Readers’ Choice Awards 2012

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Which are your favorite hotels and resorts in the Asia-Pacific region? Where do you return  time and again for unmatched amenities, service, and location? And which are your top picks for airlines, airports, city destinations, spas, and island getaways? Last year, we asked you these questions in our seventh annual Readers’ Choice Awards poll, and your answers are compiled here in a list that defines the very best in regional travel.


For the seventh year running, DestinAsian readers have selected the Hyatt group as their favorite chain of business hotels in the Asia-Pacific region, citing “reliable, top-notch service,” and “convenient locations.” When it comes to leisure stays, however, you prefer Four Seasons hotels and resorts, which consistently deliver on the promise of “beautiful views” and “peaceful ambience.” From Sydney to Seoul, your favorite individual properties are listed below.

Ayana Resort and Spa

Sprawling cliffside property set amid 77 manicured hectares near Jimbaran Bay.
Stats: 290 rooms; 78 villas; 8 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Great facilities for all ages” and “very romantic sea views.”
Don’t Miss: Sundowners at the Rock Bar, perched above the crashing surf of the Indian Ocean. Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran; 62-361/702-222;
Runner-Up: Grand Hyatt Bali

Mandarin Oriental
Legendary riverside hotel on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River; Noël Coward, Somerset Maugham, and James Michener all stayed here in their day.
Stats: 393 rooms; 8 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Sheer opulence.”
Don’t Miss: Thai cooking classes, conducted in an annex across the river, next to the hotel’s acclaimed Oriental Spa. 48 Oriental Ave.; 66-2/659-9000;
Runner-Up: Grand Hyatt Erawan

Grand Hyatt
Curving glass high-rise on Beijing’s main avenue, just down the road from the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square and adjacent to the silk shops and teahouses of Wangfujing.
Stats: 825 rooms; 5 restaurants; 1 bar.
Readers say: “Incredible location, great staff, and well-put-togther facilities.”
Don’t Miss: Club Oasis, an underground (and over-the-top) spa and pool complex with waterfalls and a star-studded ceiling.
1 Dong Chang’an Dajie; 86-10/8518-1234;
Runner-Up: Opposite House

Burj Al Arab
Iconic, sail-shaped landmark on a private island in the Arabian Gulf, linked by causeway to Jumeirah Beach.
Stats: 202 suites; 8 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Nothing else like it.”
Don’t Miss: Wild Wadi Dubai, a nearby water park to which guests have unlimited access. Jumeirah Beach Rd.; 971-4/301-7777;
Runner-Up: Park Hyatt








Above from left: Attractions abound at readers’ favorite Balinese resort, the Ayana, including the property’s saltwater infinity pool, set at the base of a limestone cliff within meters of the Indian Ocean; the Grand Hyatt Shanghai’s soaring central atrium; Jamavar, the Indian dining room at the Leela Palace New Delhi; the Burj Al Arab.

Sofitel Legend Metropole
1901 grand dame with a new wing in the heart of the city’s old French quarter.
Stats: 364 rooms; 3 restaurants; 3 bars.
Readers say: “Unmatched character and style, not to mention location.”
Don’t Miss: Chauffeur-driven city tours in the Sofitel’s 1953 Citroën. 15 Ngo Quyen St.;  84-4/3826-6919;
Runner-Up: InterContinental Hanoi Westlake

Park Hyatt Saigon
Modern addition to the city’s hotel scene with colonial-inspired decor and views over the opera house.
Stats: 244 rooms; 2 restaurants; 2 bars. Readers say “Best service in town.”
Don’t Miss: Dinner at Square One, a stylish dining room serving Vietnamese and Western cuisine. 2 Lam Son Square, District 1; 84-8/3824-1234;
Runner-Up: Sofitel Saigon Plaza

The Peninsula
Classic1920s property that consistently ranks among the best hotels in the world, with a modern 30-story tower facing Victoria Harbour.
Stats: 300 rooms; 7 restaurants; 1 bar.
Readers say: “The grand dame of all Hong Kong hotels.”
Don’t Miss: Afternoon tea in the Peninsula’s Neoclassical lobby, a destination in its own right. Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2920-2888;
Runner-Up: Four Seasons

