The air here is crisp and clean and once you leave the crowded city centre, remote and agricultural. You are quite simply surrounded by evergreen nature...and it’s wonderful.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: This has to be one of my favourite hotels ever. Exquisite, extraordinary and utterly indulgent.
Nestled among the mountain tops of Chiang Mai, Chantra Khiri Chalet Chiang Mai is located just 25 kilometres from Chiang Mai International Airport and 40 minutes from Chiang Mai old town. Views of Doi Suthep (Doi means mountain) National Park are outstanding. The air here is crisp and clean and once you leave the crowded city centre, remote and agricultural. You are quite simply surrounded by evergreen nature...and it’s wonderful.
We were driven ‘up’ to the resort which is 600m above sea level, by Tik the resort owner’s personal driver, bodyguard and butler who spoke a little English and was most helpful in organising our luggage and getting our small party of three organised. We were whisked away in our minivan equipped with luxury leather armchairs, magazines and bottled water. (By the end of the drive I had nicknamed Tik, Mr Tik-Tok. He smiled at that but he may have just been gracious).
We pass temples and farmyards. Hardly a building above two storeys high. The weather ranged from bright sunshine, clear blue skies to rain and mist. The mist resembles cotton candy at this level (there’s something magical about living in the ‘clouds’).
The resort covers a large plot on the mountain but its 19 rooms are cleverly nestled into the landscape.
From the van we transferred to 2 golf carts, one for the luggage and one for us. In the resort we crossed a bridge spanning a waterfall and a Koi pool down below. The fluorescent orange and white fish add a Japanese touch to the glorious gardens.
I noticed a bright red antique post box off to the right of the reception area. The bright contrast, although at odds with its surroundings, fitted perfectly - a true testament to good design.
Throughout our 3 day stay the restaurant was certainly a focal point for visitors. It was mid-afternoon and we had skipped lunch although we ate on the short 75-minute flight from Bangkok. We headed to the restaurant for a snack.
Located next to the resort’s outdoor infinity pool we ordered Khao Soi Gai. (A Thai saying goes, "If you haven't tasted Khao Soi or seen Doi Suthep, you haven't been to Chiang Mai.") It was fantastic! The noodles and chicken were cooked to perfection and the ‘soup’ was creamy and delicious. We were accompanied by Kwan who had flown up from the Bangkok office to accompany us. She beamed with a huge smile when, after tasting the first mouthful, I said “Aroi mak mah!” (Very delicious!).
It was at this point we were also introduced to the General Manager Khun Jom. After his warm welcome, we were shown to our room, room 18 the Chantra Khiri a corner suite of 93 sqm.
With a rear facing comfortable vestibule/sitting area you pass through a second door into the bedroom. The vestibule has tea and coffee making facilities, including an espresso machine, a bar area and complimentary mini bar. The area is open to the outside along two walls and has armchairs and a settee.
Once you enter the bedroom you are struck by the elegance of the furnishings (with tasteful antiques from all over the world), the bold navy blue decor and contrasting stripes, a glorious marble bathroom in addition to a free-standing antique bathtub in the bedroom. The aesthetic is both pleasing and elegant. High ceilings and emotionally evocative colour schemes are some of the most striking of any hotel anywhere.
A huge balcony gives you wonderful panoramas of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui mountains and the National Park reaching up to 1685m high. We were on the top floor of the resort’s main building (there are villas and outbuildings scattered around the resort). We were privy to a cloudless night sky with a full moon. Surreal and stunning. Life is good!
Aside from its dominating presence on the horizon, Doi Suthep is the home of some of the most famous symbols in the Kingdom. In 1981 Doi Suthep, Doi Pui and Doi Buakha, along with the 161 square kilometres (62 square miles) of forest in which they are located, became Thailand's 24th national park. A year later a 100 square kilometre (38 square miles) annexe was added, bringing the park's total area up to 261 square kilometres (100 square miles).
The highest peak in the park is Doi Pui which tops off at 1,685 meters (5,528 feet), making it the eighth largest mountain in Thailand.
Accommodation in the resort comprises of 5 one or two-bedroom Lanna Rice Barn Villas and 14 rooms and suites in various styles from studio rooms to Pool Suites.
