Thailand has something to offer every style of traveller. From the backpacker staying in hostels all the way through to the uber chic luxury resort, and everything in between. In this post we are going to focus on some of the Top Things to do in Chiang Mai that are a little more on the luxurious side.
Chiang Mai is a mountain city, it’s not known for it’s sandy beaches or tropical lifestyle – as there is none LOL. No, Chiang Mai is quite the opposite of most of Thailand. This beautiful northern city features some of the best in local temples, luxury mountain retreats, long mountain hikes (not that we actually did any – we hate hiking! We heard from friends). Northern food known as lana, cooler temperatures, and more a more chilled out, artistic, hipster feel than other tourist cities in Thailand.
We went to escape the humidity of Bangkok and to embrace an area overflowing with digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and more. And we found all of these – in abundance.
But even though all of these things mentioned are fantastic, sometimes it’s nice to escape city life for a while and hand yourself over to pure indulgence. So we treated ourselves to a break away from the blog (well kind of – I’m still writing about it now aren’t I?) and went outside the city to explore the luxurious side of Chiang Mai.
Admittedly when we arrived in Chiang Mai, Tommo and I were totally exhausted. We had just spent the past month going full tilt, where we spoke at the Travel Bloggers Retreat on Koh Phangan, then flew directly to Bangkok where we attended Tbex Asia. If you’ve ever attended a blogger event you might know that many bloggers a party animals…and a full night’s sleep is rarely an option.
Plus throw in a visa run to Hong Kong where we also made the most of our time in town eating ourselves stupid and catching up with friends, before actually arriving in Chiang Mai, ready to do actual work on our business – nope never happened!
We were spent, exhausted, non comprende! We couldn’t concentrate at all and just found ourselves scrolling aimlessly through Facebook rather than getting actual work done. We knew we needed a break – a semi digital detox if you will. And luckily a few friends of our knew exactly the place to go. The Chiang Mai Panviman Resort.
As we get older we are really starting to appreciate the finer things in life. We are both pushing our mid 30’s and it’s funny, you just don’t have the travel tolerance you used to. You start to want things a little bit nicer.
And what could be nicer than booking a room surrounded by the Chiang Mai Mountains, that has it’s own organic farm onsite, a stunning infinity pool that is fed by the local running mountain water, and your very own balcony that has a private Jacuzzi – can I get a “Hells Yeah” from y’all! Well Panviman certainly got a “hells yeah from us!”
Upon arrival at Panviman by shuttle bus it is the main building that instantly grabs your attention. Built in the Thai Lanna style, Panviman is a perfect example of the local architecture and style, something we really enjoyed while staying here. To be honest some hotels in the mountains are trying to be too modern, and it looks out of place surrounded by the stunning mountains and green fields. Panviman is traditional Thai style, luxury and service all in one. In fact the name Panviman means “Paradise Alike” when translated into English, and this place is certainly a tranquil paradise.
Now I’m going to be completely honest here…..it was really really REALLY hard to get out of our personal hot tub to do anything other than eat. But we did manage to trade luxurious relaxation of one kind for luxurious relaxation of another, and experience a traditional thai massage at the onsite spa. According to the website the Panviman Chiang Mai Spa is regarded as the 4th best spa in South East Asia and the 2nd best in Thailand, and once again it was not only the service that was amazing, but the design and architecture of the spa as well.
For more information or to book the Panviman for yourself: CLICK HERE
Another place we had the pleasure of staying at that offered exceptional service and design is The Chiang Mai Riverside Hotel. Nestled right along side the Ping river in Chiang Mai, this hotel is located in an up and coming area that is fast becoming known for it’s locally grown fresh food markets, and healthy lifestyle scene. In fact the hotel itself supports locally produced juices and ice creams available in the minibar, and breakfast each morning has a locally grown and health conscious menu.
During your stay you can’t escape the fact that every single piece of furniture in the Chiang Mai Riverside has been carefully thought through to create the ultimate in style and luxury. One of the amazing facts about this hotel is that everything is available for purchase. Ever stayed at a hotel and just fallen in love with a particular couch, or decorative lamp and wished you could have it for yourself? Well at The Chiang Mai Riverside, all of the furniture is built and sold by the owner – so anything you fall helplessly in love with, you can buy. Except for the butlers….I’m pretty certain you can’t buy them LOL
Yes that’s right, this hotel takes it’s luxury seriously! Along side the daily healthy breakfasts, the divine furnishings, and the modern technological inclusions (they have apple TV – it’s not even available in Thailand yet!!!) you get to be waited on by their lovely staff of private butlers.
Sadly during our stay we didn’t get to make use of the pool – which looked lovely. Some how we managed to arrive on the coldest day in Chiang Mai in almost 10 years, and it was freezing! But never mind we snuggled up on the sofa, logged into Netflix and and did what anyone would do on a cold day in Chiang Mai – cook up some microwave popcorn and had a Netflix marathon. It was heavenly!
For more information or to book The Chiang Mai Riverside Hotel for yourself: CLICK HERE
Luckily most days in Chiang Mai are sunny and warm (best time to visit Chiang Mai is November – January) and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained. And if you do one thing – then it has to be visiting a Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary.