Grand Hyatt
City-center stalwart overlooking the Indonesian capital’s main traffic circle.
Stats: 450 rooms; 5 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Has all the makings for a memorable sojourn.”
Don’t Miss: Watching the spectacle of Jakarta’s notorious rush-hour traffic from the serenity of the Fountain Lounge. 28–30 Jl. M. H. Thamrin; 62-21/2992-1234;
Runner-Up: Shangri-La

Mandarin Oriental
Luxurious high-rise across from the Petronas Twin Towers, with a swimming pool overlooking the greenery of KLCC Park.
Stats: 643 rooms; 5 restaurants; 4 bars.
Readers say: “Very exclusive with an unbeatable location in the center of town.”
Don’t Miss: Cocktails and meze at Casbah, the hotel’s Arabian-style lounge. Jl. Ampang, Kuala Lumpur City Centre; 60-3/2380-8888;
Runner-Up: Hilton

Makati Shangri-La
Mammoth five-star address with facilities to match in Metro Manila’s financial center.
Stats: 699 rooms; 4 restaurants; 4 bars.
Readers say: “Surprisingly peaceful and classic locale in the heart of Manila’s CBD.”
Don’t Miss: Getting the lowdown on the city’s best shops, restaurants, and clubs from iPad-toting concierges. Ayala and Makati Aves.; 63-2/813-8888;
Runner-Up: The Peninsula

Taj Mahal Palace
Domed and turreted 1903 confection on the Colaba waterfront; the heritage wing, which has hosted everyone from maharajas to movie stars, has been completely renovated since the terrorist attack of November 2008.
Stats: 560 rooms; 7 restaurants; 3 bars.
Readers say: “Always a grand experience” and “an amazingly beautiful building that looks better than ever.”
Don’t Miss: A harbor cruise or Elephant Island excursion aboard the hotel’s private yacht. Apollo Bunder, Colaba; 91-22/6665-3366;
Runner-Up: JW Marriott

Leela Palace
The Indian capital’s newest five-star property, blending old-world opulence and contemporary sophistication amid the embassies and mansions of the tony Chanakyapuri area.
Stats: 260 rooms; 4 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Exceptional service standards, particulaly for such a new hotel.”
Don’t Miss: The Kiziswedana Ritual, a synchronized massage on offer at the hotel’s ESPA spa. Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave; 91-11/3933-1234;
Runner-Up: The Oberoi

Banyan Tree
Private villa compounds laid out village-style between Bang Tao Beach and a golf course; shares the 445-hectare Laguna Phuket resort enclave with half a dozen other properties.
Stats: 150 villas; 5 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “A long-standing favorite with exceptional levels of service and pampering that make you want to keep coming back.”
Don’t Miss: A romantic sunset dinner cruise through the lagoons aboard the Sanya Rak, Banyan Tree’s tricked-out longtail boat. 33 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Rd., Cherngtalay; 66-76/324-374;
Runner-Up: JW Marriott

Grand Hyatt
Set atop leafy Mount Namasan, commanding panoramic views across the sprawling capital of South Korea.
Stats: 601 rooms; 7 restaurants; 4 bars.
Readers say: “A striking, quiet location.”
Don’t Miss: Champagne brunch at the hotel’s French dining room, the Paris Grill. 322 Sowol-ro, Yongsan-gu; 82-2/797-1234;
Runner-Up: Park Hyatt








Above from left: In the old wing of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok; lobby art at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia; poolside at the Banyan Tree Phuket; the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s 52nd-floor New York Bar.

