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The Banyan Tree Krabi in Thailand, one of the new or revamped regional hotels Hongkongers can look forward to staying in when borders reopen. Photo: Banyan Tree Krabi

The new hotels in Asia Pacific we’ll be booking first after the coronavirus pandemic, from Thai spa retreats to an Australian city property

  • Should a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Australia open up, travellers could stay at The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel in increasingly hip Hobart
  • For the spa break we all need there is The Rakxa in Bangkok or Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho in south-central Vietnam
Asia travel

Nobody has a crystal ball to predict where and when we might be able to travel when borders finally reopen, but it seems plenty of Hongkongers will be prepared to splash the cash on something special when we can take flight.

Our choice of destinations is likely to be limited at first, but there have been, or will be, a number of notable hotel openings in places considered relatively safe.

So where might you be able to go? And where should you stay?

Here are a few new addresses worth noting for a holiday in countries that have shown an ability to control Covid-19 and have had low infection rates and/or speedy vaccination roll-outs to help ensure their own people, and visitors, are as safe as can be.

The harbour in Hobart, Australia, where The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel opens soon. Photo: Getty Images

Coral reefs and a historic harbour in Australia

Australia’s vaccination programme got off to a slow start and the country is unlikely to fully open its borders until mid-2022, but the Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan has hinted that more travel bubbles could follow the launch in April of a trans-Tasman corridor between Australia and New Zealand. Apart from the odd hiccup, it has so far been trouble-free. Australia is on the Hong Kong government’s Group D list of “low-risk” destinations, along with New Zealand, so might Hong Kong be the next place to agree a travel bubble with Canberra?
The Silky Oaks Lodge can be found in Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest. Photo: Silky Oaks Lodge

If it is, there are a couple of fabulous hotels to bookmark, including Silky Oaks Lodge, expected to open on October 1 in Queensland’s pristine Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest surviving rainforests in the world. It’s not brand-new, but the owners have poured millions of dollars into upgrading the complex, so it will have that just-opened feel.

Part of the Luxury Lodges of Australia collection, Silky Oaks features 40 suites – garden retreats, riverside lodges and tree houses – as well as an alfresco restaurant elevated in the jungle canopy, a bar set above the gurgling Mossman River and a spa that focuses on the area’s sacred healing waters.

 Things to do to while away the time include morning yoga, kayaking, hiking through gorges, visiting the Great Barrier Reef and birdwatching – look out for the bizarre-looking southern cassowary, a dodo-like flightless bird with a royal blue head and brown horn.

The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel will open in Hobart in October. Photo: The Tasman

Further south, The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel will open in increasingly hip Hobart, also in October. Housed in a knot of historically important buildings, it will have 152 rooms with restored features and wood-burning fireplaces. Spend your days strolling the harbour, visiting art galleries and feasting on farm produce, and your evenings ensconced in The Tasman’s low-lit whisky bar.

Thailand’s new wellness wonders

Even though Thailand is enduring a surge in Covid-19 infections, the government is pushing ahead with its Phuket “sandbox” plan, expected to launch on July 1. This involves inoculating enough of the island’s population to allow vaccinated travellers to visit without the need to quarantine. It’s the first step in a bold plan to open up other parts of the country under similar conditions, including Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Samui, with the ultimate aim of unlocking the entire country by October 1.
The Rakxa looks set to give Thailand’s big-hitting wellness retreats a run for their money. Photo: The Rakxa

More than 20 per cent of Phuket’s population have received their first vaccine shot. It will be a stretch to get to the required 70 per cent by July 1, but tourism officials remain confident – in public at least. The kingdom is expected to start a mass inoculation programme this month using locally manufactured doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

For the Thai spa break we all need there is The Rakxa. It opened in Bangkok on a jungle-wrapped island in the Chao Phraya River in December 2020, and looks set to give Thailand’s big-hitting wellness retreats (Chiva Som and Kamalaya) a run for their money.

Its spa programmes combine holistic practices and traditional Asian therapies with meditation, fitness, nutrient-packed foods and cutting-edge medical science (backed up by Bumrungrad International Hospital). Jim Thompson silks feature in the villas, some of which have private pools.

Other new options for a Thai wellness getaway include the Banyan Tree Krabi, which has a sensational beachside location and a rainforest-inspired spa, and the ecologically committed The Pavilions Anana Krabi, complete with a Himalayan salt chamber, natural volcanic water pools and an emphasis on yoga.

Spa programmes at The Rakxa merge holistic practices and Asian therapies with meditation, fitness, nutrient-packed foods and medical science. Photo: The Rakxa

Voguish Vietnam

Vietnam has had a difficult few weeks, with a number of Covid-19 outbreaks occurring across the country, but the government’s remarkable handling of Covid-19 (Vietnam has officially suffered just 47 deaths to date) means we’re confident that it won’t be too long before cases are back under control.
Having received a limited amount of vaccines donated through the Covax facility, only about one million – out of a population of 98 million – had been vaccinated with at least one shot (either AstraZeneca or Sputnik V) by late May. The country has set up a US$1 billion vaccine fund, signed up for 31 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and will start producing its own vaccine later this year. In November 2020, Vietnam was one of 11 countries that the Hong Kong government approached about forming a travel bubble. 
With few restrictions imposed in the past 12 months, gorgeous new hotels have been shooting up quicker than bamboo, from the theatrical Capella Hanoi (designed by Bill Bensley) to the Azerai Ke Ga Bay (from Aman founder Adrian Zecha) to the spa-focused Maia Resort Quy Nhon.

But it is Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho we’ll be blowing the budget on. Elegant and environmentally aware, the hotel is set between a white-sand bay, virgin jungle and lime-green rice paddies in Phu Yen province, on the south-central coast of Vietnam. Built using wood and with handcrafted fabrics and furnishings, its 71 pool villas have echoes of the homes of the Eden, Cham and Rade tribes. The spa focuses on ancient Vietnamese wellness practices.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: For those who fancy a taste of the suite life when borders reopen