Why did we decide to write a blog about the best eco resorts in Asia? When it comes to luxury holidaying, we could see in the past years that for our clients it has become increasingly important to travel in an authentic, and most of all, in an ecologically sensitive way. Here at Fleewinter, we try to support local communities where we can (take a look at our “Giving Back” projects, e.g. in Morocco), and we encourage our clients to experience – and not damage – unique environments and to immerse themselves into the local culture. With the constant information overflow of our daily lives, it has become a luxury to many to find themselves in a calm oasis where life is not hectic and where local resources are used to create unforgettable experiences.
Therefore, we are always thrilled to find new eco resorts in the destinations we cover, and today, we have gathered the gems we have found while exploring Asia.
Mai Chau Eco Lodge, Vietnam
This gorgeous cluster of traditional thatched cottages sits in a secluded spot in northern Vietnam, with a stunning backdrop of lush rice paddies and emerald mountains embraced by clouds. If you’re looking for a rural experience in Vietnam, that does not involve a night train with a 5am arrival (like Sapa), then Mai Chau is a great option. Just 3.5 hours from Hanoi (by car) it offers fabulous rice paddy scenery, vast national parks for walking and the chance to observe minority tribal life. Of all the accommodation on offer here the Mai Chau Eco Lodge is, without a doubt, our favourite, with its “get back to nature” mentality – the traditional thatched cottages with bamboo interiors, natural woods and outdoor jungle showers, complement the rural setting perfectly. Every bungalow has been meticulously designed to embody the local stilt house style and traditional Thai ethnic culture – and the absence of televisions in the bungalows seems fitting. We can help organize as much or as little as you like in the stunning countryside that surrounds the eco lodge.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Borneo
Calling this a resort might be going a bit far but with new luxurious villas and as the only lodge in the area with a swimming pool, Sukau Rainforest Lodge is our top choice for an eco-friendly stay in Borneo. On the banks of the Kinabatangan River, this National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World provides daily river safaris to search for orangutans, proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants, and loads of other wildlife. The lodge is 100% self-sufficient on water use, has solar heating for hot showers, places kerosene and recycled cooking oil lamps around the lodge in the evening for a romantic, eco-friendly ambiance, and has countless design elements that minimize the need for air conditioning and use of excess electricity as well as keeping a light footprint on the fragile ground. Being a bit luxurious, there is air conditioning for those hot jungle nights. As the Kinabatangan River is home to a diverse ecosystem, the lodge is careful to not let any waste enter the river. The team is even aware of the need to not disturb the environment by making too much noise. Boats are equipped with outboard engines and electrical motors that meet the most stringent emission standards in the world and keep the noise to an absolute minimum. New villas opened in 2017 with more space than any other rooms on the river, gleaming hardwood floors, and a luxurious design that sets them apart from other options. To top it off, the guides are top notch and the food is the best you’ll find along the river.
Gal Oya Lodge, Sri Lanka
This wonderful eco retreat is hidden in the lesser known Gal Oya National Park in the south east of the island and offers its fortunate guests a relaxing place to stay whilst exploring the park by jeep, by boat or on foot. We recommend going on a boat safari, where you may be fortunate enough to see elephants swimming between the lake’s many islands. You can also go on a jeep safari, have a picnic breakfast or lunch down by the river and walk to the lake (all the while) accompanied by a friendly and knowledgeable naturalist. You can also walk to ‘Monkey Mountain’ or visit the Veddha tribespeople. The lodges themselves are spacious, airy and rustic yet stylish in design. In Steffi’s words, “I found myself looking up at the bamboo ceiling at night watching the fan blades feeling inspired and energised by my surroundings and lucky to have found such a lovely place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of life.” Wherever you look you can see a great deal of planning has gone into making this resort as environmentally sustainable as possible. All the water comes from a borehole and the Lodge’s power is solar-generated. We love the bamboo taps and brass rice-cleaning bowls for basins. Air-conditioning is non-existent with fans providing an efficient way to stay cool and more importantly there is no phone signal, 4G or wi-fi so you can’t be distracted or interrupted in any way. The staff are extremely friendly and are always on hand to help out and they’ll make a satellite call for you if it really can’t wait! Gal Oya Lodge is a beautiful place to switch off from it all and discover the Sri Lankan wilderness.
