and gym are on-site, of course, and breakfast comes with the best cappuccino in town. In the evenings, glowing candles are set on lily pads in the reflecting pool fronting the lobby.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
D2 Hotel Chiang Mai
100 Chang Klan Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50100
Tel: 66 53 999 999
d2crsvn@dusit.com
d2hotels.com

D2, the precocious new brand of the Dusit hotel chain, is more Soho than Southeast Asia. The staff—make that "agents''—are younger than you, thinner than you, and even dance better than you, if the chorus line in the lobby (standard D2 procedure for the 2 p.m. personnel shift) is any indication. They're also better-looking, too, unless you happen to be Catherine Deneuve, one of the hotel's illustrious guests. Global urban minimalism is the prevailing taste, and the only hints of Asia in the 131 rooms are the raw silk pillows and "Siam Soul'' lounge music especially produced by David Coker of Futon, one of Thailand's top bands. If you want local color, however, just step outside the ten-story hotel: The Night Bazaar is right out front. When retail overload sets in, retreat to the kidney-shaped swimming pool or the on-site Devarana Spa for a ginger compress and back massage. Club Deluxe–level guests get the run of the seventh-floor lounge, which has private check-in, free Internet, and a complimentary happy hour. There's also a trendy fusion restaurant, Moxie.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Dream Hotel
10 Sukhumvit Soi 15
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana
Bangkok
Thailand
Tel: 660 2 254 8500
dreambkk.com

The new outpost of Dream Hotel is a five-minute walk from both the subway and the Skytrain in Bangkok's central Sukhumvit district. Owner and society page regular Vikram Chatwal calls his New York–based boutique hotel brand Hautel Couture, though the Thai translation feels decidedly more casual than catwalk. Appropriately for a hotel whose name promises heavenly slumber, the emphasis in the 100 sleek white-walled rooms is the custom platform bed, which comes blanketed in layers of allergen-free goose down. A compact gym and a serviceable spa round out the standard amenities here, but ample desks and speedy free Wi-Fi sets the hotel above many bigger and better known competitors in the business sector. Comfort foods like pad thai have been early standouts among the fusion fare at Flava, but the recent arrival of young chef Daniel Roland Meier promises more refined dishes on the horizon.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Dusit Laguna
390 Srisoonthorn Road
Bang Tao Bay , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 324 324
dlp@dusit.com
phuket.dusit.com

The Dusit Laguna pulls off the neat trick of projecting warmth and intimacy despite being part of the five-resort gated Laguna Phuket complex. Everything—213 rooms, 13 suites, a pool the size of an aircraft carrier—is tucked away artfully into the 32 acres of landscaped grounds, so the scale of the place isn't apparent until you start padding around. The main building is a three-story affair with a gargantuan lobby filled with ill-advised pieces of "art." Rooms are better: light-filled, with native wood, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and a decent-sized balcony. The beach—Laguna Phuket fronts a stretch of Bang Tao Beach, about halfway up the island's west coast—is only moderately built up, with one-story buildings along the water. It's shared by resort guests and locals, a nice commingling that prevents a hermetical seal from covering the place. (There's no one touting elephant rides at Trisara, that's for sure.) The Dusit's Casuarina Beach Restaurant is on the beach, too, with tanks holding live fish. Point one out and they'll grill it up.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Eugenia
267 Sukhumvit Road
Soi 31
North Klongtan, Wattana
Bangkok
Thailand 10110
Tel: 66 2 259 9011
reservations@theeugenia.com
www.theeugenia.com

From the vintage cars that can pick you up at the airport to the handbeaten copper tubs in each bathroom, Old Siam elegance permeates this colornial-style 12-room gem. The Taiwanese owner generously filled all three floors with more than 300 of his personal antiques, including a fully intact crocodile skin that inhabits the second-story landing. Bangkoks most romantic beds—four-poster and covered in crisp Belgian linens—are the centerpiece of the spacious suites. Snag room 302 for the best views of the pool and palms. Thoughtful complimentary conveniences like the minibar, Wi-Fi access, and even international phone calls make this a homey alternative to larger luxury hotels like the nearby Sukhothai and Four Seasons Bangkok. Trendsetting locals snuggle among the overstuffed couches and daybeds in Zheng He Lounge's warren of intimate rooms while the smiling bow-tied waiters serves European cheeses and charcuterie. A celadon-tiled courtyard pool has an old-world elegance and the traditional Thai sala offers the perfect spot for yoga or meditation.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Four Seasons Bangkok
155 Rajdamri Road
Bangkok
Thailand 10330
Tel: 66 2 250 1000
reservations.bangkok@fourseasons.com
www.fourseasons.com/bangkok

Only the Sukhothai can come close to vying with the Four Seasons for the position of most luxurious in a city known for its ultraluxe lodgings. Even standard accommodations here start at a roomy 430 square feet, among the biggest in the city, and you'll find a mix of graceful teak furniture and cheery Thai silks, along with high-tech perks like 42-inch plasmas and Wi-Fi. The cabana rooms overlooking an inviting outdoor swimming pool and traditional lotus pond offer a sylvan escape from the city's frenetic pace. The elegant lobby is an equally civilized space where well-dressed guests and local businesspeople meet for tea or predinner cocktails to a soundtrack of live jazz and clinking crystal. On-site restaurants include the Spice Market, one of the best places in the city for high-end Thai food, and the more casual Shintaro, which serves healthy takes on Japanese fare. First-time visitors to Bangkok might want to opt for the Four Seasons for its ability to offer a taste of home while still incorporating distinctly Thai elements into nearly every facet of your stay. It's also an excellent pick if you plan to visit the chain's properties in Chiang Mai, the Golden Triangle, or Koh Samui, as staff will take care of transferring your baggage, confirming flights, and more. Traveling with the family? Bangkok-reared Zachary Kypfer, the 14-year-old teen concierge, can give you suggestions for kid-friendly activities.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50180
Tel: 66 53 298 181
res.chiangmai@fourseasons.com
www.fourseasons.com/chiangmai

After more than a decade, this ornate gem still sparkles as Chiang Mai's most elegant resort. The serene villas, set amid 20 acres of teak forest and rice fields, make the Four Seasons feel more like a self-contained village than a hotel. The 64 spacious pavilion rooms (750 square feet) and 16 residences (starting at 3,767 square feet) are cloaked in teakwood and adorned with Thai art. Each pavilion has its own outdoor sala (a Thai-style gazebo); the most distant, no. 16, has the best views, especially from the two top-floor units. A free shuttle makes five daily runs to the Night Bazaar, but there's plenty to do on-site or in the surrounding countryside. Classes at the Cooking School, set in an open-air pavilion, include early-morning market excursions; fruit- and vegetable-carving instruction; and tutorials in spicy salads, soups and noodles, and Thai curries. Or greet the sunrise at a yoga barn overlooking a checkerboard of rice paddies, then soak in a flower-filled alfresco tub at the spa. The staff can also arrange private tours of an elephant camp or a leisurely bamboo-raft trip. The more ambitious can grab a mountain bike for a spin through the back roads to nearby Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, known for its numerous cascades. Or simply stake out a lounge chair beside the pair of shimmering infinity pools, breaking only for a meal at Sala Mae Rim, the on-site restaurant.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
219 Moo 5
Ang Thong , Koh Samui
Thailand
Tel: 66 77 243 000
fourseasons.com/kohsamui

