Luxurious Chiang Mai
Welcome to the Northern gem that all Thai’s love: Chiang Mai! Explore the best attractions, spa’s, restaurants and adventures Chiang Mai has to offer!
Possibly the most magnificent hotel in Chiang Mai if not in Thailand, the Dhara Dhevi spans over 60 acres of rice paddies and manicured gardens, and offers one the most luxurious spas you could imagine! The Dhara Dhevi is an ancient city filled with antiques to create a ‘living museum’!
Entering the Dhara Dhevi (formerly the Mandarin Oriental ) feels almost like you are entering a Thai temple due to the size and design, and Travel and Leisure magazine described it as “ a miniature Thai kingdom “.
The hotel has so much to offer that guests don’t even need to leave! From a wellness center offering herbal treatments, yoga regimens, and an ayurvedic therapy program to four different restaurants, tennis courts, a breakfast cafe, cooking classes, traditional Thai dance classes and even high tea! A lounging pool and a more spacious pool suitable to swimming, you can do laps while overlooking rice paddies and the colonial garden.
Room prices start at 30,000 Baht ($1,000) but if you are looking to splurge, you will be greatly rewarded ! The Colonial suite boasts an elegant Victorian style rooms with a living room and a sun deck, while the deluxe teak wood villas are designed in a traditional Thai style with two floors, a jacuzzi bathtub and indoor and outdoor showers!
With only 123 rooms, the Dhara Dhevi is the perfect place to hold a wedding ceremony, part or event. They even have a ‘town square’ to hold concerts and intimate receptions!
Dhara Dhevi Hotel
51/4 Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road
Moo 1, T. Tasala
50000 Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 888 888
SAKURA FLOWERS ON THE MOUNTAIN
Everyone has heard of the yearly blooming of the Sakura flowers in Japan: Many people plan their holidays around the event!
However, there is actually a sakura blossoming occurring in Thailand – just over Doi Suthep mountain in the middle of Thai winter (which may I mention is freezing) the sakura flowers come out to color the forest!
Sakura watching is becoming increasingly popular in Thailand so get there early before the crowds and ideally on a weekday!
The ideal time of year to go is at the end of December or January. Grab your camera and a warm jumper; head up the mountain past Doi Suthep temple and towards the CMU agricultural research station and coffee shop. If in doubt, follow the flow of traffic!
DRAGON FLIGHT ZIPLINING ADVENTURE
One thing the North of Thailand is known for is adventure! Ride elephants, go off riding with 4×4s, zip lining, get in a cage with tigers; there’s so many activities to get your blood pumping!
For those on a budget, you might only choose one or two things to do whilst here. And zip lining is one of the must-do’s when in Chiang Mai!! The craze started five years ago with one company, and it was so successful that eight more popped up! So how do you choose from the companies? Which one offers a good price and value for money along with a fun day out? One of the most popular zip lines is Jungle Flight, but due to high demand, they recently expanded and created Dragon Flight.
Dragon is the more adventurous, high-flying sister to Jungle flight. Dragon Flight is a tree-top obstacle course which includes abseiling, nature walking and 26 breath-taking zip line flights, all set in the incredible Thai rainforest mountains of Doi Saket.
And it boasts one of the longest zip lines in Thailand. Wow!
Set in the rainforest of the North, Dragon Flight offers a day of adrenaline, adventure, zip lining and down right fun – soon to become the next must-do adventure in Thailand!
For more information
Call: +6681 884 5887, +6689 755 2632
E-mail: [+ [email protected] +]
RISTR8TO COFFEE SHOP
This cafe knows its coffee!
Located on the trendy Nimenhamin road, Ristr8to is arguably the best coffee shop in town! Trained in Australia, the owner and head barista has managed to pack a lot of high-tech equipment and quality beans from around the world in a relatively small space. Popular with Farang, Thai, and tourists alike, expect difficulties finding a seat. This might be the only cafe that Thais will sit in direct sunlight just to get coffee!
Ristr8to offers a great choice of origin beans, latte art and proper espresso servings (complete with instructions). Start your day with a Ethiopian espresso or a Colombian cappuccino. If it isn’t busy, ask about the latte art and get your face eched into a latte – coffee doesn’t get better than this!
The cafe has an energetic and hip vibe – probably from all the caffeine being consumed. You will soon notice that everyone is taking pictures and checking into Foursquare or Facebook. Feel free to do the same!
Ristr8to is all about coffee so if caffeine is not your thing, your choice is limited to hot chocolate. The food options consist of waffles in stick form or cheese ice cream (neither of which compliment the coffee).
