As you prepare to travel again, spare a thought to where you might end up sipping your newfound freedom with these five quirky hotel bars from across Southeast Asia.
Hotel bar design has witnessed a significant evolution in recent times. Often regarded as an afterthought — a convenient meeting spot or a place to grab one last drink at the end of the night — in-house watering holes are now seen as a key drawcard for any hotel worth its salt. As such, properties around Asia are going the extra mile to burnish their bar concepts. From a subterranean hideaway inspired by French art deco to a sleek lounge dominated by a giant fine-art mural, here’s a selection of some of the more characterful hotel bars around Asia.
Cocktails à la Tuk-Tuk
Banyan Tree Samui resort boasts what might be the cutest bar in Thailand — a cocktail caravan remodelled from a classic 1960s tuk-tuk. The MP4 Midget is virtually unseen on the streets of Thailand these days, but once upon a time, the “frogs”, as they were commonly nicknamed, were everywhere. Revived from retirement, and now dubbed the Froggy Sea Breeze Beach Bar, this emerald-green van today serves up cocktails, wines, beers and spirits to Banyan Tree guests and non-guests alike in a quiet beachfront cove in the southeast of the island every day from 11 am till 11 pm.
Highly recommended is the sweet ‘n’ sour Froggy Melon, garnished with mint leaves, or The Botanical, a gin and absinthe-infused cocktail guaranteed to kick-start any engine.
Going Underground in Phnom Penh
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh has applied a new facet to the destination’s vibrant bar scene with Metropole Underground, the first subterranean bar in Cambodia’s capital. Inspired by the louche, chic vibe of early 20th Century Paris, Metropole Underground is a unique addition to the famously lively bar scene in Phnom Penh. Discreetly located in the basement of the Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, the city’s newest international branded luxury hotel, the sophisticated space offers premium drinks, light gourmet bites, and nightly live entertainment spanning bands and DJ beats.
The bar, which like the rest of the hotel, is designed by award-winning Singapore-based SCDA Architects with interiors by leading Thai firm PIA Interior, is inspired by the glory days of Parisian art-deco. The metro system in the French capital was a major inspiration for the bar, with replicas of cast iron detailing from the original Paris Metro integrated into the space and transformed into sculptural and decorative elements.
‘Karaoke-ing’ Atop a Bar on Cam Ranh Peninsula
It’s no secret liquid courage is often behind a good karaoke session. With that in mind, the 30-hectare Alma Resort in Vietnam has five karaoke rooms perched on its American Bar; a name that references the United States’ past war-time presence in Cam Ranh’s deep-water bay. The karaoke rooms are all sound-proofed, allaying any noise concerns for bar-goers as well as fear of embarrassment among the karaoke singers.
Deploying dim lighting to create a mood of privacy and intimacy, the bar serves creative cocktails, fine wines, classic whiskies, ice-cold beers and more paired with light bites. American Bar also offers billiards and large screens that play the latest sports matches.
How Long Is The Long in Saigon?
While long might mean “dragon” in the Vietnamese language, in the case of the Long Bar running beneath the Times Square Building in Saigon’s fashionable District 1, the name most certainly applies to the length and narrowness of this charming tavern. The bar’s lithe 40-meter counter provides a panoramic perspective to the barstool-loving patron, and there are no less than five bartenders patrolling its expanse. Overhead, a ceiling of arched glass channels natural light into a setting that’s not quite indoors, not quite outdoors.
The Long @ Times Square anchors the ground floor of The Reverie Saigon, one the city’s most iconic and extravagant hotels, and is a popular sidewalk spot during the weekend when the street outside transforms into a pedestrianized market, and sports fans gather in the evenings to watch the latest match on the Long Bar’s large flatscreen TVs.
A Legendary Patriarch Remembered in Bali
In 2020, after 15 years in the doldrums, a Balinese building that was once the heart of acclaimed Indonesian architect Hendra Hadiprana’s private estate was reimagined as a new tapas lounge, Panen Padi, at Tanah Gajah, a Resort by Hadiprana. The architect, who fashioned the Balinese resort as a family retreat in the late 1980s, used the building as his place of residence when visiting the vast estate. Today his presence still looms large.
A passionate art lover, Hendra’s own life story has been created into artwork and adorns the ceiling. The massive mural takes visitors on his journey from youth to his golden years, with imagery of Bali, the property, and from his time in the Netherlands. An al fresco terrace has been added to enjoy the sunset while sipping a cocktail or mocktail, named for the location and inspired by it.
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