sojourneys


The Refreshed Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
February 11, 2014, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Bangkok, Erawan, hotels, Hyatt, reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok is my favorite hotel in Bangkok. The property boasts an excellent location in the heart of the Ratchaprasong shopping district, direct connection to the skywalk linking two BTS stations, and probably the best facilities among hotels in Bangkok including a Technogym-equipped fitness center on par or even better than high-end commercial gyms.

A stay at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok just became more compelling as the property emerges from a renovation of the guestrooms–which were looking rather dated–with New-York based designer Tony Chi helming the projects.

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The result is guestrooms that look fresh, contemporary, while retaining the comfort and ease of a residence.

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Coupled with a fine array of restaurants and the Erawan Bakery–where delectable creations go at half-price starting 6pm every evening–there is little reason not to make the Grand Hyatt Erawan a home away from home in the City of Angles.

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The Stones Hotel, Legian, Bali
January 19, 2014, 10:01 am
Filed under: Bali, Indonesia, Marriott | Tags: , , , ,

You know it’s going to be a mixed experience when a hotel’s strongest suit is it gym and it’s worst is it’s restaurants. But first, the rooms. Guestrooms at The Stones Hotel, Legian, Bali either face the pool (for an additional fee), a derelict building, or into another adjacent property. The rooms themselves are fine, with a comfortable bed (with less-than-comfortable pillows), adequate work space, shower and changing area partitioned by a thick curtain. During our stay in December, we had to get the room sprayed everyday because it was infested with mozzies. Imagine hearing the buzzing sound of commando mozzies darting around your face as you try to sleep.

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The hotel can be noisy and unconducive for relaxation. What would one expect when there is a convention onsite that aspires to host events for up to 2,000 at a go on a relatively small property (a feature overlooked during booking). The centerpiece of the hotel is a large pool, which is amply surrounded by deck chairs.

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Despite the claims that there are three restaurants, they are all in one dining space demarcated by sometimes nothing more than a sliding door.

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The best feature of the hotel, which we utilized everyday, was the gym. Generously spacious, it has a nice assortment of equipment and a supply of distilled water and fruits.

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Overall, I would say that despite its branding, The Stones Hotel, which is managed by Marriott emphasizes on the “mood” (and probably the “masses”) without considering the finer touches that make a hotel a great resort. The bathtubs on the upper floors located of all places the balcony with billowy white curtains for privacy is an indication of form above function

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The Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa
January 11, 2014, 2:58 pm
Filed under: hotels, Phuket, Renaissance, Thailand | Tags: , , ,

Located on the picturesque Mai Khao beach far from the maddening crowd yet mere minutes from the airport, the Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa is everything that its neighboring JW Marriott Phuket is not. The Renaissance Phuket is boutique with less than 200 rooms exuding tranquility and intimacy, while its sister property bearing the seemingly more glamorous JW Marriott badge is a sprawling complex replete with omnipresent sales staff selling timeshare units that screams mass.

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Guestrooms are spacious, and are decked in neutral palettes promoting relaxation. Its large, comfortable bed with pillow options and adjacent divan are perfect for that much needed postprandial siesta.

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But why spend too much time in the room when other stars of the property include two beautiful pools including one with direct access to the magnificent Mai Khao beach?

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Dining is great, and one of the more interesting options is Sand Box, which besides being literally next to the beach has soft white sand as its flooring. The Lounge, a pub adjacent to the lobby that also serves light fare during the day takes on a different vibe at night with the hanging seagulls creating surreal silhouettes against projected colored lights.

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For the health conscious, breakfast includes a juicing bar with a wide variety of local and imported fruits and vegetables, as well as a small fitness room with hot jacuzzi facilities in the shower room.

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All-in-all, the Renaissance Phuket with its warm and friendly service, boutique vibe, contemporary decor, and direct beach access, makes for a relaxing getaway.



The Newly Refurbished Traders Hotel Yangon, Myanmar
August 18, 2013, 4:14 pm
Filed under: hotels, reviews, vacation | Tags: , , ,

I have never begun a hotel review by talking about the breakfast spread, but the sumptuous morning fare makes for a fitting start in the case of the Traders Hotel Yangon, Myanmar, part of the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Group.

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Categorized according to countries and regions, the breakfast buffet boasts everything from porridge to prata and everything in between.  The juice bar even features a “juice of the week” mix that promises a detoxifying accompaniment even if one is chewing down the bacon.