Open: 08:08 – 23:08
Location: 15/3 Nimmanhaemin Road
Tel: 053 215 278
No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a visit to Doi Suthep – the temple on the mountain that looks over the city is the pride and joy of every Chiang Mai local, and the views are breathtaking!
Around 1050 Metres above sea level, Doi Suthep can be easily reached by Songthaew or motorbike along a windy mountain road that takes 15 minutes from city to temple. Once there climb the 300 steps guarded by large Naga (snake) statues to mark your pilgrimage to the temple.
The history of the temple is also fascinating – A King of the Lanna Kingdom wanted to make an offering to a monk and found a relic of the Buddha to offer. It was to be brought to the monk by a white elephant but during the journey over the mountain the elephant laid down and died. Taking this as a sign, a temple was built where the elephant died. Inside temple grounds keep an eye out for the statue of the white elephant who inspired this temple!
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a beautiful golden Lanna style temple with trees, large bells and Buddhist murals on the walls and a smaller pavilion encasing a golden pagoda that attracts millions of Thais every year (and millions of Baht in donation money), even the King and Royal family have been to Doi Suthep! So take a trip up to Doi Suthep, breathe in the fresh air, relax and watch the busy city below…
Entrance is 30 Baht for foreigners (free for Thai) and you can take a shared songthaew up the mountain for 60 Baht (find them waiting at the bottom of the mountain near the zoo).
TWO LITTLE SECRET AMAZING CAFES
Hidden in a Moo Baan along Canal Road, Asama cafe is barely a year old (it opened in July 2013). It might be young but Asama – or rather Mook the owner – has put a lot of hard work into making this cafe and its coffee amazing! So good it is already topping the ‘best coffee in Chiang Mai’ lists!
Asama orders coffee from all over the world, so if you want to try beans roasted in Portland, an Ethiopian origin or something else unusual and amazing, just ask the staff! I recommend the staple Asama blend – strong, smooth and bold! Coffee doesn't get better than this! Try the double cappuccino for a real caffeine hit (*warning* drink in the morning only)! The Espresso Con Panna is also a must try!
The small cafe is serious about coffee! Head there before work for a wake me up at 8am or around 3pm when the heat of the day has passed and you can take a breather and admire Doi Suthep! The outdoor area with a small lake is very relaxing!
Another new and must visit cafe is KhaGee. I first heard about this cafe when seeing owner Khame and his cute, shy greyhound buying coffee in Asama Cafe!
KhaGee is a little gem of a cafe but only opens when owners – Thai Khame and Japanese Gee – are in town. Their coffee menu is simple – 5 options – but all are made with dedication and skill. The hot drinks are comforting whilst the iced varieties come served in jam jars!
Now their coffee is good but their cakes are wonderful! The raspberry cheesecake is mouthwatering and worth driving across town for, but get there early as the baked goods sell out fast. They also serve great sandwiches which will take away your hunger but still leave you room for cake!
Open: 8:00-16:00 (closed on the 1st and the 16th day of each month)
Location: 128 Moo. 6 Klong Cholpratarn, Chiang Mai Lakeland MooBaan Facebook: Asama
Open 9:00- 17:00 (closed Monday & Tuesday)
Location: Chiang Mai – Lampun road (Narawat bridge)
SHOPPING: DOI TUNG
Doi Tung is a Northern area of Thailand and home to the Mae Fah Luang Foundation .
Set up by the late Princess Mother, Princess Srinagarindra, the Mae Fah Luang Foundation was founded to carry out development activities so that the quality of life of Thailand’s ethnic minorities in the Doi Tung area could be raised.
These activities took the form of livelihood development, which encompassed the reforestation of watershed areas and the development of various social enterprises to benefit local people.
After the passing away of the Princess Mother, the Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn became its chairperson. The Foundation’s central mission is to keep the Princess Mother’s development legacy alive to benefit as many people as possible and to inspire new generations to be responsible, engaged citizens.
The Doi Tung Development Project has created a chain of cafes and shops to showcase products made in the Doi Tung area. All the items they sell are to the highest standard and finest materials. This means that they are a little more expensive than average but are guaranteed to last and benefit the people of Doi Tung.
With a range of scarves, dresses, bags, pillows and kitchen ware the Doi Tung shop is worth checking out – once you feel how soft their fabrics are I’m sure you will be tempted….After all everything is fit for a princess!
The main Doi Tung shop is on Nimmanhaemin Rd opposite Soi 1 (open 10:00 – 19:00). There is also a small boutique at Chiang Mai Airport, in front of the domestic departure gate. All items are tax free but you have to reclaim the tax at the airport.
