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HOT SPOTS: CHIANG MAI & CHIANG RAI


& CHIANG MAI


intact, smaller, more northerly Chiang Rai is a great bet. It’s scenically set in the so-called Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Burma around the mighty Mekong. A river trip, perhaps to visit a hill tribe, is a must, travelling by longtail boat through a limestone mountain landscape reminiscent of an inland Krabi or Phuket. Chiang Rai’s charming night market offers good craftware, souvenir-shopping opportunities and interesting food stalls, some offering the dubious treat of deep fried crickets. The North of the country is where elephants were once used for logging, so today it’s the top place for tourist interaction with the animals (see Eco-tourism p.13). Thailand’s main soft adventures and eco-experiences are accessed through the northern gateways of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, like trekking to see hill tribes or visit the King’s Royal Project agricultural schemes, and mountain biking and rafting excursions (see Activities p.11).


A THAILAND


GET INVOLVED • Take a cyclo-tour of Chiang Mai,


stopping at some of the ornate temples


• Try Northern khantoke food sitting crossed-legged at a low table, including glutinous ‘sticky rice’


• Visit royal villa Doi Tung, one-time holiday residence of the King’s mother, and its garden and arboretum


• Rise early to give a dawn food


offering to the monks streaming out of revered hilltop temple Doi Suthep


• Tee-off in cooler climes at one of the region’s many golf courses


• Visit the Hilltribe Museum and


Education Centre and the Hall of Opium to learn more about local culture


19 HOTELS RECENT OPENINGS


Sala Lanna, Chiang Mai Just 16 guest rooms – most with river views, some with water features – and a two-bedroom pool suite villa (pictured above) comprise this April 2013 opening. Treats include riverside dining on Italian cuisine or Western and Asian tapas, a rooftop pool and skybar and complimentary wifi. salaresorts.com/lanna


X2 Chiang Mai Villa House parties or family gatherings of up to 12 will suit this five- bedroom X2 which debuted last year in a mature city centre garden. Indoor and outdoor dining and kitchen areas and an eight- metre pool are highlights. x2resorts.com/villas/chiang-mai


Amari Buriram United This football-themed hotel opened late last year in Thailand’s North Eastern province, Buriram, known for its extensive temple ruins. The


58-room property has a stadium design with rooms facing a mini football field and pool. Players’ changing room-style bathrooms and a restaurant with bench seating also feature. onyx-hospitality.com


137 Pillars House This relative newcomer has made Conde Nast’s Hot List. Thirty suites are set in two-storey teak houses dating from 1889, in the leafy Wat Gate neighbourhood. Check for advance booking discounts on accommodation, excursions, golf and an Ultimate Wellness spa package. 137pillarshouse.com


Sireeampan Boutique Resort & Spa


This hotel is an intimate 11-suite luxury resort in the heart of Chiang Mai. It opened with an ‘exquisitely intricate design’ inspired by the Thai royal manors of the 18th century, and has a spa and pool. sireeampan.com


THESE NORTHERN GEMS ARE GATEWAYS TO COOL CULTURAL EXPERIENCES


lthough it’s Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai’s proliferation of temples and its atmospheric riverside dining scene help it feel more intimate. For handicraft hunters it beats Bangkok for shopping. Its night markets are the most famous in Thailand and surrounding villages specialise in different wares, from painted parasols to pottery. For a taste of rural Thailand with mod-cons still


SEE IN THE NEW YEAR Chiang Mai is one of the best places in the country to celebrate Songkran – Thai New Year


Chiang Mai &


Chiang Rai combines well with...


Bangkok, beaches and nearby Pai for white-water rafting


CHIANG RAI


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