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Wednesday 16 April 2014

Siamese Snoozing : The Rachamankha, Chiang Mai

Pad Thai cooked up on a cart on every street corner,
Super friendly, smily, happy people,
Frosty Singha Beers,
Golden, sandy beaches,
Mango & sticky rice...

...these are just a few of my favourite things about Thailand. And now, I've got a brand new entry on the list, Chiang Mai boutique hotel, the Rachamankha.

From pretty much the second the plane wheels touched down on Hong Kong soil after our sister trip to NYC back in February, I was straight onto planning the next adventure. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only way to get over an amazing holiday is to get straight on with booking the next. So, with that in mind and a nice little cushion of accumulated air miles, I decided that the best first step was to see where I could get for as close to nothing as possible, with bonus points if I'd never been before... A couple of minutes later we had a winner... Chiang Mai! 

Although I've been lucky enough to spend several amazing holidays in Thailand over the last five years, those trips generally tend to be beach breaks on an island or a hop across to the Big Mango (AKA Bangkok) for a weekend of bright lights and buckets. Somehow Chiang Mai hand't really been on my radar before, but suddenly a sunny city break with temples, markets and street food galore sounded like the perfect solution to the holiday blues. A couple of clicks later and I was on the Mr & Mrs Smith website, drooling over a handful of beautiful Chiang Mai boutique hotels. But the Rachmankha swiftly stole my heart as I swiped through the photo gallery and spied a white parasol flanked turquoise pool sitting in a terracotta-tiled courtyard. A couple of further clicks and my weekend was booked.

Cut to a month and a bit later, and another set of plane wheels were touching down following a brief flit through the clouds, this time on Thai soil. After whipping through passport control and customs, we flagged a cab driven by an uber-smiley man who had a laminated sign on the back of the driver's seat proudly letting us know that his nickname was 'Ricky' and as he was only just starting to learn English, he'd love to chat, but we'd have to speak slowly. Unfortunately, unless you were going to speak extremely fast, you wouldn't be able to get much past opening greetings given that the hotel is a super speedy mere ten minute drive from the airport. So saying goodbye to Ricky in a flurry of stilted guidebook Thai, we grabbed our bags, crunched up the gravel driveway and were greeted by the towering white pillars of our home for the next couple of days.

Check-in was incredibly painless, and quicker than you can say "Sawadee Ka", we were unlocking the heavy wooden door to our little room just off a grassy, candlelit courtyard.

Resisting the urge to bounce gleefully on that big bed, I set about exploring to find a pretty little alcove housing a spotlit rain shower which I promptly jumped straight into to wash the plane ride away and get ready to work up a thirst exploring the rest of the grounds. 

The hotel looks like a very old Thai building steeped in history but actually it was built from the ground in the last decade. A menagerie of stunning antiques and architectural echoes of the ancient heritage that lies in abundance just a few steps from the hotel's gates makes you feel as though you're staying in a perfectly restored old family villa.

Each corner yields something beautiful that you want to stop and stare at - a candlelit reading nook here, a huge urn of creamy orchids there...

A set of heavy wooden doors leading to a tasselled-chandelier-lit bathroom...

...lined with some of the most jaw-droopingly awesome tiles I've ever clapped eyes on...

And then we stumbled across the jewel in the Rachamankha crown, a pool so pretty that you can't help but kick your flip flops off and dangle your feet in.

By now, it was well and truly gin and tonic o'clock, so we headed to the hotel's courtyard restaurant where the white cloths were just being shaken out and topped with flowers and flickering night lights. 

The cosy bar space looks out over the courtyard and is the perfect spot for a little art gazing with a nice side of gin sipping.

Post-tipples, we toppled out of the bar and made our way out into the Chiang Mai night in search of cocktails and Thai curries. But that's a post for another day, so we'll skip straight to the morning after the night before where there was lots of very strong coffee...

Followed by several rounds of toast and jam, heaps of fruit, great troughs of granola and a particularly awesome stack of Cinnamon French Toast drenched in syrup.  

What followed was a couple of very lazy, languid days stretched out by the pool, reading books, drinking icy cold beers and cooling off in that gem of a pool interspersed with a smattering of wandering gazing up at towering temples while grazing on Thai street treats.

I will follow this up with a post on where we ate, drank, shopped and wandered when I next get the craving for a little holiday reminiscing...

On Sunday afternoon we had a little mosey around the hotel's museum which is jam-packed with very old, very beautiful things, before settling down for some goodbye tea and cake in the pretty little dining room. Stuffed to bursting with cake and culture, we waved a forlorn farewell.

After such an amazing weekend, as those plane wheels touched down on the tarmac at Chek Lap Kok, I scrambled to switch on my iPhone and was pretty much straight onto Skyscanner. So, that probably explains why, as you read this, I'm currently lying under a palm tree reading a very good book on a beach in Lombok...

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