On the secluded northwestern tip of the rapidly developing island’s glassy Laem Yai Bay, Bill Bensley, architect of the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai (“Hot List," May 2006), has scattered 60 gorgeous hillside villas among the coconut trees, all with expansive Gulf of Thailand views (including from the tub), as well as decks with big plunge pools, shaded daybeds, and a stocked wine fridge. The resort has a small, effectively private strip of white sand beach by the main infinity pool, as well as sea-facing daybeds at the laid-back beach bar, where the attentive staff whip up an array of cocktails. The adjacent dining pavilion Pla Pla (meaning "many fish" and named for its fresh catch menu) is a romantic dinner spot, and the hilltop restaurant Lan Tania highlights indigenous dishes like coconut beef curry and steamed fish with lemongrass. Massages inside one of the spa's tree house–inspired treatment rooms knead away any last trace of real-world stress.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai
Thailand
Tel: 66 53 910 200
Fax: 66 53 652 189
www.fourseasons.com/goldentriangle/

"It was the greatest four days of travel in my life—and I've been to more than 50 countries." The Gold List's No. 1 property gets perfect scores across the board. Set on a jungle hillside along the Mekong River, "it's unlike anything you've ever experienced." Individual air-conditioned tents are "old-world Hemingway with sophistication, rusticity, and luxury all rolled into one." At Nong Yao restaurant, guests feed bananas to young elephants for breakfast—"it's truly unforgettable." "Elephant trekking, bird-watching, cooking classes are the activities of a lifetime." Service "is beyond any expectation you could dream up."

(15 tents)

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
494 Rajdamri Road
Bangkok
Thailand 10330
Tel: 66 2 254 1234
reservation.ghbangkok@hyattintl.com
www.bangkok.grand.hyatt.com

This 380-room hotel benefits from the good karma of its next-door neighbor, the much-revered Erawan Shrine. The four-story atrium lobby can feel frenetic on busy days but even standard guest rooms—quite spacious at 430 square feet—have a relaxing vibe thanks to coconut-shell headboards and extra-fluffy duvets. In-room Wi-Fi, still a rarity among Asia's large business hotels, is among the fastest in Bangkok. Higher-level rooms include use of the Club Lounge with its views of Lumpini Park and the racetrack. But one of the top reasons to stay here is the I.Sawan spa tucked away from the noise of Bangkok among the gardens on the hotel's fifth floor. Designed by starchitect Tony Chi, the 75,000-square-foot facility has nine treatment bungalows, a hair salon, nail bar, and free-form swimming pool. For true indulgence, you can book your entire stay in one of six sprawling cottages, with en suite treatment options and fridges stocked with fresh fruit juices and organic snacks. Those who prefer more gustatorial indulgence can get their fill at the eight on-site restaurants, including the Erawan Tea Room, whose signature chocolate-banana mud pie complements an authentic Thai menu served in an old-world colonial setting.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Indigo Pearl
Nai Yang Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83110
Tel: 66 76 327 006
reservations@indigo-pearl.com
www.indigo-pearl.com

If the choice between Phuket's teakwood traditional and muted modern hotels leaves you cold, Indigo Pearl on Nai Yang Beach may be the place for you. This is a postindustrial playground of found art with a circus of activities (including trapeze lessons and art workshops) to match. Architect Bill Bensley (of Four Seasons Chiang Mai and Rajasthan's Udaivilas fame) drew inspiration from Phuket's tin-mining past and used materials salvaged from the wreckage of the 2004 tsunami. Old wrenches find new life as knives and forks, rice buckets become rain showers, and abaci make wall art. In some cases, form trumps function—the polished cement floors of the bathroom can be slick when wet—but there's an overall sense of lightness and whimsy. The look of the 277 rooms varies wildly, from the Arco lamps and midcentury furniture of the Tuxedo Suite to the nautical feel of the Kelly Quarters. Our favorites are the Plantation Villas—set in a quiet spot near the adults-only pool—or any of the second-floor rooms, which overlook the painterly landscaping. There are three pools (one tiled to resemble snakeskin), a cooking school, a spa, a kids' club, a Thai boxing studio, and an outdoor theater built into a grassy hill. You'll be similarly spoiled for choice in terms of eating, from the Black Ginger Thai restaurant built on stilts over a lake to the open-air tapas lounge. Phuket's best-looking expats gravitate to the Tin Mine restaurant on Sunday mornings for a brunch of Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking roast duck, New Zealand mussels, Indian tandoor, French oysters, and Phuket rock lobster. The riot of activity could be overwhelming, but the organization of the resort into discrete areas makes it feel more like a series of neighborhoods than a metropolis.—Updated by Cynthia Rosenfeld

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok
4 Sukhumvit Road
Soi 2
Bangkok
Thailand 10110
Tel: 66 2 656 7700
res.jwthailand@marriotthotels.com
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bkkdt-jw-marriott-hotel-bangkok

The JW Marriott is by far the best value in Bangkok. Rates as low as $200 a night will buy you one of the 441 richly paneled guest rooms with high-tech toys like the Remote Jack Pack—which interconnects MP3 players, digital cameras, and laptops to a 32-inch flat-screen television—as well as a team of IT concierges to guide you through the process. Even better is the prime Sukhumvit location along Bangkok's Skytrain, particularly important as bell staff sometimes fail to assist non-Thai speakers in communicating addresses to cabdrivers. The rest of the service, however, proves impeccable. The 24-hour business center capably handles everything from faxing to locating an attorney. Friendly concierges go out of their way to arrange tours and dinner reservations. Those homesick for American fare can dine at the on-site New York Steakhouse, or grab breakfast at the Bangkok Baking Company, which is rightly famous for its fluffy croissants and homemade chocolate truffles. The plush lounge chairs at the outdoor swimming pool are an ideal place to unwind after a day of sightseeing, as is the on-site spa.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa
41/12 Moo 3
Khuk Khak, Takuapa , Phang Nga
Thailand 82190
Tel: 66 76 584 888
Fax: 66 76 584 999
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hktkl-jw-marriott-khao-lak-resort-and-spa/

A short ride down an unpaved road off the main highway from Phuket delivers guests to this white-walled 293-room resort on prime frontage along Khao Lak Beach, one of Asia's most exceptional for its gentle waves and miles-long stretch of sand. The postcard-perfect setting alone would draw sun seekers—both families and romantics—but the resort itself is up to snuff. Modern architecture blends aesthetically with Thai touches like the curved multi-tiered roofs, and lush indigenous vegetation like pink and white frangipani trees dot the grounds. Guest rooms, while not the resort's design pinnacle, are outfitted with deep terrazzo bathtubs and generous-sized balconies or terraces, and also give a nod to location with Thai silk curtains and throw pillows on the daybeds. Swimmable paths flow through the resort's horseshoe-shaped layout, allowing guests to move leisurely toward the elongated indigo-tiled pool with a bar, where crowds gather for the festive afternoon happy hour. Four on-site eateries provide a little for everyone, from the Japanese fare at Sakura, in an architecturally striking space, to the beachfront Olive delivering Mediterranean fare and live music. The main restaurant, Waterfront, is a chic contemporary box that's a welcome change from cluttered resort design. Come here for the breakfast buffet that runs the global gamut from waffles and an extensive barista menu to platters laden with Thai fruits and Chinese noodles made to order. At dusk the genuinely kind Thai staff get busy setting up romantic dinners on the sand.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
JW Marriott Resort Phuket Resort & Spa
3 Moo
Mai Khao Beach , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 338 000
Tel: 800 627 7468 (toll free)
Fax: 66 76 348 348
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hktjw-jw-marriott-phuket-resort-and-spa/

