Asian Resort Vacation Ideas

Old Jun 17th, 2004, 08:40 AM
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Asian Resort Vacation Ideas

Looking for advice for our next vacation:

1) Would like an asian beach resort
2) Must have 5 star quality, view of the beach, short walk to the beach.
Rooms large, modern bathroom.
3) Should be close to town activities such as shopping, restaurants, nightlife.(without paying a fortune for a hotel transport to town)
4) Willing to pay $200+ but nothing over $250
5) Would like to have other attractions such as temples, parks, scenic areas etc.
6) Would like to swim in the ocean but we are not beach nuts.
7) Not interested in golf,tennis, etc.
8) Spa options that are reasonably priced.

Is this enough of a challange for you experienced Fodorites? We would be traveling from Houston Texas.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:00 AM
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What time of year are you going. Are you willing to do a bit of planes, trains and automobiles, or do you want to land and the airport and get to your hotel in an hour or less?
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:01 AM
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Oh, I also have to add that in my experience it is hard in Asia to find 5 star quality for less than $250. Would 4 star work for you.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:13 AM
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Time of year would be anytime between late March and early October. You can get 5 star quality- we just returned from BKK at the Penn and paid $180 for room and breakfast plus transport to and from the airport. Don't go by rack rates- everyone runs a sale at one time or another. We don't mind a bit of travel from the airport.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:14 AM
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Also - automobiles are out - I don't drive on vacation. private drivers are great- if they are reasonable. Trains ok, buses are probably out.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:16 AM
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I agree with Cicerone....although I was surprised to find it, the extremely luxurious resorts throughout Asia still have high prices. For example, the Amans in Bali, for the most inexpensive room, are still $625/night (including continental breakfast only). Whereas just a step down, for instance one of the luxurious boutique hotels that are more like a 4 star are around $250.
The 3 stars and downward are the prices that seem to really drop.
I have only been to Thailand once, but I think it may be what you are looking for.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:33 AM
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4 Stars are ok- it will depend on everything else. $650 is in my opinion way way overspending (ok for the silver spoon crowd)- I personally think the law of deminishing returns kicks in at about $300 per night.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 03:17 PM
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I, too am looking for a similar beach resort in Thailand for our family of 5. (3 grown kids, guys,ages 25, 23, and a girl,19. We will be arriving from a 12 day business/pleasure trip to Hong Kong, Beijiing and Shanghai. Our dates are August 3-20. (Do I have to worry about really bad weather?)
I figure after 3 busy city visits, we will be ready for a beautiful beach resort. The kids are very active; scuba, golf, etc. and they need night life, so the restful, romantic trip my husband and I might like would be boring for them. I have been looking at Phuket and find only two 5 star hotels, the Banyan and the Anapurna. Both seem very expensive, especially the latter. Am I missing something? This is a once in a lifetime trip for me, so I want to do this right. We are from NY and our American Express travel agent seems clueless about the Far East.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 09:13 PM
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There are many, many 5 star resorts in Asia that don't cost $650 a night. The Amans may be in a class by themselves, but it's not worth $650 to me either. There are also many wonderful 4 star resorts that are well under $200 a night.

The question you've asked is so general, I find myself at a loss to give you specific recommendation. Maybe you could begin to narrow it down - Thailand? Mayalsia? Indonesia?

I know I have my biases, I've been to Phuket but don't especially want to return. I loved the properties I stayed at in Hua Hin (Anantara and the Hyatt) and I think that area is unbeatable for spas. But the town of Hua Hin isn't much. It's a good place to go if you want to stay at the resort. I've also been to Kuantan in Malaysia. I loved staying in a suite in the Regency Club at the Hyatt. You are right on the beach there. But again, it's a great place to just stay at the resort. The ride into Kuantan is short and pretty cheap though. I love Bali, but it's not primarily a beach place. That is, the beaches are ok, but not fabulous - you go for the culture.

Give us some more hints...
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 02:10 AM
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Kathie, What didn't you like about Phuket? I understand Patong is a little sleazy, but what about the other areas of the island?
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 04:13 AM
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Bearing in mind your criteria and your dates, my recommendations would be below. I have not included websites for most hotels as you should be able to locate websites easily. These are in my personal descending order of what places I think would best fit your criteria. Please see my comment on hotel prices at the end. I have only listed hotels I have stayed at or seen more than once for a meal, etc. A good source for non-chain luxury hotels (and some chain ones too) are slh.com and lhw.com, both collections of great high-end hotels.

1. Bali, Indonesia, best in October and March, I would avoid December-February. Has all the culture and shopping you would want. Nice but not spectacular beaches.

