Chiang Mai Road Trip
Desperate for a break from the capital, Bangkok locals Narong and Nira head to Chiang Mai to check out the mountain scenery and local cuisine.
My wife Nira and I love Bangkok but every summer the heat and humidity gets a little bit tiring. This year we were both kept so busy at work that there was no chance of escaping the capital. On the hottest days we kept ourselves going with the promise of a few days away at the end of the season. Neither of us had ever been to Chiang Mai, and the more we read about the province’s cool climate, beautiful mountain scenery and regional cuisine, the more we decided it was the perfect destination.
Escape to the Hills
I booked our flights and rental car, and Nira searched online for Chiang Mai hotels that would accept our Accor Plus membership card. We got a great Red Hot Rooms discount on a three-night stay at the luxurious Veranda High Resort Chiang Mai - MGallery, then decided to add on a night at the Novotel in Chiang Mai city as well. Eventually, the holiday arrived. We boarded our flight at Don Mueang Airport and, just over an hour later, touched down in Chiang Mai. As we drove our rental car out of the city and into the foothills, Nira rolled down the window and the car was flooded with cool mountain air. What a relief after the stifling heat of Bangkok!
We couldn’t believe how green everything was. On either side of the road, rice terraces and tea plantations stretched towards the blue haze of the approaching hills. Soon we were amongst them, being shown into our five-star bedroom at the hotel. It was everything we’d hoped for and more! Set into the hillside, it had a huge veranda overlooking the tops of the forest and the rolling peaks beyond. We spent most of our time out there, reading books together on the daybed or admiring the view from the sunken Jacuzzi. If we’d known this kind of peace and luxury was only an hour’s flight from home, we would have come a lot sooner.
We spent our first day relaxing. We slept in late. We enjoyed coffee on the veranda, then spent the rest of the morning lounging by the rooftop swimming pool. In the afternoon, we were shown to a private spa cottage for a couples’ massage. It had its own steam room and a bath filled with rose petals. We could have spent the rest of our trip there, but decided we should probably see some of the sights. We walked hand-in-hand along scenic hiking trails that led to amazing waterfalls, and used our car to visit some of Chiang Mai’s famous temples.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was a highlight. We’d heard all about the legend of a white elephant carrying Buddha’s shoulder bone to the site where the temple was built, and as we drove up the winding mountain road, we felt some of that magic for ourselves. Both of us were a little out of breath by the time we reached the top of the temple staircase, but the sight of the golden chedi and Chiang Mai city spread out below was so worth it. All this exercise made us pretty hungry, so when we got back to the hotel we took advantage of our Accor Plus dining discount and ordered plate after plate of tasty European food at The Higher Room restaurant.
A Night in the city
In no time at all, it was time to pack our bags for our final night in the city. We’d chosen the Novotel Chiangmai Nimman Journeyhub because of its location in trendy, modern Nimman with its lively restaurants and bars. After a quick wash, we headed out to explore. We’d heard from our friends who’d been to the city before that Chiang Mai’s cuisine is so good, and totally different from Bangkok. So we stopped at several different street stalls and immediately fell in love. Nira’s favourite was the gaeng hang lay (pork and ginger curry). Mine was the creamy, coconut-based khao soi noodle soup. As we made our way back to the hotel, stomachs bursting, we promised that our Chiang Mai road trip would become an annual event.