This isn't just any Marriott: It sits next to Sirinath National Park on Phuket's northwest coast, one of the quieter and more beautiful bits of the island. After ten years of planning and another year and a half of building, the three-level, 265-room resort fits harmoniously within its surroundings. A good thing, too: The property was barely touched by the 2004 tsunami, and its humungous pool absorbed the waves that did reach its grounds. All rooms are inside the main building; 13 are suites, but the rest are fairly standard, if a bit larger and more exotic than one you'd find at, say, a Marriott in Houston (JW is the company's luxury brand). Ultimately, the main reason to stay here is the away-from-the-fuss location. The island's longest stretch of undeveloped beach—Hat Mai Khao—is located just inside the park. Oh, and the Lobby Bar has a cedar humidor stocked with Cuba's finest. Light up and you might get to rub elbows with the occasional dignitary: President Clinton slept in a garden-view suite on a tsunami-relief tour.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Kamalaya
102/9 Moo 3
Laem Set Road
Laem Set , Koh Samui
Thailand
Tel: 66 77 429 800
info@kamalaya.com
kamalaya.com

A group of American hippies turned real estate entrepreneurs have opened Kamalaya, a 60-room resort on the coconut palm–covered slopes of southern Koh Samui. With architectural references to Nepalese pagodas, its teak-clad buildings and bungalows have white interiors with cool touches such as shag blankets, and layouts that maximize sea views. No stress is the emphasis here: The resort has flexible check-in and -out times, and guests with a week to spare should sample the menu of medicinal options at the Wellness Sanctuary. The healthy meals are served in bountiful portions, but in the spirit of community, room service is discouraged and available only with a day's notice.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Karma Samui
80/32 Moo 5
Bo Phut , Koh Samui
Thailand
Tel: 66 77 234 500
karmasamui.com

The spectacular views make a lasting impression at this 36-villa property situated atop craggy headlands and both convenient to and removed from Koh Samui's nightlife. Golf carts buzz about, giving the whitewashed compound a seaside community vibe. The smallest villas have three bedrooms, with polished dark wood floors, warm Thai textiles, a shaded outdoor daybed, and a private infinity pool (visible from golf cart paths, alas) as well as a kitchen and laundry room. The dramatic tented restaurant, Padma, offers fun cocktails like cucumber martinis, in addition to an extensive East-West menu. Below the restaurant, two levels of pools are typically bypassed for safe ocean swims between rock outcrops and walks along an enclosed stretch of golden sand. Treatments at the small but charming spa incorporate the healing powers of precious metals.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Karon Princess Hotel
194 Karon Road
Karon Beach , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 286 484
info@phuket-karonprincess.com
www.phuket-karonprincess.com

Patong Beach's popularity is also its bane: Packed with 20 resorts just off the sand, it's a fun place to visit, but not a great place to spend the night. The next beach to the south, Karon, is somewhat quieter but still near the action of Phuket Town, and the Karon Princess, located in the middle of this smaller throng, is an economical and sane choice. Each of its 85 rooms and suites comes with a balcony, most overlooking the Andaman Sea. Also on the plus side: a couple of neatly hidden swimming pools, a decent spa, and an ambitious activities list that includes seaplane excursions to the Phi Phi Islands. The small, boisterous bar in the back is good fun—as long as you ask for a room away from it when checking in. (Similarly, avoid the lobby, a brightly lit, bombastic production that could be described as Art Deco meets early ski lodge.) It adds up to a good place to hang (or recover) during the day, and an even better launching pad for a Patong night.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Khao Lak Paradise Resort
26/24 Moo 7
Khuk Khak , Phang Nga
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 429 100
paradise@khaolakparadise.com
www.khaolakparadise.com

Phang Nga, the coastal region along the mainland north of Phuket, was slammed by the tsunami. In the years since, the area has not only revitalized itself, it moved straight into a development boom. And while the renaissance is heartening to see, all that hammering can be noisy. Fifty-five miles north of Phuket, one small oasis of serenity is the Khao Lak Paradise Resort, which reopened its doors in late 2005. Of the 30 units, the best are the villas ingeniously tucked into the rain-forested hillside, all intimate charm with palm-frond roofs, huge beds, tubs, and private shaded verandas. Wooden pathways throughout the junglelike grounds bring you up close and personal with nature's finer works. The beachside restaurant, Leelavadee, is a prime spot for watching a sunset and contemplating how fine life can be, given the right landscaping.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Kirimaya
1/3 Moo 6 Thanarat
Khao Yai National Park
Thailand
Tel: 66 44 426 099
www.kirimaya.com

Travelers to Bangkok can now forgo the urban jungle for the real thing. Kirimaya is set on 250 acres at the edge of Khao Yai National Park, a lush tropical forest two hours outside the city that is home to elephants, tigers, and more than 300 species of birds. The 56 rooms have all the expected amenities, along with soaking tubs with mountain views, bamboo headboards, and outdoor daybeds; four palatial tented suites boast a master suite, a living room, a whirlpool, and a private deck. Kirimaya's concierge can organize rafting, mountain biking, bird-watching, and animal safaris, as well as tee times at the Jack Nicklaus–designed course and tours of the Angkor Wat–like ruins at Phi Mai, two hours north. Meals transpire in the Thai hunting lodge–style main building, where famed Bangkok chef Somboon Satheerang dishes up his signature Hainan chicken rice and, for breakfast, lightly caramelized banana pancakes. Staff exude Thai hospitality but may nod yes even when they fail to comprehend your request.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Langham Place Samui at Lamai Beach
146/24 Moo 4
Lamai Beach , Koh Samui
Thailand 84310
Tel: 66 77 960 888
Fax: 66 77 962 539
kohsamui.langhamplacehotels.com/en/home/hoteloverview.htm

Koh Samui now has a hotel scene to match its increasingly stylish visitors. Built on a slender plot on the northern end of Lamai Beach, Langham Place is a cleverly conceived maze of 77 suites and villas around three communal pools, with dense vegetation and gigantic boulders that offer a sense of private space. Interiors are elegant and contemporary, with Balinese wood furnishings, soft lantern lighting, and gorgeous gilded wallpaper that echoes traditional Chinese watercolors. The pool scene feels more South Beach than Samui: A DJ plays lounge music at the bar, and cult flicks play on a poolside screen. The beach all but disappears at high tide—the star attraction here is the hotel's pontoon pier, which spears 600 feet out to sea, with a seawater area at its far end. The sweet staff hand out ice water while offering to clean your sunglasses. The nighttime scene is surprisingly quiet, but this is an ideal destination for grown-up flashpackers seeking a buzz without the hangover.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Le Méridien Bangkok
40/5 Surawong Road
Bangrak
Bangkok
Thailand 10500
Tel: 66 2 232 8888
www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1946

Le Méridien's recent efforts to integrate culture into its urban hotels proved worthwhile at this tower in Bangkok's Silom neighborhood. One dramatic feat: the superimposing of Ralph Gibson's quirky 1960s photograph Man with Poodle onto the hotel's double-height glass entrance. Room keys also serve as complimentary passes to the Thailand Creative & Design Center, a cutting-edge art space and library. Dark-wood finishes, etched mirrors, and a space-optimizing bathroom create a modern ambience in the 282 rooms, though the beds don't feel as plush as they look. Thai sculptures as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook gilded Buddhist temple spires add just the right indigenous touch. Room service includes better-than-usual breakfast dishes (think goat cheese Gruyère custard and buckwheat crÍpes). Be sure to check out Bamboo Chic, the stark floor-lit lounge serving noodles and sushi.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort
221 / 2 Moo 20 Kwaewai Road
Tambon Robwieng, Amphur Muang
Chiang Rai
Thailand 57000
Tel: 66 53 603 333
www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3160

