Just a hop from the Night Bazaar, sleekly stylish Anantara Chiang Mai hotel is one for shopping fiends, as well as modern design fans. High, bamboo-clad walls hide a seductive luxury resort, with river-view rooms and pool, a fabulous spa and fine dining in the former British consulate-turned-restaurant.
Get this when you book through us:
For BlackSmiths, a 20-minute foot massage; for SilverSmiths, a bottle of wine; for GoldSmiths, a bottle of sparkling wine
Noon, or until 4pm for a half-day rate. Check-in 2pm, or earlier subject to availability.
Double rooms from £147.98 (THB6,765), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Some rates include breakfast. Standard bookings for stays up to 31 Oct 2015 will receive a complimentary 20 minute head and shoulder massage.
Teak doors lead into the minimalist Anantara Spa, where the signature treatment is the Jade massage, a dynamic deep-muscle kneeding by two therapists working in sync. Afterwards, chill out on the rooftop deck. Yoga devotees can get their fix here, too.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, bikes, CD/DVD library, concierge, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, iPod dock, free broadband, minibar and local Soap-n-Scent toiletries. The Kasara Suites also have coffee machines.
Our favourite rooms
We'd be content in any of the chic, wood-clad Deluxe Rooms, which offer a private courtyard entrance, king-size bed, spacious red-tiled bathroom with tub and rainshower, and lovely balcony with double day-bed (floor-to-ceiling glass windows make the most of those river and garden vistas). If you want twice the space, book a Kasara Suite, which boasts a larger open-plan bathroom, an indoor day-bed and dining zone, and separate changing area. Aim high for the best views.
It's all about riverfront views at the 34-metre-long, streamlined outdoor pool, a stroll from the water's edge. Flanked by chargoal-grey modern loungers, white sun umbrellas, lily ponds and manicured reeds, it's a chill-out oasis.
Bring an extra fold-away bag for bearing home all your treasures from the Night Bazaar. If you're planning on going elephant trekking in the nearby jungle, shorts or trousers will preserve your modesty.
Smoking is allowed in the Lobby Lounge and Terrace Bar & Cigar Lounge only. Pets are not permitted.
Welcome: baby cots are free and extra beds for older children can be supplied for THB3,500. Babysitting with staff is available with 24-hours notice for THB400 an hour, plus a THB100 charge after 10pm.
Children are welcome at the Chedi Chiang Mai, although it has a sophisticated adult feel and isn't the kind of place to sport a kids' club.
Older kids or teens who will enjoy Chiang Mai's city charms and can fit in with this chic abode.
The spacious Chedi Club Suites, the only room type which can accommodate extra beds for older kids.
The free guest bikes are a fun way for children to explore the grounds or local area, and older kids will enjoy cooking classes, river cruises, a visit to local Doi Suthep Temple, or shopping trips to the nearby Night Bazaar or Saturday and Sunday Walking Street markets. Further afield, elephant treks, hiking and whitewater rafting will appeal to sportier members of your brood.
There is no children's pool, but kids can use the generous main riverside pool, which offers lots of loungers for watchful parents.
Children are welcome in the hotel's restaurant during all opening hours, and there's a dedicated kids' menu. Staff are happy to heat up baby milk or food, and can provide breakfast boxes for little guests.
Available with hotel staff, given 24 hours' notice, for THB400 an hour. After 10pm, you'll also need to pay a THB100 taxi charge for your sitter to return home.
No need to pack
Baby cots, high chairs.
Baby cots are provided free of charge; extra beds for older children are only available in the Chedi Club Suites, for THB3,500 a child a night.
Cuisine ticks all the eco boxes, and is locally sourced, seasonal and organic where possible. The hotel is also a committed recycler.
Flaunting panoramic Mae Ping River views, the balmy balcony of the second-floor Terrace Bar & Cigar Lounge is hard to beat. Day-beds beckon for a champagne session. Come evening, the poolside lawn below is lit by torches.
Simple yet sophisticated. Anantara's cool clash of contemporary and colonial design invites edgy, vintage or niche label threads.
Occupying a restored colonial British Consulate building, the second-floor Restaurant and its tree-shaded deck bring a smart update to the hotel's heritage heart. Australian chef Chris Patzold (formerly of Ku De Ta, Bali) whips up Thai, Indian, Korean and global dishes including some intriguing east-west fusions. Sink into a cane seat on the veranda for afternoon high tea, an English spread with Asian twists (scones with oolong green tea, anyone?) Delicious watermelon sorbets are the perfect cool-me-down. Tapas are served from 6pm on the riverside terrace.
