Don’t miss Matt Gross’s fascinating piece in today’s New York Times detailing the rise in luxury tourism in Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia:
In almost every part of the country, you can find a conceptually and architecturally ambitious hotel: In mountainous Ratanakiri, there’s the Terres Rouges Lodge, a former provincial governor’s lakeside residence that has, Time Asia said last July, “the best bar in the middle of nowhere.” On the Sanker River in Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, there’s La Villa, a 1930 house that in October opened as a six-room hotel filled with Art Deco antiques. And sometime this summer, you should be able to head south to Kep and stay at La Villa de Monsieur Thomas, a 1908 oceanfront mansion that’s being transformed into a French restaurant ringed with bungalows.
And then there is Angkor Wat. Foreign visitors are flooding in – 690,987 paid entrance fees last year, up from 451,046 in 2004. And while there are no official figures as to how much each spends in Siem Reap, the town’s dizzying array of luxury hotels – at least 10 by my count, ranging from the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor to quirky boutiques like Hôtel de la Paix – testifies to the emergence of a new generation of high-end travelers, who not only demand round-the-clock Khmer massage but are also willing to pay $400 a day to hire a BMW L7 or $1,375 an hour for a helicopter tour.
Cambodia is not alone in its luxury revolution. Since the mid-1990’s, the former French colonies of Southeast Asia have made enormous leaps in catering to tourists who prefer plunge pools to bucket showers. From the forests of Laos to the beaches of Vietnam to the ruins of Cambodia, you can find well-conceived, well-outfitted, well-run hotels that will sleep you in style for hundreds of dollars a night.