26 Apr 2017:Chiang Mai, the capital of Northern Thailand, was known as the Lanna Kingdom in the 13th century. Apart from being cooler and less hectic than bustling Bangkok, Chiang Mai, is a captivating mix of ancient and modern. You’ll encounter lush highlands, hill tribe villages, traditional cuisine and remarkable temples along with a hip urban vibe, luxury hotels and shopping nirvana. Where to spend your baht? Read on.

THE “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE” SPLURGE LIST

A Living Museum

The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai transports guests back to the culture and architecture of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Your villa or suite is tucked amid 60 acres of verdant gardens, lakes, a working rice paddy and teak pavilions,

The resort offers myriad activities, from Thai boxing for kids to origami paper folding. Ride a water buffalo and partake in rice planting.

www.dharadhevi.com

French Fusion

At David’s Kitchen, chef O offers classic French cuisine with an Asian accent in a lush garden setting. When you crave a change from curry, consider lobster bisque, beef bourguignon (chef’s speciality) and chocolate soufflé.

www.davidskitchen.co.th

Rooftop Nightcaps

Sip a Ping River cocktail (vodka or gin plus lychee, lemongrass and lime juice) at The Roof bar of the Sala Lanna Chiang Mai hotel.

www.salaresChiaorts.com


Location, Location

Formerly the British Consulate, the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort provides contemporary style in the heart of the city centre. Balconies overlook the Mae Ping River and tranquil gardens. Splurge with a gourmet champagne dinner on the resort’s romantic sunset cruise.

www.chiang-mai.anantara.com

Spice it up

You will be picked up at your hotel and driven to the Raunkaew-Yanon family home where you will visit the gardens and learn to cook traditional Lanna dishes such as chili dips and Northern port curry. Dine with the family on a terrace overlooking their village of Bandoo.

www.chiangmaihomehost.com


Give an unemployed elephant a bath

The elephant is revered in the Buddhist religion as a symbol of protection. Centuries ago, royals rode them in combats against the Burmese. More recently, elephants hauled lumber from Thai jungles. But when the teak exportation business dwindled, many pachyderms and their mahouts (trainers) became unemployed. At the Ran-Tong Save & Rescue Centre, visitors feed, bathe and ride the great beasts while learning more about their plight.

www.rantongelephant.com


THE “CHEAP THRILLS” SAVE LIST

Street eats

Chow down curbside at stalls all over Chiang Mai. At sunset, head to the Chiang Mai Gate Market. Munch and mingle with locals, from bankers to labourers, on barbecued chicken, curries and noodles galore. For dessert, the Thai staple is sticky rice with mango.

Hip & Happening Nimman

Chiang Mai’s coolest place to hang out, Nimmanhaemin Road (aka Nimman), tempts with trendy cafés, unique boutiques and all sorts of bars and casual eateries. Coffee snobs, get your flat white at Doppio Ristr8to. The owner trained with the best baristas in Australia.

There’s the rub

Warning: Thai massages are addictive. Lying on a floor mat and wearing a pair of supplied loose pajamas, your masseuse takes you on series of contortions and stretching movements patterned on the “Asanas” of Hatha Yoga. Experience two hours of such bliss for a pittance at massage studios all over town.

Bestow Blessings

With its many temples and saffron-swathed Buddhist monks, Chiang Mai is the ideal place to take part in an early-morning ritual. Their religion forbids the monks from asking for food, so the custom is to buy a basket from a vendor containing some rice and fruit, remove your shoes, kneel down and offer the basket to a passing monk. For this he’ll bless you. Whatever your beliefs, it’s a lovely way to start your day.


Bargains of the Night Bazaar

Every evening vendors set up their stalls on both sides of Chang Klan Road. Women from various hill tribes, wearing ornate headdresses, sell silver trinkets and hand-woven silk items.

As a general guideline, start the bartering process by offering half the opening price.


Handicraft Highway

Chiang Mai has its own version of the outlet mall. The Samkamphaeng Road, an 18-kilometre stretch, features factory workshops selling silver, silk, laquerware, celadon and hand-painted umbrellas in all sizes from the ones in your Mai Tai to patio shaders.

Heavenly Herbs

At Herb Basics you will find aromatherapy products made from local herbs found in Chiang Mai—from Kaffir Lime Shampoo to Green Tea Lip Balm. They have several locations in town and a new shop at the Chiang Mai International Airport.

www.herbbasicschiangmai.com

 

 

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author

Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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