While fast becoming one of Asia’s hottest destinations, Chiang Mai is still relatively underserved by five-star international hotel groups. The Shangri-La, first opened in 2007, is one of a handful of such properties, boasting a more convenient, central location than most – Four Seasons, for example, is a good 40-minute drive out into the countryside.
Where is it?
Situated on Chang Klan Road, the hotel is in the centre of town within easy walking distance of the city’s famous Night Bazaar and other attractions. The hotel is also just 20 minutes by car from Chiang Mai International Airport.
What’s it like?
The façade immediately embodies the local flavour, with Lanna-style religious architecture characterised by steep, multi-tiered spires. These cultural references continue throughout the design, with Thai silks, teak-wood carvings and more. The lush garden setting immediately creates the sense of a hidden resort in the middle of the city.
At 58 sqm, the Horizon Club Premier Rooms are very spacious, with a dedicated lounge area comprising a sofa, coffee table, work desk and day bed. Large windows provide views over the leafy gardens, natural jungle of Chiang Mai and beyond.
Contemporary Northern Thai décor creates a cosy feel, with wood panelling, silk throw pillows, bed runners and artwork. However, I felt some details, particularly the carpet, were starting to show their age and a soft refurbishment could help to spruce up the interiors. A nice touch was the copies of Lost Horizon in each bedside drawer – the 1933 novel from which Shangri-La takes its name.
Facilities were comprehensive, but shy of excellent. For example, there was a work desk tucked in the far corner of the room, with a full set of amenities, including international sockets plus USB ports etc. However, the bedside plugs weren’t close enough to comfortably charge your phone within arm’s reach. An adaptor was also required. Room service charges were very reasonable, in keeping with the local economy. The film channels on the television were also rather grainy to watch.
Large bathrooms afford a separate bath and shower (with rainshower option). Premium L’occitane amenities were a pleasant surprise, however, the design of the bottles made it irritatingly difficult to access the contents.
Horizon Club Premier Room guests enjoy access to the club lounge on the 11th floor, as well as a host of additional perks such as airport meet and greet (when hotel limousine transfer is booked) and private in-room check in. The lounge itself serves breakfast, evening cocktails and canapés, and offers meeting rooms and suit pressing. Again, the décor is starting to look a bit dated, and the low sunken sofas are slightly awkward for semi-casual meetings, but the space is large, the facilities are good and there are magnificent views over the sprawling jungle.
Bars and restaurants
Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai has two main dining outlets plus the lobby lounge and pool bar Dhala. China Kitchen, originally a Thai fusion outlet, has been re-launched with spicy Sichuan cuisine – a first for Chiang Mai, but a trial that has quickly become popular thanks to a natural fondness for spicy flavours. Kad Kafe (named after the local word for market) offers all-day dining with a broad range of international cuisines and live-cooking stations. The buffet breakfast was one of the most extensive I have ever seen.
Boasting the biggest pool in the city, the free-form pool dominates the attractive grounds. A sheltered Jacuzzi pool and smaller children’s pool are also available. Other facilities include a tranquil yoga pavilion and fully-equipped gym, with free fitness classes. The signature Chi, The Spa at Shangri-La boasts nine treatment “rooms”, each one a mini villa, with tranquil courtyards and walkways. The hotel is also currently working on a vegetable garden, with basil, chilli, eggplant, papaya and lemongrass, to serve fresh, local ingredients in the restaurants.
In addition to the Horizon Club Lounge, The Grand Lanna Ballroom on the second floor caters for up to 1,800 guests, making it the largest event space in the city. There is also a business centre for simple services such as printing or hosting small meetings.
Luxury with a local flavour, the Shangri-La is an excellent choice for a five-star break in Chiang Mai – be it business or pleasure. The location is very convenient, within walking distance of a number of attractions, and a short drive to the airport.
Internet rates for a midweek stay in December start from THB7,830 (US$224) for a Horizon Club Premier Room.