The staff at Chiang Rai's spiffiest new accommodations are eager to make visitors feel at home. Greenery permeates this 159-room resort along North Thailand's Mae Kok River; even the guest rooms take up the hue, with leaf-colored bathroom tiles that brighten up the neutral palette. All rooms have a balcony with a daybed and table for two, although they lack total privacy. But no matter: You will likely spend most of the day elsewhere. Rise early to board the hotel's longtail boat, which heads out to nearby caves filled with Buddha statues; afterward, you'll want to dig into the copious breakfast spread at Latest Recipe, the main dining room. A complimentary shuttle runs to Chiang Rai Town as well as the more interesting Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park, with its impressive Thai antiquities and botanical gardens. The resort's extensive activities program runs the gamut from archery to yoga, and the riverside pool has plenty of padded loungers and the Chill Bar. Ten chaises placed on the grass beside the Mae Kok are optimal spots for relaxing and contemplating the river's peaceful flow.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Library
14/1 Moo 2
Bo Phut , Koh Samui
Thailand
Tel: 66 77 422 767 8
thelibrary.name

In crowded Chaweng Beach, this 26-room hotel's high style attracts a stream of beachcombers (prepare to show your key to the hotel gatekeeper). The bloodred-tiled pool is the dramatic centerpiece, with huge pillows and daybeds beside it. High white walls and black-lacquer floors provide museumlike backdrops for Thai antiques. Clever touches—in-room iMacs; a choice of colors from the bedside light; two DO NOT DISTURB signs, one of a person sleeping, the other clearly suggesting that the couple inside are not—make your stay memorable, as do they eager-to-please staff. The Thai fare at The Page is best enjoyed outdoors, with panoramic beach views. Despite the prevalent literary theme, the hotel keeps more glossy coffee table books than beach reads.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Avenue
Bangrak
Bangkok
Thailand 10500
Tel: 66 2 659 9000
mobkk-reservations@mohg.com
www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok/

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, is one of the oldest deluxe hotels in Bangkok, serving the rich and famous (Princess Diana, Nicolas Cage, and Elizabeth Taylor have all rested their heads here) for more than 130 years. Yet it's completely up to date and right next to the Skytrain. Its 358 rooms and 35 suites feature such chichi luxuries as private butler service and Bose CD players, and all rooms have at least side river views. The furniture is swathed in Thai silks and backed by burnished teak—except in the Garden Wing rooms where the style is neo-colonial. For champagne wishes and literary dreams, there's the Somerset Maugham suite, with sultry four-poster beds, gold-legged stools, and fuchsia pillows. The hotel also houses some of Bangkok's finest restaurants, including Lord Jim's, where seafood is served riverside, and the more formal Le Normandie, where both the service and menu are high French. For diners having a Western jones, there's a wood-fired Italian pizza oven and an outdoor barbecue joint on a terrace by the river (closed from May to September for the rainy season). In November 2006, the Ayurvedic Penthouse spa debuted with classical treatments like Udwatanam, a rejuvenating dry herbal massage. There's also a terrific cooking school.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Mandarin Oriental, Dhara Dhevi
51/4 Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road Moo 1 T. Tasala A. Muang
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50000
Tel: 66 53 888 888
mocnx-reservations@mohg.com
www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai

A successful truck dealer with a taste for art, Suchet Suwanmongkol underwrote the $75 million dream of a young, unknown architect to build an ancient Asian city within the confines of Chiang Mai. The resulting 60-acre confection of the now-famous Rachen Intawong quotes some of the most iconic structures in Southeast Asia, including Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Laos. The 123 suites nod to colonial mansion style, and the individual villas encompass various Thai vernaculars. At the heart of the resort is the sumptuous Dheva Spa, a glowing, multi-tiered Xanadu with 18 treatment rooms and five residences. Throughout, the bedrooms are huge: 16-foot ceilings are the norm in the colonial wing, as are private verandas and adjoining living rooms, all lavishly fitted with silk-covered chaise longues and hill-tribe textiles. Superlatives extend to the two pools (enormous) and library (more than 5,000 books and 1,500 DVDs). Kids can learn muay Thai boxing, plant rice, and even care for an elephant. As for service: Not only does the staff know the name of the flowering trees outside the Akaligo restaurant (raintrees), they also quickly produce the Thai name (jamjuree) and Latin genus and species (Albizia lebbeck). Now that's precision.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Marina Phuket Resort
47 Karon Road
Karon Beach , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 330 625
Tel: 66 76 330 516
info@marinaphuket.com
www.marinaphuket.com

At the southern end of Karon Beach, there was once a coconut plantation situated next to the steep, rocky shoreline. In 1985 the Marina Phuket Resort took it over and replanted the grounds with every large-leaf tropical tree and bush it could find, then hid 92 rooms, villas, and traditionally crafted cottages amid the flora. The Marina is one of the smaller and simpler resorts on the island, and it's the kind of place where Thai hospitality is keenly felt. Thai music and dance threatens to break out at every meal. Families like to stay here, but all that natural screening makes it decidedly couple-friendly, too. Indeed, the odds are good you'll witness a wedding, as lavish Buddhist or Western betrothals are performed for those so inclined. Two of the best restaurants in Karon are on-site: Sala Thai overlooks a landscaped pool and serves dishes such as puja, a fried crabmeat dish, and roast duck curry. On the Rock has a panoramic view of Karon Bay and serves seafood. Aesthetes beware: Dino Park, an 18-hole mini-golf joint with animatronic dinosaurs, is less than 200 feet away. Rowr.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Metropolitan Bangkok
27 South Sathorn Road
Sathorn
Bangkok
Thailand 10120
Tel: 800 223 6800
Tel: 66 2 625 3333
res.bkk@metropolitan.como.bz
www.metropolitan.como.bz

Not far from the Skytrain and subway, the Metropolitan, sister to the ultrahip London hotel, strives to be the epitome of modernism, with its Mies van der Rohe–style façade and staff dressed in black and white Comme des Garçons uniforms. Once in the lobby—all cream and dark Makha wood—the sequenced mood lighting establishes the theatrical ambience. The 171 bedrooms avoid obvious Asian references in favor of clean lines, natural lighting, stone bathrooms, and handwoven Thai silk curtains. High speed Internet, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and (naturally) yoga mats are all included, as well as the occasional artistic flourish by local up-and-comer Natee Utarit. Michelin-starred chef David Thompson serves authentic Thai curries and kanom jeen at Nahm, while over at the Met Bar, the DJs compete with the martini mixologists for the attention of stylish guests. A different West-reinterprets-East vibe reigns at Glow, a second restaurant where the menu is organic and mainly raw, and at Como Shambhala, a holistic spa that offers aromatherapy and reflexology treatments, urban retreat packages, a yoga center, a lap pool, and steam rooms.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Old Bangkok Inn
607 Pra Sumen Road
Pra Nakhon
Bangkok
Thailand 10200
Tel: 66 2 629 1787
info@oldbangkokinn.com
www.oldbangkokinn.com

