In Southeast Asia, there’s no season to stay away from destinations like Chiang Mai or Hoi An. This is, however, a good time to start planning your getaway for the new year. Here’s why you should visit Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The highly anticipated Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River will soon begin welcoming guests in the heart of Bangkok’s dynamic Creative District, channelling the area’s contemporary take on tradition.
Architect Jean-Michel Gathy’s forward-thinking design echoes the energy of the river, with a cascading structure of indoor-outdoor spaces arranged around green courtyards, delicate gardens and water features.
“The inspiration was urban resort,” Gathy says, “bringing the soul of the landscape, the outdoors, into a sophisticated Four Seasons hotel.” Many of the 299 rooms and suites have river views, and all have 4-metre [13-foot] ceilings for an airy aesthetic. Thai culture is referenced in the design details and the artwork Gathy chose.
Another aspect of Thai culture is easy to discover. “Near the Hotel, both locals and tourists enjoy the scents and tastes of a variety of street foods,” says Chief Concierge Thanart Menbangphung. “Food stalls and restaurants can be found in almost every corner of the city, especially along Yaowaraj Road.”
Plan a stay April 13 to 15, here or at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, to take part in an unforgettable local tradition: “In mid-April every year, the cities host one of the biggest festivals of the year, locally known as Songkran [Thai New Year],” Menbangphung says. Thousands of people throw water balloons in the streets – be prepared to get wet.
For a contrast to the excitement, head south for laid-back island life at Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui. “Traveling to Koh Samui from March to May is an ideal time,” says Chief Concierge Kantinan Wanna. “The weather is perfect for snorkelling.” Consider a yacht trip to Angthong National Marine Park – 42 pristine and protected islands full of limestone caves, white sand beaches and colourful coral reefs.
During that time, in either March or April every year, Koh Samui holds a Midnight Run to raise funds for The Green Project and Special Needs School Samui. “Participants will run 5K or 10K around the buzzy streets of Chaweng Beach,” says Spa Manager Kotchaphan Mekloy. “Fancy dress is encouraged for kids.”
Take a short boat ride over the Malaysian border to arrive at Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, on an island that’s home to fantastically diverse wildlife and one of the world’s most ancient rainforests. And there’s the water.
“From March to May, the ocean is calm,” says Water Sports Manager Azfar Jaafar. “We spend all day exploring the natural wonders of Langkawi.” Kayaks, catamarans and windsurfing gear are available for guests who want to explore the sandy shores of the island’s longest stretch of beach.
The Resort is next door to the Kilim Karst UNESCO Geopark, where guests and Resort naturalists take kayak tours through lush forests to spot pythons, otters, eagles and sleeping bats. On land, sign up for a guided rainforest walk, which will be accompanied by plenty of birds. If trekking is to your taste, the Resort can arrange for guides to take you to Gunung Mat Chincang, the island’s second-tallest mountain, to traverse the rocky terrain near the famous Seven Wells waterfall.
Farther south at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, you can truly unplug during Nyepi, a Day of Silence in March. “If one has never heard what silence truly sounds like, there’s no better day to experience it than Nyepi,” says General Manager Uday Rao. “It’s my favourite holiday in the world. Where else will an international airport shut down for 24 hours, an entire island come to a standstill to give Mother Earth a break? It’s an ethereal feeling to hear and see nature in its purest state, without the clutter and noise of everyday life.”
You can’t visit Bali without taking advantage of the varied cuisine. “Bali has a cultural and culinary mix like nowhere else on Earth,” says Phillip Taylor, Executive Chef of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. “Like other areas in Bali, including Jimbaran, Uluwatu, Seminyak and Canggu, the Ubud dining scene has evolved in the last few years and offers world-class restaurants and high-profile local chefs as well as international names who now call Bali home.”
Under two hours from Bali by plane is the bustling city of Jakarta and its urban oasis, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta. “The city is full of hidden gems,” says Rizky Pratama, Concierge Supervisor. He recommends visiting one of the world’s biggest international automotive shows in April.
“Pay a visit to the biggest Chinatown in Indonesia,” says Administrative Assistant Vera Catherine. “While you’re there, don’t forget to check my favourite coffee in town, Kopi Es Tak Kie at Pecinan, Glodok.”
Motorbikes fill the central streets of Hanoi, but life slows down a bit when you head south to Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai Hoi An. The quieter avenues, lit by lanterns and lined with coffee shops, are peaceful reminders of centuries past.
Tết Lunar New Year, the most important holiday of the year in Vietnam, takes place at the end of January. “With illuminating lantern-hung streets adorned with peach blossom and the traditional scent of burning incense that takes you back hundreds of years, celebrating Tết amongst the locals in Hoi An is not to be missed,” says Concierge and Recreation Manager Dang Nguyen.
During the year, Hoi An celebrates a Lantern Festival on the 14th of every lunar month. It’s a special time for families to pay their respects to their departed loved ones by lighting lanterns and casting them off with prayers. “Local hawkers by Thu Bon River carry baskets of handmade paper lanterns, each containing a small candle,” says Concierge Tien Vo. “My suggestion is to take a boat ride to the middle of the river, where you can gently drop your lantern on the surface. Remember to make a wish as it drifts away, joining the many twinkling lights and well-wishes – it is quite a sight to see.”
Another fine sight in Hoi An is the landscape of green, growing – and edible – things. “Spring is the best time to witness the mesmerizing fields of green veggies and full-flavoured herbs at Tra Que Culinary Village,” says Guest Relations Officer Tam Nguyen. The Resort cultivates its own herb and vegetable farm to supply its Nam Hai Cooking Academy, where a dedicated chef leads customized classes, some for children.