The Hedonist: Chiang Mai
What to see and where to be seen
Saturday 24 September 2011
My arrival in Chiang Mai – 370 miles north of Bangkok and 1,000 feet above sea level – provides a welcome respite from the smog-filled, low-lying Thai capital.
I check in to The Chedi (00 66 53 253 333; ghmhotels.com), which is housed in the former British Consulate building on the banks of the Mae Ping River. It belongs to the same group that owns the rather smart Setai in Miami, so I don't expect it to be shabby. And it's not, with 84 sleek rooms full of dark, handsome woodwork, plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows and razor-sharp lines throughout.
I throw my bag down on crisp white sheets, then head outside to meet the others around the infinity pool. I can feel warm rays on my skin as I order a well-deserved Singha beer from a smartly dressed waiter, who passes it down to me in the water.
The smell of scented gardens and the taste of the gorgeous golden stuff relax me more than any spa could. But just in case I'm wrong, I pad my way through the hotel to the on-site spa. I order the signature treatment, The Chedi: a heady, three-hour ritual that sees me polished, massaged and bathed within an inch of my life.
After a quick change, I meet the others in the lobby and we hop in a taxi to the Four Seasons (00 66 53 298 181; fourseasons.com) where we have a table reservation at its restaurant, Terraces. First we're escorted through the hotel, past tropical gardens, to the Ratree Bar and Lounge. It's a picturesque setting: on the upper deck of the main swimming pool is an arrangement of wicker tables, chairs and oversized day beds, lit by glowing candles and mood lighting. We're shown to our own private bed underneath a Lanna-style pavilion and slurp a round of exotic-looking concoctions while looking out over the pool.
Then we're taken through to the restaurant. It's stunning, overlooking the rice paddies, with the looming shape of the Doi Suthep mountain in the distance. The menu, meanwhile, is international fused with Asian. I order roast sea scallops followed by pan-fried duck breast with apple-pumpkin mash. It's divine. More importantly, though, it provides the perfect stomach lining for the night that lies ahead.
A hotel golf cart is summoned to whisk us back through the gardens and up towards the hotel entrance. Here, we climb into a cab and ride down the winding roads, back the way we came.
We eschew any bar-hopping and head straight to Warm-Up at 40 Nimmanhaemin Road; it's a little out of town, but worth the trip. In a ramshackle building an interior courtyard is enclosed on three sides by different bars. We order a round or two and sit al fresco with Chiang Mai's party crowd: skinny jeans, open shirts and Manga-style hair is the uniform for the club's roster of regulars, most of whom pull up outside on two-wheelers.
It's hard to tell what music is playing, with genres from all angles melting into one thumping track, but we finally opt for the largest room, which turns out to be blaring chart-friendly tunes.
It's the type of place you come to when you're ready to wave your hands in the air (like you just don't care). And that's exactly where we're at.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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