When newlyweds Marissa, 28, and Sean Cavenagh, 31, from Chicago decided to honeymoon in Southeast Asia this summer, they planned to stay in Airbnbs and modest hotels as they toured Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. But when they discovered the amazing deals on some of the most luxurious properties in these destinations, they got a whole lot better.
“We were going to Airbnb somewhere in Singapore when we saw that Marina Bay Sands was offering a special two-for-one night, so we stayed there,” said Ms. Cavenagh, who ended up paying $300 a night for a room. a far cry from the $600 and up rooms typically purchased in 2019, pre-Covid. “Then we were upgraded to an amazing suite on the 35th floor.” Her suite was connected to the Sand’s famous rooftop pool that straddles the complex’s three skyscrapers like a flying saucer.
On the Thai island of Koh Samui, they stayed for 11 days in a seaside villa by the crystal-clear waters of the Crystal Bay Yacht Club Beach Resort for a total of $280, which breaks down to about half the daily rate of a hotel room there. . “It’s crazy,” Cavenagh said. “We pay less for the best luxury hotels in the world than for a Red Roof Inn in the United States”
While inflation has made the price of travel in the United States exorbitant, the dollar is king in Southeast Asia. For example, the US dollar is currently worth about 35 Thai baht, or 17 percent more than it was in January 2020, before the pandemic.
Tourism-dependent countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia are coming out of Covid isolation to find that their biggest market, China, is still semi-closed, with the rest of the world only realizing that these countries are giving welcome visitors. Despite easy e-visas and the lifting of quarantines and Covid testing requirements, airports like Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi appear empty as planes are parked side by side on unused runways. To attract returning tourists, many of Southeast Asia’s best hotels, resorts and restaurants have greatly reduced their prices against an already strong dollar.
This state of affairs has been a boon to American tourists who are just beginning to arrive.
“We were just going to stay in hostels,” said Julie Jones, 34, who quit her consulting job in Dallas to backpack through Asia for the summer with two friends. “But when we see how cheap some of these famous hotels are, we’ll be happy to splurge to experience a bit of history and luxury.”
Mrs. Jones and her friends had just spent two days at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the gleaming Art Deco hotel anchored in the Vietnamese city’s French Quarter, where Charlie Chaplin honeymooned with Paulette Goddard, and former President Donald J. Trump had his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It’s a glamorous place filled with bejeweled Hanoians and employees in smart dark suits. Did you mind that Mrs. Jones and her friends showed up in sandals and beach shorts? “We were upgraded to a suite,” said Mrs. Jones. Price: $185 a night, or about half the price of pre-pandemic rooms.
Unlike hotels, airfares have not stayed low. While in May it was easy to find round-trip flights from Los Angeles and New York to Bangkok for less than $1,000, prices have now risen above $2,000, although Japanese carrier ANA, which shares the code with United Airlines, recently offered flights for as little as $1,489 from Los Angeles and $1,734 from New York.
Today’s visitors to Southeast Asia may feel less like tourists given that most of the people they are likely to meet in their hotels and restaurants are locals who, much like in the United States, have begun traveling in their own countries rather than going abroad. During a recent visit to the BKK Social Club at the new Four Seasons complex on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, I was clinking cocktail glasses not with other tourists, but with a crowd of decidedly stylish and gregarious Thais. Earlier, across the riverside terrace at the Café Madeleine bakery, Thai schoolchildren and their mothers enjoyed afternoon tea and brioche; there wasn’t another Westerner in sight at the adjacent Michelin-starred Yu Ting Yuan restaurant.
Across the river at opulent Peninsula Bangkok, rooms were $135 a night, while the Mandarin Oriental, Thailand’s original grand hotel where the likes of Joseph Conrad and the future Tsar Nicholas II once stayed, was resisting $345. night, still about 30 percent less than two years ago.
“This is like the Paris of the 1920s, when people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald left their middle-class lives in the US to hang out at the Ritz in Paris,” Jones said. She and her friends were about to leave for Bali. They were trying to choose between a $147-a-night yoga retreat at five-star Komaneka in Ubud or a $51-a-night surf vacation at Montigo Resorts in Seminyak, until it was pointed out that the seemingly permanent traffic jam paralyzing the entire island was currently moving, so they could probably fit both of them.
“This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Ms. Jones. “We’re going to make the most of it while we can.”