“A luxurious sanctuary spread around a magnificent teak villa haunted by the ghosts of colonial enterprise”
There are 2 main types of generous suite, Rajah Brooke (70 sq.m) and East Borneo (75 sq.m), set in 2-storey buildings with large terraces so it feels like having your own apartment. The only difference apart from the colour scheme - the former has blue soft furnishings, the latter red - is that East Borneo Suites can be set up as twin rooms on request. Ask for a suite on the upper floor where you’re out of sight of passing traffic. Ceilings are (or feel) higher, and you get more of a breeze.
All rooms are painted white with attractive moulded ceilings and colonial furniture, decorated with daguerreotypes of old Chiang Mai, whose elephant theme is echoed by little pachyderms marching across the curtains. The big 4-poster beds were almost too soft for our liking but come with high-thread-count linen. In front of the bed is a sofa, where you can watch TV. Music and DVD players are the least of the amenities: better is the range of glassware in the minibar, and the espresso machine in every room.
Best of all is the suite of bathrooms. There are 5 cells in each room type, so it feels like you’re passing through space-ship airlocks. First is your walk-in wardrobe with his’n’hers sinks, followed by the bathtub, followed by the indoor shower and loo, followed by the outdoor shower. Toiletries are jasmine-scented, as is the humidifier. Robes, slippers and hairdryers are provided.
Out on your generous terrace is a planter’s chair and a huge daybed. Smokers and non-smokers alike will spend much of their time here. The butler (whom the bumf encourages you to think of as your friend) lights the mosquito coils at night, and a powerful fan flaps overhead.
William Bain Terrace Suites
These 100 sq.m suites also have a sitting room/library and a garden. Crucially, they’re upstairs in the most ‘exclusive’ corner overlooking the pool.
Louis Leonowens Pool Suites
Named after a former resident, the son of Anna of The King and I fame, these are perfect if you want to splurge on a honeymoon. At 135 sq.m they're by far the biggest rooms, and have all the same luxuries of the William Bain Terrace Suites plus a plunge pool.
The latter 2 suites are particularly indulgent as guest receive a fruit basket, a bottle of Prosecco (or non-alcoholic option), Thai tapas or finger foods, a daily signature cocktail, late check-out (subject to availability), and a commemorative gift. These benefits are not available in conjunction with any other offer.
Breakfast, served in the turquoise Dining Room, is unlimited à la carte, including fruit, yoghurt, cereals, good bread, ‘homemade’ (i.e. imported) jam, and excellent tea and coffee. At the time of writing the kitchen had not come into its own, failing to figure out that eggs Benedict or Florentine do not benefit greatly from paprika. Stick to plain fried eggs for the time being.
There are 2 restaurants on site which serve lunch and dinner. The Dining Room serves Thai and Asian dishes, try pan-fried duck breast with honey cashew nuts or the deep-fried lobster with puffy rice, tofu and crispy garlic. Then there's the Palette Restaurant which has a more Western menu featuring grilled scallops with a champagne velouté and grilled Australian beef in port . As well as this, there are reasonably priced poolside and in-room snacks. Private dinners and picnic hampers can be provided, and on request the hotel can arrange lunch on a hot-air balloon. Really.
There’s daily afternoon high tea on offer, which is served either in the Parlor Lounge, by the infinity pool or on the lawn. Take time out to relax with customised tea blends, high quality coffee and complimentary Thai sweets. If you want something a bit stronger, head to Jack Bain’s Bar for a cocktail.
There’s plenty of food within a stone’s throw of the hotel. More or less opposite on Charoenrat Road, you can get excellent khao soi, the Chiang Mai speciality of egg noodles and tender meat in spicy coconut curry, for less than £1. Ask for 'special' for an extra-big bowl, and go easy on the chilli paste.
Comedara on Charoenrat, at the back of the modern art gallery, has good gentrified Thai food - all rather mild - on a terrace overlooking the river, with interesting dishes like yum chayote and ginger pork stew.
For noisy fun, check out the city’s 2 famous riverside restaurants, The Riverside ‘since 1983’ and its slicker neighbour The Good View. Spend at least one evening here: turnover is quick, so a table with a river view will become available. Draft beer and retro European favourites are one draw (the filet mignon comes with ribbed carrots), the eclectic mix of humanity another. Energetic bands murder chart-topper after chart-topper. For afternoon snacks, visit Vieng Joom On, the musk-pink teahouse.
Among the bewildering options near the tourist hub of Tha Pae Gate, we recommend the authentic and absurdly cheap Pizzeria Da Roberto, next to De Naga hotel. Check local publications for fine dining, which is mostly found in other hotels.
Management don't discourage families but there are no specific facilities for children. That said, baby cots, extra beds and babysitting are available on request.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Rajah Brooke Suites can fit 1 baby cot or 1 rollaway bed, and their terraces can interconnect; East Borneo Suites can fit 1 rollaway bed and 1 baby cot
Cots and extra beds available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking