Chill out in charming Chiang Mai

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am

In Chiang Mai, city of a million rice paddies, luxury resorts make every effort to give their guests an authentic countryside experience.

Both the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi and the Four Seasons Resort have rice paddies for backyards, and every morning farmers astride buffalos serenade guests with their flute playing. The resort's villas and pavilions are made of teak and built in the style of the northern Thai rice houses. At the Mandarin resort, local women demonstrate handicraft making.

This second largest Thai city has a wealth of shopping attractions and spa and health alternatives. It is also the gateway to northern Thailand, which is home to many fascinating and colourful hill tribes.

Hong Kong Express Airways offers direct flights (a two-hour trip) from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai. Flights are twice a week aboard 76-seat Embraer 170 aircraft, departing Thursdays and Sundays.

Travel agents are offering four-day and five-day deals. Packages for the rainy season (which ends in October) start from $2,890 per person (twin sharing) in city hotels and go up to $9,450 per person (twin sharing) for a five-day splash at the Mandarin Oriental resort.

Also on offer is a three-night golf and spa package from $4,170 per person. This includes twin sharing, and either a round of golf and a spa treatment, or two rounds of golf and two spa treatments. Play is at the Lamphun Golf Club, venue of the 1995 Southeast Asian Games. For more information, see