Sunday, 29 December 2013

Infinity Nightclub

Chiang Mai is not just a place to visit temples and night markets: it is also a city with a thriving nightlife. It is Thailand’s second city and has everything (or nearly everything) that you can find in Bangkok. The nightlife might not be as seedy, as swank, as boutique, or as hi so as places in the capital but for many they actually prefer the more relaxed nightlife atmosphere of Chiang Mai.

One of the best nightclubs in Chiang Mai is aptly named Infinity. It is a large nightclub aimed at hip Thais. It is well furbished and stylish. Infinity looks like the type of nightclub many foreigners might avoid thinking it would be too expensive. However that is not the case: drinks are reasonably priced and cheaper than in many fashionable spots in Chiang Mai.

It gets packed at the weekend. Weeknights can be lively without getting too busy. A number of DJs play house music. They also have live bands. While the music is often geared towards a Thai crowd, they mix it up with plenty of tunes that will appeal to most people.

The club tends to fill up after the other bars and clubs shut at 1am or 2am. Infinity has a large outdoor seating area with lots of seating that attracts the late night drinking crowd.

Infinity has a great sound system and impressive lights and other effects. It is a high energy place. If you are up for having a big night this nightclub is a good option.


Telephone 053 400 085
Address: Nimmana Haeminda Soi 6, Mueang Chiang Mai

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

137 Pillars House

137 Pillars House can be accurately classified as a boutique hotel in Chiang Mai. It is a marvelous building as well as a luxury hotel. For this reason it is worth visiting, and definitely worth staying at if you have the money.

The word ‘boutique’ is used a lot in the hotel business. It is a trendy designation that helps to increase prestige and revenue for an accommodation provider. The word comes from the French and originally referred to a small shop. Since then ‘boutique’ has become an adjective in English and has come to connote a number of meanings. The excellent divides boutique hotels into several categories: colonial, modern, hip, historic, themed and micro. Boutique hotels although small can sometimes be big. They are normally one-offs but can be part of an exclusive chain. They are often converted historical buildings but can also be ultra new and modern. Boutique is an attitude, and a boutique hotel displays an attitude of originality, style and personalized service and facilities. It is easier to give examples of what a boutique hotel is than it is to define the phrase.

137 Pillars House (2 Soi 1, Na Wat Gate Road, Wat Gate) is the winner of 2013 Trip Advisors Travelers’ Choice awards for Chiang Mai. It is a small hotel with 30 rooms on the property. The aim, as the hotel website describes, is to create a ‘home style residence’ that ‘allows visitors to participate and share in the richness of a likeminded international community while creating plenty of space for sublime intimacy in sumptuous suites and throughout our tropical grounds’. This is a bit long winded but what the hotel is getting at is to create a small community of guests who can interact but also enjoy luxurious privacy.

As with many of the best boutique hotels, 137 Pillars House is a converted historical building. It was built in Chiang Mai and then moved from the west to the east side of the Ping River and served as a residence for workers of the East Borneo Company that was given royal dispensation to log the northern teak forests by King Chulalongkorn.

The house changed hands several times before being bought in 2002 by a Bangkok resident who lovingly restored it and opened a hotel.

137 Pillars retains many of the original architectural garden features. The house is made of old teak that has a rich patina from age. The grounds feature many unusual species of flora and make a delightful spot to relax and walk.

The hotel includes a library bar, a parlor lounge, a dining room, a more intimate dining area called ‘Palette’, a spa, a swimming pool and a gym. Guests are offered the highest levels of service and can arrange private dining on their own balcony.

The rooms feature all the mod cons as well as private balconies and period piece items such as free standing Victorian bath tubs.

Throughout the building the furniture has been hand-picked to reflect the history of the building and to add elegance and style to the interior.

The result is an oasis of calm and restrained style that serves as a welcome relief to the sometimes hectic sights and sounds of the city. If you like to escape the crowds and noise of Thailand after a day out, 137 Pillars House is the perfect solution. It is not only one of the best hotels in Chiang Mai, but also possibly in Thailand.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Maesa Elephant Camp

Maesa Elephant Camp is located 20 minutes north east of Chiang Mai. To get there either hire a taxi or self drive by hiring a moped or car. It’s an easy road to drive.

On arriving at the camp you get a good impression. This is created because the camp has a beautiful jungle setting with a river and small waterfall.

The actual camp is clean and well set up, with toilets and restaurant. It was established in 1976 and was the first elephant camp in Thailand to achieve International accreditation for safety and animal welfare (ISO 9001).

