After landing in Chiang Mai with my sister, we proceeded to immigration. I was slightly apprehensive: it had been only months since the military coup, and even if that wasn’t an issue I’ve seen some pretty gnarly immigration queues in Bangkok. But it probably took less time than using Global Entry in the U.S. As I found during most of our visit to Thailand, the military presence was almost unnoticeable to tourists.
Our biggest inconvenience was finding a taxi, and even that wasn’t much hassle. Immigration dumped us out at the south end of the terminal, and all the taxis had to wait in a parking lot at the north end. Pon was one of those few taxi drivers I remember. He knew when the flights landed and ran ahead to scout for new customers, escorting us past the other drivers who lazily waited by their vehicles. Great guy, and we would have hired him again had we been planning a longer trip. As it was, Chiang Mai is fairly walkable — had we been desperate, we probably could have walked from the airport, and a few people even used tuk tuks.
Trip Report Index
- Trip Report Introduction: Taking My Sister to Asia for Two Weeks
- Review: Cathay Pacific First Class SFO-HKG (Last of the 747s)
- Review: Grand Hyatt Hong Kong (after Renovations)
- Revisiting the Old, and Finding New Favorite Activities in Hong Kong
- Review: Dragonair Economy Class to Chiang Mai (HKG-CNX)
- Review: Le Meridien Chiang Mai
With daily rates ranging from $3 to $2,877 (I just checked an upcoming weekend in December), Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting hotel markets I’ve come across. In addition to the Le Meridien where we stayed, you can find a Shangri-La, a Four Seasons, and even an Aman. They tend to cluster outside the old city, near large night markets, but I’m tempted to stay in one of the small guest houses on a future trip. As we walked around the next day there were lots of interesting little cafes with rooms in the back and open courtyards where young people lounged about.
Our hotel was a more modern tower and probably one of the tallest buildings around. I enjoyed this experience, too. I’m just saying you don’t need to stay in a Western-style hotel like we did. I definitely don’t think you should spend $2,877.
After checking my credentials at the front desk, the agent escorted us to the club lounge on the top floor to complete our check-in. Our room was proactively upgraded to a corner suite thanks to my SPG Platinum status, and we were invited to visit the club for evening snacks and breakfast in the morning. Alternatively, we could also choose to eat breakfast downstairs in the restaurant.
Note: I’m afraid I can’t find any of my pictures of the public spaces despite juggling between three cameras, but there wasn’t that much to take pictures of. Big, double-height lobby and club lounge, large columns, and walls clad with marble. It could be any hotel.
Our room was at the end of the hallway. The suite had a large living room with a sofa, desk, small dining table, television, and wet bar. Altogether the suite was larger than the apartment I’m sitting in right now as I type this. It wasn’t quite as luxurious as the Le Meridien Bangkok, which I like and some of you may have visited before, but it was a good upgrade and a good value for an advance booking at only $100 a night.
Waiting for us on the coffee table was a welcome amenity consisting of apples and macarons. The cookies tasted good, but they were far too dry. I ate only a couple.
The bedroom had its own large sofa by the window and another television. There was ample lighting, and switches were relatively easy to figure out.
The bathroom had double sinks, a decently sized shower, and a separate tub with a view of the city. Toiletries were “Le Meridien” branded and good quality, but nothing special. Fortunately since we were brother and sister traveling together, all the rooms had sliding doors to close and offer some privacy. That’s better than some suites that leave open passages everywhere.
The toilet room and walk-in closet were both very large, as well. We dropped off some of our clothes to be laundered during the day by the hotel. Although it wasn’t very expensive, we did have some trouble getting it delivered. At first they didn’t have a record, then they said it should already be in our room (despite being two hours after the promised delivery time). Clearly if that were the case we wouldn’t be calling. But we headed down to the pool and it was waiting in the closet by the time we returned.
I found it odd to see just how much food was on display in the club given there were never more than a half dozen people in the room at once. Cocktails were complimentary in the evening, but we had to wait until 5 PM before we could order one — you couldn’t even pay to get one sooner. In the morning we found a large spread with fruit, yogurt, bacon, and a few hot Thai dishes. We were also able to order eggs custom prepared — even a Benedict.
On our last morning we opted for breakfast at the restaurant instead. The buffet there was much larger, fresher, and overall the experience was better even though it was pretty crowded. Part of my reasoning is that the food cycled faster. We had a larger table. It was difficult to eat when sitting at the coffee tables and low couches in the club even though it had better views and more attentive service.
A good compromise if you need a place to relax was the pool. Located half-way up the building it was just a thin strip but included an infinity edge looking out to the mountains. Even on a grey, muggy afternoon there were plenty of people taking a break from the heat and watching occasional rains showers in the distance. We didn’t try the food, but the mojitos were pretty good. At least here you can get a drink any time you want. 😉
We spent two full days in Chiang Mai — one touring the city and another visiting an elephant park in the mountains. I’ll cover those experiences in upcoming installments.