TRY A POUR OVER AT BAY’S CAFE
Bay’s cafe (named after the owner Bay) is specializing in the the type of coffee he loves – The Pour Over method!
No machine, no high tech gadgets, just good coffee. The pour over method is self explanatory, he pours the boiling water over freshly ground coffee and times your drink to perfection, letting the coffee ‘bloom’ (watch it for yourself if you want to see exactly how your coffee is made)! Bay’s method “brings out the best flavor, richest tastes, and emotional nuances that will capture the senses and keep you coming back cup after cup”!
Bay specializes in one method and offers a simple menu of coffees that really brings the flavours out of the beans. There’s Bay’s black coffee _ an Americano style coffee, and you can choose the origin of your beans (Kenya? Ethiopia? Thailand?). If you like your coffee with milk, then Bay makes a good [ cafe latte_] - the iced versions come in a hipster jar. The cold brew is great for the afternoon as it’s not so strong and has a (natural) sweet flavour!
Bay’s cafe is part of the restaurant Food 4 Thought , and what a great match. Their menu is full of mouth watering wraps and sandwiches – all which go well with Bay’s coffee. If you are not so hungry, then try some of the delicious cakes on offer. If it’s available, I recommend the rich chocolate coconut cake!
The cafe and restaurant are set in a nice shaded garden area. A very relaxing and welcoming place if you live in Chiang Mai or are just visiting, you will be welcomed and treated to some great coffee and food!
Open: 10:30 – 20:30 (closed Sun & Mon)
Location: Canal Road (Behind V-residence Condo, close to Canal/Huey Kaew intersection)
YI PENG – THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Thailand is known for festivals – they average a festival a month – but the two most well known festivals are Songkran (April) and Loy Kratong (November). These festivals are celebrated by everyone, and the country usually comes to a stand still for a couple of days!
Loy Kratong falls on a full moon every year and involves floating a small bamboo leaf ‘kratong’ on a lake or river. The kratong is filled with flowers, incense, a candle, and sometimes a coin. As it floats away, it will take your bad luck and worries with it. This two day celebration is supplemented with fireworks and parades.
In the North, Chiang Mai celebrates Loy Kratong but after they have a second celebration, which is even a more spectacular event… The Yi Peng festival occurs a few days after Loy Kratong and involves lighting a paper sky lantern and allowing it to float away. Again, your bad luck and misfortunes float away, and the stronger the lantern flies the better! Commonly Thais will place their address in the lantern, so if anyone finds it later, they can claim some money from the sender – spreading the good fortune!
Every year Mae Jo University organizes a mass release of sky lanterns that is preceded by a prayer from Buddhist monks. It is truly an amazing sight when thousands of lanterns rise at once – like the sky is alight with stars! Even if you don’t make it to Mae Jo, any rooftop in the city will give you a good view of this once in a lifetime event!
FINE DINING AT THE CHEF’S TABLE
The Chef’s Table is a wonderful combination of an exclusive dinner and a novel way to learn more about Thai cuisine.
Hosted at the luxury five star Four Seasons resort in Mae Rim, the Chef's table allows you to join the hotel's chefs as they talk and teach you through ten different Thai dishes (from appetizers to desserts)! The Chef invites you to sit at her table as she then cooks each dish right in front of you with the freshest ingredients -- straight from the pan to the plate!
It is a great way to sample a range of traditional Thai dishes as well as local Thai beer, cocktails and desserts! Great for couples and families!
The Chef’s Table is available for dining Monday through Saturday and can host up to 12 guests. Booking is required and the further in advance the better!
Arrive for sunset and check out the Four Seasons pool side lounge for some seriously stylish cocktails and a great view!
The old city of Chiang Mai is packed with temples! Around every corner there is either an old relic of a former temple or a well kept, sparkling temple inviting you in with the gentle aroma of incense, glistening of gold and tinkling of bells.
Start at Thapae Gate and head to Wat Chedi Luang. During your walk around the maze of sois (the Thai word for small streets), stop at whatever temple you find – each is different, and I guarantee you will be impressed at them all!
Remember proper temple attire requires you to cover your shoulders and knees and refrain from taking pictures of monks without their consent. Don’t forget to bring some small change – there are lots of places to make offerings and gain some good luck with monetary donations!
CHAI LAI ORCHID
About an hour South from Chiang Mai city lies The Chai Lai Orchid - "the ultimate Thailand eco travel experience"!
