Luxury Resorts Allow Guests To Immerse Themselves in Northern Thailand
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Far away from the popular (overcrowded) beaches of the South and the bustling streets of Bangkok, travelers can get in touch with another side of the country in Thailand’s far north.
The region’s luxury hotels make it possible for travelers to immerse themselves in this part of the country without having to sacrifice comfort or forego the “finer things.”
Nature and luxury
The Four Seasons Chiang Mai is located outside the city center in a more rural section of the Mae Rim Valley. The resort’s 64 pavilion rooms, 12 pool villas and 22 private residences are situated around a pond and rice paddies. The layout is reminiscent of a traditional Thai agricultural village. Guests can even see resident water buffalos parade through the 20-acre grounds each morning.
Even the pavilions, which have a design inspired by the architecture of the local Lanna tribe, have characteristic Four Seasons opulence with covered decks overlooking the rice paddies and bathrooms that are the same size as most hotel rooms (with features like rainfall showers and separate tubs).
The resort features an over-water yoga pavilion (with resident yoga instructor), an infinity pool connected, a bar that features cocktails created by by renowned mixologist Javier de las Muelas, and a full service spa. The Sala Mae Rim restaurant serves both Thai and Western food and occasionally offers specials, such as a station-based street food buffet that brings Thailand to guests while allowing them to stay within the confines of the resort.
Outside the resort
Four Seasons puts guests in touch with authentic Thai experiences, but it runs these experiences through a filter of luxury. Thanks to its location, the resort is near local attractions as well. Chiang Mai’s massive night market (sometimes called the Night Bazaar) is popular with locals and tourists alike. It would take shoppers more than one evening to see every part of this market and sift through the endless selection of handicrafts, souvenirs and brand-name knockoffs while grazing on cuisine from street food vendors. Even people who despise shopping will enjoy the atmosphere here.
During the day, photo ops abound at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This popular Thai temple features gilded statues and buildings. You can see local Buddhist devotees who are there for religious reasons, but (unfortunately?) selfie-taking tourists make up the majority of the visitors. Since the temple is on the top of valley, it offers tremendous views, which make it well worth running the tourist gauntlet.
The north’s attractions stretch beyond Chiang Mai — the famous Golden Triangle is a few hours drive from the city. Not only can guests come in contact with the famous Mekong and the infamous Triangle, but they can also see art and nature. Wat Rong Khun, outside Chiang Rai, was created by a famous Thai artists named Chalermchai Kositpipat. The white temple here is impressive because of its exterior intricacies. The interior, however, is the highlight. Look for the pop culture figures (from Luke Skywalker to Michael Jackson) that have been added to the Buddhist murals. Kositpipat’s other whimsical artworks are scattered throughout the grounds.
The Opium Museum, only a short distance from the Golden Triangle itself, shows that Thailand is willing to showcase some of the less flattering parts of its past. The museum is a bit heavy handed with its anti-drug message, but the interactive design of the exhibits makes it a worthwhile experience nonetheless.
Luxury and adventure on the border
There is luxury here too. The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle and the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort and Elephant Camp are located right on the border with Myanmar (only a short distance from the Opium Museum). The Tented Camp features luxury tented suites that overlook the border and the Mekong River Valley. Above all else, this is a resort for couples, though the elephants and nature within the property would also attract other luxury-minded adventurers.
Anantara is luxurious as well, though its opulence doesn’t reach the Four Seasons Chiang Mai level. It makes up for this with amazing views from each and every room and from the pool and restaurant. The sunrise here is absolutely not to be missed, and neither is the well-run elephant camp, which offers a variety of hands on experiences including mahout training and a chance to walk alongside the elephants as they take their daily grazing and bathing hike.
For those who can afford it, the high-end resorts of Northern Thailand bring together luxury, comfort and accessible authentic experiences that can put people in touch with a different side of this Southeast Asian country.
More by Josh Lew
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