Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am

What is it? A reproduction of the ancient Lanna kingdom, with elaborate palaces, temples, towers and turrets, in the self-anointed 'historical and cultural heart' of northern Thailand.

A kingdom, you say? Well, a kingdom reconstructed on 24 hectares of tranquil grounds. The Lanna people flourished from the mid-13th to the mid-16th centuries, using Chiang Mai as their capital, and that is the period reflected in today's visually majestic resort - although it is unlikely that few, barring the most effusively titled Lanna individuals, would have recognised the opulence of today's 123 villas, suites and rooms.

Rarefied billeting? You wouldn't want to be too clumsy around the vases, lamps, rice carriers, delicate fabrics and the rest in your accommodation: many are museum-standard artefacts. Further indulgences include private gardens, sundecks, balconies, terraces and plunge pools.

The most recent additions to the resort are the five wings of Colonial Suites, built around a swimming pool and opened in the past 14 months. The grand and spacious suites are designed to evoke the Lanna style of the late 19th century, when the kingdom enjoyed a brief resurgence.

What is there to do? Although some guests may fancy they discern a 'Disneyfication' of history here, the 'rides' in this magic kingdom calm, rather than raise the blood pressure. The chief chill-out zone is the extravagantly steepled 3,100 sq metre Dheva Spa and Ayurvedic Centre. Signature pamperings here are not known as mere treatments, but as 'ceremonies' based on ancient healing techniques. Those pursuing their health goals more actively may take advantage of the fitness centre, with its swimming pool and tennis courts, or partake of the several types of yoga class on offer, including the deceptively tiring aqua yoga.

Dhara Dhevi operates a cultural centre where guests can join in demonstrations of weaving, basket making, rice pounding, flower arranging and paper cutting. And bisecting the property is a working paddyfield, where a back-to-the-land 'experience' guarantees hours of filthy fun for children young and old.

Anything else we should know? Until March 31, the Dhara Dhevi is offering a Getaway Package, at US$1,100 a room (excluding tax), incorporating two nights in a Colonial Suite, buffet breakfast for two, return transfers, an 80-minute spa treatment for one or two and a Thai lunch or dinner for two at Le Grand Lanna restaurant.

What's the usual bottom line? Rack rates for villa accommodation start at US$489 a night.

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, 51/4 Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand, tel: 66 53 888 888;