When you first think of jetting-off to the heady incense-scented climes of Thailand with a paradise beach in mind, you may not think of forward-thinking design and avant-garde architecture. Instead, you may just want to dream of melting sunsets, cerulean seas and picture-postcard sands as soft as Thai silk. But Thailand’s immense popularity with international tourists is now making it a place to not only see, but be seen at, in an array of stylish beachside restaurants, chic bars and progressive boutique resorts.
We’ve noticed quite a few of the latter popping up in the Andaman region of late, and across the palm-sprinkled isles in the Gulf of Thailand – the type of hotels that demand a designer suitcase with your room booking and a dramatic holiday wardrobe to match the breath-taking beach views. Our initial observations have revealed a range of properties with fashion-forward features, from infinity pools set across over-hanging mezzanine terraces to glass-built villas atop lush green cliffs overlooking sparkling coastal vistas.
We invite you to take a look at our key hotel picks of the region to get a clear sense of this new design-led beach scene. We’ve matched a polished range of hotel options to various personality types and tastes to help you pick out the perfect hotel that will suit your own holiday style. Everyone is catered to, from the slumbersome sun-bathers and beach-party goers to the hip city slickers and wild adventure junkies.
Sci-fi sleek: The Library
This striking retreat is set on the sweeping golden sands of Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui, an island of soaring mountains, tumbling waterfalls, rugged rainforests and dense coconut groves. It appears as a minimalist masterpiece of whitewashed walls and precious wooden screens that are arranged across angular lines in rectangular shapes, like a Bauhaus era sculpture in one of Le Corbusier’s edgy urban utopias. A collection of elegantly appointed studios and suites are arranged around an arresting blood red swimming pool which emits an other-worldly Sci-fi ambience, while suite interiors and common spaces are decked out like contemporary art galleries with colourful books and eye-catching canvases – a pair of iridescent sunglasses or a creatively-printed kaftan will certainly help you to blend into such heady surroundings.
It’s the type of hotel that would make any urbanite feel at home with its fresh and modern aesthetic with all amenities included. Just don’t forget to dine in peace on the beach one night amongst flickering candles and atmospheric fluoro lights to remind yourself of the awesome nature that sits perfectly and peacefully on your doorstep.
Rural relaxation: The Naka
If rustic rural living is more your sort of thing, then pack your floral print swimwear and head over to the ethereal Naka hotel, perched high up on an emerald green cliff in a discreet bay on the island of Phuket. Although this destination is one of the busiest tourist draws in Thailand, you can still take life at a leisurely pace at the Naka thanks to perfectly perched glass and wooden villas that hang nonchalantly over a cliff-edge surrounded by blissful Babylonian gardens.
Immerse yourself in the infinity pool for panoramic views over the tranquil seas below, and enjoy serene sunsets from the comfort of your armchair as it sits on distressed timber decking surrounded by lazy palms which drift in the light sea breeze. For total relaxation, why not head to the Napa spa to unwind in nature’s purest elements – float in a pool filled with pink lotus buds while taking a sensual body scrub made from organic herbs and fruits. The rooftop waterfall will only add to the chic countryside feel.
Geometric grace: Casa De La Flora
For something a bit more ‘out there,’ why not head to the modernist menagerie of Casa De La Flora, a rambling construction of geometric villas that stack on-top of each-other like a jagged Picasso painting or a game of Jenga. Expect rooms with ginormous bath-tubs and industrial slate-grey interiors which are sublimely mellowed by cream linens and artful décor. An avant-garde outfit is a must-pack essential when drifting around these awkwardly spaced surroundings; something random from Gucci would be an ideal choice. Outside of each villa, you’ll find similarly off-beat pairings like turquoise private pools that blend in an incongruous but complementary fashion against lunar-like pebbles and bright blue sunbeds, adding to the mixed-up but magical ambience.
The hotel’s restaurant and bar also puts things through the blender with molecular flame-filled cocktails and Thai food featuring pan-European twists. Thai tapas anyone? Finish off with an aqua yoga session in the shimmering pool or a sensational massage as you look out to twilight-zone skies across the palm-lined Bang Niang Beach.
Into the Undergrowth: The Surin Phuket
Bring yourself back down to earth with a relaxing stay on a jungle-clad beach that is drenched in thick palm trees. Enter the Surin Phuket, an eclectic mountainside pile submerged in a blanket of tropical foliage that wraps its way around a glassy hexagonal pool sitting like an oasis in the heart of Tarzan’s backyard. The hotel décor supports this adventurous atmosphere as boulders bedeck the walls and granite tiles lie lazily on top of the beach-hut shaped rooms that are layered in windswept woods. Walk along the endlessly long beach to get lost in your own exotic wilderness as you see nothing for miles except drooping palm fronds, or bring out the ‘Bear Grylls’ inside of you with a daring trek top the top of the hotel's own hill. An alternative option is to let the adrenaline pump by hitting the water sports playground on the hotel’s beach; pioneer a new route with your own private catamaran or snorkel psychedelic corals in the crystal-clear waters. A pair of brightly-hued slider flip-flops will protect your precious feet from the sharp stones and scorching hot sands as the sun beats down. That's your next Thai beach break planned with a hip designer twist.