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The other detoxifying star of the property is the fitness center, which is co-located with the spa.  Recently renovated and looking out to the pool, the gym features a comprehensive suite of treadmills, elliptical trainers, resistance machines, and free weights that will do a fine job of working the core.

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After an adrenaline rousing workout, one can decompress in the jacuzzi, steam room, and sauna.  A spa with a basic list of treatment options is also available.

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The guestroom is bright, with a vibrant painting of local stupas taking centerstage.  The decor may be somewhat prosaic, but it makes for a comfortable abode and a welcome respite from the bustling Yangon downtown.

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The Traders Hotel Yangon is a luxurious if pricey stay, but like many under-developed cities, there is a lack of mid-tier or business-class alternatives such as the Novotel, Pullman, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, or Hyatt Place.  But with Myanmar now open for business following sweeping political reforms introduced in 2011 and Yangon starting to boom, that is surely set to change.

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Rediscovering the Hyatt Regency Wichita
June 15, 2013, 9:07 pm
Filed under: hotels, Hyatt, resorts | Tags: , , ,

In June I had the opportunity to once again stay at the Hyatt Regency Wichita, which I had previously reviewed three times.  This most recent stay, with a complimentary upgrade to a corner room by a cheerful, prompt, and helpful front desk associate by the name of Beverley provided some new experiences.

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The lobby, designed to resemble an open, contemporary home, is welcoming and puts guests at ease.  Guests preferring more healthy, light fare or snacks can avail themselves of Perks Coffee and More, which in addition to salads, sandwiches, and pastry, also serves up a steaming cup of Starbucks Coffee.

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The corner guestroom with its muted, soft colors and lighting makes for a relaxing stay. The Hyatt bed, linens, and array of pillow options allow for a restful night–or a delightful siesta.  For bathroom amenities, Hyatt has switched from Portico Spa to KenetMD.  The shampoo and conditioner leave hair clean and supple, while the body lotion is easy to apply and absorbent.

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The best aspect of the corner room, with its abundant windows, however is the panoramic view of the Arkansas River, the Lawrence Dumont Stadium, the INTRUST Bank Arena, and surrounding attractions.



The Westin O’Hare Hotel
June 14, 2013, 11:10 pm
Filed under: airports, Chicago, hotels, reviews, Westin | Tags: , , ,

One flight delay leads to another and a 30-hour delay in Hong Kong led to missing a connection in Chicago O’Hare.  That however provided an opportunity to sample the Westin O’Hare Hotel, ten minutes away by shuttle from the second busiest airport in the world in terms of aircraft movements.

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While O’Hare has regularly won the crown of “Best Airport in America” as voted by readers of the U.S. edition of Business Traveler Magazine and Global Traveler Magazine, the Westin property that bears its namesake cannot be said to boast such accolades.  Don’t get me wrong, the Westin beds are comfortable, the rooms are spacious, and the Westin White Tea Aloe collection provides a soothing, harmonizing effect perfect for post-flight respite.  The decor of the hotel, from the lobby to the corridors to the guestrooms while contemporary, is soullessly undifferentiated and mass-produced, and is the reason why a growing group of travelers are turning away from large corporate hotels in favor of more intimate, bespoke boutique properties.

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The facilities from the lobby to the adequately equipped fitness room are laudably spacious for an airport hotel.  Guests would not feel claustrophobic despite the crowd, and a real strength of the hotel is the hassle-free access to O’Hare International Airport that is so vital for business travelers.



Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong

I am generally not one who likes to stay at an airport hotel, but a layover at the Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong recently–thanks to a 30-hour flight delay by United Airlines–proved surprising in some ways.

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The atrium lobby is expansive, offering guests a panoramic view of some of the property’s six restaurants and bars.

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For an airport hotel, the hotel offers a wide variety of recreational facilities.  There are two good sized pools–one indoor and the other outdoor.  The gym is also surprisingly spacious and well-appointed, with ample cardio machines, weight resistance equipment, and free weights.

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The guestroom, while functional, was small and bordering on spartan.  The wing I was assigned to was directly adjacent to the landing strip of the Hong Kong International Airport, but fortunately, the room was well insulated with no perceptible noise from planes making their landing at one of the world’s busiest hubs.

For layover passengers, the Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong, directly connected to the passenger terminal via an air-conditioned link bridge, offers a pleasant stay.  As a bonus, the property runs a regular shuttle to the Citygate outlet mall, which in addition to the bevvy of international brands at a discount, boasts a variety of restaurants and a grocery store.




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