Kingdom gets six of the best
Six hotels in Thailand were included in Conde' Nast Traveller magazine's Gold List for 2008, a directory of the world's best hotels rated under six categories: service; rooms; food; ambience and design; location; and facilities. Approximately 18 establishments got mentions in each section, making a grand total of 109.
The Oriental Bangkok scored the third-highest vote in the "Best for Service" category. Apart from its long-standing reputation for superlative service, the hotel particularly impressed judges because its poolside attendants proffer glasses of water, chilled, lemon-scented facecloths and complimentary bowls of refreshing sorbet to sweltering guests.
The Chedi Hotel on Surin Beach, Phuket came No. 6 in the "Best for Room" section. Its serene, "castaway-style" cottages are decorated in earthy tones with dark wooden floors, shuttered windows and views over Pansea Beach. Each of the 108 cottages in this 18-rai (2.88 hectares), thatched-roof resort has an outdoor terrace.
Under "Best for Ambience and Design", two local hotels got a mention: the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai and Amanpuri Resort in Phuket. They received the second- and third-highest votes in that category, respectively.
Of the former, Conde' Nast Traveller observed, "Set in 60 secluded acres [152 rai; 24.32 hectares) on the edge of Chiang Mai, this sprawling resort feels like a friendly village." There are 123 villas and suites, four restaurants, three bars, tennis and squash courts, a cookery school and a cultural centre.
Under "X Factor", the judges noted: "The design and scale of the resort is ambitious but stunning. Created by local architect Rachen Intawong, Dhara Dhevi is a mish-mash of architectural influences from Burma to Laos and mediaeval Chiang Mai. The Mandalay Palace-style spa is really quite beautiful." Made entirely of teak, with a striking, seven-tiered roof, it houses 18 treatment suites and an Ayurvedic centre.
Phuket's Amanpuri Resort, on the other hand, is hidden in a coconut plantation above the stunning, white-sand Surin Beach. A mixture of villas and pavilions are scattered around a grove that slopes down to a sheltered cove. The "Thai-chic interior design is timeless", the magazine noted; each villa having a separate dining sala, pool and private chef.
The "Best for Facilities" category also included two local establishments: the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai (fourth-highest score in the world) and Evason Hideaway/Six Senses Spa in Prachuap Khiri Khan (eighth-highest ranking).
The former is located in the picturesque Mae Rim Valley and has extensive facilities including a cookery school, spa, gym and tennis courts; guests can also play golf or go on elephant treks in the vicinity. Its 64 thatched pavilions are set in 50 rai (8 hectares) of landscaped grounds. There are 16 "residences" with one to three bedrooms each, polished teak floors, furniture covered in Thai textiles and its own designated housekeeper. Other facilities include two restaurants, two bars and a well-positioned, infinity-edged swimming pool.
Evason Hideaway and the Six Senses Spa in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Pran Buri district is an all-villa resort which combines luxurious facilities and attentive service with environmentally friendly, low-impact design.
All 55 villas have private, stone-walled gardens with swimming pools and dedicated butlers; most have in-room, spa-treatment areas. There's the Beach Restaurant for seafood and wood-fired pizzas, and the Living Room restaurant for informal Thai-fusion cuisine. The striking Earth Spa is housed in nine domed buildings built from mud mixed with rice husks and straw. There are four treatment rooms, two steam rooms and a meditation cave.
Sadly, the Gold List judges at Conde' Nast Traveller decided not to include any hotels in Thailand under the "Best for Food" and "Best for Location" categories. Better luck next year, people!
For the full text of the magazine's Gold List for 2008, visit http://www.cntraveller.com/GoldList/2008.
Top golfing spots pinpointed
The International Association of Golf Travel Operators (IAGTO) has named Vietnam its 2007 "Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year" and Malaysia as "Destination of the Year" in the Asia/Australasia region.
The IAGTO Awards, organised in association with Hertz, are the official annual awards for the golf-tourism industry; they were recently announced in Mexico.
Each year the IAGTO recognises the performance of three of the world's leading golf resorts, the flagships of the golf industry and one outstanding golf destination in each region.
The awards for golf resort of the year went to Carton House in Ireland, Ginn Reunion Resort in Florida and the ArabellaSheraton in South Africa.
Vietnam got its "undiscovered golf destination" award partly because the country currently boasts 15 golf courses and has more than 30 other projects at some stage of construction.
The leading golf destinations in other regions were: Africa and Gulf States - Mauritius; Europe - Turkey; Latin America and the Caribbean - Argentina; and North America - Arizona.
The IAGTO honorary award went to Annika Sorenstam, a professional golfer born in Sweden who has won 69 official LPGA tournaments.
Founded in 1997, the IAGTO is the global trade organisation for the golf-tourism industry, comprising more than 1,040 companies in 73 countries, including over 320 specialist golf-tour operators in 45 countries.
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