Property Spotlight: Villa Mahabhirom (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Travel advisor Thomas Spears in black sunglasses in front of a stone wall
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Thomas Spears

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Property Spotlight: Villa Mahabhirom (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Curator’s statement

Chiang Mai is a city I’ve spent a lot of time in and one of my favorite cities in Thailand. Far away from the beaches and party scene in the south, Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand, which used to be the kingdom of Lanna. Their unique food, culture, architecture and art all reflect the complex past of the region, having been ruled by Kingdoms in China, Burma and Ayutthaya, back and forth before uniting with the Kingdom of Siam (which became modern day Thailand).

This is one of my favorite properties in the city and is a perfect retreat from downtown. Chiang Mai is only a 90-minute flight from Bangkok, so it makes for an easy weekend getaway as well, if you're already planning a Thailand trip and want a change of scenery. You’ll stay in elegant antique homes turned into luxury villas, among a maze of plants, art and sculptures.

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Where to stay

Villa Mahabhirom

Translating to "villa of great pleasure" in Thai, this refined and peaceful resort is located on the road to a historic temple.

Travel advisor Thomas Spears in black sunglasses in front of a stone wall

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Arrival/Lobby

When you first arrive at the property, you can’t see much of anything. You can see a few traditional Thai rooftops and lots of trees, but you would never know there was a hotel there, if it weren’t for the Hotel’s name on the wall at the front entrance. Walking past the wall, there’s a small café serving local coffees and teas, along with some snacks and sweets. The mountains near Chiang Mai are famous for coffee and Thai coffee culture (especially in the north) is wonderful.

After your coffee break, you can continue walking down a stone path that is lined with bamboo and some sculptures, following a . At the end of the walk, there’s an antique carved wooden door. Going through the door, the stone path continues, with more trees and plants and curves into a beautiful pavilion that acts as the hotel lobby. Like most buildings in Thailand, there’s very little delineation between indoors and outdoors and the same ambience flows throughout the property. The lobby has dark wood features, antique furniture and seating areas, juxtaposed with modern art hung on the walls and some interesting sculptures. While checking in at one of the desks with the friendly staff, they will bring you some cold towels, and refreshing cocktails made from local ingredients. The staff will then walk you to your room, where the porters have already put away your bags.

Arrival Tip: If you’re flying into Chiang Mai, the hotel will provide transportation to/from the airport and porters will meet you at the front. If you’re handling your own transportation, then you can call the hotel and let them know when to expect you.

Main Property and Public Areas

Leaving the lobby you walk out into the pool area. This is where you really start to see the style of the property shine through. It’s a stunning modern pool, surrounded by a few tables and pool chairs, some unique sculptures and lots of gardens. Beyond the gardens on all sides, are more antique homes, of varying styles (mostly Central Thai style). This is something the property excels at: marrying centuries-old wooden homes and local antiques with modern design aesthetics.

On the opposite side of the pool, there is a small intimate bar area. Again, in an antique structure that’s been styled to feel modern and artistic. They serve wines, cocktails, beer, and small bites as well. The hotel also has a restaurant (Maison Saigon) that serves Northern Thai style breakfast (or continental), along with Vietnamese food for lunch and dinner. There’s an indoor dining room, an al fresco dining area, and they will often set up tables by the pool as well. There’s also a world-class spa focusing on transitional Thai massages and methods.

Insider Tip: Room rates often include a 20% discount at the spa!

Villas

All the villas are unique, and range from 1-bedroom villas to 2-3 bedroom villas with a private pool. They are all 100+ year old traditional Thai homes that were moved here. Despite the age and character, they have all the modern conveniences and feel luxurious (bluetooth speakers, televisions, wifi and local bath products). Almost all the villas are two-story, with a downstairs seating area that opens to the outside, and bedroom(s) upstairs. The villas feel private with all of the trees and vegetation, often you won’t realize there are other guests until you head to breakfast or the pool.

My personal favorite is Villa Doi Suthep. It’s a one-bedroom, with dark teakwood and black historic silk accents, with a large bathroom that features a deep copper soaking tub. It does overlook the main pool, but also has the most amazing view of Doi Suthep (a sacred mountain featuring an ancient temple).

If I'm traveling with a group, the 2 and 3 bedroom options are fantastic. It feels like you’ve rented a small village - with tons of living and shared space, including a large plunge pool (salt water, so there are no mosquitos) and you’re in a secluded corner of the property all to yourselves.

Neighborhood

The property is in the Suthep neighborhood, which is closer to Chiang Mai University and the Airport. The neighborhood is fairly quiet, with lots of temples to visit (Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham, Wat Pa Daeng, or Wat Suan Dok are some of the nicer temples within walking distance). You're also close to Doi Suthep, which is a sacred mountain you can hike and see the grand Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, along with a museum and breathtaking views.

Thailand is a country that loves its food, so there is no shortage of restaurants all over Chiang Mai. Maison Saigon is the hotel restaurant, and serves Saigon-style Vietnamese food for lunch and dinner. Galae Restaurant is a popular option near Doi Suthep and is an outdoor restaurant next to a pond, specializing in local food. Han Teung Chiangmai serves casual local food under a thatched-roof building. Lastly, Dong Madame is a creative choice where they blend Northern Thai food with global influences, in an artistic setting. Given the coffee culture in Chiang Mai, there are cafes all over that are unique and take pride in serving a variety of drinks made from local coffee beans.

There are several art markets that sell crafts, art and have food/drink vendors as well (everything in Thailand revolves around food!). Baan Kang Wat and Wattana Art Gallery are two great choices in the neighborhood, but there are many across the city.

Need to Know

Villa Mahabhirom is the perfect property for unwinding, in an elegant distinctly Thai atmosphere that combines the antique with the modern. While you're lounging by the pool, getting a traditional massage, or enjoying a meal, you'll be shocked to find you're only a 10-15 minute ride to the heart of Chiang Mai, and walking distance to several temples and local restaurants.

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand. In need of further inspiration? Check out, Adventure Through Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Travel advisor Thomas Spears in black sunglasses in front of a stone wall

Travel Advisor

Thomas Spears

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