Located in an area dominated by lush greenery, it’s apt two enormous, and beautiful, trees lie at the literal centre of Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort. Separated by around 100 metres, but apparently connected by the same root system, I’m told the hundred-year-old ‘raintrees’ are named after the Lanna Prince ‘Sukaseam’ and a Burmese girl ‘Mamia’ he met and fell in love with whilst studying in Myanmar – the two were later separated when the Prince was forced to return home.
But sad story aside, the pair flourish at this resort, forming part of a natural landscape that includes well-kept lawns and gardens, and just beyond that, wild forest and the Mae Kok River, which flows next to the hotel.
The spot: The only internationally branded five-star resort in the Chiang Rai city vicinity, Le Meridien lies just 15 minutes by car from Mae Fah Luang International Airport and is a short drive to province’s many tourist attractions. If you want luxury and convenience in Chiang Rai, this is it.
The room: With sweeping views of the main building, pool, lake, river and Sukaseam, my room features an attractive modern design with beautiful timber floors, a comfy king bed, chaise lounge, large TV, work desk, free wifi, and loads of space. The bathroom, which opens directly out onto the main room by way of a sliding door, is also huge, boasting a separate bath and shower, and a cool green-tiled wall. Outside, there’s a well-furnished balcony to enjoy the warm weather.
What to eat/drink? Le Meridien’s signature restaurant, Latest Recipe, will ensure you don’t go hungry during your stay, offering sumptuous buffet dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Combining international favourites with regional flavours in an elegant setting, Latest Recipe boasts live cooking stations, a popular Friday night seafood dinner buffet, and a laid-back Sunday brunch smorgasbord. Elsewhere, Favola serves up excellent Italian cuisine together with fine wines and a river view.
Open until midnight, the Latitude 19 lobby lounge features specialty coffees and cocktails as well as a high tea set each Saturday, while Chill Bar boasts arguably the pick of locations, outside, right by the river. My beverage recommendations are the Eye Opener breakfast juice shots, which do as promised, and a virgin cocktail, which features hints of chili, ginger, lime and lemongrass – think Tom Yum in cold beverage form!
What to do? The property has a large pool, fully-equipped gym, kids club, library and the Parvati Spa. For meetings and events, the resort features five function rooms (including one with a beautiful star-filled ceiling) with a maximum area of 1,400 square metres.
With its central location, there’s no shortage of sightseeing options and activities within a short drive of the property too, including the stunning White Temple, cool night market, and fascinating Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park, which guests of the hotel can access free-of-charge.
Verdict? Usually overlooked by international travellers in favour of neighbouring Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai has a lot to offer travellers, and is worth more than the day or two the few Aussies that come here set aside for visits. And with its central location, friendly staff (led by affable Aussie GM Stephen Morahan), wonderful facilities, and star attractions Sukaseam and Mamia, Le Meridien is the ideal hotel choice.
The writer travelled to Chiang Rai as a guest of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
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