The Four Seasons Chiang Mai is a peaceful retreat, nestled in the scenic countryside, away from the crowds, while offering a glimpse into Thai culture.
After our adventures at the Golden Triangle we headed back to Chiang Mai to spend a few days lazing around yet another incredible Four Seasons property just outside of the city. We were offered a package combining our stay at the Tented Camp with a stay at their Chiang Mai Resort and took the opportunity to explore Northern Thailand in Four Seasons luxury. Our stay was spent lounging poolside, doing sunrise yoga sessions, eating amazing Thai and Italian food and daydreaming to views of rice fields, mountains and gardens.
Although we were still in the same country, in the same region and staying with the same hotel chain, this Four Seasons felt like stepping into a completely different world. Gone were the endless thick foliage and the roaming elephants of the Golden Triangle– we now had a fully functional rice paddy with water buffaloes and our treetop camping tent was substituted by a modern villa firmly rooted to the ground. The experience is more of a serene retreat than a jungle adventure – think peaceful afternoon strolls around the gardens instead of an early morning hike to watch the sunrise from the top of a hill.
About the Hotel
The Four Seasons Chiang Mai occupies a space of more than 20 acres filled with gardens, pools, lily pads and terraces, where a total of 98 pavilions, villas and residences peek from within the trees that envelop them. Bamboos, plants and palm trees provide shade to the pathways, while the villas and common areas are surrounded by a myriad of tropical flowers. The pavilions, the spa and most of the hotel’s common areas combine Lanna (Northern Thai) with Siamese (Southern Thai) architecture and décor, while the villas and residences fuse Western design with Thai embellishments, crafts and materials. The result is beautiful, comfortable and definitely peaceful.
The property integrates seamlessly into the surrounding landscape – infinity pools overlook gardens, terraces extend into the rice paddies and everything seems to be under the cooling shade of the most gorgeous plant specimens. Although everything has been meticulously planned – from the workers on the rice paddy to daily arrangements of flowers on water pots throughout the grounds –nothing seems staged or unnatural. The atmosphere is contemplative and slow paced and the centerfold of the experience is a communion with nature and yourself.
Our Upper Level Pavilion was a beautiful teakwood Northern Thai-style house perched high above the rice paddies with panoramic views of the hotel’s grounds and the Suthep Mountains. Wood and silks were used plentifully and Siamese-style prints, art and carved details brightened the relaxing earthen palette. Since the pavilions have been recently renovated, everything felt very new and the design and décor looked modern and updated.
The best part of our room was the daybed on the outdoor sala. It was the perfect place to attempt (emphasis on attempt!) to catch up on work. The sala extends from the villa into the rice paddy and has – aside from the amazing daybed – a set of plush chairs and a dining table. Although other villas were close by, everything felt very intimate and the thick vegetation that surrounded our pavilion provided plenty of privacy and noise filtering.
Wellness is Key
Health and wellness are a top priority at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai resort. Yoga and Pilates are offered daily by some of the best-qualified instructors and teachers and there’s wealth of treatments and experiences available at the spa. The hotel has its own resident Yogi, Pilates teacher and Reiki master – Dheeraj Singh Patwal. We did a sunrise yoga session with him and his knowledge of the human body and how it moves is impressive. Although Chris and I are at different Yoga levels, he was able to guide us into doing poses correctly by constantly reminding us to focus on our alignment instead of who could stretch or bend furthest.
The spa has a very strong focus on Thai treatments, ingredients and rituals. Silk glove massages, red jasmine rice scrubs and fruit and rose wraps are some of the unique treatments available from their Royal Collection – a series of treatments and therapies inspired by centuries old beauty secrets and techniques. Their spa classes will teach you how to perform a classic massage or a Thai massage in a couple’s session and also offer you the chance to make your own all-natural scrub and either bring it home with you or use it immediately for a treatment. I have learned that, when in Thailand, the best thing to do is just go for a Thai massage. I did exactly that and was not disappointed one bit.
Dining at Four Seasons Chiang Mai
As a self-imposed rule, I will only eat Thai food while in Thailand but the Four Seasons’ in-house Italian restaurant, Terraces, was an experience worth breaking the rules for. The chef is Italian – you can taste it in all the yummy, garlicky sauces – and all the pasta is fresh and made on site.
For the obligatory Thai fare, Sala Mae Rim features a large selection of Thai favorites for lunch and dinner, including set menus with inspirations such as Lanna – Northern Thai fare with plenty of fish and pork options– and the seafood-heavy Royal Thai and fish sections with influences from the coastal regions of the South. Also served on the restaurant’s premises is breakfast buffet featuring both Western and Thai options along with a separate room just for pastries. Their afternoon tea service includes a range of sweet treats that go from classic scones and jam to sticky rice with mango and Thai tea ice cream.
The hotel’s Ratree Bar and Lounge served some of the best cocktails we came across while in Thailand. It’s close to the Terraces restaurant so expect plenty of Italian nibbles to be passed around. During the day you can bring your cocktails into the infinity pool that’s in front of the bar area and in the evenings enjoy the sun setting over the mountains and rice fields from one of their many sofas, chairs and beds. The atmosphere at the bar is very relaxed and casual and there’s even a pool table in case you’re feeling up for a game after a few Spicy Mai Tais.
About the Location
The hotel is located about a half-hour drive from the Chiang Mai City center in the Mae Rim district – a residential area near the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Though it’s not exactly in the city center, there are plenty of things to do within and outside of the resort. If you want to go out, there is a shuttle service into the city and the area surrounding the hotel is rife with temples, attractions and curiosities such as the Tiger Temple, an orchid and butterfly farm, the Chiang Mai Monkey Center and a Snake Farm.
There is a community of Hmong people that is open to visitors at the Doi Sutheph-Pui National where you can learn about their history and culture and shop their world-famous crafts. If you rather stay in, there are plenty of activities within the resort to keep you so busy. Experiences such as cooking lessons with trips to the local market, rice planting, spa classes, couples’ walking and biking tours through the gardens and the rice fields and Thai kickboxing lessons all provide you with a chance at personal improvement and immersion into the local culture.
The best way to arrive at the hotel is to organize a transfer. Whether you're coming from another area in Norther Thailand or arriving at the airport, the hotel will take care of you and make sure your arrival is stress free.
For more information about the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, visit their website: