Chiang Mai and Bangkok have been rated by readers of US magazine <i>Travel + Leisure</i> in the top 15 World’s Best Cities for 2016.
Northern city Chiang Mai ranked second with a score of 91.25 and Bangkok sat at 14th, scoring 88.96. Last year Bangkok ranked sixth out of 10 on a list in which Chiang Mai did not feature.
The winner was US city Charleston, South Carolina, with a score of 91.66, up from second last year and taking over from Japan’s Kyoto (89.75), winner in 2014 and 2015.
Newcomer Luang Prabang in Laos sits at fifth (89.85) and Cambodia's temple town Siem Reap at 13th (88.961), down from third last year.
Other cities on the list include Rome (11th) and Florence (4th), South Africa's Cape Town (10th), Spain's Barcelona (8th) and Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende (3rd).
Travel + Leisure online says its “readers ranked cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value”.
The city rankings are part of their annual World’s Best Awards, which also includes islands, spas, airlines, and cruise lines.
Chiang Mai also topped the list of their 10 Best Cities in Asia rankings, followed by Luang Prabang, Kyoto, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Vietnam’s Hoi An, Bali’s Ubud, India’s Udaipur, Tokyo, and Tibet’s Lhasa.
The magazine said: “Chiang Mai might not be Thailand’s largest city, but it’s first in our readers’ hearts -- probably because it’s much more manageable. It has a busy downtown with restaurants and must-see markets, but quiet resorts are a quick drive away.
“The cities of Southeast Asia are on the rise. Urban centres in the region, such as Bangkok; Siem Reap, Cambodia; and Luang Prabang, Laos -- hailed for their affordable and delectable dining, historic sites, warm locals, and exciting culture -- made up more than half of our list of Best Cities in Asia list this year. There’s never been a better time to go to Asia.”
Again, Thailand did not feature among the top 15 islands, but the Philippines took the top two places with Palawan and Boracay, and sixth place with Cebu. The country did not feature on last year's list.
“The Philippines are having a moment,” the magazine said.
“Palawan first received the coveted No.1 spot in 2013, and it’s little surprise that the island is back at the top. Visitors are greeted with mountains rising out of impossibly turquoise waters, where shipwrecks and reefs make for prime scuba diving and snorkelling," it added.
Other islands in the top 15 include New Zealand’s Waiheke (4th), Greece’s Santorini (5th), and Indonesia’s popular Bali at 15th.