A bit of Vermont in the shadow of the Grand Palace? Nantiya Tuliyanont, the friendly, globe-trotting owner of Bangkok's first true B&B, welcomes arriving guests with homemade sweets, and the eight rooms each have their own thoughtful details—a private garden with hand-sculpted tub in the Rose suite, intricate wrought-iron fixtures in the Rice room. But this is no throwback: There are flat-screen TVs, powerful showers with solar-heated water, and free Wi-Fi and computers in each room (something the inn's more luxurious competitors don't provide). But the key here is the personal touch: Breakfast—rice-flour hotcakes doused in sweet coconut—is made on an old-fashioned charcoal stove, and Jirayu "Joey" Tuliyanont will personally escort you on a nightlife tour of nearby hippie-chic Khao San Road. One of the few green hotels in Bangkok, the inn has sensors that shut down lights and appliances when guests leave their rooms, and all water is heated with solar energy. The owners share this sense of social responsibility with guests, offering them the opportunity on their bill to make contributions (matched by the hotel) to one of four charities focused on animals and children at risk.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Paresa
49 Moo 6, Layi-Nakalay Road
Kamala Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83150
Tel: 66 76 302 000
reservations@paresaresorts.com
www.paresaresorts.com

Paresa's six southern Thai–inspired structures fit right in among the swanky crash pads perched atop the rocky cliffs of Phuket's Millionaires' Mile. The villas have a total of 49 guest rooms (all with Andaman Sea views) that are done up with sustainable materials and have traditional Thai pitched ceilings. The seven-by-seven–foot superking-size beds are easy to get lost in, as are the deep terrazzo bathtubs. Private kitchens, outdoor dining, and infinity pools are available in the larger rooms and suites. The main resort pool is small, but an eight-pound rose quartz hangs overhead to enhance the heart chakra. Other indulgences here include treatments in the five-room spa, scented with jasmine, lemongrass, and sandalwood, and bespoke Swarovski-crystal Havaianas in the small hotel boutique. The sprawling hillside property also includes the Mediterranean restaurant Diavolo. It's best to leave buggy-driving to the butlers, or run the risk of slamming into one of the many ancient Banyan trees. —Cynthia Rosenfeld

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Peninsula Bangkok
333 Charoennakorn Road
Klongsan
Bangkok
Thailand 10600
Tel: 866 382 8388
Tel: 66 2 861 2888
pbk@peninsula.com
bangkok.peninsula.com

Another of Bangkok's riverside bastions of luxury, this Peninsula stares down its rivals—the Shangri-La and the Oriental—across the Chao Phraya from the Thonburi side. Of course, that's the Peninsula's one drawback: everything worth seeing in Bangkok lies on the other side of the river. The hotel makes up for this failing by outstripping the Oriental in sheer style (that, and ferrying guests across the river all day from 6 a.m. until midnight, a lovely way to commute). It's also not far from the Skytrain. It was designed so that all 370 rooms and suites get the coveted water view, especially valuable at night when the city skyline is lit up. The spacious rooms have a distinctly Asian flair, right down to the contemporary art. Even the least expensive rooms have teak foyers, silk-covered walls, and marble bathrooms kitted out with mod fixtures and TVs. The 2006 addition of a spa gives guests the option of Thai, European and Ayurvedic-inspired treatments. Among the five restaurants, Jesters is tops for food—haute Pacific Rim (think wild Australian crocodile served up ceviche-style)—but its modern style can't hold a candle to the ambience of Thiptara, where guests enjoy traditional, home-style Thai dishes like grilled prawns dipped in tamarind sauce under salas (traditional, open-air, pagodalike teak structures) with live khim music in the background.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa
Koh Phi Phi Don
Thailand
Tel: 66 75 628 900 (Direct)
Tel: 66 76 222 784 (Reservations)
Fax: 66 75 628 955
www.ppisland.com/index.htm

The quiet, underdeveloped islands of Phi Phi are kind of a vacation from the vacationland of Phuket, a 90-minute ferry ride away (less by speedboat). Beach resorts on the largest island, Phi Phi Don, are trying to achieve a balance between casual and luxurious, and Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa—which wisely changed its name from Pee Pee—gets it about right. The 104 rooms include thatched-roof bungalows with terraces, simple beachfront studios, and a hillside villa with a private Jacuzzi and massive terrace. The property is fronted by a half mile of private beach, but the resort offers a lot to do in addition to your basic lolling: tennis courts, a dive center, kayak rentals, even a mini movie theater. Traditional wooden long-tail taxi boats will also shuttle you to dazzling snorkeling spots around the island or to the sister island of Phi Phi Leh, where the 2000 movie The Beach was filmed.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Phuket Pavilions
31/1 Moo 6
Bang Tao Bay , Phuket
Thailand
Tel: 66 76 317 600
phuketpavilions.com

Silence is golden at this hushed resort overlooking Bang Tao and Layan beaches, where staff deliver seamless service without a sound and know when to leave guests utterly to themselves. Set into the hillside, 21 spacious one-bedroom villas have kitchens that allow for in-room meal preparation, while living rooms have woven organic-fiber furnishings and indigenous fabrics, and French doors separate the bed from a big infinity pool. Days are mostly spent lolling around or receiving a massage under your villa's covered veranda—for those who seek the benefits of quiet seclusion it's ideal. The outdoor hilltop bar, 360, attracts a crowd from across Phuket with its cozy rattan chaises and extensive drinks menu. If you can't be bothered even with this nearby nocturnal outing, the well-stocked "maxi-bar" includes Veuve Clicquot and Häagen-Dazs ice cream in an assortment of flavors.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Phulay Bay
111 Moo 3 Nongthalay
Muang , Krabi
Thailand 81000
Tel: 66 75 628 111
kbvrz.leads@ritzcarlton.com
reserve.ritzcarlton.com/phulay_bay

It's all about the views at this hotel, which is on the Krabi coastline and offers astonishing vistas of Phang Nga Bay. Here, 54 sumptuous suites and villas sit amid tropical gardens and serpentine moats, but the extensive grounds have a downside: The property is not conducive to exploring by foot, and guests are urged to phone ahead for a chauffeured golf cart ride. Rooms are Dubai-level lavish, with interiors of cream granite and white linen. The bathrooms have lotus-shaped sinks, double-headed rain showers, and outdoor tubs, and most rooms have massive beds. Only the beach is disappointing: The shallows are rocky, and the bay is marred by an unsightly dredging complex. Offering compensation is an expansive infinity pool flanked by plush double-loungers and rattan-clad coolers stocked with chilled face towels and fresh coconuts (which pool attendants will offer to crack open for you).

