The Four Seasons Chiang Mai seems to have found the ideal balance between authentic experiences and luxury. The 20-acre property sits outside of the center of Chiang Mai, a city in Northern Thailand that can be reached from Bangkok via a one hour flight. Couples can opt for one of the 64 pavilion rooms, while families and larger groups will find a better fit in one of the 12 pool villas or 22 private residences.
The flight from Bangkok is quick and several airlines make the trip daily. If you like to stretch out, keep in mind that Bangkok Airways has the most legroom of the airline options (at least in economy class). The resort itself is a short taxi ride from the airport in one of the more pristine parts of the Mae Rim Valley. The resort also offers airport transfer.
The open air lobby sets the tone for this Four Seasons property. The vaulted ceilings and spacious seats were inspired by the architecture and design of the local Lanna tribe. The star of the show, even in the lobby, is the view. You can see mountains in the background and the resort’s lake and rice paddies in the foreground. If you can take your eyes off the scenery and look down for a moment, you may even notice mandalas made from floating flowers placed throughout the overlook area.
Even in the “basic” pavilions, luxury and spaciousness prevail. Each pavilion has its own deck or patio overlooking the resort. If you wake up in time, you may even catch a glimpse of the resident water buffalo as they make their daily trek around the grounds.
It is an understatement to say these rooms are large. By themselves, the bathrooms - equipped with dressing areas, rainfall showers, and separate tubs - are the same size as most standard hotel rooms.
Pool villas and private residences can accommodate families, groups and corporate retreat-goers (the resort also has meeting facilities). These accommodations, which have two to four bedrooms, offer a higher level of privacy. The pool villas have their own pools and patio areas, though you might still want to take a dip in the main pool because of the views, comfortable lounge area and the easy access to the main bar.
That's right, the pool is adjacent to the bar, which serves craft cocktails created by a master mixologist. The main restaurant is the Sala Mae Rim. This eatery has a breakfast buffet and a full menu of Western and Thai dishes served throughout the day. Sala's wine list includes some surprisingly high-quality Thai wines.
The resort has two tennis courts and fitness center. The highlight for health-conscious travelers, however, will undoubtedly be the overwater, open air yoga pavilion. A resident instructor is on hand to guide both novices and experts through their morning yoga session.
The spa features seven airy treatment rooms. The massage menu is designed based on the Thai idea of social harmony. Treatments are tailored to the seven different groups that made up traditional Thai society (if you are curious, the seven groups are Servers, Farmers, Craftsmen, Noblemen, Royalty, and Monks). Each “group” also has its own body and facial treatments, many of which use natural herbs and oils.
The traditional Thai massage (offered as part of the "Server" treatment menu), is quite different from a standard oil massage. Also known as a yoga massage, it is characterized by deep pressure and stretching that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed afterward.
Despite being in such a pristine place, the Four Seasons Chiang Mai is convenient to the heart of the city. This is certainly an urban area, but people who are overwhelmed by Bangkok will find Chiang Mai much more relaxed and accessible. Local restaurants, temples (such as the gilded Wat Phra That Doi Suthep) and the expansive night market are all worth a trip outside the resort. The night market features street food, exotic fruits, souvenirs, handicrafts and even traditional medicinal oils. One of the most popular attractions at the market is the "fish massage" where tiny fish nibble the excess skin off of your feet.
Chiang Mai puts travelers in touch with a different side of Thailand. Far away from Bangkok and the popular islands, it showcases a more authentic version of the country. If you value luxury, the Four Seasons is certainly the best base for a trip here.