Grand Hyatt
Undeniably grand aerie at the top of the 88-story Jin Mao Tower, with one of the tallest atriums (and the longest laundry chute) in the world.
Stats: 555 rooms; 6 restaurants; 3 bars.
Readers say: “Awe-inspiring location” and “superbly managed hotel.”
Don’t Miss: Dizzying views of the Huangpu River and the Bund from a window-side table at Cloud 9, the 87th-floor cocktail lounge. 88 Century Ave., Pudong; 86-21/ 5049-1234;
Runner-Up: The Puli

Ritz-Carlton, Millenia
Spacious Marina Bay tower with a light-filled lobby and trademark octagonal bathroom windows.
Stats: 608 rooms; 3 restaurants; 1 bar.
Readers say: “Great architecture, great food.”
Don’t Miss: Touring the property’s 4,200-piece contemporary art collection, including avant-garde works by Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and Dale Chihuly. 7 Raffles Ave.; 65/6337-8888;
Runner-Up: Fullerton Hotel

Park Hyatt
Waterfront low-rise situated on a harbor jetty, closed for renovations for most of 2011 and now sporting a sleek new look.
Stats: 158 rooms; 2 restaurants; 1 bar.
Readers say: “There’s much to commend here, but it’s really about the view, and a great location with so much that is quintessential Sydney at its doorstep.”
Don’t Miss: Biodynamic cuisine and stunning Opera House views from the revamped Dining Room restaurant. 7 Hickson Rd., the Rocks; 61-2/9256-1234;
Runner-Up: The Westin

Grand Hyatt
Full-service business hotel in the Xinyi district, next to Taipei 101 and the World Trade Center complex.
Stats: 856 rooms; 8 restaurants; 5 bars.
Readers say: “Views from the rooms are lovely” and “fabulous staff.”
Don’t Miss: A visit to the 382-meter-high observation deck at the adjacent Taipei 101 for a bird’s-eye view of the city. 2 Song Shou Rd.; 886-2/2720-1234;
Runner-Up: W Taipei

Park Hyatt
Celebrity magnet perched high in a Shinjuku tower designed by Kenzo Tange, with smart, spacious rooms, buzzing restaurants, and a glass-roofed pool. Scenes from Lost in Translation were shot here.
Stats: 177 rooms; 4 restaurants; 2 bars.
Readers say: “Great rooms, a vibrant milieu, and unrivaled facilities.”
Don’t Miss: Dinner at the 52nd-floor New York Grill; on a clear day, the views stretch all the way to Mount Fuji. 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku; 81-3/5322-1234;
Runner-Up: The Peninsula


Ascott continues to deliver the comforts of home

In the increasingly competitive serviced-residence industry, one particular brand remains a solid favorite among readers. For the fifth year running, Ascott properties in the Asia-Pacific region got top marks for their “great environment, comfortable rooms, and excellent service.” Your second-favorite chain, Somerset Serviced Residence, likewise delivers a solid mix of “affordability and comfort.”

The places you prefer for premium pampering

With its expansive thalasso-therapy complex (home to the world’s largest aquatonic pool) and seaside Spa on the Rocks pavilions, Bali’s Ayana Resort and Spa has once again earned distinction as the best resort spa in the region, winning you over with a “simply breathtaking environment” and “lavish treatments.” When it comes to city spas, your favorite sanctuary is the 21st-floor Banyan Tree Spa in Bangkok, where highlights include “amazing views” and “friendly service.”

Singapore’s ever-efficient flag carrier and airport fly high

Once again, Singapore Airlines soared in all categories of our airline poll, including Best Premium Class and Economy Class service, Frequent-Flier Program, and In-Flight Entertainment. With its “excellent food and entertainment system” and “high level of attentiveness of the cabin crews,” it’s no surprise that you also voted Singapore’s flag carrier Best Airline overall,  with  Cathay Pacific coming in second for its “excellent service and seats.”  Another long-standing favorite from Singapore is Changi Airport, which led the  Best Airport category because, as one reader enthuses, “it has everything: movie theater, butterfly garden, sunflower garden, game zone, kid’s playground, and free massage chairs.”

Whether for business or leisure, Southeast Asia remains at the top of your  agenda

Bali still beguiles as your favorite island destination,  offering an unbeatable combination of “distinctive culture” and “laid-back tropical beauty.” On the urban front, Singapore ranks as the best city for doing business thanks to its “great infrastructure” and “multiple airline connections.” Come leisure time, however, there’s no city quite like Bangkok, where readers love everything from “modern and traditional” dining to shopping, sightseeing, and nightlife.

Photo at top: the lobby of the Burj Al Arab (Getty Images)

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