Perfect for pre-dinner drinks, the Bar, on the ground floor of the original colonial building, works a romantic retro look, with lashings of dark wood, earth tones and comfy high stools. It mixes a fine mojito should you fancy a Cuban moment. Indulge those Havana fantasies further in the Terrace Bar & Cigar Lounge, adjoining the second-floor Restaurant, where you can enjoy a tipple or puff of the good stuff out on the airy balcony. You can also order lime sodas or cocktails in the chic Lobby Lounge overlooking a calming pool.
Dinner at the Restaurant is served from 6pm to 10.30pm; the bar keeps ticking over from 5pm until 1am.
In-room dining is available 24 hours a day, with a menu of treats spanning pad thai, tandoori lamb, tapas and juicy burgers. You can also order breakfast in bed, anything off the restaurant menu, children's meals and drinks.
Anantara is located in central Chiang Mai, on the banks of the Mae Ping River, just east of the old town walls.
Fly into Chiang Mai International Airport, a 90-minute hop from capital Bangkok, which also receives domestic flights from Phuket in Thailand, and regional flights from Singapore, Hong Kong and Luang Prabang, among others.
Numerous daily trains (www.railway.co.th) wend their way north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train Station, a 15-minute drive from the hotel. The train journey from the capital takes 10 to 12 hours, but is super-scenic, with private two-berth sleeper cabins.
If you're driving, free parking is available at the hotel. Traffic is less congested in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok. Nearest big town Chiang Rai is a four-hour drive away.
Tuk-tuks are on hand if you're arriving from elsewhere in town.
Worth getting out of bed for
Bank some time in Anantara's luxurious spa, where treatments range from soothing half-hour bathing rituals in a single or double spa bath (we like the idea of a fragrant lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime soak) to Thai-style foot reflexology sessions and traditional Thai massage. Budding gourmets should wrap their taste buds around the Follow the Chef tour, which kicks off with a morning tuk-tuk trip to the local produce market with the Chedi's chef, followed by lunch at a northern Thai restaurant and a personal cooking class back at the hotel's show kitchen before you savour the fruits of your labour for dinner. Alternatively, the Elephant Trail teams an elephant ride with a private hilltop picnic, before you return by bamboo raft along the river. You'll have a chance to bathe your elephant, too. Wrap up your day with a Sunset Cruise along the Mae Ping River, taking in a temple and traditional house en route.
Chiang Mai itself offers a plethora of pretty Buddhist temples, including nearby Doi Suthep, as well as hot shopping (the famous Night Bazaar is just a five-minute stroll away for antiques and kitsch souvenirs, or swing by the Saturday or Sunday Walking Street markets for hill-tribe fabrics, bags, sandals and silver jewellery). Nimmanhaemin Road is home to up-and-coming fashion labels, and the hotel can arrange trips to Baan Tawai's respected antique and homewares warehouses. Golf fans will be grinning here, too, with four world-class, 18-hole, 72-par courses in the Himalayan foothills for teeing off in style.
It's hard to tear yourself away from Anantara's tempting food scene, but if you fancy eating out Tengoku (+66 (0)53 851 133) has a rep for the best Japanese restaurant in town, and is not far from the hotel. Find this small eatery opposite the Mandarin Oriental, at 55, Soi 8 Wat Buakrokluang Moo 1, off Sankampaeng Road. Local hipsters are flocking to Mix Restaurant & Bar at Soi 1 Nimmanhaemin Road, an old wooden abode with an outdoor terrace funked up with chandeliers, pink Chinese sculptures and blue mood-lit tables. Adventurous dishes span Thai, Chinese and western. If Italian pasta, soups and salads float your boat, make for the Pasta Café at 21 Soi 5 Nimmanhaemin Road (+66 (0)53 357 310; www.pastacafechiangmai.com), set in an elegant wooden house down a quiet laneway, with a garden terrace for breezy dining. At 15–17 Loi Kroh Road, Chez Marco Restaurant & Bar (+66 (0)53 207 032) is another hot spot for Mediterranean cuisine, running the gamut from French to Italian, Spanish and Basque delights.
Combine a glam shopping trip with coffee, cake or cocktails at The House, a stylish lifestyle store at 199 Moonmuang Road selling fashion, homewares and art, where you'll also find Ginger & Kafe café (+66 (0)53 419 011; www.thehousethailand.com). Recline on velvet, cushion-flocked sofas, admire the jaunty toile wallpaper, browse a magazine or take advantage of the free WiFi. If you're peckish, this hip Chiang Mai social hub also whips up Eurasian fusion snacks, tasting platters and fuller meals with fine wines at its restaurant. Bring an oversized shopping bag, as the niche local labels and limited-edition pieces make for chic souvenirs.
On the other side of the Ping River, The Riverside Bar & Restaurant at 9–11 Charoenrat Road (+66 (0)5 324 3239; www.theriversidechiangmai.com) is popular with locals and travellers, attracting a buzzy crowd for cocktails, draft beer and regular gigs (think cover bands), with a pretty riverside terrace outside serving Thai and western cuisine.
