Are you confused about where to go glamping? I sure was, then I started looking around for glampsites for a recent trip.
There are many properties in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia that claim to be glampsites. But a closer look tells you that they’re slipshod affairs, with a distinct lack of “glam” to the whole affair.
See, the trend of glamping has blown up in the past 10 years and the rise in demand for these experiences has led to operators erecting tents, throwing rugs on the ground, shoving some furniture into the structure and calling it a glampsite.
Many existing jungle-based treehouse “hotels” have also been re-marketing themselves as glamping spots.
These, say experts, may approximate a glamping experience but rightly should be called wilderness or jungle camps, which have been around for some 25 years.
“Glamping has gotten much more sophisticated and diverse,” says Ms Kate Herz, who is the head of Asia for Jacada Travel, a bespoke travel company which prides itself on creating very personal itineraries for its clients.
“Today, true glampsites provide next-level luxury and experiences,” she says.
“They’re in remote areas of outstanding natural beauty, and have the feel of an oasis. They have pools, spas and what you expect from the best luxury hotels.”
Private bathrooms, sumptuous bedding and state-of-the-art furniture are what you must expect from a glampsite, whereas a wilderness camp may have you sharing bathrooms, and sleeping on 300-count cotton sheets.
Service in a proper glampsite will be beyond excellent, says Ms Herz, with staff anticipating the guests’ needs before they themselves know what they are. The availability of butler service, for example, is one way to know if a glampsite is kosher or not.
Many of the best glampsites also work to give a unique taste of the place and culture they represent, and work with locals to conserve the surrounding areas.
The Sujan luxury group in India, for example, hired local craftsman to build the sandstone floors and plunge pools at the Sujan desert oasis, The Serai, in Rajasthan. There, local villagers also maintain its in-house organic farm that is home to a unique breed to Rajasthani cows.
At Sujan’s nearby Jawai property, many tribesmen and locals are in Sujan’s employ for all sorts of tasks, from tracking leopards to spot on safari, to helping welcome guests.
The company invests in local employment because no one knows the area like they do, says Sujan chief executive Jaisal Singh.
He adds that local expertise is crucial to Sujan’s unique offerings since “we don’t sell ‘hotel rooms’. We are purveyors of experiences and a unique lifestyle”.
A good mark to have for knowing if you’re truly glamping is that the best glampsites today will be equivalent to a five- or six-star hotel, while the common wilderness camp rates at very best, at two to three stars. The price, naturally, follows.
Ms Herz notes that Asia is becoming a hotspot for ultra-luxe glampsites, with travellers heading to Thailand, Indonesia and India for such experiences, and with new openings slated for Cambodia and Laos.
Business Insider tells you who’s setting the tone for the scene in Asia.
1) India: Rajasthan
Sujan started offering glamping experiences 18 years ago, is ahead of the curve. Its Jawai property in Rajasthan is where you get to spot leopards which walk right into the hilltop rustic temples of the area; and its Sher Bagh camp in Ranthambore is where you’ll see wild tigers.
Both Jawai and Sher Bagh have a minimal number of tents – Sher Bagh has just 12, for instance – meaning that you’ll never be among a huge crowd.
Sujan’s design details are stunning, and the furnishings in each luxe tent make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a Ralph Lauren ad.
Sujan, which has a luxury camp in Kenya, as well as a palace hotel in Jaipur, is eyeing more openings “in and out of Rajasthan” as well, says Jaisal Singh, chief executive of the group.
2) Cambodia: Siam Reap
This is the most hotly anticipated opening for glamping in Asia, and there isn’t an official opening date yet.
This private camp in one of the oldest national parks in Cambodia will begin to take guests in from the fourth quarter of 2018, and you’ll have to keep an eye on its website to find out exactly when.
This property is the brainchild of Bill Bensley, designer of luxury resorts who’s been responsible for the design of more than 100 properties in 26 countries. The Bangkok-based architect and landscape designer is known for his eye for luxury and world-class design, but also for his distinctly wacky taste.
Shinta Mani Wild will reside in one of the only places left in Cambodia that one can see bears, elephants, gibbons and tigers in the wild. Sixteen tents will be perched right by a swift-flowing river and waterfalls. Expect to be able to traverse the river in Bensley-designed boats as well.
3) Indonesia: Sumba Island
Located just an hour away from Bali is the island of Sumba, where what any glamping enthusiast looks for: Virgin forests and pristine, deserted beaches and hidden coves in a mostly untouched paradise.
The tents at Watukaka feature stone walls and canvas exteriors, and furnishings that incorporate many of the natural materials that reflect the surroundings.
Beds are positioned so one can see the sun rise, and each has a large terrace. This is your island getaway. Bonus: Wild horses roam the national park where Watukaka is located.
4) Laos: Luang Prabang
This exotic retreat in northern Laos is set to open in March 2018, and is a 23-room property with six hilltop glamping-style tents in a thickly-forested, rural setting by the Mekong river.
The town of Luang Prabang is a 10-minute drive away, and one can explore the historic city’s temple-lined lanes, or sit back and relax in your riverside villa or hilltop tent. The latter features private dining areas and huge balconies.
Each room is sumptuous, with elements inspired by Lao tradition and French colonial style. This is the place to be based from as you explore the Pak Ou Caves, the religious site containing some 4,000 wooden Buddha statues; or the Kuang Si waterfalls, where one can take a dip into the azure waters or hike to the top of the three-tiered falls.
5) Thailand: Koh Yao Noi
These high-end luxury tented villas are a located close to Phuket, but far from the chaos of its streets.
This adults-only resort features just seven safari-style tents, 180-degree views of Phang Nga Bay, and of 100 limestone islands.
The ultra-exclusive hillside property is affiliated to the beachfront Koyao Island Resort, and you’ll get access to the private beach and the facilities there.
But with the butler service and options for floating breakfasts in your private pool, you may not want to leave your tent.
The author is a freelance lifestyle writer and yoga teacher.