Tamarind Village

Chiang Mai & North, Thailand Book from

A welcoming oasis of calm amidst the ornate temples, exotic bazaars, food stalls and night markets of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a mighty urban sprawl around a seductive square mile of charm. Naturally, most visitors congregate there, and right in the heart of the old city, where you’d expect it to be noisiest and hottest, is this oasis of cool and calm. Built around a 200-year old tamarind tree, approached through a long bamboo tunnel, this collection of buildings with verdant courtyards inspired by rural temple cloisters is a gem of a hotel. Designed by the same people as the Rachamankha but with simpler materials and more humility, it surrenders some right angles to the limitations of the plot and some demands on the furniture to budget concerns, but this is hardly a problem. More importantly, it's now owned by people who understand the hotel business (cynics might say a little too well).

Simple bedrooms that make the best use of the limited space, a large swimming pool, an unbeatable breakfast buffet and friendly staff combine to make this a top choice in Chiang Mai.

Highs

  • The atmosphere is leafy, almost rural
  • It's within walking distance of markets, river and temples
  • It's surprisingly quiet at night
  • Plunging into the swimming pool, which is designed like a lotus pond, and set among trees providing dappled shade, is delightfully cooling

Lows

  • Renovations will take place during May-June and September-October 2016. All work will be during daytime hours and measures will be taken to ensure any disturbance is kept to a minimum
  • It's often full, so deckchairs and towel space can be at a premium
  • Rooms are a bit small and basic
  • The restaurant, spilling out attractively on the rim of the pool, is quite steeply priced
  • The spa seems a little expensive: more affordable options are available nearby

Best time to go

We think November-January are the best months to visit Chiang Mai -not too hot, and free from the swidden smoke of February-March and the rains of May-October. The crazy water festival of Songkran in April is also a draw.

Our top tips

We suggest staying in Chiang Mai for 3-4 days, to allow for a couple of temples, a full day browsing the markets and stalls, plus time for some spa treatments or a cookery lesson. You might want to split that into two short stays either side of a trekking trip.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 47
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Lanna Deluxe Room

Rooms

You wouldn't know it, but spread around a handful of leafy courtyards are 47 bedrooms. The décor is simple: white walls, dark-wood kingsize beds, a large bamboo-woven headboard, and a rush mat on the polished concrete floor. There's a cabinet with a TV and minibar (with a crafts display on top), and a wall-mounted air-conditioning unit below the pitched ceiling. A pair of simple recesses with a clothes rail and boxes serve as wardrobes. The small rooms make the best use of space, and would make better use still if the coffee-making tray was put on the other side of the bed with the aid of an extension cord. Welcoming and cosy.

Through narrow saloon doors is a small bathroom with a shower - the head is fixed, so standard-issue Europeans may have to bend - plus a basin, loo and a nice range of toiletries including (what else?) tamarind soap, exfoliates etc...

The Lanna Deluxe Rooms have a small outside sitting area, ensuring a bit more privacy than the standard Lanna Rooms, which are accessed directly from the cloisters. During longer stays, that can be a boon.

The Tamarind Suites are spacious, and will suit families as there's room a'plenty for an extra bed. Extra benefits include living areas, a DVD player, an outdoor sitting area, and a tub in the marble bathrooms. The Spa Suite is the property's ultimate residence, located by the spa, with a half indoor/half outdoor set up. The large terrace has a daybed and there's an outdoor shower.

Since our visit, the Lanna Suites have also been added - we yet to personally view them.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

In the lovely, open-sided sala beside the swimming pool you'll find the best breakfast buffet this side of the Ping river. Countless types of fruit, many of them unknown to Europeans (longan, pimelo), vie for space with waffles, bacon, vegetable stir-fry, sausages, croissants, yoghurts, toast, jams and a fine selection of fresh juices (including java plum and, of course, tamarind). Load your tray and take a place by the pool, where you'll notice - with the dismay of one who has already over-ordered - a young chap cooking irresistible-smelling omelettes stuffed with goodies. They're worth making space for. Just as you're about to tuck in, be prepared for the national anthem to strike up next door, enforcing a tantalising abstention until it ends.

There's an equally appetising dinner menu, which is handy if you're dead on your feet after all that shopping, or if you just feel like an easy poolside meal. It's also available for lunch, though chances are you'll be out and about in town. After a snack of deep-fried banana chips and northern pickled pork with your cold Singha beer (or indeed European wine), there's a choice of northern Thai specials (spicy sausage, minced pork liver, sticky rice); international fare (lamb chops, 'spag bol', sandwiches); and curries of almost every permutation (pork / beef / chicken / seafood with cashews / mushrooms / broccoli).

If you want to dine out, the quirky, candlelit Huen Phen restaurant is a real find: an Aladdin's cave of bric-a-brac and bizarre tribal dishes.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the temples of the old town, right on your doorstep. Or simply lose yourself in the sleepy streets and peer into the doorways

  • Take a Thai massage or cookery course - there’s no better place in the country to learn these arts, with a plethora of classes and schools vying for your custom

  • Go trekking and rafting, or take a hill-tribe tour: the province is the epicentre of outdoor adventures, though you should choose your operator carefully and know that the region is far from unspoilt

  • Try the Flight of the Gibbon tour, along 2km of ziplines and hanging bridges in the vertiginous jungle canopies

  • Rent a scooter and just drive. In the direction of the hills, you’ll soon reach Doi Suthep, the city’s own temple mountain, with its processional staircase, gold-painted temples and chedis, and glorious views (the cable car is best avoided)

  • A fellow plays the ranad ek (1-string fiddle) for an hour by the pool every evening, out of attachment to the hotel that helped him pay his way through music school. Together with the chants of the monks from adjacent temples and the beautifully lit buildings, this makes for a magical atmosphere

  • Visit the Night Bazaar, actually an evening bazaar that still offers the best selection of handicrafts, trinkets and tat among the mushrooming venues. It’s a 15-minute walk down the road across the moat

  • Take a tuk-tuk to the Ping River, with its romantic waterfront bars and restaurants

  • Have a drink in one of the beer bars along the moat at Tha Pae Gate: the area preserves the homely, fairylit sleaze of a bygone era in aspic, with peeling Formica and ancient beer coasters included. Or head to the expat and traveller bars on Ratchawithi around the corner

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

As city hotels go, this is a great place for kids of all ages. Extra beds and cots can be supplied, and there's even an English-speaking babysitting service if you want to hit the night market without them. Keep an eye on your children around the pool area, and when you venture out into the bustling city streets. Children aged 12 or younger stay for free if they share the parent's bed, but breakfast is extra. A roll-away bed can be provided at a charge.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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