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Northern ThailandAugust 1, 2008 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent
The cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai make colorful Hill Tribe culture accessible
Northern Thailand is the birthplace of Thai civilization and the location of Thailand’s third of the famed Golden Triangle, which is completed by Laos and Myanmar. The major cities of this region are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
A Deluxe Room at The Chedi, Chiang Mai exudes sleek elegance
Chiang Mai, often called “The Rose of the North,” is the second largest city in Thailand, and is as laidback as Bangkok is frenetic. A river city, Chiang Mai is still surrounded by a moat, fortified wall and four main gates, which lead to the city’s Old Town. Attractions include the Chiang Mai National Museum, with exhibits on the art and culture of the city and upper Northern Thailand. The Wat Phratat Doi Suthep, the most important and famous Chiang Mai landmark, sits atop the mountain Doi Suthep. Built in 1383, this mountaintop temple is nine miles from town and 3,520 feet above sea level. The temple can be reached via a steep Naga staircase, which has 290 steps, or by railcars. It’s definitely worth a visit for the spectacular views of Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.
Another popular Chiang Mai attraction is The Elephant Conservation Center, about 20 miles outside of town. Here, visitors can view demonstrations by trained elephants and even ride atop an elephant’s back to wander jungle trails, accompanied by a trained mahout.
Further north from Chiang Mai is Chiang Rai. The city is a center for rafting, trekking and tours of tribal villages. The nomadic hill people of the region comprise six main tribal groups—Karen, Hmong, Lahu, Mien, Akha and Lisu—each having unique customs and clothing. Trekking options range from one-day, all-inclusive tours to multiday, overnight treks. Many tours include rafting and elephant riding.
Travelers with a yen for history will want to make time to visit Thailand’s original capital of Sukhothai, on the lower edge of the northern region, 180 miles south of Chiang Mai. The former capital’s superb temples and monuments have been restored in Sukhothai Historical Park, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
December and the first week of January are Northern Thailand’s peak season; book at least two to three months in advance.
A tent with a river view at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Where to Stay
The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is near Chiang Rai in the heart of the Golden Triangle. The property sits above the Ruak River and is accessible only by riverboat. Once you decide that the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is the right choice, subsequent decisions are easy. All tents have the same layout and size, and all tents cost the same. The 15 luxury tents each offer a different view of the scenic countryside and river. The camp hosts a maximum of 30 guests, and offers three- or four-night all-inclusive packages. These packages include accommodations, all meals and beverages (including house wines and spirits), a spa treatment, mahout training, a Golden Triangle excursion and private roundtrip transfers from Chiang Rai Airport. There is a minimum age requirement of 13 for guests. Betty Chan is the camp’s director of sales. Agents can reach out to her at 011-66-53-298-181 or [email protected].
The Chedi, Chiang Mai, in central Chiang Mai, has 84 rooms and suites. Book one of the Chedi Club Suites for enhanced service, such as roundtrip transportation, complimentary laundry and minibar, daily breakfast, complimentary soft drinks during the day and cocktails in the evening, butler and concierge service and access to the private Executive Club Lounge. Chedi Club Suites 223, 323 and 423 have superb Mae Ping River views that include the river’s historic Iron Bridge, the oldest bridge in Chiang Mai. Although there are no connecting rooms at the hotel, families may choose to book a Chedi Club Suite with the option to add either an adjoining second suite or a Deluxe Room.
The Restaurant at the Chedi, Chiang Mai serves Indian and Thai cuisine
The hotel’s spa has 11 treatment rooms—five rooms for couples, five single rooms and one manicure and pedicure room. All 10 treatment rooms are suites with a bed, bathtub, steam room and shower and guest locker. Two of these also have a sauna room. Agents can book spa appointments ahead of time by contacting the spa manager, Joe Palang (011-66-53-253-431, [email protected]).
The Restaurant (the actual name of the venue) serves Indian and Thai cuisine; a favorite dish is See Klong Moo Aob, grilled Northern Thai-style honey marinated pork ribs with fresh lime. Reservations can be made in advance of arrival by calling 011-66-53-253-385. The hotel’s general manager is Eleanor Hardy (011-66-53-253-333, [email protected]).
