Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa
Most of my fellow Bangkokians consider Chiang Mai their usual holiday destination. Some of them have even adopted the culture-rich yet trendy northern province as their second residence.
Unlike them, I am quite a stranger to this world-famous destination. There's no further reason than my personal preference for beach recreation. After all, I'm the totally laid-back, doing-nothing kind of vacationer.
My latest visit to Chiang Mai, the second time in my entire adult life, was a little over a month ago. It was to check out the newly renovated and relaunched Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa.
A two-night stay there, plus my excursion in the city during such a short call, turned out to be so impressive and satisfying that I am planning a return.
At that time, the ultimate peak of the holiday season was yet to come. But the city was already enjoying the pleasant dynamism of international visitors.
The hotel too was at capacity. Most of its in-house guests were families and couples. But that didn't seem to impair the service and facilities the hotel had on offer.
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is set on a bank of the Mae Ping River and is blessed with a breezy riverfront ambiance. The location is, however, in the city centre. So while guests can indulge in the serene natural surroundings, they are also only steps away from many conveniences and attractions -- cultural-wise, food-wise and retail-wise.
Within a pleasant walk from the hotel are numerous marketplaces including the famous night bazaar, weekend walking streets and the city's main fresh markets.
Ancient landmarks such as Lanna Buddhist temples, monuments and historic walls are also a short drive away, while the city's voguish neighbourhood, Nimmanhaemin Road, renowned for boho boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, quirky cafes and nightlife, is about 20 minutes away by car.
If you're up for nature-centric adventures, there are a few elephant sanctuaries nearby. The hotel also serves as an ideal accommodation base after any trekking through some of northern Thailand's most renowned national parks; many are within a two-hour drive.
Design and facilities
Despite Anantara Chiang Mai's downtown address, stepping into its open-air lobby was like entering a relaxed and easy-going hideaway.
The site was first launched in 2005 under the brand Chedi Chiang Mai, and its new design is an inspiring example of how time-honoured tradition and modernity seamlessly coexist.
A total of 84 rooms and suites are set across a cluster of low-rise buildings that wraps around a verdant, photogenic courtyard. The garden is graced by a century-old teak house centrepiece, formerly the British consulate office. A heritage manor, reimagined by an award-winning architectural firm as a private member club of the British secret service, serves as the resort's F&B venue. It is decked out with classic oak furniture and vintage collectibles, and showcases a subtle blend of Lanna character and fine European flair.
The resort's 34m swimming pool fronts the Mae Ping River. For guests looking for a wellness retreat, the fully equipped Anantara Spa offers an expansive range of treatments including traditional Thai massages, indigenous Lanna therapies, body scrubs and body wraps as well as aesthetic facials and medicinal healings. Personalised spa journeys can be discussed and designed.
My deluxe river-view room on the 2nd floor encompassed 50m² of spic-and-span space illuminated with pleasant natural light through a floor-to-ceiling glass door that opens to a private balcony.
Decked in a modern minimalist style with softwood furniture, the room was equipped with a king-size bed and a sleek bathroom with a large bathtub and separate shower space.
Top-quality amenities such as a 50-inch flat-screen TV, Bose entertainment system, air purifier and a Swiss coffee machine as well as complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi are provided. There were large daybeds both in the room and on the spacious private balcony.
And even though the resort takes great pride in its age-old local heritage, the room was absolutely five-star modern without an intimidating trace of "oldness".
The resort's culinary offerings were another key reason I really loved staying here.
Breakfast was served at the Bodhi Terrace right by the river. A wide range of international dishes as well as regional Thai cuisine specialities, from the North to the South, is offered at buffet stations as well as from an all-you-can-order à la carte menu.
You can expect to partake in a delicate egg Benedict alongside a spicy khao soi curry noodles and piping hot soy milk accompanied by deep-fried patongko bread.
Lunchtime highlights include moo hong, Phuket slow-braised pork belly in savoury sweet gravy; kua haeng nuea, a northern-style stir-fried braised beef with herbs and curry paste; and a pomelo salad with grilled Mae Ping river prawn.
Dinner is offered at The Service 1921 restaurant. The menu features grill room specialities including prime meat cuts, in-house dry-aged beef and the best local produce selected by the hotel's South African executive chef David Eldridge. The steak here is among the best you can find in Chiang Mai.
Mixologists and wine connoisseurs are on hand to recommend selections from the wine cellar as well as whisky and cocktail bars.
The resort offers various packages for short and long stays including exclusive rates for Thailand residents, advance-purchase specials, week-long getaways and wedding specials.
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa is at 123 Charoen Prathet Road, Muang district, Chiang Mai.Call 053-253-333 or email email@example.com.