Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Get Exotic Luxury For Less in Southeast Asia

by Wendy Perrin | May 27, 2014


Hi Wendy,

My wife and I are interested in how to do exotic luxury travel on a reduced budget.  We’ve enjoyed a lot of far-flung adventures over the years, but we just bought a new house, so our pockets are a little emptier than usual. We are absolutely craving a trip to Southeast Asia and are trying to figure out how to pull something off.





You’re in luck, Adam, because Southeast Asia is one of those parts of the world where your dollar stretches far. It’s chock full of spoil-you-rotten hotels with relatively affordable rates, thanks to the combination of a low cost of labor and a culture that values the art of hospitality.  Your dollar buys a lot at the non-luxury level too: Skyscanner just named Vietnam, Bali, and Cambodia three of the world’s 10 best-value vacation spots of 2014.

One of my favorite Southeast Asia travel planners, Andrea Ross of Journeys Within Tour Company, is expert at orchestrating luxurious yet affordable itineraries (and she even writes her own Southeast Asia travel blog).  Here’s her advice–and how she does it:

1. Find seasonal promotions. “Right now Four Seasons is offering some amazing summer specials,” says Andrea. “If you stay three nights at their Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, Thailand, you get two nights free at any of their other Thailand properties, including the Four Seasons Koh Samui beach property.  These deals won’t be available in high season, but if you don’t mind a little afternoon rain, or warmer temperatures, then going in shoulder season can be your best bet for getting luxury at a reasonable rate.”

2. Pepper your itinerary with boutique hotels that offer stellar service but also real value for the money. Andrea’s picks cost only $120 to $260 per night—hotels like Ariyasomvilla in Bangkok; 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Mekong Riverview in Luang Prabang, Laos; and Journeys Within Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. “These hotels are winning TripAdvisor awards and daily go above and beyond for their guests,” says Andrea.  “They also offer a window onto the history and culture of the locations they’re set in.”

3. Scrimp on your hotel in certain locations so you can splurge in locations where it matters more. “Splurge on your hotel at the beach, where you’re going to be spending more time in your room and using the hotel’s facilities. But when your schedule is packed and you’re going to be out and about—which is the case in Chiang Mai, which is a really fun town with lots of markets and restaurants and shopping—then luxury in your hotel isn’t necessary. In fact, often travelers in a luxury hotel will feel torn: They’ll want to get out and explore, but they’ll hesitate because they don’t want to leave the property.”

You can also read Andrea’s Insider’s Guide to Cambodia and her Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat.

Who else has tips for getting exotic luxury on a budget in Southeast Asia?

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    My husband and I stayed at 137 Pillars House in November. This property is excellent. We stayed in the East Borneo suites. The suites were beautiful and very large. There was an indoor and outdoor shower as well as a bath tub. The amenities were great and included bug spray which you will need every day twice a day in Asia. Their breakfast buffet was very good. It had a large selection of American and Asian choices. It had an omelette station and other hot foods, as well as Asian hot foods, fruit, yogurt, and pastries. The pool is very nice. The property is quiet both in location and in that you don’t see too many other guests. Turn down services includes nightly treats, and the staff is lovely. We would definitely stay again.

    In Laos, we stayed at the Luang Say Residences which were also very nice. We booked the Explorator suite which was large and comfortable. The breakfast here was also very nice. They had menu services but almost all of the dishes were included in the price of the room. The fresh fruit was great and the view is very nice. Also, at turn down, they leave small gifts made by local artists and craftsmen.

    In Siem Reap we stayed at the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa. It was a nice location and had a very large breakfast, but unless you book a suite, don’t bother. We originally has a deluxe room, and there was nothing deluxe about it. We upgraded to a Colonial Suite and that was MUCH nicer. Still, I probably would not go back.

    If you are going to the Thai Islands, I suggest going to Koh Lanta, Krabi and booking a beach villa at the Pimali Resort and Spa. It comes with a private infinity pool and is on a basically private beach. You never have to leave, and you won’t want to either. There are four restaurants on property and the rooms come with breakfast. Breakfast is a full buffet. The view is unbeatable.

  2. Jane Ellis

    Check out Diane Embree’s southeast asia travel site. She’s famous for her Indonesian planning but she’s also an expert in SE Asia and she’s great at planning luxury trips that don’t break the bank. And she’s an incredible agent.

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