Get those passports ready. Following the opening weekend box office success of Crazy Rich Asians, fans will likely be flocking to the dreamy destinations featured in the rom-com based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling book. The movie itself, largely set in Singapore and a private island for a bachelorette party (as one does when your family oversees a luxury hotel chain), was filmed across a series of breathtaking, soon-to-be trendy destinations that will likely emerge as honeymoon picks for couples traveling to Southeast Asia.
The Knot tapped author Kevin Kwan, director Jon M. Chu and Oscar-winning production designer Nelson Coates for full details about the honeymoon-friendly destinations featured in Crazy Rich Asians.
The setting for the majority of the film, Singapore was suddenly catapulted into the spotlight with the success of the film, displaying the region’s discreet-yet-obscene wealth. “The movie is a love letter to the food, culture and beauty of this area,” producer Brad Simpson said of the island country.
Such splendor is accompanied by rich culture and history, including the setting of the wedding itself, CHIJMES. “We wanted an iconic Singapore space, so that anyone who didn’t know Singapore would think it’s as beautiful,” Coates tells The Knot of CHIJMES. “And everyone who did know Singapore would have recognition that this family could afford this particular venue. We wanted it to feel exclusive in terms of size and scale.”
Other popular attractions featured in the flick include Gardens by the Bay, home to Araminta Lee and Colin Khoo’s wedding reception, and the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which has already established itself as a hot spot for the Instagram set with its iconic infinity pool.
“For the movie, it felt so perfect to do it for Gardens by the Bay,” Kwan tells The Knot of the wedding reception venue. “It was almost tailor-made to the description of what I wrote about. I was like, ‘This is ideal. It’s going to look amazing, and people who don’t know Gardens by the Bay, would think that these crazy multimillion dollar sets with those trees.’ The secret is that it exists already.”
Food, of course, played a large role in the film with Hawker Markets, the renowned open-air center with impressive, Michelin star-rated stands, enjoying a starring moment during Rachel Chu and Nick Young’s first outing within the country. “When you’re in Singapore with the tropical air, the smell of food in the Hawker centers and the brilliant colors of the flowers and plants… there’s nothing like being on a location like this,” said Michelle Yeoh, who plays Eleanor Young in the film.
Another honeymoon-worthy spot referenced in the film is the storied Raffles Hotel Singapore, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, and the spot where Nick and Rachel opt to stay as he defies his family’s wishes.The property boasts of restaurants by chefs like Alain Ducasse, Anne-Sophie Pic and Jereme Leung.There’s also a steakhouse, Butcher’s Block, right on site.
While fans will likely want to experience what the lovebirds had on the property, they will have to wait until early 2019, when the hotel reopens with promised new experiences. “One of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world, Raffles Singapore is brimming with rich history at every turn,” says General Manager Christian Westbeld. “From the world-famous Singapore Sling, created in the iconic Long Bar in 1915, to the historic Writers Bar, which entertained many famous writers of the past, and our ever-present Raffles Doormen, who are the most notable and most photographed colleagues of the hotel.”
It’s a destination so nice that the crew filmed two important events on the archipelago off the Malay coast. The first, Araminta Lee’s bachelorette party on the fictional “Samsara Island,” was shot at the Four Seasons Langkawi nestled alongside the breathtaking Andaman Sea. The resort itself is located within a UNESCO World Geopark, which provides for truly uninhibited views of natural splendor, especially catered to environmentally-conscious couples.
“We hunted like crazy to find a place that would not feel like it was commercial and as-if it was privately owned,” Coates tells us. “There’s an island in Northern Malaysia called Langkawi with several different resorts across the island, but the Four Seasons there took over a huge section… We worked with them very carefully, where we took over sections of the spa to the private rooms to the restaurant areas for the boutique.”
At night, the crew transformed one of the beaches into a raucous party during which Astrid and Rachel bond over a buried fish and their own secrets. “The thing that’s so beautiful about this resort is it feels like you’re nestled and hidden,” Coates says.