Amankila (may be a bit isolated for town access)
Four Season Sayan
Ritz-Carlton Bali
Tandjung Sari, intimate and romantic not a 5 star (tandjungsari.com)
Bulgari Pecatu (opening sometime in 2005, smallest villas are over 3,000 square feet)
Poppies Cottages (3 star, but unusual bathrooms and lovely gardens and pool)

Other than Poppies, none of these are in towns, but you can get to a town are like Kuta quickly and relatively cheaply from every hotel but the Amankila. I am not a particular fan of the strip of hotels in the Nusa Dua/Sanur areas other than the few mentioned above, but people seem to like the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt in that area. Bali has beautiful inland areas but your criteria does not include them as you want beach view or walk to beach. Run a search here for other areas of Bali.

2. Goa and Kerala India; best from March to May, avoid June to September due to rains, October is OK. Really best weather is December - February, that is also high season. Has the culture, food, shopping and beaches. Not a whole lot of nightlife.

Goa Marriott (not on a beach but a fine hotel)

Park Hyatt Goa (have not seen it, it gets some uneven reviews)

Kumarakom Lake Resort , Kerala (not on a beach, on a lake and boat access to rivers) (http://www.slh.com/india/kerala/hotel_kerkum) (Have not stayed here or seen it, has been recommended by friends)

Backwater cruise on the M.V. Vrinda operated by Oberoi (Oberoihotels.com) (Haven not seen this, but have confidence in Oberoi)

3. East coast of Malaysia. Best in spring and summer months, avoid September and October when rains are heavy. Spectacular beaches and coastline, deserted islands for day trips, interesting culture and food, shopping.

Tanjong Jara Resort (www.tanjongjararesort.com)

Kuantan mentioned above is not on as good a beach as other parts of Malaysia further north, although the town has some interesting bits. The Hyatt would not qualify as a 5 star, IMO, but is perfectly fine.

4. Koh Samui/Redang Island/Other island areas in the north Gulf of Thailand. Best March through August, avoid October. This would probably tie with Phuket, but weather is better in the Gulf of Thailand in your months than on the Phuket side. Not a lot of shopping, not a lot of culture. Great beaches and deserted islands for day trips.

Le Meridien Baan Taling Ngam

5. Phuket/Krabi Thailand, best in March, OK in April, your other months are quite rainy. Shopping is good (not as good as Bangkok). There is not a lot of culture. Great beaches and small islands for day trips.

Amandari
Banyan Tree
Sheraton (4 star)
JW Marriott Phuket (4 star)
Le Meridien Phuket Yacht Club (4 star)

6. Vietnam, best March to August, avoid September and October due to heavy rain. I don't know the beach areas at all, but it would have everything you are looking for, and the weather is great for most of your months. I am sure others can give hotel suggestions for beach areas. Easy to combine with a trip to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi or inland hill areas as well.

7. Sri Lanka; best January and February, December and March would be OK. Avoid October and November. Has all the culture and food, some shopping. If you are interested in wildlife, a trip to the interior mountain areas would be a good addition.

Lighthouse Hotel & Spa, Galle (www.slh.com/lighthouse) (Have not stayed here or seen it, has been recommended by friends)

8. Singapore, best March to August, September and October have a bit more rain. Surprise! There are beaches. While I am not a fan of Bintan Island, there is an excellent hotel on Sentosa Island. The beaches are not anywhere near what you would get in Thailand, Malaysia or Bali, but you can get into town easily and cheaply and Singapore has everything else you are looking for. Sentosa Island is Singapore's poor imitation Disneyland, so I would avoid other parts of the island, but the aquarium is very good.

Sentosa Resort and Spa (http://www.slh.com/singapore/singapore/hotel_sinbea)

There are lots of city hotels to consider that would have a water view but no beach access. There are nice beaches along the East Coast which you can go to for a day.

9. Maldives, generally best in April of your months, although some of it depends where you go.. Just beaches, but what beaches! Very little shopping or cultural activities. A long flight from the US with several changes.

