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An Unforgettable Experience for the Whole Family: Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai

TravelPost Category - TravelTravel - Post Category - Short HaulShort Haul

Be whisked away to a magical (and seriously luxurious) world at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai!

If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury accommodation for your family; a one-of-a-kind, amazing hotel experience that will have you and your family feeling on a high for weeks thereafter with memories that will stay with all of you for the rest of your lives? Book a stay at the Dhara Dhevi Hotel Chiang Mai. And prepare to be blown away…

We were recently invited by the Dhara Dhevi to check out this amazing, 5-star resort located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. From the moment we turned down the driveway onto the property, we felt like we were being transported to another world, like we had just entered a magical kingdom. We arrived in the evening, and though the sun had set, we could still see the Lanna inspired structures, Naga statues and beautiful lit lanterns as we drove down the bumpy road, constructed unevenly to make you feel like you are in an old city approaching the palace, which is the lobby. We arrived at the lobby and were warmly greeted by friendly staff who welcomed us with gorgeous smelling Jasmine flower necklaces and delicious, Thai tea. The General Manager of the hotel, Andrew, had also kindly taken the time out of his busy schedule to welcome us to the property. It was clear that this hotel went above and beyond to create the very best guest experience possible. After being taken to our room by golf cart, we entered to find a table full of delectable treats including a personalised fruit basket. Did you hear me? A personalised fruit basket! With our name beautifully carved into the melon.  We knew from that moment, that this would be a very special stay.

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The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai is a resort that spans 60 perfectly manicured acres. It has been carefully constructed and designed to look and feel like an old kingdom set in an ancient city. And with its size, and total seclusion from the outside world, you truly do feel like you are within the walls of a kingdom- a luxurious, perfectly maintained and cleaned kingdom with breathtakingly beautiful structures, statues and facilities everywhere you look.

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The design of the hotel is heavily influenced architecturally and culturally by the historic Lanna Kingdom which occupied the region for over 300 years from the end of the 13th Century on. It honours Lanna’s rich mix of culture and art by keeping it alive in the architecture, craftmanship and design throughout the property.

ACCOMODATIONS

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When staying at the Dhara Dhevi, you can choose to stay in either one of their 69 luxurious, private villas or in a colonial suite which is more like a traditional hotel room. We stayed in a colonial suite which overlooked the main hotel swimming pool. It featured a big master bedroom with high ceilings and plenty of space for an extra cot (which would have been awesome for us if our toddler would have slept in it and not on top of my husband and me in our bed). There was also an adjoining living room with a sofa which my eldest called dibs on (unnecessarily, of course) the minute we walked through the door. The colonial suites building was the perfect place for us to be located as it was close to the main pool and the main lobby, which meant we were close to the breakfast restaurant, which meant “hell yeah!” As anyone with young children know, hungry kids mean grouchy kids. Each colonial suite also comes with a spacious private veranda.

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The villas and signature residences stick with traditional Lanna architectural influence. They are individual works of art being locally handcrafted with antiques and museum-quality artifacts housed inside and out. They are two-floors of exquisite luxury accommodation, and would be ideal for larger families or travel with in-laws or extended family. Some of the villas have their own plunge pools or swimming pools.  We were able to have a look at one of the deluxe villas which overlooked the rice paddy, and oh yeah, we were impressed.

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On our first full day at the hotel, we had the pleasure of getting a guided tour from a very informative and lovely Sirikanya. She met us at the lobby with a golf cart and proceeded to tell us all about the history of the hotel, the region and the Thai, Lanna and Burmese cultures while pointing out where all of these influences were evident throughout the property. We learned all about the former Kingdom of Lanna and that the property is actually named after the Princess of Lanna, Princess Dhara. Though there was a lot of information given, the kids actually really enjoyed the tour and listened intently to Sirikanya’s stories. Even my toddler paid attention- hats off to you, Sirikanya.

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It was during the guided tour when we were first introduced to the Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre. And woah- was it impressive. The 3,100 square metre spa draws its inspiration from Mandalay Palace in Burma. The detailed woodwork is jaw-dropping; we weren’t surprised to hear that one hundred fifty craftsmen spent three years creating this wooden masterpiece.

DINING

The Dhara Dhevi has 7 restaurants and lounge bars on property. Though we didn’t have the opportunity to try them all, the restaurants we did try exceeded all of our expectations.

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On the evening we arrived, we were able to get a table at Le Grand Lanna restaurant which specialises in Thai Cuisine from both Northern and Central Thailand. It’s a stunning place set in a cluster of traditional Lanna style buildings. The accomplished and talented Chef Jino has prepared an amazing menu and gave us superb recommendations on dishes to order. We enjoyed truly divine food with a presentation as stunningly gorgeous as the flavor. And as if the delicious food wasn’t enough to give us a wonderful experience, the Thai Classical Dance show which occurred while we ate sealed the deal and gave our family an unforgettable night. Both my teen and my toddler were mesmerised by the graceful women adorned in gold and bright pinks and rust-colored silks along with the band which played traditional Thai music with Thai instruments.

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We were able to get a photo with the dancers and musicians. I think my toddler wanted to stay and perform with the “bootiful gurls” in the next show.

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We ate a few of our meals poolside at both the Loy Kham and Colonial Pool Bar.

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It was so nice to be able to not have to pull your kids (and yourselves) out of the water and schlep them up to a restaurant when they got hungry. Both pools offered poolside food and beverage service. And the food was family-friendly with everything from hot dogs to pomelo salad to chicken satay. And it was all good!

Our last evening at the hotel, we enjoyed the outdoor barbecue buffet which was set up and served on the gorgeous terrace behind the spa lobby and overlooking the rice paddy. The hotel served delicious, quality cuts of beef and lamb that melted in your mouth. There was an assortment of salads, a pasta station, seafood station, and various side dishes all around.

