“Yay, we are going to see another temple!” our eldest daughter exclaims when we reach the gate of The Dhara Dhevi resort in Chiang Mai. After almost three months in Thailand, we still don’t suffer – not the kids anyway – from temple fatigue. They just can’t seem to get enough of it while we are ready to try something new as we secretly whisper to each other.
The mix-up is understandable as this 60-acre resort is built in the local Lanna-style and clearly has some colonial influences. It resembles a palace, or in the minds of our daughters: a temple.
During our stay, a golf cart takes us everywhere we want to go. No luxury, if you look at the sheer vastness of the grounds. The word ‘luxury’ can also be applied to the various types of accommodations. Even the smallest suite, of which there are 54 in total, measures no less than 80 m2. For even more space, there are 64 villas whereas the 5 residencies are completely out of this world. Everywhere you look, wooden doors, refined furniture, hand-made beds and man-size glass doors that open up to equally large private terraces. The two bedroom suites are decorated in the Chinese style with bathrooms where you can relax in the deep, marble soaking tub.
During our tour, our daughters marvel at the unique scene unfolding around us. Simply everything is done to perfection. Just the moment we begin to fear that this is all quite a grown-up affair, we are ‘delivered’ at the kids’ club. Inconspicuously located in one of the colonial buildings, a true children’s paradise awaits us. Despite the language barrier, there is an instant click between the children and the staff. Within minutes of arrival, the kids are painting a Thai fan with their tongues sticking out: “Mum and Dad, you can go now, we want to stay here!”
For us a golden opportunity to discover the culinary competencies of The Dhara Dhevi. To be short: even the greatest food lover will be satisfied. The only thing is that he has to book a stay of more than one week as there are no less than ten places to enjoy a meal! Breakfast and Sunday brunch are served in the spacious Akaligo, Sanskrit for timeless. Surrounded by palm trees and replicas of traditional Lanna buildings, guests can enjoy opulent buffets while enjoying a view of the gardens through the glass façade. Other restaurants are: Fujian, Farang Ses, Ren and Le Grand Lanna with respectively a Chinese, French, Japanese and Thai cuisine.
Restaurant Fujian is located in another astonishingly beautiful replica of a Chinese-Portuguese colonial trading house from the mid-19th century. And take it from us: their Peking duck is delicious. Or enjoy your dinner at Farang Ses, one of the best French restaurants in Thailand. Local dishes are served at Le Grand Lanna where the food is accompanied by an hour-long live song and dance performance.
Whoever wants to go for a snack, there is a deli as well as a variety of bars, including one next to the common swimming pool, and there are several private dining rooms. The last one is a great way to surprise your partner with a romantic dinner for two while the babysitter looks after the children.
Already impressed by the 5-star resort, we nearly faint as we enter the 3,000 m2 Spa. Wherever we look, there are ornaments and other sorts of wood carvings and paintings with Buddhist motifs. More than 150 artisans from the neighbouring country of Myanmar worked here for 3 and a half years and put their heart and soul into it. Amidst all this splendour, there is an extensive menu of Spa and Wellness treatments. They also offer a comprehensive range of yoga lessons including yoga for children.
As far as the activities are concerned, this is only the beginning. What about a multi-day cookery class where you learn the tricks and tips of the Thai cuisine, or a basket weaving workshop, rice paper painting, rice planting, making herbal compresses, a massage course, or wood crafting in the Art & Crafts Centre. Active guests can follow an introductory course Thai boxing or rent mountain bikes and explore the surroundings. Most of these activities are also offered to the younger guests at the Lanna kids’ club.
For guests who just want their peace and quiet, choose a book from the well-filled library and relax at the common pool. Oh yes, don’t forget to make a stroll to the in-house open-air shopping centre Kad Dhara. With over 20 shops, you will surely find the hand-made souvenir of your choice.
# This resort is extremely luxurious and has a matching price tag. It is suitable for a family holiday, although – with its refined and expensive furniture – families with older and more or less well-behaved children are better off here.
# For foodies, there is probably no other place in the whole of Northern Thailand with so many top restaurants within walking distance from each other. Moreover, all these delicacies are just as easily served in the privacy of your own accommodation. A perfect solution when you travel with children.
# Both the city of Chiang Mai (also called Little Bangkok) and the surroundings are worth a visit. Active families can go on a guided one-day or multi-day hiking tour in the nearby mountains. It is even possible to make a trip to the Golden Triangle at the intersection of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Or, visit the elephant camp in Chiang Dao for a very personal encounter with these exceptional creatures.