Southeast Asia is, without a doubt, one of those interesting destinations that always seeks to reinvent itself. With each major destination trying to vie for attention, it becomes an ever present constant of change, of new experiences, of new sights and sounds to outdo each other, all while trying to capture the essence of the destination.
Tropicola Beach Club, Seminyak, Bali
Recently opened in Q3 2018, Tropicola Beach Club is the latest entry to the ever-evolving Bali Beach Club scene. While not as merged with the beach as Ku De Ta or as hyped as Potato Head, Tropicola may arguably have the more 1960s Riviera feel, with their interesting uniform, fonts and general aesthetic.
If you are after a day club with a comfortable plunge pool, loungers without a ridiculous minimum spend and appropriately priced drinks, Tropicola delivers. While still new (as of August 2018), there is no ridiculously long queue for day beds like in Potato Head, and the non-minimum spend day beds have very easy access to the pool.
Best approached from Batu Belig Beach (the northern spur of Seminyak beach, a good 10 minute walk on the sand from Potato Head), where this beach club lacks in direct, unobstructed beach views (thanks to the road that is in between the premises and beach), you get decent sunset views.
However, unlike Potato Head and Ku De Ta, this day club is more long than it is wide, so expect limited seating if you want to sit facing the sea, beach and sunset. Their cocktail selection is pretty decent, and if you order a beer, let them know you want to go in the pool: they will provide you with a plastic cup so that you can dip in and chill out, beer in hand.
Atmosphere: Open, with loungers on the left, restaurant on the right, with two adjoining pools. Think 1960s Mediterranean Lido.
Drinks: Decent experimental cocktail list, with the usual safe beer options
Price Point: Average for destination beach bars. Expect to pay USD 7 for a cocktail.
Feel: Compact, high youthful energy with a lot of stripes.
Address: Jalan Pantai Batu Belig No 5, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta Utara, Bali 80361 Indonesia
OMNIA Day Club, Uluwatu, Bali
I get mixed comments on OMNIA. Some people love it, some people not so much. Regardless of their feelings on the bar, they do agree that the architectural setting is something else.
Perched on the cliff edge, with stunning vistas left and right (with the exception of a hotel currently under construction to the left of the property), there is something about OMNIA that makes you want to go all ‘insta-famous.’
The area is divided between the two day-bed areas, where you get access to the swimming pool, day beds and resort amenities, and the ala carte areas, mostly concentrated in the ‘Cube,’ the iconic structure that abuts the cliff edge and seemingly floats above the sea. The ‘Cube’ is the main draw for this place, which gives it a distinct character from the other day clubs in Bali, and the corner glass balcony being one of the ‘must take a photo’ spots.
Drinks-wise, there is a wide selection of crafted signature cocktails to choose from, all having a local flavour within. Unlike other day clubs, most of the cocktails here are served in wooden cups, that are quite effective in maintaining a cool cocktail on a hot tropical day. There is a basic menu, and if you are peckish, the bar snacks are, interestingly enough, very filling.
Overall, OMNIA exudes the jet-set crowd feel, and this can be quite apparent with the clientele it attracts. There will be a lot of photo taking, selfie shots and the likes, and the atmosphere feels more clubby than chilled. If you want your day clubs as a see-and-be-seen destination, then OMNIA might be just the right fit.
P.s. Come early, preferably around 1pm, otherwise it will get full. If you do plan on coming on a weekend, or after 4pm, I suggest making reservations, and be aware there is a minimum spend and cover charge.
Atmosphere: Open, wide terrace, with two pools. The main building has a trendy Japanese restaurant upstairs, and the Cube houses the main cocktail bar. Avant garde architecture on display.
Drinks: signature cocktails a-plenty
Price Point: Average for destination beach bars. Expect to pay USD 8 for a cocktail.
Feel: Packed, bustling, trendy, see-and-be-seen. There is a reason why this spot is Insta-famous.
Address: Jalan Belimbing Sari, Pecatu, Kuta Selatan, Bali 80364 Indonesia
Smoke & Mirrors, Singapore
Singapore is one of those cities that just ooze urban vistas. This city state has a dense, unique skyline, and has an array of rooftop bars to cater to the discerning traveller in search of a watering hole. One of the more laid back places in the middle of all the fancy action, however, is located at the National Gallery Singapore’s terrace, and is, personally, home to one of the more stunning views of the city.
Located on the roof terrace of the ‘Court House’ wing of the National Gallery Singapore, this chic, understated and thankfully not overcrowded bar, has stunning vistas of Marina Bay, the Marina Bay Sands and Raffles Place CBD towers, all while you are surrounded by the tamed greenery Singapore of noted for.
