We stayed at …
The Chedi. Run by the GHM Hotels group, The Chedi is a 4-level, 4-5 star, 70-ish room resort by the Mae Ping River. Designed with attentiveness to detail in mind and with an eye for serenity, the rooms and public spaces are a true respite from the rest of chaotic Chiang Mai. Staff are for the most part warm, attentive, and ready to assist. Where there were service gaps, staff were eager to compensate and perform service recovery promptly.
The serene grounds.
Our deluxe room was lovely! Complete with open-plan bathroom and our own daybed in the balcony.
The long lap pool running parallel to a lotus pond.
We ate at …
The Chedi Restaurant. To sum it all up — Simply delicious food in a beautiful environment.
Breakfast was something M and I looked forward to every morning because produce was always fresh and you could taste the quality (only thing was, the pancakes were a bit sad. More McDee’s than Rider’s Cafe.).
We loved to take our breakfast by the riverside, because the morning air was always breezy and cool yet sunny.
Lunch & Dinner (+room service)
The bread basket at lunch/dinner and that comes with room service is to-die-for.
Served warm, the tasty bread comes with a pot of garlic mayo. Worth every calorie. We also tried the pasta, burger, and pad thai that are available for lunch and dinner – all good, in generous portions.
Prices vary between S$15 to S$25 for main courses. Pricey compared to the food available outside, but well worth it when you factor in the quality, superb dining ambience, and convenience.
Oh, and they offer a wicked Sunday Roast (12 – 3pm) that is a movable feast of roast meats and comfort food, complete with a great jazz band as your meal accompaniment.
I’ll be putting up a separate post about this, so do look out for delectable shots to come :)
Ginger&Kafe. Ginger&Kafe is located in the same compound as creative retail space Ginger, and The House restaurant. Service was so-so, but the cafe is so eclectically decorated and food was decent and with generous portions so we didn’t mind.
Plus, we spent some moolah at Ginger so it was convenient to just go next doors for dinner. I had the sweet potato salad which was a huge portion and really tasty with the mango, black bean salsa, and feta cheese contrasting with the earthy sweet potatoes.
M’s Thai dinner set came with a squid salad, green curry, and morning-glory tempura as well as egg fried rice. He found the green curry too sweet, but liked the squid salad and the morning-glory tempura.
Kalare Night Bazaar Food Court. The Kalare night bazaar is a 10-minute walk from our hotel, and its food court offers a nice array of Thai and Indian food at really good prices. (25 – 45 Baht for a main course) We liked the Mango sticky rice, and fishball kway teow noodles. Good for a quick meal-stop while browsing the night bazaar. Plus, it’s hygienic cos they use meal coupons so stall holders don’t handle cash.
May KaiDee’s. I can’t eat seafood due to my eczema, so it was a godsend to find a Thai vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai. May is the restaurant proprietor, and she runs a small eatery with 5 tables, where she and one other helper does the cooking and the waitressing. Her pad see-u (kway teow stir-fried with vegetables) was delicious, as was her tom yum vegetable soup. And they prepare a mean Thai-style ice milk tea. But I would avoid the green curry – doesn’t taste like the real deal!
Visit the Doi Suthep temple. Doi Suthep is a hill that’s a 30 to 40 minute drive out of the city.
To get to the temple, you can choose to climb up the gorgeous naga (serpent)-lined stairs (and pay 30 Baht entry) or take the 2-way tram ride for 50 Baht (entry included). At the temple, you can get a splendid view of Chiang Mai, and also see the amazing gold chedi surrounded by gold umbrellas and statues. Really grand, but too bad it was under restoration when we visited! Boo.
Visit the Wat Chedi Luang. The 14th Century Chedi is a grand sight.
Rising out of the clay as a hulk of brick and decorated by dragons and elephants, it was worth a visit for the photo opportunities alone. Plus, the temple shares the same compound with a Buddhist University, which offers an adorably named “Monk Chat Program”.
Basically, you can sit down and have a good chat with young Buddhist monks about Buddhism, Thai culture, and a monk’s life, if you’re curious and want some questions answered. (For a small donation, presumably.)
Get a charcoal sketch of you and your honey. There’re plenty of artists in the basement of one of the buildings along the night bazaar (I forget which!), who all do charcoal sketches and paintings on commission. Get a nice photo you like (of yourself, your family, your pet dog… anything!) and get it drawn up for somewhere between 900 to 2000 Baht. I thought it’d make a nice memento to take home if you’re looking for a nice piece to hang at home :) They’re mostly pretty good, but there are variations in style and skill level – different strokes for different folks – so do shop around.
And one more thing – we think you should avoid…
The Miracle Spa. We tried this place because we were hoping to score a good massage place without the Chedi Spa rates. The Miracle Spa charges 300 Baht for an hour-long foot massage, and 500 Baht for an hour-and-a-half traditional Thai massage. This is pretty good for a boutique spa place in Chiang Mai… the nice ones all charge exorbitant rates (well, exorbitant when compared to what you can get in Bangkok).
We bit the bait, and endured a 20-minute journey on a tuk-tuk through 6pm-traffic, and arrived sooty, grumpy, and exhausted. And of course, looking forward to a good rub-down. Unfortunately, the foot massage was really an exercise in oil-drenching. The masseuses basically soaked our feet in oil, so much so that she was having trouble getting a good grip on my foot. After some cursory rubbing, she finished 20 minutes ahead of time and ushered me into the Thai massage room. I didn’t complain about the premature end then because I’d thought, hey, I’d happily move on to something else since the foot massage wasn’t very comfortable.
This is when it became torture. She kept pressing the wrong spots and causing me plenty of pain. Thai massage is meant to be rhythmic, and any pressure was to be applied to stimulate acupressure points. But all she did was jab me with her thumb and elbow at all the wrong spots … I kept telling her softer, not so hard! But she wouldn’t listen and just laughed at me. In the end, I had (and still have) two sore legs from her jabbing. And seriously, at certain points, had I not resisted, she’d have injured my knee/ankle/hip with her violent, callous twisting and pulling of my joints.
M’s masseuse wasn’t any better than mine, and so pissed off, we left the massage an hour earlier than scheduled. It was seriously the worst massage either of us had received. (And we’ve been to several Thai massage places before.) So, please don’t go there!
Chiang Mai is a small town. It reminds me of Cebu – low-rise buildings, mixed (and erratic) land use, polluted. People are mostly friendly and speak a smattering of English, since this is largely a tourist town. That’s clear considering you can easily find Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, and KFC here. Since it is late January, weather is cool in the mornings and at night, while it can get a bit hot in the afternoon (but nothing Singaporeans aren’t used to!).
In terms of activities, there’s not a whole lot to do – we avoided the touristy activities such as visiting elephant camps and the hill-tribes as we were after a more relaxing pace, and mainly relaxed in the resort, ventured out for meals, visited a few temples, and walked the night bazaar.
(By the way, for you shoppers, do note that there’s not a whole lot to buy – I had my hopes up after seeing tourism websites singing the praises of the shopping to be had here. But most of the shopping is centred at the night bazaars, which is essentially a tiring repetition of the same goods sold by different people. You’d definitely find a whole lot more variety in Bangkok, and probably at cheaper prices.)
This is why our verdict of Chiang Mai is…
Stay here if : a) you’re looking for a quiet getaway, b) are visiting between Dec – Feb (cooler weather!), and c) are staying at The Chedi.
PHEW! My longest post ever, possibly. If you made it to the end of it, thank you for reading and I hope it’s helpful! :)