On my recent retreat, I had the absolute pleasure to fly in style and reside at three of the best hotels in Thailand as well as the most freshly opened resorts across the country. All three exude luxury in their own unique way, and now it’s time for you to find out why.
Meliá Chiang Mai
One of the best hotels Thailand has to offer is The Meliá in Chiang Mai, which opened in April 2022, was our first home away from home on the trip. This beautiful, fully renovated hotel towers over the scenic Ping River on one side, with the picturesque northern mountains on the other. It’s so close to the airport that it has a height restriction. But don’t let that scare you, I never once heard a plane when I was there.
Inspired by Chiang Mai
Entering the lobby, I am struck by how bright, contemporary and elegant it is. Grand pristine marble floors and highlights of engraved teak wood with patterns inspired by Chiang Mai. It is clean and fresh, with the aroma of white tea. Although Meliá is a Spanish brand, you can see the tributes paid to Chiang Mai throughout the hotel in its rooms, restaurants and foyer. Tunnels inspired by the local places of worship, a centrepiece handcrafted from the same silver they use to make temples and beautiful golden lantern lights inspired by Chiang Mai’s famous lantern festival. You will also find deconstructed lanterns and paper parasols paying homage to Thailand’s umbrellas throughout the hotel which are striking works of art.
There’s a 24-hour gym, an executive lounge, an instagramable pool and soon to open, you have Meliá’s signature spa ‘YHI’. You also have a gallery inside and a charming gift shop where all the products are locally sourced. This grand hotel has everything you need to relax and unwind before you visit the beautiful city that is on your doorstep – it’s no wonder why this is one of the best hotels in Thailand.
Thai Cuisine with Mediterranean Influences
Meliá Chiang Mai features 5 restaurants and bars, including ‘Laan Na Kitchen’, ‘Mai Restaurant’ and (soon to be opening) ‘Mai The Sky Bar’ which will be the highest bar in the city with the most stunning 360 views. ‘Laan Na’ is a buffet restaurant providing both Eastern and Western flavours to suit everyone’s tastes. Inspired by their Spanish origins, you can get churros and Spanish tortillas for breakfast, and I recommend you do, both are delicious. In ‘Mai Restaurant’ you are treated to a culinary expert who cooks traditional Thai cuisine with Mediterranean influences, every dish is an explosion of perfectly-balanced flavours, and the views are just as delightful as the food.
As my luggage is brought up by a friendly hotel steward (who tells me he supports Manchester United) and I sip on my welcome drink, I learn there are 9 different types of rooms available at the Meliá Chiang Mai. I am greeted in my bedroom by a flawless fresh room with bursts of burnt orange complemented by teak wood designs. Artwork inspired by the interior of Thai lanterns enhances this modern room and I find myself suddenly atop the huge king-sized bed with the softest squishiest pillows I have ever known. With a massive TV, plenty of space to work and lots of storage compartments, this spacious room with stunning views of the mountains is divine.
The bathroom, although not hugely oversized, has plenty of room, an international plug, a rainfall shower and all the amenities you could possibly need (including a set of weighing scales which I avoided like the plague). You can even look out into the room to watch TV whilst you shower if you wish, or if you’d prefer the privacy, you have a blind inside the shower. With helpful reminders encouraging us to be as eco-friendly as possible, you can tell this chain of hotels has a conscience, after all, it is one of the best hotels Thailand has to offer. Meliá Chiang Mai prides itself on its social responsibility and reducing packaging on food, asking it to be boxed where possible and urging its employees to bring in reusable water bottles.
As I slip into my cosy 100% organic cotton robe and slippers, I spot an umbrella and torch in the cupboard, they have really prepared for every possible excursion you may take. I pop one of the chocolates from my pillow into my mouth and relax on the comfy sofa as I take in the views. A beautiful hotel, and one of the best hotels in Thailand, to match the beauty of Chiang Mai.
To discover more, visit: melia.com
The Bush Camp Elephant Hills
I could talk about this place until the elephants come home. A truly unforgettable, enriching experience and the highlight of the whole trip for me.
Solar Powered Serenity
Providing excellent customer service, in their personal minibus, The Bush Camp will pick you up and drop you off from the local hotels and airport in Chiang Mai. As we drive into The Bush Camp, one of the best hotels in Thailand, I am taken aback by the utter beauty of nature and the serene surroundings encompassing us. Solar panelled, hand-built by the team, with stunning wooden carvings, this place is nature’s paradise. We are giving our itinerary, which is jam-packed with unique and special experiences and honestly, I cannot wait to get started with my 24 hours here.
Picked up by a Ford Ranger, we are taken to our luxury tents with private balconies and breathtaking views. This is a glamping experience like no other! The rooms are clean and pristine, with plenty of amenities in case you missed something in all the excitement of packing. A total of 3 fans to keep you nice and cool, or if you’re like me, you may want to keep them off to hear nature’s soundscape. There are elephants everywhere, not real ones of course, but your stool is a carving of a wooden elephant, your towels are shaped like elephants, the light pulls are elephants, heck even your mug handle is an elephant’s trunk! The most elegant camping trip I have ever taken. As I looked up toward the sky when the sun had set, I swear I have never seen so many stars or heard so many crickets.
To Infinity and Beyond My Normal Food Consumption Levels
We are then picked up and taken to the impressive and immense open-air restaurant, with an infinity pool looking over a glorious landscape and the river Ping. It’s here we will eat all our meals, (we are as well fed as the elephants who eat 200KG a day) and have a culinary lesson in how to make a traditional Pad Thai. The food is all so excellent and so delectable. Even when I’m stuffed beyond belief, I can always seem to find more room for another spring roll.