During our three day stay, we visited a number of stunning temples; Wat Chedi Luang and the city pillar, Wat Intharawat (Wat Ton Kwen), Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Phra That Doi Kham which were all within easy reach of the resort, but don’t do them all in one day. We enjoyed taking our time and really exploring and having a few moments for quiet contemplation.
The resort’s Na Chantra Restaurant is an all-day dining restaurant that offers 80 indoor and outdoor seats, both stylish and hugely popular. The reputation of Na Chantra’s cuisine has spread far and wide and brings an almost constant stream of visitors throughout the day. It’s no wonder, the quality of Thai cuisine is unsurpassed in the region. Add to that the views and stylish design, it’s a perfect ‘cocktail’ and surefire winning mix. Meal times at weekends are very popular so reservations are strongly encouraged.
For authentic Thai cuisine and a wide selection of both central and Northern Thai dishes, the superbly crafted menu is a work of art. The secret is in the outstanding quality of farm-to-table organic produce and the resort’s own unique signature recipes. Using only locally sourced ingredients and organic vegetables grown in the resort’s own gardens, quality is assured.
The restaurant is an eclectic mix. Decorated in Lanna style yet blended with elegant chandeliers, antique Portuguese teak doors, stylish antique travel suitcases, a giant red carved deer including vibrant colour sofas and chaises longues. The restaurant’s terrace offers yet more stunning panoramic views of the National Park where guests can sit and relax to watch the sunrise or sunsets.
Adjacent to the restaurant you’ll find my two favourite pièces de résistance. Firstly, the peacock chair - a magnificent painted alcove to sit and relax. Secondly and also located in the delightful garden, an antique wooden ‘magic roundabout’ - big enough for children to ride. Its Indian heritage oozes charm and the carved wooden horses are a magnet for kids of all ages.
For small meetings and events the resort can host private celebrations, pre-wedding & wedding parties and catering for 10-80 persons.
The resort’s spa, Rice Barn Massage, offers professional massages including Thai Massage, Foot Massage & Hot Thai Herbal Compress Massage. It is open daily. Reservations are essential, please.
The resort is owned by Pol.Col. Kriangsak Kanlayawattanacharoen. His friends call him Khun Kriang.
The eldest of three boys (his siblings are twins), Kriang now heads the family stone quarry business in Northern Thailand producing stone aggregate for road building and concrete.
He is also a Police Colonel in the local tourist police. All his vehicles carry registration number ‘49’ which shows how proud Kriang is to have graduated from class 49 at the police academy.
Born in the ’70s this hard-working, delightful gentleman lives at the resort. He has his own private residence a little further up the hillside a few steps away from the resort. You will often meet him around the resort accompanied by his faithful dog ‘Lincoln’ a Boxer. A Strong and powerful breed of dog but Lincoln is a softy and guests adore him.
Opened in 2017, Kriang designed and built the resort from scratch, which took just one year to build. This shows you the tenacity of the man. Focused and determined yet every time I met him he was always cheerful and unassuming. We dined with him at his private residence one evening. He did all the cooking. We were not alone. We were 12 people. The meal was a triumph. The evening was relaxed and fun. Kriang was dressed in slacks and a favourite t-shirt. I watched how he welcomed all his friends and guests that night. He was sincere and genuine welcoming all warmly. The amazing Mr Tik-Tok served the drinks all night under a full moon.
Kriang’s passion is his garden. We went to meet him at the resort’s vegetable garden. He and a small team including the ever-present and amazing Mr. Tik-Tok, were planting seedlings for a new crop and preparing the fertile soil for even more. The site was impressive and we were given a grand tour by Kriang.
First, we viewed the newly acquired land from a neighbour which was being converted to capture the waters from the stream that flowed through it. There was already a sizeable pond and a pump could be seen with hoses diverting the water to all parts of the garden. Kriang explained he bought the additional plot as he needed the water to irrigate the garden.
Next, he led us further up the hillside where a digger had carved out a 1000 sqm plot overlooking the entire garden. This was to be the site for his new ‘Chef’s Table’ Restaurant, an open-sided brasserie style serving farm fresh produce straight from the garden. 40 covers with locally grown teas and coffee and a range of beverages, in the kitchen bread and traditional pizza ovens plus a noodle corner. The fare would be Thai and International, Kriang explained. He hopes to open in 3-4 months. I believe he will too!