The once sleepy Northern city of Chiang Mai is growing up into a luxurious getaway. While Chiang Mai was once famed for being a budget location, with some of the cheapest and most delicious food in Southeast Asia, it is now becoming known for offering amazing value for money with regards to high end resorts and fine dining. Chiang Mai even boasts Trip Advisor’s best restaurant in Thailand – David’s Kitchen, a friendly, upscale restaurant on the east side of town. David’s kitchen was also placed within the top 10 restaurants in Asia, also putting Chiang Mai firmly on the culinary map worldwide!
In November 2016 the first guide book to the more affluent side of city was released by expat Laura Gibbs. The new book, ‘Luxurious Chiang Mai’, covers everything from resorts styled as miniature kingdoms, 10 course meals fit for a king, 3 hour pampering sessions, and everything in between. While countless articles and books have been written about budget travel through Thailand’s Northern capital, this guide book is the first of its kind to showcase the richness and quality that Chiang Mai has to offer. Below, author Laura Gibbs offers Wherever the Wind Takes Me readers some tips of where to find little luxuries in the flourishing Lanna capital of Chiang Mai.
1. Start the morning with merit
If you wake up early enough in the morning, then you will get a glimpse of the orange robed monks silently collecting their alms in the streets of Chiang Mai. Watching them walk mindfully through the small soi’s of the city offers an engaging and spiritual moment, where past traditions transcend into the present, and where residents of the city come wait patiently to offer alms and wai to the monks. Visitors to Chiang Mai are welcome to give alms, but it best to ask for assistance from a Thai so as not to overstep any cultural boundaries. Siripanna Villa Resort offers a morning activity to give alms to local monks. The resort organises everything, from the food donation to the clothing that needs to be worn, and talk you through the official steps for giving alms. After making merit your day can officially begin.
2. Spend the morning by a lake
Since you’re up early, make use of the cool, crisp mornings for some reflection and time in nature. At Chiang Mai University, the Ang Kaew Reservoir is a tranquil, peaceful lake reflecting the green slopes of Doi Pui mountain on its surface. In the early mornings the lake is mostly deserted and visitors can take a stroll around the lake, take some pictures and smell the flowers. If you are the kind of person who needs coffee to start the morning, then head to Asama Coffee shop. Opening at 8am on the dot,this tiny cafe sits next to a small lake and offers impressive views of Doi Suthep and beyond. Asama also has some of the best coffee in town so treat yourself to a strong cappuccino to wake up, or even an espresso con panna for breakfast.
3. Dip in a pool
If the temperature starts to climb in the morning then you know it’s a pool day. Pack your swimsuit, sun lotion and a good book and head to one of Chiang Mai’s stylish swimming pools. If your hotel doesn’t offer one, then head to one of the pools that does. The Shangri-La’s tree and lounger lined pool is a blue oasis on in a busy area of town. The Eco Resort has a large pool for those wishing to swim laps, while the Veranda Resort just outside of Chiang Mai city has a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the foothills of the national park. All pools can be used for a small fee or with a purchase off the menu.
4. Mid Morning pick me up
Once you’ve woken up and started exploring the city you might need a little pick me up continue temple hopping or boutique shopping. In the old city head to Akha Ama, a Chiang Mai based social enterprise with great coffee and friendly staff. They are only a stone’s throw away from Wat Phra Singh temple so visiting the two can be combined. Also in the old city is Graph Cafe, a tiny cafe specialising in using Thai beans to produce amazing espresso, cold brew and nitro coffee. If you are in the Nimmanhaemin area then a visit to Ristr8to cafe is a must – this cafe lives, breathes and serves amazing coffee!
5. Indulge in a long and lazy lunch
With so much good food to be found in Chiang Mai, prepare yourself for multiple course and multiple meals a day. Italics at Akyra Manor offer a great daily express lunch deal, with starters, a main and dessert for 450 Baht, available from 1pm until 3pm. Zest restaurant in Sireeampan boutique hotel is another delicious Italian, relatively unknown, offering a daily set lunch starting at 295 Baht.
6. High tea in the afternoon
One of the most popular indulgences in Chiang Mai is the high tea ceremony. A grand, colonial tradition originally thought to be brought to Asia by the British, the ceremony involves a range of afternoon sweet and savory nibbles, a pot of tea and a plush lounge to converse in. For a deluxe high tea in Chiang Mai head to the 137 Pillars House or Dhara Dhevi Hotel, but be sure to go hungry as their pyramid of delights are all worth sampling. Thailand also has a similar tradition of high tea but the contents varies slightly to the colonial version. The royals and upper classes of Thai society have an afternoon lunch, which features tea and a larger range of savory snacks such as grilled chicken and fresh vegetables with spicy dips. Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique Hotel offers a wonderful Thai style high tea, fit for a king, but again go hungry as their high tea is a meal in itself.
7. Flower Market
Between the intriguing Warorot market and the Ping River is the beautiful smelling, colourful and bustling Tom Lamyai flower market. Open 24 hours a day, the market is home to countless species and varieties of flowers coming from different regions of Northern Thailand. Its great to wander around in the early morning or evening when the flower deliveries are arriving. The flowers are extremely cheap as you are buying them at the source and so if your hotel room isn’t filled with flowers already then treat yourself to a bunch of orchids or lilies.
8. Two, three, four or five hours of pampering
Spas in Chiang Mai are a fraction of the price of a western country, with a 3 hour pampering session costing around as little as $100. From facials to body scrubs, seaweed wraps to four hand massages, indulging in a few hours of spa time is a must do activity when visiting Chiang Mai. Oasis Spa offers a signature four hand massage to destress even the tightest knots, while Cheeva spa offer 12 different packages to choose from. Another great option is Peak Spa, who will pick you up from your hotel and bring you for a choice in a number of packages, including some delightful aromatherapy oils or herbal steam balls.
For a 15% discount on any Peak Spa Packages booked online, decide what you want from the Packages HERE, and then book through this form, and make sure you mention either ‘Ellen’ or ‘Whereverthewindtakesme.com’.
9. Unwind with cocktails
After a hard day of indulging, it’s time to continue to unwind with some luscious cocktails. For the best sunset and city views, head over to Rise at Akyra Manor and choose from their extensive (and expertly crafted) cocktail or wine menu. Be sure to arrive before sunset, both for the happy hour and to guarantee a seat at the small and intimate rooftop bar.
What Luxury Will You Choose?
Chiang Mai is a great place to unwind, relax and pamper yourself. Many visitors end up staying longer, as a few days, and even a week, is not enough time to experience all the little luxuries Chiang Mai has to offer. If you are looking to maximise your holiday, interested in experiencing the best that Chiang Mai has to offer, or want to plan your chiang Mai honeymoon, ‘Luxurious Chiang Mai’ has you covered. A luxurious guide book to the best activities, resorts and experiences Chiang Mai and northern Thailand has to offer, make sure you make the most of your holiday or honeymoon in Chiang Mai and experience 5 star luxury with a two star price tag!
This was a guest post by Laura Gibbs, a travel writer based in Thailand and author of ‘Luxurious Chiang Mai: The complete guide to having a 5 star holiday or honeymoon in Chiang Mai’ and ‘Becoming an Expat:Thailand’. For more information visit LuxuryChiangMai.com.