Top Things to do in Chiang Mai – FUN
Now I need to make something very VERY clear here! There are a lot of articles getting around about elephant camps in Chiang Mai and how they are cruel to the elephants – and while yes thousands of tourists riding elephants in the hot sun all day is pretty damn cruel, you can’t throw every single elephant camp in this same category. If you do your research – which we did – you’ll find some ethical elephant sanctuaries are trying to do good in the area! They are putting resources into training and educating local people in new ‘modern’ ways to train the elephants, to buy abused elephants so they can live a happier life, and to raise money for their care and upkeep.
We actually had a friend of ours threatened to never read our blog again because we told her we were visiting a Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary! People are getting defensive – without knowing all of the facts. We would just like to say that we chose the Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary that we visited very carefully, and made sure that they in fact were trying to improve the lives of the elephants and not letting them be ridden by hundreds of Chinese tourists every other day….which some of them are!
So that said, spending any amount of time with these beautiful creatures is something that you will never forget. And something I highly recommend doing.
The things we liked the most about Tong Bai Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai:
- There are only 2 tours run each week on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s and there is only a maximum of 9 people per day. On the day we went there were 6 people so we were 2 people to an elephant. I’ve seen pictures of people bathing elephants, with about 20 people in the water – no thanks! This is a much better deal!
- Many of the elephants that the camp owns have been rescued and are now being well taken care of. The other elephants that they hire, they do so to give them a rest from being hired and worked by other elephant camps in the area.
- The TONG-BAI FOUNDATION also provides good living and working conditions for elephants who are too young or too old, as well as their owners.
- The tour leader was more than happy to answer every single one of our questions that we had about the care of the elephants and the future of elephant tourism in the area. In fact did you know that all medicines and veterinary care for the elephants in Thailand is free – it’s completely covered by the King and his government. How cool is that!
- Bathing Elephants is just AWESOME!!! It is something we have done before and we still enjoy getting wet and splashing about with these incredible animals. Our elephant loved submerging herself under the water and was using her trunk as a snorkel – adorable!
- The lunch that is supplied was divine. We had a fresh made chicken massaman curry, stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice, orange juice and fresh cut watermelon – yum!
Overall we had a really fantastic day and think that the Tong Bai Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai is doing a great job caring for their elephants.
We heard about the Tong Bai Elephant Tours through our friends at Green Trails – Amazing Trekking Tours
Top Things to do in Chiang Mai – Food
Can you believe I have got this far though the article without raving on about food in Chiang Mai – it’s been hard! But I’m going to finish off this post with one of the best international foodie experiences we had in Thailand – The Rustic and Blue Chiang Mai – Farm Dinner.
This is not an every day occurrence so you’ll have to check with the restaurant to find out when they have the Farm Dinner on – either way still drop by Rustic and Blue Chiang Mai for a meal, because they are phenomenal!
Anyways we met at 5pm to board the red buses (the main form of transport in Chiang Mai) to head out to the farm where we would be enjoying our dinner. A lavish 5 course dining experience, cooked fresh by Rustic and Blue’s newest chef, Chef Julian from Canada. It is nice to sit in the back of the red bus, meet some of the other people that you will be dining with that evening, and watch the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai fade away into Thai countryside.
Upon arrival at the farm you walk into a hipsters wonderland! Lines of bare lightbulbs and fairy lights are strung among the trees. A large white tent that has been set up along side a small flowing creek, with a tiny jetty covered in colourful cushions to sit back and relax on. And of course the long tables that have a miss match of re-purposed chairs to help create the ideal farm to plate scene.
The attention to detail was exquisite and the fact that there was also a locally made craft beer stall as well – meant that we were in heaven. The free flowing of craft beer and wine certainly put the group into high spirits quickly as we all mingled and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.
When the food was ready we all topped up our glasses and found our seats which each had their own hand made place card and menu.
The menu for our Farm to Dinner meal was:
- Roasted Bone Marrow with local mushroom, cucumber and popcorn
- Butternut Squash Soup with croutons, chili oil, basil and green onion
- Cured Salmon & Beetroot Salad with green apple, mint, sunflower seed and green onion pomelo
- Smoked Ribs with pear, potato, cauliflower salad – dijon & apple dressing with hazelnuts
- Pudding Chomeur with vanilla ice-cream
If that food porn doesn’t make you want to visit on of Rustic & Blue’s Farm Dinners – then I don’t know what will!!! For the Vegans and Vegetarians out there Never Fear! They also have a menu for you that will make you sublimely happy!
We seriously had a fantastic night, ate lots, drank even more, made new friends and made it home safe and sound to sleep it all off afterwards…..definitely one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai!
Now there are tons more awesome things to do in Chiang Mai – but I might have to leave them for another article. This should get you started on planning the perfect luxury Chiang Mai getaway…..
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Disclaimer: We received our meal at Rustic and Blue Chiang Mai, our Tong Bai Elephant tour and our stays at The Chiang Mai Riverside and Panviman Spa Resort complimentary. All opinions remain our own. This article contains affiliate links, thank you for supporting our blog by using these links