No visit to Thailand is complete without a trek to Chiang Mai. It is the cultural capital of the North, with mountains, temples, jungles, elephants, and even tigers! Oh and not to mention the most wonderful resort we’ve ever been to. Four Seasons Chiang Mai alone is worth the trip, but the resort combined with all of the other features in the vicinity is the reason Chiang Mai became our favorite city in all of Thailand.
About 12 miles out of the endearing city of Chiang Mai, the Four Seasons resort is nestled in a valley among lush jungle covered hills as the Himalayan mountain range provides a breathtaking backdrop. Their appreciation for natural beauty is obvious immediately upon entering the gates. The impeccable grounds showcase flourishing palms and gorgeous blooms everywhere. Confession: I’m a horticulture nerd and couldn’t get enough of the exotic plant species that created the most beautiful landscaping I’ve ever seen. There is a small lake and even working rice paddies that many of the pavilions are situated around. The rice fields are tended by 40 farmers and several water buffalo, including a handsome gent named Tong (pictures above). We were able to meet the master gardener, who does a phenomenal job of creating an impressive and peaceful setting for such a world class resort. Okay, enough gushing about the greenery. I’ll move on to the actual resort structures.
There are many different buildings that comprise the large resort, but I loved that it didn’t at all feel touristy and commercial. Instead, it feels like a charming Thai village. The open air lobby provides a picturesque view of almost the entire resort, where restaurants, pools, pavilions, private residences, a spa, rice paddies, and a lake all rest. The buildings were designed in the Lanna Kingdom style and feature Thailand’s rich history in the architecture. We stayed in a lovely pool villa that was the size of a small house. It was elegantly furnished with Thai decor and rich silk drapes, in addition to the famous Four Seasons bed (we want one now). Luxury and comfort are the key themes, which was noticeable and appreciated. There are many floor-to-ceiling windows which let you enjoy your private pool, sala, dining pavilion and jungle view. You can even savor the surroundings as you shower indoors with windows looking out to the garden, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, bathe in the private outdoor garden shower. There’s also a luxurious bath tub with a garden view. Really, the showering options are endless.
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Now the resort is beautiful and will make you never want to leave, but what about the food? Just like Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, FS Chiang Mai knows how to serve a breakfast fit for kings. They cook everything you could think of and then some. There were dishes I couldn’t even pronounce but loved to try regardless, and delicious classics like bacon, sausage, omelettes, danishes and fresh fruit were also present of course. One of the best parts of our entire trip was enjoying a gourmet breakfast while sipping coffee, listening to exotic birds chirp, and watching the sun rise over fields of rice. It was the perfect way to start an adventurous day. For several meals, we ate at Terraces, an open air restaurant that features international cuisine (mostly Italian), where I had the best pasta carbonara of my life (seriously, it was to die for)! We also ate at Sala Mae Rim, a renowned Northern Thai restaurant with picturesque views of the Mae Valley. We tried a variety of Thai dishes that were unforgettable, like chicken satays with peanut sauce, Som Tum Poo Nim (papaya/crab salad), Tom Yum Goong (prawn/lemongrass soup), Panaeng See Krong Moo (creamy red curry/pork ribs) and of course, Pad Thai (rice noodles/prawns). We definitely did not go hungry during our time in Chiang Mai.
The quality of service we received at the resort was unparalleled. I cannot describe the level of hospitality the staff placed on every aspect of guest service. The attention to detail is astounding, from the grounds to the room to the food. Every single interaction we had with an employee was unquestionably warm and friendly. It saddened me to say goodbye to our new friends after only a few days.
While I would have been perfectly content not leaving our beautiful pool villa for weeks on end, we did partake in many of the activities offered by FS or in the local vicinity. The resort provides a five star Thai cooking class that is both educational and delicious, a rice farming demonstration, and a tour of the gardens at the property. If you have kids, take them to the Gecko Club while you indulge in the phenomenal spa that will make you feel like royalty (trust us, we know). The resort can easily arrange for you to take a trip to nearby national parks to go hiking and see mountains, waterfalls and temples, or go ziplining and whitewater rafting through exotic jungles. You can take a free resort shuttle to the city of Chiang Mai to visit the busy night bazaar, numerous temples, and the hipster Nimmahemin Street. Just minutes from the hotel property are orchid and butterfly farms and even Tiger Kingdom, where you can hang out with tigers of any size. Yes, we did it, and yes, it was awesome (we chose the big cats!). Our absolute favorite activity during our time in Chiang Mai was our one day elephant mahout training at Baanchang Elephant Park, which we highly recommend if you’re interested in learning about or riding elephants.
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Three of my preconceived notions were shattered after staying at FS Chiang Mai. 1) Service. I always enjoyed good service but didn’t feel it was worth paying extra for or that it was particularly important in the grand scheme of a trip. That was before I experienced the world renowned FS hospitality. 2) Not wanting to leave the resort. Who travels across the world just to stay cooped up inside a hotel the whole time? When the resort is the wonderland that is FS Chiang Mai, I could spend weeks and not leave the grounds. 3) All five star resorts are created equal. Wrong. On a scale of 1-5, FS Chiang Mai is a 7.
The resort truly is the perfect blend of culture, luxury, and natural beauty.
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