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We ate breakfast every morning at Akaligo which offered a buffet breakfast as well as a Sunday brunch. Being breakfast people, we all let out a collective “woahhh” when we first entered the restaurant and saw all the different stations. There was a griddle station making pancakes, waffles, and even chocolate filled crepes. There were stacks of fresh, beautiful breads, selections of both British and Thai style breakfast foods, lots of ripe fresh fruit, and even a sushi station. We were all thrilled.

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We sat at a table out on the terrace each morning, and Stella, my toddler, lit up every time she saw her special place setting. Sure, that adorable plate ended up being piled with chocolate covered pancakes topped with every form of sugar, but…how could we tell her no when our plates basically looked the same. Hey, we were on vacation.

ACTIVITIES

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Health and Fitness Centre

The Health and Fitness Centre is a fully outfitted gym which accommodates both group and individual fitness needs, even giving access to two full tennis courts. One morning, I biked over to the Health and Fitness Centre, and took a yoga class on the upper level terrace. It was a relaxing, balancing, peaceful experience. While in the middle of a stretch, I took the time to take it all in, and felt beyond grateful for the one-of-a-kind experience I was having with my family at the resort.

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Arts and Crafts Village

All guests, young and old can enjoy participating in arts and craft making with instruction offered throughout the day on how to do things like bamboo weaving, rice pounding, paper cutting and basket making. There are demonstrations and classes offered throughout the day giving you ample opportunity to either get involved making some of the cool, traditional Thai crafts or even just watch them being made.

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The Lanna Kids Club

The Kids Club was a beautiful, kids paradise in itself. Set in a one-hundred-year-old Thai house, here kids could be booked into one of the many classes or activities offered daily, such as Thai dancing, music, yoga for kids, Thai boxing, arts and crafts, and more. The Kids Club staff was excellent with each member being beyond patient and kind. Our daughter, Stella hit the krathong making class and walked away with a beautiful Thai craft keepsake.

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Right outside the kids club were two furry Dhara Dhevi celebrities- the alpacas. We saw them a few times being walked around the property. The kids were lucky enough to see them in resting mode and were able to see them up close and personal, petting them and even feeding them carrots. And speaking of cute, pettable animals. Each morning, at the Colonial Garden just next to our room, sweet little ponies would be roaming about, noshing on the grass and soaking up the morning sun. Don’t even think for a second we missed out on petting those little cuties.

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Rice Planting

But our absolute favourite activity in which we participated during our stay was the rice planting. All four of us got into traditional rice planting uniforms and trekked out onto the paddy where we all tried our hands at planting rows of rice.

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We also got to feed, pet and then ride the resident water buffalo.

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This was without a doubt, one of the most fun activities we’ve ever done as a family. The staff had the activity so well planned out, and of course, in Dhara Dhevi style, no detail was overlooked in giving us the richest, mosts enjoyable experience possible. There was even a musician on site playing traditional Thai tunes for us to enjoy and to give us the full cultural experience as we happily planted the rice. My son was even able to have a little jam session with the talented gentleman.

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Pooltime

There are two enormous pools on property. One, next to the fitness centre and the other next to the main lobby. The pool next to the fitness centre is an impressive, serene infinity pool tiled with cobalt blue tiles overlooking the rice paddies. There are statues of people in various yoga positions placed all around the pool area adding to its spa retreat type of feel. This pool was better for my son as he is a good swimmer, and the pool gets quite deep quickly. My younger one had fun dipping her feet in and sitting on the steps into the pool, however. And we all loved the exceptional poolside service.

 

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The pool nearest the lobby and the Colonial Suites (and the one our veranda looked out on) was a bit better for young children. There was a good-sized shallow area for our daughter to putter around in and there were covered couchettes all around the pool. As some of us soaked up that warm, glorious sun, my little one could comfortably lounge inside her “princess bed”. Or eat delicious fries on a cosy, bed like structure while being shielded from the sun. Those couchettes really pulled through for us.

Transportation Around the Resort

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You can call upon a golf cart to take you anywhere around the grounds any time of day. We actually reserved bikes for two days (they’re complimentary) and had a blast riding around the many roads and exploring the nooks and crannies of the property as a family, my toddler comfortably strapped in the seat behind me. As we don’t get a lot of opportunity bike ride around as a family, this was one of the highlights of our stay. There is also a horse and cart available for lazy rides around the grounds.

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THE VERDICT

Even with seeing all the brochures and pictures and hearing all the wonderful things about the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai prior to staying there, we could never have guessed that our experience would be as amazing as it was. Honestly, we had such a good time that each of us, including our 3-year old, said a few times a day, “This place is awesome!”. We really did feel like we were at a retreat in a kingdom far away being treated like royalty the entire time. The staff was excellent in every way, attentive, warm, and extremely friendly greeting us with a smile and “Sawadee ka” (“hello” in Thai) at every turn. And the beauty that surrounded us the entire time, found in everything from the ornately designed buildings to the museum-quality artifacts to the perfectly manicured grounds and the professional, big-hearted staff, was therapeutic and inspiring. Our stay there was magical for all of us.

And I can’t stress enough how perfect this hotel is for kids. They walk around as if they had entered into a fairytale – bright eyed, with enthusiasm and a sparkle in their eyes as they take in the wonder around them. There were so many things for them to do that we couldn’t even get close to fitting them all in. But we know without a doubt that we’ll be back again to experience and soak in more of that Dhara Dhevi magic. We left feeling rejuvenated, happy, closer as a family, and full of gratitude that we were able to have that time there together. The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai is indeed a very special place.

 

Photos courtesy of Andrea Wada Davies. Photos #3 and #4, courtesy of Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai Hotel

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