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique Hotel
104/1 Charoen Muang Road, Soi 2
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50000
Tel: 66 53 302 898

Just a little over a year old, this 30-room hotel lies on a narrow, winding soi in Wat Gate, a heritage neighborhood just east of the Ping River. Thai-style overlapping roofs crown the hotel's three-story wings, which are oriented around a pool and pavilion redolent of frangipani. The boutiques, restaurants, and bars of Charoenrat Road are only a five-minute walk away; the Night Bazaar is twice that distance across Nawarat Bridge, but the hotel's funky stretch tuk-tuk will spare you the hike. The heavily draped, softly lit deluxe rooms and suites with king-size beds and walk-in rain showers appeal to many Thai honeymooners, who don't seem to mind the garish Chinese-style mirrors or the groaning plumbing. Despite the property's youth, housekeeping, laundry, and turn-down service are expertly executed.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Rachamankha
6 Rachamankha 9, T. Phra Singh
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50200
Tel: 66 53 904 111
info@rachamanka.com
www.rachamanka.com

Fancy a night at an Asian museum? Sweet-smelling frangipani trees and a classic form inspired by a Lanna-style temple give this 23-room boutique hotel a timeless appeal. Architect Ongard Satrabhandu and interior designer Rooj Changtrakul have laid out the buildings in Chinese style with multiple courtyards—a nod to Sino-Thai culture—then decorated them with top-shelf antiques, including 19th-century Lanna manuscript boxes and Chinese porcelain, as well as Henry Moore and Robert Motherwell lithographs. The duo's impeccable taste extends to the rooms, which feature massive old wooden doors, four-poster beds, bamboo jalousies, and woven-reed mats. The style complements its quiet, old-city location just inside the western moat near Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai's most important temple.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Sala Phuket Resort and Spa
333 Moo 3
Mai Khao Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83110
Tel: 66 76 338 888
info@salaphuket.com
www.salaphuket.com

At Phuket's most high-end resorts, private pools have gone from being an over-the-top perk to seeming as standard as turndown service. SALA Phuket on the northern Mai Khao Beach clearly got the memo, orienting 63 of its 79 rooms around a self-contained outdoor area that makes your space feel like a resort within a resort. Neutral hues put the focus on the aqua water of your pool and on Thai crafts from Doi Tung (a charity founded by Thailand's royal family) as well as on statement pieces like modern crystal chandeliers. That luxe simplicity carries over into the common areas: rooftop dining tables appear to float above a placid reflecting pool, white-on-white daybeds are topped with plush pillows, and sprays of mist take the equatorial edge off the spa's treatment suites (additional kneading is available on shaded daybeds by the beach). Unlike many other resorts in this price range, SALA accommodates families, designating one pool for their use and another for the hotel's more mature tan-seeking set. An extensive menu of delectable Western and Thai dishes will satisfy even long-stay guests at the alfresco, beach-facing dining room. One caveat: While we appreciate the way in which the hotel's design focuses on outdoor spaces, we'd prefer to have the entire bathroom located inside. Bathing outside in the deep-soak bathtubs may be sexy, but midnight trips to the plein air toilets (and the accompanying mosquito bites) are anything but.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Sarojin
60 Moo 2
Khuk Khak
Takuapa
Phang Nga
Thailand 82190
Tel: 66 76 427 900
reservations@sarojin.com
www.sarojin.com

Set on the mainland an hour north of the Phuket airport, the Sarojin puts you within reach of five national parks, including the tropical forests of Khao Lak and Khao Sok and the Surin and Similan marine reserves. Spread over ten acres of gardens and white-sand beaches, the resort is focused on the outdoors: Complimentary mountain bikes, canoes, kayaks, and Windsurfers will appeal to active types (and a free 30-minute massage in the on-site spa will relieve your achy muscles). An "Imagineer"—forgive the cheesy name—crafts personalized experiences like private cooking lessons beside a waterfall, bamboo rafting, and elephant jungle treks (request the hotel's best guide, Aom). A no-kids-under-12 policy means that most guests are couples, and the 56 rooms have a decidedly romantic feel: You cross a small stream to get to your unit, fresh flowers float in the bathtubs, and smooth stones form the floor of the rain showers. The 14 Pool Residences have gardens with outdoor relaxation salas and plunge pools; all others have private outdoor space. There are several dining options: The main restaurant appears to float on a lotus pond around the gnarled limbs of an ancient ficus tree, and the hotel can arrange private beachfront or in-room dining.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Seven Hotel
3/15 Sukhumvit 31
Bangkok
Thailand 10110
Tel: 662 662 0951
info@sleepatseven.com
www.sleepatseven.com

The Thai capital is awash in hotels of all shapes and sizes, but tucked into a cul-de-sac off Sukhumvit Road, this town house turned B&B will satisfy hotel-design fans, with original Asian-themed wall graffiti in each of the six guest rooms and polished salvaged-wood floors. Guests cross over a ruby-red-bottom koi pond on weathered planks to take refuge from Bangkok's heat-soaked days inside the lobby lounge. The indefatigable staff are ever on hand to help with luggage, arrange around-the-clock wake-up calls, and suggest the neighborhood's best dining options. All guest rooms have flat-screen TVs with DVD players, iPod docks, AC, soft cotton robes, high-thread-count bed linens, and offer great value: Room rates include local calls and the complimentary use of a mobile phone. Every guest can access the panoramic rooftop as well as a mezzanine patio strewn with puffy cushions.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok
89 Soi Wat Suan Plu New Road
Bangrak
Bangkok
Thailand 10500
Tel: 866 565 5050
Tel: 66 2 236 7777
slbk@shangri-la.com
www.shangri-la.com/en/property/bangkok/shangrila

Stretched out along the banks of the Chao Phraya River with easy Skytrain access, the Shangri-La ranks among the world's top luxury hotels. The decor is mostly modern, though there are some nods to old-school Asia in the wall art and standing sculptures. Of the 799 rooms, those in the posh Krungthep Wing, with balconies overlooking tropical gardens and the river, are on average larger than ones in the Shangri-La Wing. Guests in this exclusive part of the hotel also enjoy extras like 24-hour butler service, complimentary pressing (two garments per guest), and evening cocktails and canapés delivered to their door nightly. Facilities include two pools, outdoor tennis and squash courts, a health club and the recently expanded Chi spa offering Thai massage and holistic healing. Among the multiple cafés and restaurants—specializing variously in Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and international cuisines—Salathip stands out for its traditional Thai food served in a little house by the river. Try the Yam Som-O, a typical Thai creation of shredded chicken, pomelo, and water chestnuts that chef Sumalee Boon-ek sprinkles with grated coconut and lime juice and serves in a Pomelo shell.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
991/9 Rama 1 Road
Patumwan
Bangkok
Thailand 10330
Tel: 66†2162 9000 ††
sales.siambangkok@kempinski.com
www.kempinski.com/en/bangkok/Pages/Welcome.aspx

It could have been another soulless corporate addition to the commercial hotel market, but in spite of its size and block architecture, this contemporary high-rise skillfully evokes an authentic sense of Thailand. A handful of heroics set it apart, including the modern art program, which stocks the hotel with 1,500 paintings, sculptures, and bewitching collages by local artists. All 303 rooms face the courtyard's palm gardens and free-form pools, screening guests from the city's hum. Walls are decorated in padded Thai silk, some with gilded accent panels depicting rural life and lotus flower designs, and rooms are wired for video on demand, Internet radio, and iPod connectivity. The seventh-floor spa is a haven of Asian wellness with natural herbal products, while a well-appointed gym has killer cityscape views. The hotel's crowning glory is the restaurant Sra Bua, by Danish chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, who scored a Michelin star for his molecular Thai cooking in Copenhagen. The dishes are undoubtedly Thai but highly experimental; don't miss the gang dang, a frozen red curry with lobster salad (better than it sounds). The hotel is already popular with the Asian business set, but leisure travelers will be equally well served here, not least for the unbeatable downtown location beside Siam Paragon, the city's finest shopping mall.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Sila Evason Hideaway
Laem Samrong , Koh Samui
Thailand
Tel: 66 77 245 678
www.sixsenses.com

