I admit I have a soft spot for Chiang Mai, having lived there a lifetime ago. It’s a destination that has always been popular with visitors to Thailand, and yet it took a long time to establish a high-end, true boutique hotel smack in the city centre. I like to stay in the heart of town, to be able to walk around and explore my surroundings, finding that on foot I can soak up the atmosphere, resting wherever I choose, chatting to locals along the way, stopping for a coffee en route.
Of course, it’s a challenge to any hotelier to create an oasis in the middle of a city. 137 Pillars House is just that. It’s not over-the-top luxury, rather a welcoming and comfortable stop, a place to call home for a few days or longer.
There is no risk of being lost in this hotel. Set in lush and mature gardens, the hotel’s footprint is surprisingly small, but it has been well landscaped and still manages to feel spacious. It is like you are entering a small village on a meandering pedestrian street: handsome residences and a central, traditional wooden building on stilts housing the restaurant, bar and lounge.
The decor is Thai elegance meets colonial grace. And it is blissful after a day on one’s feet to recline in the bar with a gin and tonic, a Somerset Maugham novel on your lap, or even indulge in a game of cards if you can drum up a fourth for bridge.
Although most visitors will stay only a couple of days, if you enjoy relaxed, slow-paced travel, you could easily spend a week here, eating fabulous food and allowing the hotel’s infectious, leisurely pace to rub off on you.
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