Soneva Fushi
Soneva Gili
Four Seasons Maldives


Per your request, I have listed 5 star hotels, but have also included others that might fit better into your price range. Your experience at the Penn in Bangkok notwithstanding, in general it will be hard to find a true 5 star beach or other resort hotel in Asia for less than $300-400 a night and those would be great deals if you can get them. . The Penn in Bangkok is an aberration that has a lot to do with their opening in a very down market and their stiff competition across the river. It would seem to be illogical when you consider how cheap labor is in many countries, but that is the general rule. Even in India prices are high and even in the low season. Even a place like Amanjiwo in Java or the Amanpuolo in the Philippines where tourism is way down are going to charge $400 a night at least The other thing is that you can't really be guided by a 5 star rating, as that does not have a lot of meaning in Asia, and in some places (like China) it means nothing at all. You have to look at the operators. In Asia, the 5 star operators are (IMHO) and in no particular order: Aman, Four Seasons, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Ritz-Carlton, Banyan Tree, Mandarin Oriental, Oberoi, Raffles and Regent. None of these come cheap, and none of them discount much from rack rates. Even within those groups, they have lower tier brands that are not five star, like the Excelsior in Hong Kong which is operated by Mandarin Oriental and the Merchant Court hotels in Singapore which are operated by Raffles. I don't consider Sheratons, Marriotts, Hyatts/Grand Hyatts to be 5 star, nice as they are (but would consider Park Hyatt, some Westins and some Sheraton Luxury Collection hotels to be 5 star).

That being said, you will find some very good hotels in 4 star and lower categories at very good prices. The JW Marriott Phuket is a great example of a wonderful 4 star hotel with great rates at between $150 - 180. One of my favourite hotels in the world is Poppies Cottages in Bali, a basic 3 star but with lovely gardens and pool for under $85.

Places not high on my list are Hua Hin Thailand (other than the Chiva Som Resort), Langkawi and most beach areas on the west coast of Malaysia, including Borneo. I would avoid the Philippines due to security issues, although you might consider the Amanpuolo.

Don't rule out Australia which would fit most of your criteria (not a lot of temples though).
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 04:21 AM
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Cicerone:

WOW- talk about feedback! If you are not an Asian travel expert by trade maybe you should be! Thanks for the great advice- you have really helped me look at all my options.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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For MaryHJohn, my advice is as follows:

1. August will be quite hot and humid in the places you are going esp in Hong Kong. Rain is very likely in Hong Kong, but one doesn't go there for the weather. Smog is quite a problem in Shanghai. In Hong Kong, get a hotel with a pool, your children with thank you. The same with Beijing and Shanghai (although they are a bit harder to find). If you can give you price range, I can suggest some in each city.

2. August is NOT a good month for Phuket as it is the rainy season on that side of Thailand. I would stay either in the Gulf of Thailand in the Hua Hin area, or go to island of Koh Samui or down the east coast of Malaysia. The weather is much better, and the water clearer for diving. If your kids really want to dive, then I would say Koh Samui or islands in that area would be a better choice than Hua Hin. If they want golf, you are going to be a bit limited and will probably have to stay on Samui, not a bad thing but you probably wont' find golf on the smaller islands. I love the Tanjong Jara hotel in Malaysia and think it would have all you want, take a look at tangjongjara.com. The hotel may be a bit hard for you to get to, as opposed to Samui where you can fly via Bangkok.

3. August is a great month for Bali, and I think it would be a good choice as it has beaches, diving, golf, shopping and some nightlife (see below). Take a look at my suggested hotels above. You might also want to split the time between beach and the areas in and around Ubud in the interior.

4. There is not a lot of night life in the resort areas in Asia (except for kind of crappy areas in Phuket, Hua Hin and Kuta on Bali), so you kind of have to give up one for the other. There is however, a ton of nightlife in Hong Kong, so they should take advantage of that when they are there. I have to say I don't know much about the nightlife in Beijing or Shanghai beyond some good restaurants, Chinese opera and acrobatic performances.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 04:52 AM
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Well.... you can indeed find true 5 Star properties in Asia- based on Cicerone's advice I checked out the Ritz Carlton in Bali- you csan get Ocen View delux rooms for $210/night!!! See you don't have to mortage the house to get 5 Star quality at a reasonable price.
Cicerone- how close is this property to Udud. We usually have breakfast at the hotel but prefer our other meals in town, or atleast away from the hotel as the hotel food prices are usually very high.
Looks like this property is not on the beach- but it seems to have great views of the ocean- is that correct?
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 04:52 AM
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MarH August you need to stick to the Gulf of Thailand side, from your criteria Koh Samui seems to fit the requirements as you will aslo find plenty of nightlife and fairly decent weather. August Phuket has heavy rains.
For those looking for queiter places that time of year Koh Tao is good if you are into diving, Koh Chang which is south east from Bangkok is also a good choice.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Followup regarding Ritz carlton Bali- it is on the beach after all. Would like to know how expensive the spa treatments are such as body massage, facial, etc. Also what is the travel time to Kuta and Ubud from the hotel?
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 05:37 AM
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Funny, I was just on the Ritz website because I recalled that they have some rooms which are not villas but are in a regular 2-story block. I saw some prices at about $180 for non-sea view, but did not see the $210, are you sure it is a sea view room? Note that these rooms do not have a large bathroom, and the room size is fine but not really large. They have a small balcony that can fit two chairs. Rooms are nice, but I would not put them in the same class as the villas. They have a spa, not sure how reasonably priced you would consider it. It is on a cliff with great views, esp at sunset. They have a beach about half mile down the road and have a shuttle bus.

