Filed under: hotels, reviews, vacation | Tags: Myanmar, Shangri-La, Traders, Yangon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filed under: hotels, Hyatt, resorts | Tags: Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Regency Wichita, Kansas, Wichita
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filed under: airports, Chicago, hotels, reviews, Westin | Tags: Chicago, O'Hare, Westin, Westin O'Hare Hotel
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.
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.
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.
Filed under: airports, Hong Kong, hotels, reviews | Tags: Hong Kong, Hong Kong International Airport, Regal Airport Hotel, 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.
The atrium lobby is expansive, offering guests a panoramic view of some of the property’s six restaurants and bars.
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.
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.
Filed under: Birmingham, holiday, Holiday Inn, hotels, reviews | Tags: Birmingham, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre
The Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre is strategically located within 10 minutes of brisk walking to the bustling Birmingham New Street station with regular services to and from London (1 hour 20 minutes away by Virgin Trains) and other parts of the UK, and also to the futuristic Bullring Shopping Mall anchored by Selfridges and Debenhams department stores.
The Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre reminds me of the Holiday Inn Los Angeles International Airport, which while totally serviceable, provides a quick and comfortable transit stop rather than a relaxing vacation residence, and lacks facilities such as a pool and a gym.
Staff are generally friendly, but service can be tardy, as perhaps can be expected of a busy hotel. A call for an ice bucket was not fulfilled despite a reminder after an hour’s wait, and we had to personally make a trip down to the lobby bar to bring up the ice.
Filed under: Bangkok, hotels, Marriott, reviews | Tags: Bangkok, Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, Marriott, Sukhumvit, Thailand
The Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is Marriott’s latest property in Bangkok, having been only officially opened sometime in the middle of March (just in time for the Songkran, or Thai New Year holidays in April).
Its best asset is its propinquity to the Bangkok sky train system (the Thonglor station on the Sukhumvit line). Check-in was smooth, and the hotel fuses contemporary decor with traditional Thai motifs. The elevators are a highlight, with touch-sensitive LCD screens that advertises various features of the hotels (including “Thailand’s color for the day” which varies with each day) where buttons are.
Guestrooms are comfortable with all the amenities one would expect of a five-star property, except for one important feature. There is no full-length mirror. Did the decorators forget this essential item? Whether as a business or tourist hotel, most guests would want to do quick check of their attire before going out to their appointments of the day. Yet, this feature was sorely missing. The bathroom was curiously capacious, taking up almost a third of the room.
Service wise, as perhaps can be expected with a new hotel, staff knowledge was inconsistent. During breakfast in the all-day dinning restaurant, the breakfast menu never materialized despite repeated requests. At the third request, a menu was delivered, but it was the lunch and dinner menu. It was only then that the wait staff said that they did not have a menu dedicated to breakfast fare. Again, strangely lacking in a deluxe property. And for the fitness enthusiast, the gym–which while serviceable, would benefit from more weight resistance equipment–is shut tight by 10pm despite it being advertised as a 24-hour facility. Guests have to go to the lobby on the ground floor (no phone was in sight to allow guests to call the front desk) to ask a staff to open the door to the gym. And when I did, one front desk staff exclaimed that I could have just used my key card to open the door, only to be corrected by her colleague that a key card reader has not been installed at the gym. Hopefully this was part of a teething process that will soon be sorted out.
Filed under: Andaz, hotels, Hyatt, London, reviews | Tags: Andaz, Andaz Liverpool Street, Andaz Lndon, Hyatt, London
The Andaz Liverpool Street London is an enigma. And its many hallways hide a secret. For the unveiling of the secret, you may scroll to the final paragraph now. But first about the enigma.
The Andaz is Hyatt’s collection of mod, boutique hotels where guests will find no stodgy check-in desks, where social spaces mesh seamlessly one into another, where hosts welcome guests on iPads, and where guests can help themselves without charge to an enticing spectrum of beverages and hors d’œuvre and wine to welcome the evening. For all its modernity and fresh, contemporary vibe, the Andaz Liverpool Street (Hyatt’s first Andaz) is housed in a magnificent redbrick Victorian building dating back to 1884. In fact, before Hyatt purchased the building in 2008, it once housed the Great Eastern Hotel, one of the original London railway hotels. The confluence of modernity and history, of mod lighting and chandeliers, and of technology and tradition, is part of what makes a stay at the Andaz Liverpool London so special.
The top-notch service is another reason. The draping of soft bath towels over heated towel bars in the bathroom is a perfect example of the hotel’s service level. The bewildering array of complimentary in-room beverages from carbonated and still Llanllyr water, Breckland Orchard fruit-flavored refreshments, Schweppes lemonades, Coke, Diet Coke,tea from The East India Company, and more, is another. Toiletries are from London’s Plantation. The guestroom has everything that even the most fussy guest would want, and more.
For all its impressive amenities, the gym was disappointing. While it is spacious, the variety of equipment is limited. Multi-function stations (and the gym has just one) simply do not provide the same precision and adequacy of training that purpose-built dedicated stations do. And for a property of such caliber, one would expect a more well-equipped gym. This is an area I hope the hotel management can improve on.
And now for the secret. During renovations of the Great Eastern Hotel in 1990, workers came across a false wall. When the false wall was demolished, a hidden Masonic Temple revealed itself–marble flooring, mahogany walls, leather thrones, and all. Urban legends surrounding this Masonic Temple abound. The most disturbing perhaps is that as the neighborhood was thought to be one of Jack the Ripper’s haunts, and as the notorious serial killer was thought to be a Mason, he may have socialized in the temple. Today, the Andaz Liverpool Street makes the room available for events rental. Ask an Andaz host, and if they are not too busy, you might just be given a private tour.