Smoke & Mirrors brands and positions itself as a destination bar, and while every other rooftop bar in Singapore (and Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and Jakarta) likes to make that claim as well, this one deserves the moniker. The views are unparalleled and service adequate.
The feel of this bar is casual chic, with a very urban professional vibe. Not as many tourists as the other, more famous rooftop bars in Singapore, and the prices are reasonable (by Singapore standards). Try their mango beer: it comes from a micro-brewery in Jakarta and is perfect for those steamy, tropical evenings.
Atmosphere: Brushed stainless steel and marble panels, minimalist chic to not distract you from the view outside. Very upwardly mobile urban professional.
Drinks: Interesting cocktail and beer selection. I highly recommend the mango beer.
Price Point: Reasonable (and lower) than standard Singapore rooftop bar standards. SGD 15+/drink.
Feel: A rooftop ‘resort-style’ terrace. Just add swimming pool and you would think you were at a fancy urban resort.
Address: #06-01, National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 9234 8122
Nearest Station: City Hall MRT Station
Vertigo, Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur
Bangkok may have started the trend, Singapore may have made it iconic, but Kuala Lumpur sets it to multiple heights. Already home to the tallest twin towers in the world (and once upon a time the tallest buildings in the world), Kuala Lumpur is back in the superlative game with the arguably highest if not one of the highest bars in Southeast Asia (yes, I checked: Sirocco Bangkok may be the highest to architectural structure, but Vertigo Kuala Lumpur has a lower top floor-to-architectural summit height, and is just marginally shorter, by like 1 meter or so. The top floor-to-architectural summit is larger at Sirocco.)
Height argument aside, Vertigo Kuala Lumpur takes a page from the original Vertigo Bangkok and puts the rooftop terrace bar to a whole new setting. With unobstructed views of the Petronas Twin Towers, the Exchange 108 (the current tallest building in the city) and the site of PNB 118, Vertigo Kuala Lumpur is well positioned to have some of the best vistas of Kuala Lumpur’s ever evolving skyline over the next 5 years with the 270* wrap-around terrace.
The signature cocktail selection is limited, but resident mixologist Jonathan sets the tone with very good delivery. The seating is decent, with a lot of space for large or small groups in the left and right wings, and a nice casual standing/high table area which arguably has the best views on the terrace.
Entrance is via the 59th floor, and up again on the escalators on your left. There is a dresscode: smart casual, no shorts, no trainers, no slippers. If you just so happen to be in shorts, do not fret: they should have a pair of trousers to loan you as you head up to have a tipple or two.
Atmosphere: Posh but without being pretentious, relaxed but in a smart-casual setting
Drinks: Small but good cocktail selection, with basic cocktails available on request.
Price Point: Lower than similar rooftop bars, but still higher than average KL bars. Expect USD 9++ for cocktails.
Feel: Cosmopolitan rooftop bar, befitting a cosmopolitan city.
Address: Level 59, Banyan Tree Signature Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nearest Public Transportation: Raja Chulan Monorail Station/Bukit Bintang MRT Station
SOHY, Ho Chi Minh City
As befitting a rising Southeast Asian city, Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as I occasionally call her, now has a few rooftop perches of pretty good standing, like every other major Southeast Asian city.
However, unlike KL’s occasional live band Helipad, Jakarta’s musically pared down Cloud Lounge or Bangkok’s posh yet accessible CRU Champagne Bar, Saigon’s SOHY has found a way to combine fine dining with rave club, with a touch of beach bar. But for the stunning view of Saigon from the terraces, one would be forgiven if you thought you were at Potato Head in Bali.
With 3 floors to choose from, starting with an open terrace with hard house, to fine dining Italian on the second floor and a champagne bar on the top terrace, SOHY, with Shree just one terrace down, has made Saigon’s Centec Tower in to a Hanging Garden of Nightlife.
While the view is stunning, the music good, and the crowd young and upwardly mobile, the one drawback I found was that it opens pretty late: 6pm late, which barely gives you time to enjoy the sunset with a sundowner while watching the sun descend over the Mekong Delta, with the skyscrapers of Saigon a symbol of where this rising Asian power wants to be.
The beauty of this spot: it could easily be one of the destination bars of Southeast Asia, coming hot on the heels of the sky-high bars of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, with a skyline to boot.
Atmosphere: Beach bar meets cosmopolitan warm-up nightclub. A little posh, yet very accessible. I came up with shorts.
Drinks: Impressive cocktail selection, go for the espresso martini, not half bad.
Price Point: Average price compared to ‘grounded’ Southeast Asian bars at USD 6/+.
Feel: I want to say trust-fund babies. Mostly locals, not many tourists or expats, yet.
Address: Centec Tower Rooftop, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84-90 299 9888
What is my criteria?
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.