Travel: Thailand – Wonders of Chang Mai

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Sarah Blennerhassett visited an exceptional Four Seasons hideaway in Chang Mai, Thailand.

Nestled in the far reaches of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has long been the cultural darling of this enchanting South East Asia region. Famed for yoga, massage, coffee and its distinctly bohemian vibe, it is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and rediscover your inner zen. Stepping off our flight into the warm tropical breeze, my travel companion and I couldn’t wait to discover the magic of this long-time tourist favourite.

The Four Seasons Chiang Mai is located in the beautiful Mae Rim district, just forty minutes outside the city. In order to see the countryside in all its tropical green glory, we chose to visit during the rainy season, and meandering through the lush landscape on our way to the resort, we were glad we did. As we approached our destination, a light rain shower passed overhead giving the surrounding rainforest a glistening, otherworldly glow. At once, we felt like we were experiencing the celebrated destination we had read about in travel guides: a land of verdant green hills, exotic bird calls and mystery.

On arrival, we were led through a stunning open-air lobby to an elegant veranda overlooking the property, which was overflowing with brightly coloured, indigenous flowers. The resort is modelled on a local Thai village; traditional wooden structures sit amongst terraced rice fields, which encircle an idyllic central lake. Surveying the property, I could see that the Four Seasons has created something exceptional at this authentic northern Thai getaway: a wellness sanctuary that delivers five-star luxury while simultaneously embracing sustainability. As the rain shower ended and the mist rose, my reverie was pleasantly interrupted by a refreshing ginger and lemongrass tea, a fragrant jasmine flower garland and a beaming Thai smile.

Having worked up an appetite after a long day of travelling, our first stop after check-in was Khao, the Four Seasons’ regional dining experience specialising in Thai, Burmese and Yunnanese cuisine. The restaurant commands breathtaking views of the resort and is the perfect backdrop to sample the famous local cuisine. We were treated to the Chef’s Signature menu, which boasted a diverse range of specialities from across the region, including aromatic Thai fish cakes, zesty Pomelo salad, and, my personal favourite, Khao Soi Gai, a hearty chicken noodle dish native to Myanmar. Guests planning trips in 2020 can look forward to a new culinary experience, Char. This much anticipated addition to the dining repertoire will be set amongst the rice paddies and will specialize in succulent barbecued meats with a Thai twist.

After a sensational lunch, we made our way to what would be our home for the next two nights. From the outside, it resembled a quaint Thai tree house, but inside we found full-on glamour. The room featured luxurious silk, plush furniture, delicately handcrafted Thai furnishings and a decadent bathtub fit for a Siamese King. We stayed in an upper rice terrace pavilion perched in the tree tops, and enjoyed panoramic views across the vibrant green fields to the Suthep mountain range beyond. My favourite feature of our temporary home was the stilted veranda, where we spent our first evening sipping delicious Mae Rim sunset cocktails and watching fireflies twinkling amongst the rice fields.

Eager to make the most of the afternoon sunshine, we made our way to the swimming pool to top up our tans. When researching the trip and trying to decide where in Thailand to visit, Chiang Mai was high on my list, but it was only when I saw the website images of the stunning outdoor swimming pool that I was sold. However, as alluring as the pictures are, they do not do justice to what is, in my opinion, the most picturesque swimming pool I have ever had the pleasure of plunging into. The pool is a multi-level, emerald green lagoon that doesn’t so much sit amongst the rice fields, rather it is at one with them. What is most impressive about this space is the seamless way it combines sleek, modern design with the rustic charm of the surrounding jungle, to achieve something truly special. My travel partner and I spent an unforgettable afternoon here splashing around and marvelling at the beauty of the landscape.