The Four Seasons Resort
Once the budget purview for backpackers on their way north to the notorious Golden Triangle, Chiang Mai is now blessed with the incomparable Four Seasons Resort, which looked to the Lanna kingdom (founded in 1296) for spiritual and aesthetic inspiration. Incorporating traditions from neighboring Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and China, the gorgeously landscaped 20-acre resort resembles a Thai village in the northern foothills, right down to the family of water buffalo that helps harvest the hotel's own rice paddies three times a year. Raft down a calm river on bamboo floats. Scale jungle-canopied mountains. Mountain-bike through lush forests to hidden waterfalls. Spend the afternoon atop an elephant's back, trekking with your personal mahout in the driver's seat, straddling your mount's massive neck. Afterward, have an aromatic Oriental massage with herbal oils extracted from ginger and lemongrass in the luxury of your spacious guest pavilion or in the new spa, one of the most tastefully designed in Asia, using the lush colors, scents, and fabrics of northern Thailand. Drop in at the Elephant Bar at day's end for sunset views of your hotel's mosaic of working rice paddies. Then settle in for dinner: Culinary wonders are produced nightly in the temple like dining sala, where vistas of the misty Doi Suthep mountains soon fade into the darkness of night.
Cost: from $375 for pavilion suites.
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