Melissa Matthews, Southeast Asia specialist at Red Savannah, gives us the inside track on some unspoilt alternative destinations for a winter getaway.
Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands usually spring instantly to mind for an injection of winter sun but for those seeking just a little bit more than a beautiful beach, I would head to Southeast Asia which enjoys fabulous weather from November to March before the rains arrive in spring.
Both Vietnam and Cambodia are seeing an awakening of their coastal tourism industry and both offer the perfect combination of stunning beach scenery as well fascinating history, satisfying the fly and flop brigade as well as the culture vultures.
For minimalist design lovers, Aman recently opened Amanoi on a beautiful, remote beach overlooking Vinh Hy Bay in central Vietnam. Aman junkies will feel at home in the neutral colour palette and cutting edge design, but there’s a nod to local heritage in the Central Pavilion inspired by the traditional Vietnamese communal hall as well as beautiful lacquerware and ceramics. There are two pools – the Cliff Pool next to the Central Pavilion and a Beach Club pool – and further relaxation may be enjoyed at the Yoga Pavilion, Pilates Studio or the terrific Aman Spa. Amanoi joins the fabulous Nam Hai near Hoi An and An Lam Ninh Van Bay close to Nha Trang on Vietnam’s winding coast making the decision on where to enjoy a little winter sun in Vietnam even more difficult. Go between January and April for the best weather.
Cambodia remains largely unspoilt and for those in the know, you can almost always find a beach to yourself. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, I’d highly recommend a night or two experiencing a beach safari in Ream National Park, about a three hour drive from Phnom Penh. You’ll arrive to your own African safari style tent with its own shower and loo tent and a team of staff to help you settle in and cook your meal on the beach. After spending the night in splendid isolation, you’ll wake to a glorious sunrise on the Gulf of Thailand, all to yourself, before either going for a guided nature walk to explore the flora and fauna of the National Park, or a boat ride out to some of the small islands.
My own personal favourite in Cambodia is the area around Kep in Kampot province, where I recommend staying at Knai Bang Chatt, a cool, eleven room modernist hotel adjacent to a wonderful sailing club which serves heavenly Kep Crab in Kampot peppers. This stretch of coast was popular with wealthy Cambodians in the country’s heyday in the 1950’s but was deserted during the Khmer Rouge years. The region’s fortunes are back on the up, so visit before the place becomes overrun with bling casinos.
Author Profile: Melissa combines a ruthless eye for detail with a genuine sense of empathy to deliver truly life-changing experiences for her clients. Her 20 year career in luxury travel and her terrific sense of adventure has seen her riding elephants through jungles in northern Thailand, quad biking to remote temples in the Angkor Wat complex, exploring tiny islands in the Gulf of Thailand and island-hopping over the Maldives archipelago to inspect a series of ‘world’s first’ resorts. Her most recent visit to Southeast Asia saw her inspecting resorts in Phuket, boutique hotels in Bangkok and the latest luxury hotel openings in Siem Reap.
All images are courtesy of Red Savannah
Red Savannah offers inspirational and experiential tailor-made holidays around the world.