It’s very difficult to dislike Chiang Mai.
Surely, you’ll find many a man or woman who says he hates the mainstream crowds of Phuket or the deafening silence of Hua Hin past nine, but for both locals and tourists alike, it’s very difficult to dislike Chiang Mai.
The cool city up north is home to a thriving coffee (and increasing cocktail) culture, an array of wholly different and yet entirely delicious culinary fare, and a relaxed joie de vivre the Bangkok Book really needs to rip a page from. A calming case in point: Raya Heritage.
Inspired by the spirit of Northern Lanna life, Raya Heritage manages to bring together a philosophy of tranquility and sustainability, housed within a wonderfully breezy and contemporary space. Artefacts and local crafts dot the spacious yet intimate property, and time appears to flow at its own tranquil pace. Janesuda hosted a fashion show here just last month, a handful of influencers have famously ‘grammed the alleys and halls and reading nooks, and many a connoisseur local will rave to you about the organic dining selection. (Nevertheless), Raya Heritage is a sanctuary of serenity.
Checking in for the weekend, read ahead for our full review of the resort, and take it from us here and now: it’s about to become even more difficult to dislike Chiang Mai.
[All images courtesy of Raya Heritage]
Raya Heritage lies at an approximate 30 minutes from the international airport. In the hotel’s transfer van, a soft melody accompanies you through the town into a trance as you journey a little out of the city towards Mae Rim and the peaceful Ping River. Buffaloes bathe in the water, banana trees and yellow flowers frame its banks, and a charm of a neighbourhood less hectic proves very welcoming for the discerning and concerning city dweller.
Chiang Mai’s old town is located about a 20-minute drive away, and the resort provides a complimentary shuttle service for those who wish to visit Raya Heritage’s sister property, Tamarind Village on Raj Damnoen Road. For Bangkokians with anxiety and/or other plans: fret not, Grab works fabulously here too.
Set across a series of three-storey buildings designed by Thai architect Boonlert Hemvijitraphan, Raya Heritage offers 33 suites set amidst a lush garden. Continuing on with a running theme of space and light, the rooms are very spacious, boasting high ceilings and cosy outdoor areas. For the weekend, we checked into the 75 square metre Huen Bon Suite, located on the top floor of the premises.
Accessed via a private staircase that overlooks the pool, the suite boasts elements of a traditional Thai house with contemporary flair. Extremely bright and yet somehow intimate, the room features many endearing details, from the hand-carved teakwood mirrors and ceramic tiles in the bathroom, to the handwoven textiles, baskets, and pottery placed around the suite. The double bed is certainly larger than your usual, and stands pompous and proud in the centre of the room overlooking the balcony outside. Here is where you’ll find the mini bar and a prime day bed for napping, too.
Elegant and uncomplicated, the design ethos of the suite much like the rest of the resort underscores a luxury that is simple and naturalistic. Millennials may dub it a highly ‘grammable minimal chic with a heritage hue.
Besides in-room and pool-side dining, Raya Heritage has only one main restaurant: Khu Khao. Inspired by the rice-based culture of the northern region, the menu here aims to bring diners a ‘crossroads’ experience, using original recipes from the greater Lanna region. This is composed of not only northern Thailand, but also Myanmar, Laos, and Yunnan. Naturally, the ingredients used are almost all locally-sourced, and centred around authentic flavour and healthy consumption. For some reason (or perhaps every reason), we wouldn’t have expected anything less.
Khu Khao is also the location at which breakfast is served, offering a truly varied and intriguing selection. Goat milk for your coffee? Try it. Chiang Mai bacon, cheese, and mushrooms? A necessity. And whether you’re more Croque Madame or Pon Yang Khao Beef Steak & Egg, no wish seems too small. Breakfast Khu Khao does very well.
For lighter bites, there’s also the Laan Cha Tea Terrace as a relaxing spot for afternoon (locally home-grown) tea, or even the infamous local coffee. Below Laan Cha Tea Terrace sits the Baan Ta lounge, a darker, cave-like bar serving pre-dinner cocktails and small treats.
Whilst there aren’t many reasons to ever leave the sleepy allure of the suite, Raya Heritage has two main facilities for guests to enjoy. There’s a swimming pool on the ground floor just parallel to the Ping River, and a fitness room on the first floor.
For those looking to unwind, there’s also the Ai Waan Spa. Here, regional healing techniques are employed to soothe tired muscles and relax sore minds, from signature bamboo massages to traditional Burmese treatments. Definitely also check out the northern Thai wet steam room, which uses a special mix of local herbs put together by a master herbalist from Pa Ruak village.
It’s easy to fall in love with Raya Heritage. Granted, being located in charming Chiang Mai already does half the flirting, but something about the quiet resort has an unexpected head over heels effect. It’s quietly crazy, considering we are often swayed left and right by bold designs and hi-tech in many modern hotels today, and yet something as sweet and simple as Raya Heritage can still stand out in the mind.
A lot of it, as often, comes down to the service. The staff is extremely friendly, and wildly attentive. Where one evening we bumped into a branch on the way back to the room, the next morning said branch was magically removed. Coincidence? Could be, but we wouldn’t play it up to chance.
Thoughtful yet subtle, Raya Heritage is an honest and modern interpretation of the regality of the Lanna period. Despite it being the rainy season during our stay, and despite a few showers throughout the weekend, it all feels a lot less stressful and a lot more romantic from the balconies here. The white-linen-bearing staff makes you feel safe, your surroundings feel raw and close to nature, and honking cars and sirens from the city fade out of the picture entirely. Instead we jam to a soundtrack of gentle river streams, a drizzle, or, goodness, an angry cricket in heat — at most. As ever the millennials we may be stubborn to admit; but as it turns out, along the tranquil Ping River, sometimes simple really does it.
Raya Heritage, 157 Moo 6, Tambol Donkaew, Amphoe Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, +66 53 111 670 73.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok on 16 October 2019.