Each of the resort's 66 villas, which cling to a palm-studded headland above the sea, is a pleasure dome of rustic luxury in polished hardwoods, bamboo, and creamy muslin, all under a soaring thatched roof. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the ever-changing seascape, and bathrooms are decadently kitted out with sunken tubs large enough for four and walls that retract to welcome ocean breezes. All but 15 of the villas have their own small pool, and each has a deck as well as a separate shaded lanai with a giant daybed overlooking the sea. A spa and a slate-lined pool with Gulf of Thailand views round out the list of diversions.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi
56 Moo 5
Koh Yao Noi
Thailand 82160
Tel: 66 76 418 500
reservations-yaonoi@sixsenses.com
www.sixsenses.com/Six-Senses-Hideaway-Yao-Noi/index.php

On a secluded island reached by a 40-minute powerboat cruise past the limestone outcrops of Phang Nga Bay, these 56 pool villas all have private butlers, and most have panoramic views of the azure Andaman Sea. (Interior villas are shaded by untamed vegetation and enhanced by birdsong.) Some of the signature features of the Six Senses brand—soft organic-cotton bed linens, oversized colorful daybed cushions, an eco-chic design aesthetic—are on display here, and those who enjoy playing pampered camper will find many other pleasures as well: homemade jams in exotic flavors, a sultry spa set among rice terraces, rock climbs, reef dives, and private dinners. The glassed-in two-story wine cellar, a gourmet deli, and an organic vegetable garden keep culinary options world-class at this remote address. Rustic signs throughout the hillside property point toward the Hilltop Reserve, a 16,000-square-foot, three-bedroom wooded palace with a dedicated staff of four and a 500-bottle wine cellar. But even standard villas are private havens, with a Bose music system, an infinity pool, a deep-soaking tub, and an indoor-outdoor shower with all-natural bath amenities.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Soneva Kiri
Koh Kood
Thailand
reservations-kiri@sixsenses.com
sixsenses.com

On Koh Kood, which is still pristine (though perhaps not for long–it is rumored that an airport will open on the island in 2012), Soneva Kiri is among the most exciting resorts in Southeast Asia. Guests land on a private airstrip on neighboring speck Koh Mai Si and then arrive via motor launch to a jetty jutting into a pretty cove. The resort sprawls over the island's northern tip, and guests navigate the manicured grounds by electric golf cart. Virtuously constructed from sustainable eucalyptus logs, native bamboo, and treated pine, the 29 villas–some fronting a gorgeous private beach, others up on the hillside, and one Eco Villa implementing cutting-edge environmental design–are actually multi-structured complexes spacious enough for an entire family and appointed with a dressing room, a separate dining room, indoor and outdoor showers, and a grotto-like pool. Resort dining–including inside a treetop "dining pod"–matches dishes with a serious wine list, makes use of organic produce from on-site gardens, and the Catalan chef will gladly cook to order. A pleasant surprise here is the resort library: Soneva Kiri hired a London curator to assemble an inspired mix of recent titles and classics, all housed in a magical little hut.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
The Sukhothai
13/3 South Sathorn Road
Sathorn
Bangkok
Thailand 10120
Tel: 66 2 344 8888
info@sukhothai.com
www.sukhothai.com

"Sukhothai" means "dawn of happiness," and the Sukhothai period (1238–1376) was the golden age of Thai art and architecture. The Zen atmosphere at this refined 210-room hotel draws on both definition and history. Low pavilions, designed in a clean, angular style that would have impressed the staunchest Bauhaus devotees, are separated by pools with lotus flowers floating on the surface and tropical gardens. Accommodations are equally tranquil with Thai silk fabrics in airy silvers, golds and greens, teak paneling, and huge mirrored bathrooms. All 82 suites are technologically tricked-out with iPod connections, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen LCD TV's. The hotel's well-regarded Celadon restaurant specializes in Thai cuisine, like Yam Huaplee, a banana blossom salad that the chef tosses with poached prawns and serves with a side of jasmine rice. In 2006, designer Ed Tuttle came back to give the Colonnade restaurant, known for its international and Asian cuisine, a modern facelift with high ceilings, smooth lines, and large windows overlooking a shallow pool with stupas. There are also international and Italian restaurants on-site and the Lumpini station subway is within walking distance.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Tamarind Village
50/1 Rajadamnoen Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50200
Tel: 66 53 418 896

This 45-room hideaway pioneered the boutique-hotel trend in Chiang Mai when it opened in 2002. Set back from Rajadamnoen Road, a major east-west artery, and entered through a virtual tunnel of bamboo, the hotel draws a predominately European crowd, including families, attracted by its central location, swimming pool, spa, and sylvan setting around a 200-year-old tamarind tree. The arrival of stylish new competitors (particularly Rachamankha) has spurred recent refurbishments, including bathroom sinks made to look like antique brass washtubs, but Tamarind's rooms remain cramped and the furniture a bit cheap. Still, the location is good: Several of Chiang Mai's most important temples are nearby, and the monks' tahk baht, or daily morning alms round, passes the hotel entrance. The mindful staff will provide small packages to guests who also want to make merit with a food donation.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Thanyamundra
102 Moo 6, Klong Sok
Khao Sok National Park
Surat Thani Province , Phuket
Thailand 84250
Tel: 66 76 336 000
info@thanyamundra.com
www.thanyamundra.com

This nine-suite retreat is located amid the soaring karst limestone mountains of Khao Sok National Park on southern Thailand's only certified organic farm. Rise to the jungle calls of lar gibbons, then take the morning tour of the pineapple and papaya trees with the charismatic gardener. He will also let you pick white eggplants, red snake beans, and bitter gourds for a Thai cooking class. Guest rooms are decorated with Thai silks, Himalayan mandalas, and Chinese birdcage lamps. It's best to book a suite, which have wooden decks and look out upon a palm-fringed vista at the edge of one of Earth's oldest rain forests. The farm location does not mean this is not a luxe getaway: Guests are attended to by butlers, private yoga sessions are available, and eight-time Ironman winner Jürgen Zäck leads swimming, cycling, and running training retreats here throughout the year.—Cynthia Rosenfeld

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Trisara
60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road
Cherngtalay , Phuket
Thailand 83110
Tel: 66 76 310 100
reservations@trisara.com
www.trisara.com

You don't get a room at hyperstylish Trisara; you get a freestanding villa with a teak sundeck and generous marble infinity pool (as if there's any other kind these days). Swim to the edge for an unobstructed view of the Andaman Sea—the same view you'll see from your outdoor rain shower or oversize king bed. Located on the upscale northwest coast of Phuket, Trisara feels more like a private community than a resort, with a vibe that attracts celebs like Kate Moss. With in-room Thai massage, sprawling bathrooms, and plasma TVs, there's hardly a reason to step outside your villa. In all, the property has 39 villas and 18 residential units, each with the same contemporary color scheme of rich European creams and deep espresso-and-gold Thai accents. However, the relative formality of the decor doesn't always jibe with the beachy setting—beware placing your wet bathing-suited bottom on a silk-upholstered chair. The beach fronts a reef, which keeps out noisy WaveRunners but also makes swimming a little rough. However, boats ferry guests to a deserted island a quick two minutes offshore for swimming and snorkeling, or around the bay to Naithon Beach, one of Phuket's prettiest strips of sand. Privately crewed yachts and a PADI dive staff are available for longer trips. Come back in time to take in the sunset from the Trisara Bar; the sea-facing deck has cloudlike loungers, and the wine list pulls from the 2,000-bottle glass cellar. Or opt for one of the signature cocktails, like lychee and lemongrass martinis or passion fruit margaritas. The resort has two on-site restaurants; the main space includes an outdoor dining area shaded by soaring coconut palms and offers a Thai menu, plus Western comfort foods. At the southern end of the resort's expansive oceanfront deck sits Trisara Grill, the place to go for Phuket lobster and other fresh catches. You'll never see or sign a bill till the end of your stay (staff remember your room number and keep a tab accordingly), and you're nearly always greeted by name.—Updated by Cynthia Rosenfeld

