Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hotel Review: JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong Stop 5

The JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong is a remarkable hotel.  Everything is top notch from the location, lobby, rooms, staff, restaurants, etc.

The hotel is in a great location.  The hotel sits atop the Pacific Place shopping area, a major underground shopping center full of great shops, a movie theater and awesome restaurants.  It also happens to be one of the most major hubs for the MTR (subway system) in Hong Kong.  Many of the transfers for different lines take place at this station.  The train that goes to/from the Hong Kong Airport goes through this station.  It also happens to be one of the stops you can hop aboard the Disney Train that takes you to the Disney Park.  All of Hong Kong is convenient from this station just below the JW Marriott.

The lobby is gorgeous.  It is all marble and from the balcony, there is a view to the floor below where many of the hotel’s restaurants are.  The lobby is floor to ceiling glass and provides some great views of the famous Victoria Harbor.  The check-in was very smooth and the concierge desk right next to the front doors was very well staffed.  We never had to wait for a concierge to help us and they were very insightful.

The rooms were very spacious, by Hong Kong standards.  Our room had amazing views of the harbor.  They had wonderful turn down service leaving the customary mint on our pillows.  The bathrooms were clean and spacious and had great oversized towels.

There is a great outdoor pool on the 7th floor.  I was surprised to find it was heated, but understand it can come in handy approximately 4 days a year.

The restaurants were first rate.  Looking around during breakfast, there is the sense that many important business deals are going down.  Be sure to dress up a little.  The people on the island in Hong Kong tend to dress well. 

Hong Kong is an exciting city.  There is a ton to do and see.  We took the Star Ferry over to the Kowloon side to visit the Ladies Market.  We also went over to see the LDS Temple.  Of course with kids, we had to go the Disneyland Hong Kong.  We visited The Peak and took in the view as well as enjoying a delicious dinner overlooking the city.  But overall, our favorite experience was just taking the moving sidewalks as far up the hill as they would take us and then wandering back down on foot to see what we could discover.  We found a small zoo and ducked into some neat little shops.  I feel like there is so much more to see and do and I think a lot of that is offered at night.  Unfortunately our kids needed to get down early so we missed out on some of the night market, the Happy Valley Racecourse and some of the great late night restaurants.

Hong Kong was a very cool city and the JW Marriott Hong Kong Hotel is a perfect hotel in this great city.
The moving walkways of Hong Kong

Chandler family exploring Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyling

View from The Peak Hong Kong

Katie taking in view from The Peak

Dinner with a view at The Peak Hong Kong

Nighttime skyline from The Peak Hong Kong

Just outside the JW Marriott

About to enter Disneyland Hong Kong with Gwen

Gwen and Katie are the only blondes in site at Disney Hong Kong

Nighttime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong LDS Temple

Ladies Market in Kowloon

View from Victoria Harbor

View from Victoria Harbor

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hotel Review: Renaissance Koh Samui Resort and Spa Stop 4

The Renaissance Koh Samui Resort and Spa had the unfortunate disadvantage of being compared to the JW Phuket. 

The rooms were some of the nicest we’ve ever stayed in.  We booked one of the pool villas, which was a stand alone walled villa with a private plunge pool.  The courtyard had a couple lounge chairs around the plunge pool.  The plunge pool wasn’t really swimming so much a place to just quickly cool off after lying around. 

The villa itself was beautiful.  There are large glass doors that open to a villa with gorgeous hard wood floors.  The bedroom had a very nice four-post bed.  There was also a large living room.  Gwen really liked the villa because she had her own room.    

The pool area was not spectacular.  The pool was a large and tiled with blue tiles.  However, it was mostly surrounded by concrete decking and seemed to lack ambiance.  That said, the resort and pool sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful, tranquil lagoon.

The resort itself was average.  It just appeared to have been built before a lot of thought was given to landscaping and setting the mood of a resort naturally carved into the landscape, much like many of the resorts built in the 70’s and 80’s in Hawaii.  There were wide concrete sidewalks throughout the resort.  The main restaurant seemed to be almost like a maintenance shed converted into a restaurant (although it served some seriously amazing Thai food).  It looks like they have tried to add some ambiance to the resort by adding a few water features and Zen gardens.  The resort itself was just average but the room was lovely and the staff was thoughtful.  There are certainly a few newer, nicer resorts on the island but I still feel like the staff and ownership of Renaissance Koh Samui has done a pretty good job of making the most of how the resort was built.

Koh Samui is an interesting island.  It seems to be about 20 years behind Phuket in development.  The airport is open air and unique.  It was comical standing behind a rope and have to wait there while a baggage claim worker stands 5 feet away on the other side of the rope places your bags on a conveyer belt that appears to be operated by hamsters running on a track.  Chaweng Beach is one of the most alluring beaches in the world.  It is a wide, white sand beach lined by beach side outdoor restaurants selling fresh seafood.  It also seems to be a hippie hang out with a lot of hackie sacks, topless women and Frisbees, but with the addition of a Four Seasons, golf courses and a few massive private homes, one can’t help but feel the world travelers moving in and the party rave crowd slowly getting pushed out.  Chaweng feels about 20 years behind Phuket’s Patong Beach which feels about 20 years behind Waikiki.  

The island is easy to get to and quite cheap using Bangkok Air (a regional subsidiary of Thai Airways).  There are direct flights from many locations across Thailand.  We flew direct from Phuket to Koh Samui.  True to Asian service, we were surprisingly served a full meal on this short flight.

We look forward to going back to Koh Samui again someday.    
Lobby at Renaissance Koh Samui

Who knows what Gwen is doing?

A real Zen feel to the lobby

Gwen and Katie at Chewang Beach

Chewang Beach as the day is coming to an end

Idyllic palm tree lined beach

Typical outdoor seafood restaurant

Restaurant Row along Chewang Beach

Gwen shopping in Koh Samui

Ronald McDonald doing a namaste gesture

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2009 Asia Trip Pictures-Phuket

Gwen eating Thai food

Mason enjoying a rain shower by the JW

Scott and Gwen getting ready for dinner

Beautiful Gwen at dinner

Kara babysitting Mason

Kara and Gwen at the Phi Phi Islands

Phi Phi Islands

Phi Phi Islands

A day on the boat

Katie snorkeling, she saw a moray eel

Snorkeling at an awesome reef

Gwen and Kara 

Feeding the elephants

Gwen and Kara riding an elephant

Katie, Scott and Mason riding an elephant

Too much fun...

Kara at the swim up bar

Scott and Mason swimming

Gwen taking Thai cooking lessons

Blue Canyon Country Club

Island hole at Blue Canyon Country Club

Gwen at Patong Beach

Scott and Gwen at Patong Beach

We love the Marriott staff

Gwen at FantaSea

Our JW Phuket family

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