Chiang Mai, after a brief spell in the flashing chaos of Bangkok, is a welcome change. I instantly noticed the peacefulness and serenity of the ancient city, where dim tuk tuk lights float gently towards me as I head from the airport to the old town. Massage parlours and night markets pepper the streets, blazing warm yellow and white lights, emanating an inviting buzz. I breathe in the exotic deep green smells of the nearby tropical jungle, which thicken the night air. The taxi drives me along the inky black river that runs through the old city, a moat for the ancient medieval walls.
One of the star attractions of Chiang Mai is the famed night market, which opens up in the evening and closes in the early hours of the next morning. Tourists flock here to sample the delightful food. In monsoon season the place is like a huge, indoor food hall, selling Thai favourites such as the delectable mango sticky rice or Pat Thai for less than 50 THB (about £1) among many specifically northern Thai favourites. Amid this sprawling market, locals also sell everything from hand-crafted wooden and silk goods to snappy made-to-measure suits.
The dusitD2 Chiang Mai is situated very conveniently behind the night market, making it a perfect base from which to eat, drink and explore this remarkable bazaar. From the humid night I enter the deliciously cool lobby, which spreads out before me, porters and receptionists wreathed in welcoming smiles. With its minimalist chic décor decked out in orange and white, the Dusit D2 nods to the interior style that, although certainly of its time, can be overlooked given the unbeatable level of hospitality from this charming Thai hotel with a lot of heart. Sweetly obliging staff do not let you lift a finger in this place, and darling touches such as the orange boxes placed in every room, bearing a new gift everyday of your stay, make one feel instantly at home in this cosy hotel which is rather excitingly placed in the middle of a fascinating city with an enthralling history.
Chiang Mai offers much in the way of culture. Numerous temples dot the streets, elegant in white and gold, adorned with serpents and housing majestic golden Buddhas. For the more adventurous, lush jungles are close by. You can choose to trek the paths through the wilderness up Doi Suthep, a stately mountain west of Chiang Mai. If you prefer a more leisurely adventure, take one of the many songthaew (open-air taxi wagons) that cruise the streets. These can be an absolute bargain if you haggle a little bit and smile a lot!
Of course, if you don’t fancy exploring and are looking for some serious rest and relaxation, there are the Thai massage parlours that verily line the streets. These offer massages of all types from around 200 THB (£4.60), if you fancy exploring the lower end of the market. While riding one of the hair-raising but glorious songthaew on a journey up Doi Suthep, I was told by a fellow passenger that it’s sometimes worth going high end for a massage in Thailand. I had experienced my fair share of lower end massages by this point in the trip (those prices!) but I was curious about the higher end of the spectrum. Luckily, the dusitD2 Chiang Mai, after a day of exploring this beautiful city, offered just that.
Stepping into the cool, opulent spa, it was the attention to detail which made it extra special, as was increasingly becoming the case with the whole hotel. Sweet warm tea and candied papaya were handed to me as I picked from a range of oils to be used in the massage, claiming to make me feel ‘uplifted’, ‘calmed’, or ‘energised’. ‘Uplifited’ was the order of the day, and it was hard not to feel utterly delighted as the masseuse appeared and led me into a dimly lit massage parlour playing sounds straight from a tranquil garden of the Orient. The massage was long and luxurious and definitely worth forking out the extra baht for.
All in all, the Dusit D2 is a retreat that feels clean and modern, amid the hubbub of the old town outside. It is also categorically in the neighbourhood that one should seek to stay in when visiting Chiang Mai. It offers a sweet spot to cool off and recharge your batteries in a welcoming atmosphere that will leave you frankly a bit wowed by the Thai hospitality. The staff, the location and the adorable focus on little details will invite you back time and time again to kick back and relax, Chiang Mai style.
Just off the famous Chang Klan Road in the heart of Chiang Mai’s city centre, dusitD2 Chiang Mai is surrounded by the city’s bustling night bazaar, restaurants and entertainment.
The casual atmosphere throughout this boutique hotel extends from the classical Thai of Café SOI restaurant to the laid-back attitudes at Mix Bar and poolside.
For those looking to wind down, Devarana Spa is the hotel’s multi-award-winning spa, while those looking to wind up can do so at DFit, one of the best-equipped health clubs in Chiang Mai.