Condé Nast Traveler - Hot List Hotels 2011
May 2011

Alila Luang Prabang, Laos
The city's former prison is now a pleasurable place to be locked up. Transformed into 23 smartly designed suites, this hotel has a central pillared courtyard and an elegant colonial feel—whitewashed walls, wilting eaves, shuttered windows in gunmetal gray. Only the two corner watchtowers suggest a penitentiary, though there is a whiff of institutional austerity. Standing a couple of blocks out of town, the Alila works better as a refuge rather than as an immersive urban Lao experience, although the hotel embraces vernacular architecture in the restaurant, cooking school, and spa, which are built of dark wood and raised on stilts. Its suites are well-proportioned and unfussy, but the private little lawns with each suites—even those with their own plunge pool—can feel hemmed in by the high walls. Guests may prefer to spend time by the courtyard's shimmering pool or lounging amid the shrubs and palms. An enthusiastic international young staff join the soft-spoken Lao team, who can escort guests on bicycle trips to Buddhist temples or on kayaking excursions on the Mekong.
Which room to book: Nos. 17, 18, 19, and 20 have direct access to the pool. Corner rooms 9 and 22 have their own tower, but the staircases are very steep.

Constance Moofushi, South Ari Atoll, Maldives
This classy overwater resort is in one of the archipelago's finest dive spots, the South Ari Atoll. Only 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé, it is also all-inclusive—buffet meals, alcohol, and even cigarettes are free. A quarter of the 110 thatched villas are on the beach, with easy access to island facilities, while the rest are on two jetties, each with a stairway down to the Indian Ocean and a private deck with a bathtub built on a gravity-defying overhang. The rustic decor uses rattan, rough-hewn marble, stripped wood, and closets built from white leather trunks, while in-room Mac Minis provide movies, music, and Internet access. The main restaurant, Manta, is rather ordinary, a disappointment that is offset by fresh catches at Alizée Beach Grill (a restaurant where meals do cost extra). There are two beach bars, an entertainment lounge wallpapered in Bollywood posters, and an Asian-inspired overwater spa with glass floor panels. The dive center is the big draw, with regular trips to sites famed for whale sharks and manta rays.
Which room to book: At the very end of a jetty, Senior Water Villa 79 is the most private and has sunset views. Water Villas close to shore on the northern jetty may not always be in water depending on the tides.

Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, Thailand
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.
Which room to book: The least expensive Deluxe rooms are a good value, especially if you request one with a balcony. Cabana rooms have direct pool access.

Le Strato, Courchevel 1850, France
Judging by the exterior, this could be any cute Savoyard chalet in a blingy Alpine resort town, but inside, the backlit photo panels of skiers suggest serious piste pedigree. Owned by the Boix-Vives family (behind Rossignol skis for half a century) and perched high in Courchevel's ultraluxe 1850 village (named, like all of Courchevel's villages, after its altitude), the ski-in/ski-out hotel takes its name from the sleek Strato fiberglass ski. Guests can rent high-end gear from the swanky Le Ski Room, complete with a champagne bar. Twenty-five rooms—all with balconies or terraces—look out on pretty chalets or jagged Alpine peaks and sport textured decor mixing baroque and rustic sensibilities with high-tech gadgetry. There are shimmering drapes, faux-fur throws, Murano chandeliers, wood-grain vases, and armchairs in vivid colors, as well as naive art, Christian icons, and Versailles-style portraiture. Meanwhile, bathroom TVs are embedded within mirrors, toilet seats are heated, and iPod docking stations are wired for surround sound. Chef Jean-André Charial's classic French restaurant is a fine-dining affair, with flawless service and perfect desserts. The 24-hour concierge arranges transportation to and from La Croisette, Courchevel's hub—where Chanel and Hermès boutiques and a constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants prove that the pistes are not the only reason to come.
Which room to book: The solitary Standard Room (No. 5) offers the best value; top-floor rooms have wooden eaves and rustic beams, but the snow-level Nos. 400 and 401 benefit from doorstep skiing.