The camp has over 70 elephants each with its own keeper (called a mahout). The animals are well cared for. For those concerned about animal welfare please bear in mind that elephants have been domesticated in Thailand for centuries. They were involved in logging and transport when Thailand was largely jungle. The elephants have not been taken from the wild; they are the descendants of domesticated elephants left redundant by the mechanisation of logging and transport. These animals still work for a living except now it’s not logging, its entertaining tourists.

Activities include an elephant show, elephant rides, mahout courses, ox-cart rides and bamboo raft trips. Elephant shows happen daily at 8am, 9.40am and 1.30pm. They last about 45 minutes and cost 200 Thai Baht per person. Before the show you can feed the elephants with bananas and sugar cane and watch them bathe in the river.
The show involves the elephants performing tricks. They play football, basket ball and with a hola hoop. They also display traditional skills from the logging industry. The crescendo of the show is painting. The pictures go on sale after the show and fetch several hundred dollars each. Elephant rides last an hour and take you to a village where several hill tribes, including the famous long necks, live. These people are largely Cambodian and Burmese refugees displaced by war and persecution in their own countries. This village is one of several in Thailand where the Government has allowed them to settle legally.

 If you really want to get to find out more about elephants and help care for them we suggest booking a mahout course. 1, 2 and 3 day courses are available and they last from 8am to 4pm each day. You need to make reservation for this through their website ( Accommodation and food are provided for the 2 and 3 day courses.

Of course you don’t have to feel a commitment to animals’ welfare to visit Maesa Elephant Camp. It makes a fun day out: the elephants are entertaining and well cared for, and it’s a great chance to leave Chiang Mai and see some of the great countryside scenery.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wat Chedi Luang

If you stay in the old town in Chiang Mai one of the first places of interest you are going to visit is Wat Chedi Luang. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the city.

Construction of the temple was started in the 14th Century. It was designed as a big stupa to bury the ashes of the King’s father. However, due to political instability the temple wasn’t finished until half way through the next century.

When finished the temple was 82 meters high with a base diameter of 54 meters. Sadly, the temple suffered damage during an earthquake but in the 1990s was restored with UNESCO funds.

It is an interesting temple to wander around. There are big trees for shade and several things of interest to see around the temple. It is a great example of Thai temple architecture and a symbol for the city of Chiang Mai.

The temple is set in peaceful gardens. It creates an oasis of calm in the city, not that the old city of Chiang Mai is that frenetic. Nearby, there are a couple of good restaurants.

The interior of the temple is lavished in gold ornamentation and contains a large Buddha statue. As with most Thai temples the atmosphere is serene and inspires contemplation.

It is worth visiting Wat Chedi Luang at night when it is lit up by lights.

Please remember to dress modestly as it is working temple, and to take your shoes off before entering the temple. Respect those who come to the temple to worship.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

International Horticultural Exhibition

The International Horticultural Exhibition near Chiang Mai is well worth a visit if you have an interest in tropical gardens and landscape design.

The exhibition site is about 30 minutes drive from Chiang Mai. The best way to get there is to either rent a car or bike or take a songthaew or taxi. If you do get a taxi then agree a price for the return journey and only pay after the return leg. As of March 2013 the taxi fare is 400 to 500 Thai Baht. To arrange the driver to pick you up when you are ready to go back to Chiang Mai take the driver’s telephone number.

The horticultural centre is one of Thailand's premier attractions, although hardly any one goes now that the 2011 event is over. The actual expo is held in a different international location every year. Despite this the Thai authorities have chosen to maintain the gardens and infrastructure. And it is great that they have.

Entry is 200 Thai Baht for foreigners, 100 Thai Baht for Thais, with 50% discount for over 60s, under 16s and students. ID proof is required for discounts.

The area is vast and being Thailand, it is hot. The best way to see the exhibition is to travel around by small trains on wheels. Trains ply the routes around the exhibition all day long. You don’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train. It is a very good set-up especially convenient for disabled and elderly people.

A major part of the exhibition was a display of gardens from around the world. These have been lovingly maintained and form the main attraction in the park. It is an impressively large area to explore – and the landscaping is not just inside the park area, but around it and on the approach road.

The main attraction is a Thai Temple that was built with an ornamental garden. Also of interest are several greenhouses. The collection of South East Asian plants is extensive and probably the best in the world. The variety of jungle plants runs into tens of thousands.

If you are after ideas for tropical gardens this is the place to come. Sculpture and ornaments are mixed with the landscaping. The topiary (hedge and shrub trimming) is particularly impressive – there is a wide range of trees, bushes and shrubs shaped into animals and geometric shapes. The bougainvillea plants are particularly spectacular.

If you have any interest in gardening and you are in the Chiang Mai area it is well worth paying a visit to the International Horticultural Exhibition.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep means Temple of Suthep Mountain. Doi Suthep (Suthep Mountain) is a designated national park which starts about 2km north of Chiang Mai by the zoo and the university.

