Southeast Asian capitals like Bangkok and Jakarta are known for their hustle and bustle – which is fine if you're into it. But when you're looking for the kind of peace and quiet only Mother Nature can provide, head out to these eco-retreats that are scattered across Southeast Asia.
On the northern edge of Vietnam lies Sapa, a popular tourist town located 1,600m above sea level. Aside from the gorgeous view of the mountainous Hoang Lien National Park, Sapa is one of the few places in Vietnam that has snowfall during the winter months of December to February. One of the best ways to appreciate the area is to book a place at Topas Eco Lodge, a sustainably built resort located 18km outside of the tourist-filled town. The lodge is built on a hilltop that allows for an unobstructed view of the mountains, paddy fields and local villages; gazing at it from the infinity pool is a surreal experience few places in the world can offer.
Don’t laze around too much, however, as the best part of your stay here involves guided tours, hikes and mountain biking trails that lead you to the surrounding villages and national park. For couples who want to take the romance up a notch, opt for a Romantic package for an extra USD120 that includes flower arrangements in your private bungalow, herbal bath, wine and a private hilltop dinner. Bungalows are limited, so best book early.
How to get there: Sapa is located about 320km from Hanoi, so be prepared for a long five-hour drive. Alternatively, you can take the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, after which is a 60km bus ride to Sapa. Check with Topas Eco Lodge for transport arrangements
21 Muong Hoa, Sapa, Lao Cai (+84 (214) 387 2404/topasecolodge.com). From RM1,200 per night.
Set on the sacred Ayung river valley in Bali, the all-bamboo Green Village is a masterplanned community of luxurious bamboo villas by IBUKU, an international team of skilled artisans, architects, engineers that focus on ecologically sustainable projects. The houses within the Green Village are available for rent via Airbnb and offer a luxurious stay within an open-air design and stunning views of the surrounding area. The pick of the bunch is Sunrise House, which comprises four floors, three double-bed bedrooms (each with ensuite bathrooms), as well as a kitchen, lounge, plunge pool, and a work space on the fourth floor.
How to get there: The village is 25 minutes from Ubud, Bali and is easily accessible by road transportation.
Jalan Tanah Ayu, Sibang Gede, Badung, Bali (+628 113 922 254/greenvillagebali.com). Villas from RM1,345 per night.
Don’t get us wrong – Hanoi’s a great place to visit, but the hectic city life and traffic can be hell to deal with, especially when you’re looking to relax. While most people would opt to go to Halong Bay, you’re better served by heading to Mai Chau Lodge for a less touristy experience.
It takes four hours to get here by car, but once you do, you’ll get why this place is such a highly sought-after retreat. Built on what was formerly a government guest house, the 16-room lodge is located 11km from the city centre, surrounded by paddy fields and the mountains of Tan Lac – a sight best appreciated from the swimming pool. There’s no shortage of activities to do around the lodge either: you can take guided tours to visit the villages of Pom Coong and Lac and the Mo Luong (Soldier) Cave, walk through the paddy fields to get to White Thai village, fish at nearby Mo Luong Lake, or bike out to explore the countryside. The best time to visit Mai Chau is from September to May, while those who love colder weather can visit during the winter months from November to February.
How to get there: Mai Chau is located 140km from Hanoi, and the only way to get there is by taxi or bus. The Mai Chau Lodge has its own shuttle service from Hanoi.
Mai Chau Town, Mai Chau District, Hoa Binh Province (+840 2183 868 959/maichaulodge.com). Rooms from RM355 per night.
Up north at the edge of the Doi Phu Ka National Park in Thailand is Bo Klua, a small village built around a thousand-year-old salt mine where the local Htin people still carry on the traditional process of salt production. A number of small resorts have cropped up here, offering travellers a panoramic view of the surrounding hills.
Among the best places to stay is the Boklua View Resort, which is owned by Toun Upajak, a local who returned home after working as a chef in Bangkok hotels and restaurants – so you know you’re getting authentic Thai meals at the resort’s riverside restaurant. There’s a never-ending list of things to do around the area: fishing in the river, picking strawberries, jungle trekking, bird watching and visiting the village temples along the Mang River Valley are just a fraction of what you can do aside from chilling out.
How to get there: The quickest way is to fly to Nan Nakhon Airport from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok via AirAsia, followed by a two-hour drive that can be arranged by the resort.
Bo Kluea Tai, Bo Kluea District, Nan (+81 809 6392/bokluaview.com). Rooms from RM190 per night.
Check out some local eco-retreats
For a tranquil getaway without having to travel far, these eco-retreats offer a unique and rustic holiday experience right in Malaysia. You can stay inside a concrete cylinder pipe in a jungle at Time Capsule Retreat, a shipment container set within a vast paddy field at Padi Box or even get up close with orangutans in East Malaysia at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort.