Travel writer Julie Miller visits a hotel in Chiang Mai that has raised the bar in boutique luxury.
In the days of King Rama V, the status of a homeowner was measured by the number of ornate columns found in his house. The elegant teak building that forms the centrepiece of Chiang Mai’s most luxurious boutique hotel features 137 pillars – hence its unusual name, 137 Pillars House.
Located in a quiet residential area east of the Ping River, 137 Pillars House is a haven of tranquillity, a cluster of two-storey colonial style buildings overlooking the original teak house, a shimmering 25-metre lap pool and lush gardens where ladies from Chiang Mai’s high society sip champagne on four-poster day beds swathed in billowing muslin.
The original house, with its intricate fretwork, dark fan-cooled interior and shuttered windows, is now a library, tea parlour and lounge area; adjoining that is the hotel’s Thai restaurant, specialising in the northern Lanna dish known as Khantoke.
Although the accommodation wings are new, they have been designed to reflect the opulence of the colonial era. Each of the 30 suites has a spacious vintage-tiled veranda furnished with rattan planter’s chair and day bed, while the nostalgia continues inside with shutters, freestanding claw-foot tubs, plush four-poster king sized beds, period detailing and black-and-white photographs of turn-of-the-century Chiang Mai. Each suite also features an outdoor rain shower and an enormous dressing area.
In terms of luxury, no detail has been spared: an iPod sound system provides personalised soundtracks, including ‘chill out’, ‘sexy’, ‘hot stuff’ and ‘sea, sex and sun’; there’s a Nespresso machine for early morning caffeine fixes; a mini bar with complementary juices and beer; and mosquito coils that are lit on cue at dusk.
Although a cab ride to the walled city and night markets of Chiang Mai, 137 Pillars House is just a short walk from the riverfront and its collection of cool restaurants, bars and galleries. But this is the sort of place you’re reluctant to leave, a place to linger and absorb the rarefied ambience.
I also heartily recommend the hotel’s in-house spa – I had arguably one of the best massages I’ve ever had in Thailand. After applying pressure to my back and hearing a satisfying crack, my therapist Nettie whispered in my ear, “I have unbroken your back.” Thank you, Nettie!
In a city where there is a wide choice of quality boutique accommodation, 137 Pillars House stands out as a truly luxurious experience, a place to savour or visit for a special occasion.
Rates start at USD 330++ a night (A$417) inclusive of welcome drink, breakfast, free wifi, soft drinks and beers from the minibar. More information snhcollection.com/137pillarshouse/
The writer was a guest of 137 Pillars House.