Fondcome Village calls itself a hotel of arts, culture and nature. Ten minutes from the center of Chiang Mai, the hotel has 48 guest rooms and two suites designed in styles inspired by Northern Thailand hill tribes. At $735 a night, the Lunar Nest Golden Suite is the most expensive room.
The Lunar Nest Villa has a spacious living area, kitchenette, dining area, separate bathroom in the living area, separate dressing room, Jacuzzi bathtub and four Deluxe Rooms on the ground floor.
The resort’s Phaya Villa Junior Suite has one bedroom and a spacious living area with built-in kitchenette, dining area, separate bathroom area and private terrace. The suite has mountain views in the distance, as well as an up-close look at a natural stream that flows next to the villa.
The Tai Yai Wing has 12 guest rooms that include three connecting rooms, which make the wing an ideal choice for a group or family.
The resort doesn’t have a spa, but can provide basic treatments such as Thai massage, reflexology and oil massage in a treatment room that will be set up upon request near the swimming pool.
The hotel’s Huay Chang Kaew restaurant offers authentic Northern Thai food and international cuisine. Picnic baskets and lunch boxes for tour excursions are also available. A specialty is Kaeng Hung Lay (pork curry in Northern Thai style).
The general manager is Jaras Mongkolphan (011-66-53-125-333). Agents can reach out to the resort’s marketing manager, Sangwan Saopaeng (011-66-53-125-333, [email protected]) or Katesirin Kunchana, assistant marketing manager (011-66-53-125-333, [email protected]).
A well-appointed room at the Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa
The Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa played host to Angelina Jolie, who enjoyed her stay so much that she allows them to use her name in connection with promoting the resort.
A nice touch is the authenticity of the staff—some of them are mountain people and wear traditional Karen gowns.
Each of the boutique resort’s units is adjacent to the property’s Tad-Yao waterfall. The resort has three room categories, and the ultimate in accommodations is the two Suite Pool Villas. The villas have teak furniture and Lanna Northern Thailand decor; two Jacuzzis, inside and outdoors; and private views of the waterfall.
Of the six Deluxe Lanna Cottages, Deluxe Lanna Cottage 1 has the best waterfall view. Deluxe Cottages 5 and 6 are a good choice for families, since they share a connected patio and a Jacuzzi.
The resort’s two Luxury Camp accommodations are safari-style tented accommodations with air-conditioning, bathroom with tub, refrigerator and patio with bamboo furniture.
The resort’s Chida Spa has two suite treatment rooms as well as an outdoor spa pavilion next to the waterfall. The most popular masseuse is Spa Manager Worachart Nutprasert, who is available by request only. Book treatments for clients ahead of time by contacting Jirapan Sugunasil, the spa’s managing director (011-66-81-928-8511, [email protected]).
Agents can feel free to contact General Manager Rapeepat Sugunasil (011-66-81-881-1444, [email protected]) directly.
Arriving by Air: There are daily flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai via domestic airlines, including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Nok Air, Orient Thai Airlines and Phuket Air.
Rail: Express and rapid trains leave six times a day for Chiang Mai from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station; on express trains, it’s a 12-hour journey to Chiang Mai.
Entry Requirements: U.S. visitors staying fewer than 30 days do not need a visa to enter Thailand, although they do need to show a valid passport and proof of a return ticket.
Currency: The Thai unit of currency is the Baht, which is divided into 100 satangs.
Electricity: 220 volts AC. Travelers with varied appliances and electronic gear are advised to bring an adaptor kit. In a pinch, a hotel may be able to provide an adaptor.
Water: Tap water is potable, but to play it safe, stick to bottled water.
Time: Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Tour Operators: A partial list of tour operators with programs to Thailand includes Abercrombie & Kent ([email protected], 800-323-7308); Gate 1 Travel ([email protected], 800-682-3333); Globus (866-755-8581); GTS Globotours (800-988-4833); Orient Flexi Pax Tours ([email protected], 800-545-5540); Pacific Delight Tours ([email protected], 800-221-7179); Pleasant Holidays ([email protected], 800-448-3333); SITA World Tours ([email protected], 800-421-5643); Ritz Tours ([email protected], 800-900-2446); Travcoa ([email protected], 800-992-2003); and Viking River Cruises (888-505-7984).
For further information, contact:
Tourism Authority of Thailand
Los Angeles Office
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]
New York Office
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]