Wat Doi Suthep is located near the top of the mountain. It is a 30 to 35 minute drive. To get there you can either hire a private taxi (it costs between 400 to 500 Thai Baht for a return journey) or jump on a shared red songthaew. It is normal to hire a taxi or catch a songthaew for the return journey.

If you are travelling alone, and you want to try and save money, walk or take a red songthaew to Pratu Chang Phuak, this means White Elephant Gate. Chiang Mai old city has four gates (North, South, East and West). Pratu Chang Phuak is the east gate. From Pratu Chang Phuak if you wait for a while you can join a shared taxi. As a foreigner expect to pay around 100 - 150 baht per person in a shared taxi. On a Sunday there are lots of Thai people going there to worship and this is the easiest day to get a shared taxi.

Wat Doi Suthep is one of the most important temples in the Chiang Mai region, and arguably the most interesting.

The view from the temple is the biggest draw. There are some great view points on the way up to the temple. On the south side of the temple visitors can see the entire plain where Chiang Mai city is located. On a clear day the view is stunning.

When you arrive at the temple you have two options: climb a magnificent 400 step staircase, or take the funicular railway. Able bodied visitors can, and should, climb the staircase. The funicular railway is the best option for the elderly and those with restricted mobility.

On each side of the staircase there are tiled Naga statues forming the baluster rail. At the bottom of the staircase, there is a popular place to take group photographs between the heads of these two Nagas.

Foreigners are required to purchase an entrance ticket at the booth at the top of the stairs.

You enter into a courtyard where shoes must be removed before entering the inner part of the temple.

The inner temple is a walled courtyard with a golden shrine at the centre.

The shrine is similar to the Golden Temple in Bangkok, although smaller. The main part of the shrine consists of a golden stupa. If you wish, join the Thais in walking around the shrine clockwise 7 times. Purchase a lotus flower and incense (20 Baht each) to hold between hands held in prayer to get the full experience, and observe the correct custom.

Around the walls of the inner temple you will find a mural depicting the story of Hanuman, the monkey god. The story has been adapted from the Hindu holy book called the Ramayana. In the Thai version of the story the monkey god is responsible for the creation of the Thai nation.

There are also a number of rooms with shrines and monks ready to give a blessing. For a small donation a monk will bless you and tie a white piece of string around your wrist.

Once you leave the inner temple take time to visit the outer courtyard to take in the views. You can also participate in Thai Buddhist customs by ringing the 108 bells lining the outer courtyard.

Near the entrance, on your way out, you will see a large gong (it is pictured). The challenge is to make a sound from the gong by rubbing the nipple shaped protrusion in the centre in a circular motion. Don't bang the gong, this is cheating and damages the gong. The part of the gong where you rub is very shiny and testament to millions of failed attempted to make it 'sing'.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Chiang Mai Zoo

Chiang Mai Zoo is located 2km north of the old walled city, near the University, on the Huay Kaew Road. It is on the way to Doi Suthep, and visitors often combine a visit to the zoo with a visit to Doi Suthep Temple.

The zoo covers a large area. There is a bus that goes around the zoo that you can hop on and off as you like. If you walk around the zoo it will take about 2 hours to visit. The route includes some steep concrete roads.

There is also an 'on and off' monorail service. However, it seems to be broken down for at least 50% of the year. Good idea, but poorly executed. The elevation does not give good views - the project was badly thought out. In truth the monorail is a waste of time, and its appeal is only found in the fact that it is a novelty.

The animals in Chiang Mai Zoo seem well looked after. Most of the enclosures are humane in the sense that the animals have enough room and suitable habitat recreation. As I write the zoo is in the process of renovating the smaller concrete pit style enclosures. This is good news as at present the bears and some of the large rodents could be kept in better enclosures. But to give credit where credit is due the zoo is constructing new accommodation to deal with this problem.

The main animal attractions are the pandas, with a separate enclosure you must pay extra to visit, and the rare white tigers. Both are near the main entrance. The gibbon enclosure is good, with a large tree house structure to allow them to perform aerial acrobatics.

If you are interested in the animals of Thailand search around a bit at the back of the zoo. You will find some of the peculiar South East Asian animals that you never see in Western zoos. Some of these animals are lurking in the Jungle in major tourist destinations like Koh Phangan. Some of the animals I have seen staying at Sunrise Villa, such as the Palm Civet and the slow Loris, I was only able to identify them thanks to my visit to Chiang Mai Zoo.

Some of the attractions at the zoo, like Ice World may appeal less to European visitors.

Snacks are available, and there is a bar selling alcohol and a small range of more substantial dishes near the lake.

The entire zoo is non-smoking.