Like Xanax sprayed in the air, landing in Chiang Mai brings immediate peace to every cell in our bodies. After the intensity of ultra-urban Hong Kong, a short flight away, it’s exactly what we need. Nestled in the north of Thailand, Bangkok’s quieter, more reserved cousin has a unique energy. Surrounded by mountain ranges, it’s popular with adventure fans (perfect for Mr Smith) who love climbing, cycling and rafting. The city itself is full of beautiful temples and is fast becoming the centre for Thai design, where artists and creatives escape the daily grind of the capital (perfect for Mrs Smith).
Being seven months pregnant, I value quick airport customs and passport controls, and impressively it takes us just 15 minutes to be in the car, arranged by the hotel. There is something heavenly about those cold wet lemongrass towels soothing us as we speed towards our retreat.
A zen cube of white, ochre and green perched right by the river, Anantara Chiang Mai is a minimalist and refined oasis of calm. At its heart is an exquisite wooden pavilion – an old British consulate – the only ornate part of the property, which adds the necessary dose of cosiness to the clean-lined backdrop. It’s also home to the hotel’s restaurant and tea parlour, flanked by an enchanting green wall and a serene water pond with floating lilies.
Gorgeous flower petals greet us in the bath tub of our Deluxe Room, too, a simple wooden space where we slip into a holiday coma. Afterwards, we head to the pool, where my love affair with the hotel is solidified. Metres of crystal-clear water (cleaned with salt, not chlorine) stretch along the river, with grass-topped white walls on one side and a lily pond on the other. Mr Smith (a budding triathlete) and I start our laps; his are real ones, mine more pregnant lady splashing, but we both have a blast.
Service is impeccable. As we melt into our sun-beds waiters bring us cool towels, rose water mist and glasses of iced lime water (no nasty plastic bottles, my pet eco peeve). We order from the restaurant menu, a tempting mix of Indian, Thai and western choices. Mr Smith settles on a classic club sandwich, while I devour pomelo salad with soft-shell crab (a definite winner) and a veggie curry.
Blissing out, we swim, eat and read. Come afternoon, Mr Smith explores the mountains on his bicycle – he is training for an Ultra Ironman and Chiang Mai is a cyclist’s paradise. We finish the day off with a very romantic dinner in the hotel restaurant. Twilight by the river is breathtaking: crickets create background music, candles and torches flicker in the dusk, and small boats slowly glide down the dark water. Mr Smith samples the western menu, which is well executed with fresh ingredients, while I settle on exquisite Thai and Indian. The only frustration is the mosquitoes that try to eat us alive. Beating a retreat, we order dessert as room service. Two minutes after devouring our coconut pandan leaf ice-cream we’re in dreamland.
A serene morning swim makes for an ideal start to day two, in what must be my favourite hotel pool in the world. The air is still cool and a gardener in a traditional round hat is tending to the water lilies. We grab breakfast, a mix of Western, Thai and Chinese, including addictively good rice noodles. Mr Smith ventures out on his bike for more intense mountain training, while I walk around the Old City, discovering stores selling indigo textiles, pottery and other crafts. Chiang Mai’s centre is a little messy, yet charming. Full of temples and life on every corner, it's a city where you can find anything from unique street food to fresh coconuts or a perfect Thai massage.
As the heat rises, I seek refuge back at the hotel pool, armed with a bag full of indigo fabrics. Mr Smith returns from his cycling adventures beyond himself with excitement – he has climbed some seriously high peaks and meandered through mesmerising mountain forests.
In the evening I jump on a free guest bicycle and brave the streets while Mr Smith kips. I cycle along the canal, a blue artery that creates a square around the old town and then take in the area of Chiang Mai University, a green sanctuary. Later, after sunset, we enjoy another perfect dinner at the Anantara armed with extra mosquito spray.
Bikes dominate day three, too, as Mr Smith missions out for his last 200-kilometre ride while I cycle around the city borders, laced with lovely little side lanes. I spy an old lady with her sun umbrella, carrying vegetables; children and elders napping on the cool tiled floors of small shops; a corner store frying some chickens; and an elderly man on his rickety bike (cycling so slow you’d think he had all the time in the world). I come across a wholesale fruit market, where I beg a fruit vendor for a guava, surrounded by fragrant watermelons, mangos and lychees.
Spa pampering beckons on my last morning, and a fantastic pregnancy massage soothes my tired legs. Afternoon tea at the parlour is our final treat, a delicious offering of wraps and quiches, small bowls of Khao Soi chicken noodle soup, mini burgers and mouthwatering Thai and Indian desserts. After all that cycling, we reckon we’re earned it!