“Those islands around are gorgeous,” Chu says of the destination. “They have mangrove trees, and we took boats around. The sunsets are incredible… Shooting there, we were very spoiled.”
Langkawi was surprisingly also used to film Colin’s escape spot from his hedonistic bachelor party planned by Bernard Tai. “The other thing we did in Langkawi was with Colin and Nick when they got away from the Bachelor party. In the book, it was to another island,” Coates notes. “Sometimes, you have to make choices, so we created a private floating pontoon in a different part of the island. We were able to anchor that piece and shot that sequence there. It does feel like you’re someplace different.”
Other heavenly resorts in the area include the five-star, oceanfront Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa, as well as the Andaman, a Marriott property tucked away along the bay. The low-key luxury that’s come to define Langkawi is also seen at the St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton properties local to the area as well.
Kuala Lumpur was the setting for the majority of the film, and there’s much to do within the destination especially from a Crazy Rich perspective. Carcosa Seri Negara in the Perdana Botanical Gardens was the site of Tyersall Park, which Peik Lin (Awkwafina) describes quite eloquently in the estate’s introductory scene: “It’s $200 million worth of real estate… It’s spectacular.”
The inspiration for Tyersall Park, the Young family’s ancestral home, was a mix of influences, ranging from largely European touches combined with Peranakan design elements. The crew ended up using two 20th century, Tudor-style mansions originally built int he early 1900s for the British Governor of Singapore. Seri Negara was used for the exterior while the interior was optioned from Carcosa. The entire team had to entirely revamp the site to turn it into something worthy for the movie.
Another gorgeous look into the real estate options in Kuala Lumpur was the spot where Bible study was hosted for Eleanor Young and her friends. It’s also where she learns that Nick will be bringing a girl back to Singapore for Colin and Araminta’s wedding. In reality, the site is a real-life mansion nestled along lush green mountainside landscape.
Kuala Lumpur was also used as a makeshift New York City for the beginning scenes, like Nick and Rachel’s life in the West Village. The local airport was also transformed into “JFK Airport.”
One of the sites where the cast and crew filmed was Penang, a coastal state nestled along Northwest Malaysia. “Penang has amazing street art and tropical vibes—and it was beautiful,” Chu says. “It’s just stunning and it has 3D street art. You get the beauty of that town.”
Perhaps the most memorable scene captured in Penang was the famous mahjong showdown between Eleanor and Rachel, the real life site of that being the famed Blue Mansion or the Cheong Fatt Tze, which is a site of great heritage and splendor in the area. Newlyweds can stay in the 19th century property, which has won the rare UNESCO Conservation & Heritage award.
One way to travel through the area is via the Belmond’s luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express train, which makes stops at several of the splendid filming locations for an in-depth look at Southeast Asia. The four-night journey entitled the “Fables of the Peninsula,” starts with an overnight stay in Singapore, with subsequent stops by Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Penang, and Koh Chaan. The trip itself ends in Bangkok.
Those looking for a shorter trek on their honeymoons might find interest in the shorter journey which goes through Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In total, the trip starts at about $2,800 per passenger for a two-night, three-day excursion.
Palawan Islands, Philippines
From Kevin Kwan’s perspective, this is one destination that should remain under the radar. “I love Palawan where I set my third book,” the author says of the gorgeous archipelago that boasts of rich marine life, pristine beaches, and clear blue waters that comprise what is touted as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Of course, that’s ideal for a honeymoon destination.
“It’s the biggest secret, which I really shouldn’t be telling,” Kwan says. “It’s a complete ecological spot, but the quality of food and the hospitality [of the resorts] along with the things you get to see while you’re there, is amazing.”
Crazy Rich Asians is now out in theaters everywhere. Secure your ideal wedding vision by starting with The Knot’s Style Quiz, here.