Anantara Chiang Mai adds a luxury touch to the banks of the Ping River. Even though it has been around for 18 years, the property, formerly known as Chedi Chiang Mai, champions the time with contemporary, minimalist splendour designed by the late architect Kerry Hill. The riverfront sanctuary connects you to the true roots of the locality that was once the wood trading hub of the British Empire, whether it is the impressive teakwood exterior or the conservative colonial house that has been renovated to house a top-notch restaurant and bar, not to mention the giant tree on the lawn that has been providing shade for almost 200 years.
Catching all eyes when entering Anantara Chiang Mai is a picturesque view of the former British consulate. The impressive setting of the 101-year-old heritage teak house and its front yard is put in the frame by the wooden structure of the open-plan, double-volume lobby. When I first set foot outside of the main building, walking along the outdoor corridor, what made me stop for a second — and pull my phone out for a few snapshots — was the grandeur of the square-snapped verdant lawn. The gigantic, leafy ‘payom’ or sal tree is the centrepiece, which offsets the background of the contemporary building design that pleases all eyes with floor-to-ceiling wooden columns.
Anantara Chiang Mai boasts 84 guestrooms in two classes, namely 50m² deluxe rooms and 105m² Kasara suites, both of which let you soak up different views by choosing either garden views or river views. With its L-shaped structure, the low-rise residential building offers minimalist long-stretching corridors. It is aesthetically pleasing, imagining you are strolling through an all-white walkway with warm sunlight seeping through the wood facade. On this front, simple living is what Anantara Chiang Mai is flaunting. Instead of a keycard, I received an actual key that comes with a thick brass keychain. However, that key did not lead directly to my room, it was for the front door of the outdoor foyer where I could take my shoes off before entering the room — much like entering my own house.
Kasara River View Suite.
The room’s earthy and neutral colour palettes go well with wooden and rattan furniture. A long white stone counter stretches from one side of the bedroom to the other, with a jumbo Lanna-inspired pendant light being the key element to boost cosiness with warm light. The accent of minimalism continues as the guestroom amenities, such as mini fridge and coffee maker, are hidden inside wooden cabinets, making the space look broad and tidy. Although the living/bedroom is spacious, you can add more space by opening the wooden folding door that connects the bedroom to the bathroom. Be careful of the king-size bed, though, its comfiness won't let you leave easily.
The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar.
The colonial house’s interiors had been decked out in an intriguingly designed British spy theme. Reimagined as the private club of Her Majesty’s secret service, Brit Bar whisks you off to a quaint British pub and features an open-plan oak bar with classy bar stools and a wall that displays a tangled investigation board. The dining experience at The Service 1921 was like being one of the characters in the ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’. Its breathtaking design, with wall displays putting up gentlemen's essentials like suites, leather shoes and briefcase, watches and hats on display, evoking the scene inside the tailor shop/spy headquarters. A secret room with a long dining table hidden away behind a bookshelf is for top-ranked agents (or for a private dinner). Helming the kitchen is South African executive chef David Eldridge, who showcases his culinary journey that highlights locally-sourced ingredients.
Another spot to get juiced is the newly-opened Bubbles, touting itself as Chiang Mai’s first Champagne-focused rooftop bar. Expect original cocktail creations that have been reinterpreted with bubbles. Adjacent to the heritage teak house is the scenic Bodhi Terrace, an all-day dining outlet where you can savour northern and southern Thai delights under the shade of the resort’s 200-year-old bodhi tree looking over the flowing Ping River.
The Service 1921's Secret Agent Room
If you are a Bangkokian, the surrounding neighbourhood of the resort may give you a flashback of the riverside Charoen Krung Road, which is packed with quaint shophouses of cafes and bars, while still undeniably much more serene. The Japanese tea house, Magokoro Teahouse & Matcha Cafe, is where you can sip a bowl of matcha with Japanese sweets while enjoying a zen garden. Anusarn Market has got your souvenir-hunting covered. Jazz up your night at Moment's Notice Jazz Club or paint the town red at a straight-friendly gay bar, Ram Show Bar, where they host rotational drag shows.
This is the resort when you need to escape the city's rush while unwinding in a blissful riverside setting. A 15-minute drive from the airport, Anantara Chiang Mai is far enough from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-filled spots, though not that remote for you not to catch coffee shops, bars, historical sites or night bazaars, which are at a walkable distance. With the ‘Short Break Special’, book a minimum two-night stay to receive an upgrade to the next room category, one signature cocktail or mocktail per stay, a 20% exclusive discount on dining and a late check-out until 4pm to stay in a lap of luxury. Visit anantara.com/chiang-mai.