Condé Nast Traveler - Hot List Hotels 2010
May, 2010

Amantaka, Luang Prabang, Laos
A clever conversion of Luang Prabang's old provincial hospital has created the most luxurious property in the country. A sweeping driveway brings guests to a colonial-style lobby (the former X-ray room) beneath a low-slung red-tiled roof. Inside, it's pared-down to the point of austere, but in a soothing contrast to this tropical town of gilded temples and extravagant carvings. Twenty-four cream suites surround a shady centerpiece garden and expansive pool. Behind the dusky-green French shutters, the hotel has a slight sanitarium feel, with long corridors and tiny wardlike chambers. Smaller suites are more cozy; the bigger ones have private pools and en suite spa treatment rooms. Decor is without fuss: simple Southeast Asian wood furnishings, an embroidered silk throw, black-and-white photographs of Buddhist monks in meditation. What Amanresorts always does best is the anything-is-possible service, and that is no exception here. On call are the town's experts in Theravada Buddhism, traditional arts, and ethnology, which means stellar evening lectures and exclusive access to, for example, a photographic archive of monastic life dating back to the 1880s. A member of the former royal family is on hand to discuss Lao fine arts, and there are guided walks away from the main sights to explore abandoned temples.
Which room to book: Suite 18 has views of sacred Mount Phousi.

Langham Place Samui at Lamai Beach, Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand
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.
Which room to book: Those in the least expensive category, Essential Place, are good value for the money; at the top end, Ocean View Pool Villa No. 1107 is the most private of the seven stunning seaside suites.

Phulay Bay, Muang, Krabi, Thailand
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).
Which room to book: Middle-category Beach Villas (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8) are the smallest but have direct beach access.

The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, UK
This cliffside property tucked away on Cornwall's north shore eschews rustic seaside themes for a more urbane design and quirky Ayurvedic spa. The hotel has strong eco credentials, employing solar panels, biomass boilers, rainwater-harvesting, and gray water recycling—and a delightful ten-percent discount for guests arriving by foot, bike, or public transport. The all-natural philosophy takes center stage in the popular spa with its "get messy" local mud treatments and seaweed wraps; other spa highlights are the cliffside hot tubs and a natural swimming pool cleaned by reed beds instead of chemicals. The 37 guest rooms are contained in the striking architecture of glass, angles, and clean lines, but interiors are less successful: a mishmash of Nordic-style materials, decadent baroque flourishes, and local art with a prevalent nature motif occasionally lead to over-design, like the curvaceous terrace chairs that wobble unsteadily and collect rainwater in the seat. Despite the hotel's design quirks the attentive staff are professional without acting overtrained.
Which room to book: Room 12 in the second highest Spacious category has point-blank sea views with a balcony and free-standing bath. In summer, the cheapest rooms (called Just Right) are great value with direct access to the cliffs and outdoor pool; room 37 is the best of that batch.

Kilindi, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Not since the last sultan's palace has there been anything so stylish on this fabled east African isle. The designers have created a landscape of whitewashed domes and arches that seem to mushroom up organically from the forested folds of Zanzibar's north shore. Kilindi is generous with space: Fifteen pavilions are set on 52 lush acres with 1,640 feet of beachfront. Each hideaway is a maze of split levels and staircases latticed by a waterfall and two plunge pools (which double as an ecologically smart plumbing system). The breezy rooms are cooled by the trade winds (instead of air-conditioning), and the decor is uncluttered: handwoven baskets, a few seashells, and the odd cotton kikoy throw. By night, the scene softens with storm lanterns lit by Masai warriors, who also patrol the premises. The hitch is the beach, which is used primarily by local fishermen and thus can be pungent. Better to laze by the T-shaped infinity pool and watch the dhows sail out while sipping top-notch cocktails from a bar that's easily one of the best on the Swahili coast. The kitchen serves up yellowfin sashimi, octopus masala, and just about anything you fancy: When I found a plump mango that had fallen off a tree, the chef chopped it into my crab salad.
Which room to book: Pavilion 15 for the best views, the most privacy, and an infinity pool; Pavilion 7 gets special mention for the baby baobab tree in its garden.