Discovering Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai was a highly recommended destination from everyone that I spoke with, ranging from “definitely check it out for a few days” to “I went there for a week and ended up staying for a month.”
Sadly, my stay was only three full days — but could have been so much more. Still, I made the most of it, including packing in temples, cooking class, a trip to the elephant nature park, and a mountain bike trip (see 5 Cool things to do in Thailand).
Breakfast. The most important meal of the day.
The dusit D2 boutique hotel appeared on my radar after TripAdvisor’s integration with Facebook indicated that my friend Cathy (a former Hopkinson Report guest) had stayed there, and had great things to say about it.
But, oh, the breakfast. Why can’t every day be like this, with a fresh, cold, strawberry smoothie waiting for you the second you roll out of bed? More on that in a moment, and it’s probably fitting that I sat down with Varisara Charoentrakul, the assistant PR person for the Dusit hotel chain, for an interview over breakfast on the last day of my stay here.
She explained that the D2 designation stood for their second generation of hotels, which combined Thai tradition but for a new modern generation. In a way, this describes Chiang Mai itself… a city rich with Thai tradition, culture, and food, but with elements of the modern world mixed in.
For example, Charoentrakul explained that Chiang Mai was a great escape for people wanting to get away from the rush of Bangkok to find more balance during their stay. With mountains just a short ride away, other activities include zip line tours, nature walks, and trekking.
You’ll quickly notice bursts of orange throughout the hotel, a color used to symbolize the new, fun, fresh attitude of the d2. You also can’t miss it on the Buddhist monks during your travels.
They have the stats to back it up, winning various awards including top 500 hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller’s Hot List, and Trip Advisor’s traveler’s choice for trendiest hotel.
Very convenient. It is positioned in walking distance between the outside of the walled city to the west, or to the river on the east, and also right next to the night market. There are cabs and tuk tuks everywhere for just a few dollars.
In fact, that’s one of the cool things when visiting a country where you money goes far.
Quick story: As my friend and I headed out for dinner at the Good View restaurant, we got spun around and ended up walking the wrong way. It kept feeling like we were ALMOST going to get there, but then we figured out we were lost.
At this point, we had walked in the wrong direction, my friend was in heels, it was getting late, we were hungry, and we were lost. These are the types of things that can strain a friendship (or couple) and cause traveling partners to argue.
But as we turned around and headed back the right way, I had a revelation. This was a problem that could easily be solved by $6. Sure enough, we were able to quickly hail down a Tuk Tuk cab, climbed in the back, and for about 200 Baht, we had a fast, enjoyable tour through the neighborhood, and were promptly dropped off at our destination within minutes. Life was good.
The breakfast buffet each morning was amazing. No, seriously… eggs to order, fresh coffee, strawberry smoothies, unlimited bacon. Insane.
Since my friend and I were trying various Thai cuisine at every other part of our trip, it was nice to mix it up and have a traditional breakfast to start the day. While we didn’t have dinner at their Moxie restaurant, it was hard to miss the trophies lined up at the bar, awards for both their bartender and the restaurant’s chef.
We stayed in a basic standard room, which was very nice. They also offer a Club Deluxe room (32 square meters) and a Studio Suite (64 square meters). As I’ve always said, one benefit of being a New Yorker is that in most cases your hotel room just as big as your apartment.
The room had a desk area with power outlets that were compatible with both Asia and US plugs, so you didn’t need an adapter. There was also a cool couch area with lots of pillows to chill out for reading on those days the monsoon rains came in. The bathroom wasn’t huge, but it was clean and modern.
The motto of the D2′s staff is “Thai Graciousness,” and they certainly played the part. The staff was extremely helpful, especially when it came to planning our events to go to the elephant farm, mountain biking, and cooking class.
All you needed to do was tell them what you wanted to do and be at the lobby when you were supposed to, and they took care of the rest, calling up the tour company and arranging payment.
Lifestyle bloggers tend to be active, so I always review the gym. This was no Motel 6 gym with an old bench and 3 dumbells in a closet sized room. The DFit gym was huge, modern, and with a panoramic view.
The WiFi was free, consistent, and strong. I did two different Skype calls without issue. And they have a business lounge, with someone there full time to assist you with any issues, TVs, newspapers, and even a happy hour with food and wine. They also have conference amenities, able to hold 100 people for large corporate gatherings.
Any negatives? I was hard pressed to honestly find something to improve upon. If there was one nitpicky thing I could complain about, the large white wall opposite the bed was begging for a massive 52” flatscreen TV. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in that I go on vacation to get out and explore, not watch reruns.
I really enjoyed my stay here. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: The Dusit hotel sponsored part of my stay while in Chiang Mai. This review represents my honest feedback based on my experience there.