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Twin Palms
106/46 Moo 3, Surin Beach Road
Cherngtalay , Phuket
Thailand 83110
Tel: 66 76 316 500
book@twinpalms-phuket.com
www.twinpalms-phuket.com

The 21 new residence suites at the Twin Palms hotel eschew the cliff-top isolation and fawning service of Phuket's poshest resorts in favor of a make-yourself-at-home brand of luxury. When you wake in your airy triplex loft, you don't have to wait for your room service espresso. Instead, you can brew one of the four blends stocked in your private kitchen. Later, you can pull a bottle of white from your private cellar (and perhaps a Cuban from your humidor) and bring it up to your rooftop infinity pool. A residence host is available 24/7, but the villas are so well equipped (two flat-screen TVs, bedside controls for temperature, sound, and light) that you could quite happily exist without ever needing to make use of this resource. The rest of the 76 rooms, located in two buildings flanking a meandering, free-form pool, have fewer bells and whistles but a similarly easygoing mentality: First-floor guests can step right into the water. At the main pool, lounge chairs are positioned in the water itself, like inviting little islands. The onsite Oriental Spoon is the island's hottest brunch ticket. Reserve a month in advance during high season. The hotel's location in the rapidly developing west coast area of Surin Beach means that its stretch of sand can be a bit crowded—and you have to cross a road to get there. This can be a plus, however: You're able to get a feel for Phuket's freewheeling beach culture—where locals hawk fresh pineapples, massages, and sarongs—and then head back to the relative serenity of the hotel. And the affiilated Catch Beach Club adds some Miami style with haute seafood barbecues and nighttime bonfires. Soon guests will be able to split their stay between the hotel and a new $4 million yacht that will be used for both day and overnight trips.

$200-$299
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Verandah Chiang Mai, The High Resort
192 Moo 2
Banpong, Hangdong
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50230
Tel: 66 53 365 007
verandaresortandspa.com

This breathtaking compound of timber and concrete structures scattered across a valley dense with rice paddies, wildflowers, and tropical greenery is a 30-minute drive from Chiang Mai's frenetic night bazaar. A tunnel of polished concrete cooled by falling water creates a dramatic entrance into the resort's inner courtyard, which contains charcoal-gray-tiled pools, an open-air Thai restaurant with tables in stilted rice barns, and three low-slung buildings housing 69 guest rooms, all with balconies or patios and several with plunge pools. Upon arrival, guests are greeted with a neon-blue lemongrass welcome drink—one of the few colors in the hotel's palette that is not derived from nature. Interiors are sparsely decorated but comfortable and come with a roomy daybed, a generous changing area, and a terrazzo bathroom, and turndown service includes homemade cookies delivered by the quiet but smiling staff. The activities building has a valley-facing gym, a daytime eatery, a kid's club offering traditional crafts classes, and a four-suite spa that should factor into every guest's schedule (except during the sublime sunsets). While the rooftop infinity pool may seem contrived given the lovely natural surroundings, the elevation adds drama to the panorama.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Villas on Koh Samui
Koh Samui
Thailand
www.samuivillasandhomes.com

Outgrown the plunge pools at those five-star resorts, or want more space than even the presidential suite provides? Swanky, well-stocked villas are popping up all around Koh Samui, offering the undivided attention of well-trained staff plus authentic Thai and gourmet Western cuisine for seriously impressive prices. Rates at the most posh residences can start at $1,400 a night, but when that is spread between the 12 people that it sleeps, you'll find it to be quite the bargain.

One of the island's most indulgent playpens is Suralai, which means "residence of the angels." The name is spot-on for this six-bedroom hilltop spread with jaw-dropping views over coconut treetops to the sea and Koh Phangan. The knowledgeable villa manager speaks fluent English; daily maid service keeps the minimalist pad spotless; and the chef's grilled lobster with Thai spices is one of the best meals on the island. Nearby, the four-bedroom Baan Ling Noi, or "Little Monkey House," offers similar views at a lower rate (between $400 and $850), along with a 50-foot infinity pool and open-air patio that extends into the palm forest. Couples seeking something more intimate can canoodle by the sapphire blue–bottomed pool at the Emerald Residences on otherwise-deserted Laem Noi Beach, along the island's northern coast. These three neighboring two-bedroom houses—which you can rent separately or together-—offer a modern, glass-clad alternative to Thai-style living pavilions. Additional advantages are instant beach access and daily maid service, plus breakfast served in the sea-facing dining room. If none of these villas are available or if you have alternative requirements, check out the offerings on Samui Villas and Homes.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Villa Water Orchid
41/1 Moo 2
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50130
Tel: 66 85 033 2174
info@waterorchid.com
www.waterorchid.com

At the Villa Water Orchid, the intimate B&B-style experience goes considerably upmarket, thanks to an Irish owner who has filled this four-suite inn with stylish treasures from her travels in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Frangipani, heliconia, and mango trees dot the property's 1.2 manicured acres, located 25 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai and near a national park known for its hot springs and nature trails. There's no TV or in-room Internet in the golden silk-clad guest rooms, but tinkling cowbells and the sound of chanting monks all provide a relaxing accompaniment to days spent lying on plush chaise longues around the infinity pool and lotus pond, or in front of the fireplace in the main building. A hearty breakfast is included in the room rate (along with airport transfers), but the real culinary treat takes place around the outdoor barbecue pit, where local prawns and seafood are grilled nightly.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
W Retreat Koh Samui
4/1 Moo 1
Maenam , Koh Samui
Thailand 84330
Tel: 66 77 915999
reservations.wkohsamui@whotels.com
www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3058

Though W hotels typically wow with nifty design details, here the most eye-catching element is simply the view from the hilltop lobby, where the sea appears to merge seamlessly with the infinity pool. The sense of floating evaporates only when you peer down to the beach villas and back up at the rooms stepped into an adjacent hill. At night, the W's party vibe takes over—pan-Asian scenesters already have this 75-villa resort on their radar. If you don't feel like socializing, pop in the mix CD provided in your minibar, and you'll soon be at ease in your bachelor pad of a villa, with its red-and-black color scheme, sliding wall panels, beanbag chairs, and private pool. At the beach, which curves around a headland, villas have either a sunset or sunrise view, but a public access road means the area isn't completely private. Drink service that's limited to the bar area (and is not available in the beach loungers) is also a drawback, but the cocktails still come with fine sea views, as do the tables at the Japanese-inspired restaurant, Namu, where chefs work in an open kitchen.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Hotel Photo
Zeavola
11 Moo 8
Laem Tong , Koh Phi Phi Don
Thailand
Tel: 66 75 627 000
info@zeavola.com
zeavola.com

A speedboat whisks guests to Zeavola's 52 wooden beach huts, which, though simply furnished, are a far cry from the backpacker accommodations so prevalent on Koh Phi Phi. The generous air-conditioned villas have hand-painted murals, outdoor rainwater showers, and an evening turndown service that leaves a profusion of flowers. Though the lean-to architecture of Tacada restaurant has its summer-camp charms, the candlelit meals served on woven mats on the sand are especially enjoyable. The atmosphere is casual, but with Wi-Fi access available throughout the ten-acre property, guests can still connect to the realities of distant shores.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.