Thai­land

Thai­land’s sec­ond largest city, Chi­ang Mai, of­fers the best of the Bangkok ex­pe­ri­ences - the mar­kets, the malls, the fab­u­lous food, the beau­ti­ful tem­ples - with an added layer of charm and cul­tural her­itage thanks to its 700year Lanna his­tory. KRISTIE KEL

Travel Bulletin - - CONTENTS -

Chi­ang Mai is fa­mous for its ex­cel­lent Thai mas­sage, known as yoga for lazy peo­ple, for its restora­tive pow­ers of stretch­ing and cir­cu­la­tion. While it’s true Chi­ang Mai is far from the near­est beach, it is sur­rounded by lush green moun­tains and rivers, mak­ing this a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for hik­ers, cy­clists and river-rafters. Many tourists don’t make it to Chi­ang Mai on their first visit to Thai­land. Se­duced by the sky­scrapers of Bangkok and the beach vibes of Phuket, they run out of pre­cious holiday time be­fore head­ing north to the sec­ond largest city in the Land of Smiles. It might take a sec­ond or even third visit to the King­dom be­fore they hop on the one­hour flight from Bangkok to Chi­ang Mai’s In­ter­na­tional Air­port, but once they do, most re­turn again and again. In the past decade, Chi­ang Mai’s meta­mor­pho­sis from a charm­ing, tra­di­tional city where the peo­ple and pace were gen­tler than Bangkok, to a boom­ing me­trop­o­lis of luxe con­do­minium-res­i­dences, funky malls and dy­namic young en­trepreneurs has changed the face of the city. The mod­erni­sa­tion and grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity has brought with it more and im­proved shop­ping and din­ing op­tions, in­creased in­ter­na­tional flights and a spirit of en­er­gised cre­ativ­ity. Whether sip­ping Mel­bourne-qual­ity lat­tes at cof­fee­holics’ fave Ristr8to or en­joy­ing the lo­cal noo­dle soup spe­cialty, khao soy, this is a des­ti­na­tion that is sure to ex­cite the spirit and the taste­buds. His­toric charm still lines the banks of the Mae Ping River, where cen­turies-old build­ings and tem­ples re­mind us of what was once a ma­jor trade route. Here you’ll find the el­e­gant beauty of Anan­tara Chi­ang Mai Re­sort & Spa; the ho­tel’s din­ing rooms and se­duc­tive bar ar­eas are housed in a her­itage build­ing that was once home to the Bri­tish Con­sulate. A new con­cept, The Ser­vice 1921 Restau­rant & Bar, was re­cently launched and plays on the imag­ined his­tory of top-se­cret deal­ings within the con­sulate’s walls. Mys­tery and

in­trigue sets the tone, with a spy peep­hole in the en­trance door and a pri­vate din­ing room ac­ces­si­ble by a se­cret book shelf door. In­creas­ingly, what sets Chi­ang Mai apart from other Thai cities is its thriv­ing arts scene. In the Nim­man­haemin dis­trict, gal­leries of all sizes have opened to dis­play the works of lo­cal artists. Ex­pect to find hand­made jewellery, or­nate fur­ni­ture, bold and beau­ti­ful paint­ings, breath­tak­ing pho­tog­ra­phy and del­i­cate works on pa­per at gal­leries in­clud­ing Gallery Seescape and Gongdee. Stylish lo­cals and ex­pats love the trendy cafes and bou­tiques lin­ing the laneways of Nim­man, as it’s known. At the end of 2015, Nim­man fi­nally got the gor­geous all-suite bou­tique ho­tel it de­serves, when Akyra Manor Ho­tel opened its doors. An art-fo­cussed prop­erty, the ho­tel fea­tures an­i­mal sculp­tures through­out its pub­lic spa­ces, sells ar­ti­sanal wares in its cu­rated gift se­lec­tion and will hap­pily ar­range a guided tour of lo­cal gal­leries. The ho­tel’s own walls serve as ex­hi­bi­tion space for Chi­ang Mai artists. For the am­bi­tious or cu­ri­ous novice stu­dent of the arts, Akyra Manor’s team will or­gan­ise

His­toric charm still lines the banks of the Mae Ping River, where cen­turiesold build­ings and tem­ples re­mind us of what was route’ once a ma­jor trade

pri­vate lessons in var­i­ous styles of arts and crafts. Es­teemed aca­demics from nearby uni­ver­si­ties come to the ho­tel to share their knowl­edge in the finer as­pects of wood­cut print­ing, sculp­ture-mak­ing and painting with wa­ter­colours. A self-made sou­venir is a de­light­ful way to re­mem­ber a holiday.

A 30-key all-suite lux­ury ho­tel, the Akyra Manor Ho­tel fea­tures a rooftop swim­ming pool and RISE bar, per­fect for sun­set drinks. The ho­tel’s sig­na­ture restau­rant, Ital­ics, is gain­ing a fan fol­low­ing for its fu­sion cui­sine and wood­fired piz­zas. All suites boast lav­ish bath­rooms and a spec­tac­u­lar cen­ter­piece - an al-fresco mar­ble bathtub, com­plete with pri­vacy screens. The ho­tel is lo­cated in the very cen­tre of Nim­man, and just a cou­ple of blocks from Maya Life­style Shop­ping Cen­ter, a trendy new mall. Lined with fash­ion bou­tiques and restau­rants, Maya also fea­tures an open-air rooftop space where many of the city’s most pop­u­lar bars have opened. Down the road from Maya, a clus­ter of art gal­leries draws on the ta­lent of stu­dents from nearby Chi­ang Mai Univer­sity (CMU). At the un­miss­able Sun­day Walk­ing Street Mar­ket in the old city, CMU art stu­dents and craft hob­by­ists give Etsy a run for its money at a frac­tion of the price. Hun­dreds of stalls of­fer mar­ket de­lights in­clud­ing one-of-a-kind wood­block prints, Bud­dhist-in­flu­enced paint­ings, hand­made lamps and del­i­cately sewn slip­pers. Lo­cal mi­cro-en­trepreneurs have em­braced this mar­ket, which now sprawls across dozens of blocks, with Thai home cooks serv­ing up fam­ily-recipe pad thai, pa­paya salad and fish cakes for the equiv­a­lent of a dol­lar. Thais love to eat, of­ten and well; a fact that has re­mained true for cen­turies.

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