The hotel is about 20 minutes from Kuta. It is about 10-15 minutes from Sanur and Nusa Dua where you may find restaurants for breakfast, can't say for sure.


This area is not really close to Ubud, it is about 40 minuts to an hour. I owuld NOT make a day trip to Ubud or you will be mystified as to what everyone is talking about. You need to spend time in this inland area to appreciate its beauty and tranqulity, and a day trip will not do it.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 06:02 AM
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Cicerone- thanks- I appreciate the little details as these are very important to us. Beach being that far away is not really mentioned on the web site- that's why I value personal feedback. Room size is also important and I can't tell you how important the bathroom is for the wife so this option is out unless we spring for the villas!
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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Having stayed at the Penn, I know what your wife may be thinking. The bathroom in the non-villas at the Ritz do not have a separate tub and shower (and least the rooms I have seen or stayed in did not,) and are really of the size and slightly better fittings of a standard motel room; perfectly fine but not the huge marble things with TVs, etc that you get at the Penn.

This is why I keep saying its hard to get luxury 5 star for less in Asia, it sometimes looks (and is) too good to be true. That being said, the Ritz is a lovely property. None of the other hotels which I have listed will be any closer to towns, alhtough the Nusa Dua/Sanur areas have a bit of their own little village areas that have some restaurants and shopping. They want you at the resort so you keep spending your money there. . .ever been to the El Conquistidor in Puerto Rico? Like 12 restaurants and its so isolated you really can't leave (still I love the hotel and it has a great spa.)
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 08:29 AM
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Cicerone has the best, most complete info on the very high end properties. Is that what you want? As I mentioned before, there are lots of lovely 4 star places that might fit your criteria, and you could opt for a suite rather than a regular room.

For instance, I mentioned the Hyatt at Kuantan. It's been a few years since I was last there, but I had a suite in the Regency club (big, marble bathroom with a big oval tub, bedroom with king bed and living room and half bath, two big balconies). The service was good, attentive, but not the level of the places Cicerone is talking about. I paid US$124 a night for the suite. (It's listed for much more on the web, but I booked a regular Regency Club room and talked the manager into upgrading me for not much money as I'd stayed in the suite before.) I really liked the beach, and there were few people on it. However, there was a new Sheraton being built next door. I don't know if it has ever opened - if it has it would change the feel of the place a lot.

On Bali, I enjoy the Bali Hyatt, another 4 star property. I always stay in the Regency Club, and have had wonderful, attentive, personal service. They have lovely pool areas - my favorite is the pool with a cave. It's in Sanur, which is a small town. Personally, I find Nusa Dua horribly sterile and wouldn't stay there if you paid me. The bathrooms are merely ok, not fabulous. It's an old property, so you get the beautifully established gardens but not the modern lavish baths. I haven't stayed in a suite there, but it might be worth looking into.

My experience with places like the Ritz are that the basic rooms are, well, basic. So you can stay at the property for not all that much money. But if you want a really lovely room (a suite or a villa) you pay a lot. Also, things like spa treatments are usually very pricey.

If your wife really loves spas... Well the place voted best destination spa in the world several years in a row is the Chiva Som at Hua Hin. I didn't stay there, but my last trip to Hua Hin, I stayed in a Regency Club room at the Hyatt (I'm obviously a very frequent stay guest with Hyatt and get lots of extras as a result) and went to the Chiva Som for a full day and a half day spa expereince. The spa is absolutley unbelievable! We had a wonderful time there and were totally pampered. I looked at the rooms there and was disappointed. The little villas are, well, little and claustrophobic. The regular rooms are boring, but the suites are lovely. So I would opt to stay at the Hyatt and walk five minutes on the beach to go between the Hyatt and the Chiva Som for spa treatments.

I've also stayed at the Anantara at Hua Hin in a Deluxe Lagoon room. Now they have bathrooms! You have a huge Japanese soaking tub (in which they place flower petals each night) and a separate shower. The rooms are good sized, with a balcony with padded seats where we spent much time lounging and reading. You are overlooking ponds, not the beach, however. You have to walk across the resort to the beach. The lagoon rooms have their own swimming pool. They are also close to the spa. The spa is lovely. There are great spa suites where you and your wife can get massages together.

As I mentioned before, I'm not impressed with Hua Hin (although I never saw any sleazy areas). There are some things to do in the area, though I was content to stay at the resorts.
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