A wonderful eco lodge set in the foothills of Thailand’s highest mountain (Doi Inthanon), Chai Lai Orchid (Thai for beautiful orchid ) is a nature lover’s paradise! To get to the resort you have to cross a suspension bridge over a fast flowing river – sometimes full of bathing elephants! And before you even cross the bridge you get to meet a herd of elephants eating (or just hanging out) on their side of the river. There are even baby elephants full of energy and waiting to playfully knock you over!
To top off the experience you can even arrange an elephant wedding in The Chai Lai Orchid! It’s quite possibly the most unique way to celebrate your love!
The Chai Lai Orchid is unique in that all its proceeds go to support Human Rights and prevent sex trafficking by empowering at-risk girls through education. Not only do you get to stay in the middle of the jungle (in style might I add), but you know your money is also going to a good cause! And you get to bathe with the elephants, raft down the river and drink coconuts in the shade of bamboo trees! Talk about a luxury honeymoon!
Tip – You can also get involved and help in many ways: doctors and nurses are always needed as are educational materials and teachers! Even bringing books with you to read and leave is useful! The Chai Lai Orchid has a shop in their restaurant selling local souvenirs and handmade clothing; you can buy some one of a kind gifts here too!
A LAZY AND LUXURIOUS AFTERNOON TEA
No luxury holiday is complete without an afternoon of scones, cucumber sandwiches and high tea! Chiang Mai has its fair share of great high teas, but they only started to become the in-thing to do after Chinese tourists discovered Vieng Joom On!
A delectable tea house offering a range of classic, herbal and Chinese tea flavors as well as tea time cakes and other tasty morsels. Vieng Joom On is tradition with a twist and have managed to create options for all tourists that come to Thailand, including amazing tea infused smoothies! Vieng Joom On is becoming increasingly busy with tourists and Thais alike, so if you fancy an afternoon of relaxation then head to the Anantara Hotel.
Formally the British consulate building, Anantara Hotel boasts impressive colonial architectural and overlooks the peaceful Ping river. They offer a traditional afternoon tea set weekdays (2pm-6pm) and an even move impressive weekend high tea (Sat-Sun 2pm-6pm)! The mood of the lazy afternoons in the Oriental sun will take you back in time to the days of the British empire.
Finally, if you are looking for a sweet treat to accompany your tea, then head to the Oriental Cake Shop at the Dhara Dhevi Hotel. The Oriental Cake Shop tops the list of best cake in Chiang Mai, and their high tea offers an impressive sampling of miniature treats. You must try some of their macaroons! Their Afternoon Tea is served from 2pm - 6pm, and after you should take a stroll around the impressive grounds of the Dhara Dhevi hotel -- one of the most impressive hotels in Asia!
Vieng Joom On
53 Charoenraj road
Tel: 053 303113
123 Charoen Prathet road
Tel: 053 253333
Oriental Cake Shop
Dhara Dhevi Hotel
Tel: 053 888888
MEET AN ELEPHANT
The elephant (Chaang in Thai) is the national symbol of Thailand! Whilst some tourists don’t get to meet these delightful creatures (there are few elephants in Bangkok or on the beach) if you visit Chiang Mai, it won’t be long before you book yourself on a tour to an elephant camp.
When booking a tour, do your research carefully! There are some amazing rehabilitation centres in the North, but there are also some camps that treat the elephants badly and use them solely to make money.
If you are worried about which camp or centre to visit, then I can recommend the following two elephant camps. Both come recommended, and they are a great opportunity to meet, greet and get a photo up close with Ellie!
Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) in Lampang
This centre offer visitors the chance to ride and bathe with an elephant and then the elephants put on a show and paint pictures that can be bought by donation! I visited this camp, and the elephants seemed to be enjoying themselves, bowing to the audience, demonstrating how elephants are used to move logs etc. The Mahouts (elephant guiders) had takaw sticks but weren’t using them – just for safety reasons – and most of the elephants here were orphans or rescued from other camps.
Elephant Nature Park
This rescue and rehabilitation centre is where you can help out with the daily upkeep of elephants and volunteer for longer periods of time. Observe free roaming elephants and other rescued animals whilst enjoying the natural surroundings of our sanctuary.
Oh and don’t forget to drink a Chaang beer too, but with it comes the chaang’over!!
Thanks for reading and happy holidays
Chiang Mai, referred to as the gem of the North, has some amazing hotels, spas and activities for luxury travellers and honeymooners, often at a fraction of the cost of the islands or Bangkok. Written by a long term expatriate, this guide offers readers insights into the most amazing resorts, fine dining and sights Chiang Mai has to offer!