Golden Buddha Resort, Thailand
We love this property on a remote island called Koh Phra Thong, somewhere in the Andaman Sea. Life is slow here, away from tourist crowds, this island remains barely inhabited and unspoiled. Backing onto a pristine nature reserve, Golden Buddha Beach Resort is a collection of 28 individual and privately owned wooden homes.
The wooden cottages, generously dotted across 19 hectares of forest, reward guests with an experience that is both unique and completely in touch with nature. They offer flexible and secluded accommodation to both couples and families, and provide the perfect foil to a stress-free vacation, far away from the troubles of the modern world. The kitchen mainly serves seasonal local dishes, being focused on reducing their food-miles. The resort has its own citrus orchard at the back of the resort and they are experimenting with growing some herbs and vegetable to supply the kitchen. They breed their own chickens, ducks and pigs in order to supply the kitchen with eggs and meat. The resort offers Yoga classes twice per day: Yoga as practiced at the Golden Buddha Beach Resort is completely classical and traditional in form yet pragmatic and non dogmatic, influenced mostly by the ancient texts and teachings of Krishnamacharya, father of modern yoga. Sounds relaxing, right? Oh, and did we mention the resort is also the only resort on a pristine deserted 12 km long beach?
Munduk Moding, Bali
The Munduk Moding Plantation has created a secluded world of its own. Their villas and suites are scattered around a large plantation where they cultivate organic coffee, vegetables and fruit. The private villas have beautiful views of green landscapes as far as the eye can see and the total silence is welcoming, just as the occasional sounds of the birds. At the main building you have the small restaurant where most of the ingredients are taken from the garden. Here you can also find the gorgeous infinity pool. It can be chilly here sometimes but even that won’t prevent you from jumping in.
Muang La Lodge, Laos
If your ideal day of trekking finishes in a soothing, hot tub overlooking a scenic river in the grounds of a sprawling eco lodge then we’ve got just the gem for you! The Muang La Lodge in northern Laos is the ultimate eco-lodge getaway for those who seek the untrodden path, tucked away in northern Laos, about a four-hour drive from Luang Prabang it’s the ultimate destination if you want to avoid the crowds, observe real rural Laos and enjoy a touch of luxury. As you arrive along a tiny track, you are instantly soothed by the sounds of the Nam Pak river and greeted by warm, smiling faces. The idyllic village of Muang La is on your doorstep, and local life is very much part of your experience here. Don’t be surprised to see villagers bathing in the river and working their paddy fields, and Buddhist monks crossing the rope bridge for the daily alms-giving ceremony. The resort’s ten rooms are located in wooden and bamboo buildings, that fit in perfectly with their surroundings. Inside you’ll find local art and woven fabrics, high ceilings, piping-hot showers and all-important balconies to capture the spectacular nature around you. Breakfast and dinner is included here and the resort offers some of the best trekking and rural experiences in northern Laos, working with local guides from the village.
Al Faro Cosmio Hotel, Philippines
Generating 100% of their own power, Al Faro Cosmio Hotel is one of the only true eco-resorts we’ve found in the Philippines. Perched atop a hill in D’Pearl Bay near the town of Coron, this cozy hotel has only 13 rooms, some of them in a converted lighthouse. There’s no air conditioning and no need for it with the rooms designed to bring in the ocean breeze and the hotel generates all of its own power. We love it for the sunset views, proximity to island hopping, snorkelling, diving, and tremendous peace and quiet. Simple luxuries, great service, and a unique location set Al Faro apart. The bay is dotted with sailboats and although the hotel is not as luxurious as the one across the water, you can always take a boat across for a swanky dinner or two.
Lanja Lodge, Thailand
Our clients love this unique lodge in a remote part of Northern Thailand, in between Chiang Rai and the Thai-Laos border. The Lanjia, or ‘peaceful’ in Hmong language, is an eco-friendly community-based lodge providing sustainable tourism holidays that combine hill tribe experience with eco-friendly tours such as hiking and cycling. Local villagers have participated in the lodge’s creation, from construction to the production of handcrafted fabrics. They also provide all the services, from cooking to guiding. Furthermore, a part of the lodge’s income is used to improve the living conditions for the hill tribes of the area. Lanjia Lodge is aiming to be more than just a place to stay and accommodation packages come with a full range of activities including trekking, bike riding, bird watching and handicrafts. Guests are invited to learn first hand how tourism can play a positive role in the preservation of ancient cultures. As such, all of the staff has been recruited from the villages and these hosts, as they are referred to, take care of all activities with the guests. From the lodge, it is only a 30-minute drive to the Thailand-Laos border and immigration check-point from where guests can board an overnight cruise to Luang Prabang, Laos – a beautiful experience not to be missed.
