The Best Cities in Asia in 2016

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Photo: Getty Images/AWL Images RM

The cities of Southeast Asia are on the rise. Urban centers 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, particularly to these spots, with a number of stunning hotel openings, an increase in flights from the U.S., and favorable exchange rates. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping, and overall value. Whether you're in town for business, on a backpacking trip, or stopping over before hitting the beaches, these cities have more than enough attractions to keep you entertained. 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. Kyoto, last year’s Best City Overall, clearly remains a favorite. It has seen plenty of growth recently, including the spring 2015 opening of Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, and shows no signs of slowing down. And the inclusion of Siem Reap, which is the gateway of architectural and historical treasures that are visited by millions a year, proves that timeless attractions never lose their appeal. Asia’s top capitals, including Bangkok and Tokyo, remain favorites as well, perhaps because they continue to provide reasons to go back, from intriguing art in Bangkok to the second wave of cool cocktail bars in Tokyo. As one reader wrote of Tokyo, “this is a world-class city and a must to visit.” The same could be said of all the places on this list.

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No. 10: Lhasa, China

Lhasa City, China
Zhouyousifang/Flickr Vision

Score: 85.56

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No. 9: Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan
Getty Images/fStop

Score: 86.02

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No. 8: Udaipur, India

Udaipur, India
UIG via Getty Images

Score: 87.19

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No. 7: Ubud, Indonesia

Ubud, Indonesia
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Score: 88.52

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No. 6: Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam
AFP/Getty Images

Score: 88.54

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No. 5: Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand
Getty Images

Score: 88.96

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No. 4: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia
Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Score: 88.96

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No. 3: Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan
Tetsuya Miura

Score: 89.75

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No. 2: Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Corbis via Getty Images

Score: 89.85

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No. 1: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand
Getty Images/AWL Images RM

Score: 91.25

For years, Chiang Mai was overshadowed by Thailand’s other major attraction—the beaches of Phuket. But readers looking for a bit more peace and quiet (and the conveniences that come with being in a city) have started to favor Chiang Mai, with its miniature downtown of funky fusion restaurants, urban hotels, historic temples, and massive markets. The region’s famous rice paddies are a mere 30-minute drive from the city. Some of the best hotels are situated in these paddies, including a Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi.

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