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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - The Indian city of Udaipur, known as the "Venice of the East," was voted the world's best city for travelers in 2009 in an online poll by Travel + Leisure magazine, trumping last year's winner Bangkok.
The island of Bali in Indonesia topped the Galapagos to be named best island in the annual poll, in which casual and laid-back destinations prevailed.
Magazine readers also voted Bushmans Kloof Cedar Mountains, in South Africa, as the world's top hotel while Singapore Airlines grabbed the best airline award again.
Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure said this year's poll reflected changing travel interests in a challenging economy, with Udaipur, famous for its canals and palaces, a current tourist favorite for well-heeled Westerners.
"Value, intimacy, service, and discovery are top priorities. As for that so-last-August-sounding word, luxury, it's all about enclaves that shelter stealth wealth," she said in a statement.
Novogrod said dramatically sited outposts ranging from Jade Mountain in St. Lucia to San Ysidro Ranch in California featured highly this year.
Value ratings for a number of top-ranked cities -- Udaipur, Cape Town, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai, and Luang Prabang -- were sky-high while other far-flung cities also made a strong showing.
However, favorites such as New York City, Florence, Rome, and San Francisco remained in the top 10 overall.
The results were complied from votes by magazine subscribers in an Internet poll which went live between January and March. Travel + Leisure will honor winners on July 21 in New York.
The complete "World's Best Awards" is available on www.travelandleisure.com. Following are some highlights:
Best city - Udaipur, India
Best hotel - Bushmans Kloof Cedar Mountains, South Africa
Best island - Bali, Indonesia
Best cruise line (large ships) - Crystal Cruises
Best cruise line (small ships) - The Yachts of Seabourn
Best international airline - Singapore Airlines
Best domestic airline - Virgin America
Best tour operator - Austin-Lehman Adventures
Best car-rental agency - Sext
Best destination spa - Mii amo, A Destination Spa at Enchantment, Sedona
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Miral Fahmy