Topas Eco Lodge, Vietnam
Sapa in northern Vietnam has some of the most dramatic rice-paddy and mountain scenery in Vietnam, coupled with vibrantly dressed women in traditional fare, it is an impressive destination. But with the good comes the bad… and by bad we mean an over-developed tourist trap town that can cast a shadow over even the highest of mountains. Escape all that, with a 45 minute drive out of town which will take you right into the heart of rural Vietnam – specifically the Topas Eco Lodge. A cluster of 25 individual bungalows perched on a picturesque hill in the north-east, the lodge boasts sweeping views of cascading rice terraces and lush valleys of Sapa. The small development prides itself on its sustainability – the solar-powered bungalows are constructed from white granite sourced from a nearby quarry and roofs are thatched with palm branches. To channel maximum economic benefits back to the community, locals are employed and indigenous products and goods are used. The Lodge will not be for everyone; it is a 45 minute drive to the town of Sapa, there are no TVs in the room – nor is there a swimming pool or any spa facilities at the resort. Do not be surprised if there is a power cut – and – during the rice planting season they can struggle with a lack of water. However, if you would like to be surrounded by breath-taking views, enjoy a peaceful and quiet retreat away from the nearby tourist town, then the Eco Lodge is the perfect destination. What’s more, on the journey to town, you’ll meet many of the ethnic minorities of this area and probably a few buffalos.
Santani, Sri Lanka
What makes this incredible new resort so special is its enviable location nestled in The Knuckles Mountains where it’s that little bit cooler, its minimalist architecture and luxe design, the personalised experience it provides each guest with and its minimal carbon footprint. Spend your days lazing by the infinity pool looking out over the mountains and down into the jungle. The spa (the largest on the island) complete with its own ayurvedic doctor, salt water hydroptherapy pool, numerous therapies and treatments, features open-ended rooms to take advantage of those incredible views and allow air to circulate through the rooms eliminating the need for air conditioning. Explore the area by bike or foot and take one of the naturalists down to the river with you to point out the local wildlife and discover the Sri Lankan flora and flauna. Partake in as many or as few yoga classes as you wish in the open-ended yoga shala and relax on your private balcony, in the bar or restaurant taking in those awe-inspiring views whilst sampling the delectable menu. There is no air conditioning at Santani – it’s simply not required. Its location in the mountains means it’s that little bit cooler than by the coast or inland. The private villas are built on stilts so air can circulate freely around the room. “When I visited I was nice and cool at night nestled under my crisp sheet, duvet and mosquito net (not that I saw any mosquitos). I was amazed to open my eyes one night to be treated to an incredible display of iridescence courtesy of some fireflies who had entered my room via the gap between the wall and the roof – I thought I was dreaming at one point!” Polished concrete floors combined with reclaimed wood panelling feature throughout the hotel and create a beautiful contemporary minimalist luxe feel whilst using sustainable materials-and staying true to its eco-friendly concept. “Quite simply, it’s one of the most incredible places I have been fortunate enough to stay at and I long to return!”
Bali Eco Village, Bali
The first thing you will say when you see the Bali Eco Village is ‘Wow’, secondly it is far too expensive for a budget traveller. But surprisingly this beautiful village resort offers standard rooms for max 3 people at an amazing rate. Besides having buildings made almost entirely from bamboo and using traditional craftsmanship, this stunning resort has also taken every little aspect into much consideration. Local staffing, water and waste management, energy, natural and recycled materials for construction and land conservations are well thought of and applied in detail throughout the eco village. Natural biodegradable products, offering support and their facilities to local people, using low water pressure showers, hydroelectricity, and durable items are the perfect example of every little bit helps (considerably).
Enquire about Bali Eco Village by emailing our Bali Specialist Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoyed this blog about a different kind of luxurious travel. We’d love to help you plan your perfect holiday too. To find some inspiration, visit www.fleewinter.com.
xx, Delia, Marbree, Steffi, Barbara and Eva