The Mammoth Event
It’s then time for the mammoth event, time to pack in as much time with pachyderms as we can and make us trumpet with joy…we are off to meet the Elephants! You have two opportunities to meet these magnificent animals during your stay and both encounters were nothing short of magical, even when you’re being taught how to make paper from their dung! Hosts Sao, Cha and John were so knowledgeable, personable and kind. I felt like they were old friends I was catching up with.
The Bush Camp is a chain-free, roaming park where the 9 elephants are treated with dignity and respect. We get to prepare their afternoon snack, feed them, practise ‘high fives’ with them, speak with the elephant doctor, learn about the difference between African and Asian elephants and see them in their natural habitat playing and grazing. My god they never stop eating! My favourite elephant was Maebob, I know I shouldn’t have favourites but with her floppy hair and cheeky attitude she stole my heart. You can see the incredible relationships these amazing creatures have with everyone in the camp, particularly their mahouts who each have an elephant assigned to them.
The Mahouts are the keepers of the elephants, and they have an unbreakable bond with them which is evidently clear. They bathe, water, exercise, feed and spend every waking moment together, which I found out is a lot as elephants only sleep 3 hours a night! The Mahouts play such an integral part in the elephant’s lives so The Bush Camp does everything it can to make sure they are content, which includes hosting their families and tribes in the Karen Village. Visiting the Karen village was a humbling experience where we had an insight into their daily lives. They weave their own clothes and pound their own rice and there is an overwhelming sense of community with family and love at its core.
After a cooking class in the Karen Village, (I told you the itinerary was jam-packed,) it is time to enjoy the Sundowner. With the most epic views in one of the best hotels in Thailand, we are treated to a BBQ and cocktails as the sun sets on a beautiful day. I hope to myself that my memory is like an elephant because I never want to forget my extraordinary time at The Bush Camp. An Elephantastic Experience.
To discover more, visit: elephanthills.com
Four Seasons at Chao Phraya River
As one of the best hotels in Thailand’s, this luxury hotel has the wow factor. Stunning water features with floating candles and the highest ceilings I have ever seen, The Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is the epitome of opulence.
A Work of Art
Opened in December 2020, this spacious hotel is full of grandeur with floor-to-ceiling windows and dramatic works of art. Its open, stylish design has an air of class and elegance with an abundance of nature inside and out. Located just a stone’s throw away from the creative district which has galleries, coffee shops and cocktail bars aplenty, the hotel has a coveted spot on Bangkok’s riverside. It even has its own pier to catch the river taxi, the perfect way to get around Bangkok and take in its gorgeous views.
Whilst exploring one of the best hotels Thailand has to offer, it’s impossible to ignore the spectacular sights from outside the lobby. With its glass tiles, you feel like you’re walking on water as you enjoy a cocktail on one of the many sofas looking out onto the river and over the infinity pool. Around the pools there is a selection of loungers and cabanas, some are even in the pool itself. I would never tire of these breath-taking views.
The Four Seasons boasts a huge selection of services, from a fitness centre, wedding venue, and spa services to Michelin dining…you really can get everything you need in one place. With a stunning art gallery on the grounds that regularly changes its theme and artists, you could keep yourself entertained for hours simply on the hotel grounds.
Eclectic Excellent Food
I’ll let you in on a little secret… BKK Social Club inside the Four Seasons is the place to be and has been ranked number 10 by Asia’s 50 Best Bars! This fabulous club transports you to Buenos Aires, with cocktails inspired by the places, people and parties of Argentina. These unique and bespoke cocktails have flair and originality with mouth-watering food to accompany them. During your visit, you simply must visit ‘Yu Ting Yuan’ which provides the most sumptuous Michelin star Cantonese cuisine, but don’t forget to book as they are fully reserved up to 3 months in advance! Breakfast at ‘Riva Del Fiume’ should certainly be enjoyed too. With an eclectic cuisine serving traditional Thai dishes, as well as cereals, pastries and full English, it also takes inspiration from Italy and you can indulge in an individual-sized Florentine pizza for breakfast, it was absolutely scrumptious.
The Future of Hotel Rooms
The wow factor continued as I arrived at my room. A huge open-plan bedroom and bathroom overlooking the Chao Phraya river are jaw-dropping. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, you can catch every glimpse of the beauty surrounding you. I headed over to the switches by my colossal bed. With mood lighting at my fingertips and controls to adjust the blackout blinds and curtains, in this high-tech dreamland, I felt like I had entered the future of hotel experiences. Next to the control panel is an iPad, on which you can request everything from dressing gowns to room service at just the push of a button, very impressive and very refined. Your room is fully stocked including a branded umbrella, torch, jewellery and watch holder and if you ever could possibly need anything else, you can always use the trusty iPad.
The bathroom has many idyllic features, from its huge walk-in shower, that has a seat, to the grand mirror to the spacious ‘his and her’ sinks, but the real pièce de resistance is the marble bath. Fully kitted out with a loofah, shower cream and bath salts, it is the flawless way to unwind after a day on your feet discovering Bangkok. The room also has a Bose speaker to connect to via Bluetooth, so you can play some soothing tunes as you soak the day away.
If BKK Social Club seems a little too far away, you can always relax in your private chaise lounge in your room and use the mini-bar instead. Full of handpicked, local snacks there are crisps, nuts and chocolate to munch. Or you can indulge in the ‘My Bar’ menu, giving you instructions on how to prepare your own cocktail, including your own strainer, stirrer and bucket of ice that is replenished daily.
My first stay at a Four Seasons hotel, one of the best hotels in Thailand, exceeded every expectation and then some. It has opulence, elegance and flair. Simply put, it was luxury.
To discover more, visit: fourseasons.com
All imagery courtesy of the hotels featured.