In Chiang Mai, we continued the trend of taking advantage of Thailand’s affordability to stay in the kinds of hotels that are typically out of our budget, and chose Le Méridien as our base for exploring Chiang Mai. We stayed here for one night both before and after our overnight visit to Elephant Nature Park (they stored our luggage while we were at the park, which was much appreciated). Our first night here was perfectly pleasant, but it was our return visit that really made me fall in love with the place. For one thing, it was really nice to come back to a luxury hotel after roughing it a bit at ENP. And we were welcomed back with not just the standard room we had booked, but a complimentary upgrade to a beautiful Executive Suite. Despite the fact that I’ve never held any kind of status with Starwood, this is not the first time I’ve received an upgrade at a Starwood hotel. It’s the only hotel chain I know of where you get real rewards simply for signing up for their free membership program. The Executive Suite was gorgeous and very spacious, with separate living and sleeping areas (with large flat-screen TVs in each) and a bathroom with double sinks and comfortable robes.
As I mentioned, we didn’t have as much time as I would have liked in Chiang Mai, so we didn’t really lounge by the pool, but we did manage a quick dip right before heading to the airport on our last morning. The pool area is lovely and not too crowded, and has a great view of the city.
Although the rooms and public spaces were beautiful, what really stood out to me about this property was the service. Even by the standards of this famously friendly country, the people working here went above and beyond to make sure we had a terrific stay. One night I got an intense craving for chocolate and needed some rightthatminute (there are many great things about traveling in Asia, but regular access to chocolate is not one of them), so we headed down to the glitzy bar area for a dessert. They were having some sort of event that night, with an expensive-looking motorcycle on display and people in suits and cocktail dresses. And there I was in my t-shirt and silk elephant print pants from the Night Bazaar, and no one batted an eyelash or made me feel like anything less than an incredibly valued guest. Some people might assume a hotel as classy as this one comes with a certain stuffiness, but in my experience that couldn’t be further from the truth. Oh, and the chocolate ganache and salted caramel cake I ordered was insanely delicious, and only two dollars! Mostly I just wanted to tell this story so I could reminisce about that wonderful cake.
Speaking of food, breakfast was unfortunately not included in our room rate, although a diverse buffet is available at a reasonable price. Unless you’re starving, however, you’re probably better off just grabbing a pastry from the bar area. I’ve had my share of croissants, and these rival the ones from any bakery in France. The bar staff will gladly warm them up for you, which is the icing on the cake (powdered sugar on the croissant?).
To top it off, the hotel really couldn’t be in a better location. It’s mere steps from the Night Bazaar and about half a mile from the Old City, which allowed us to see them both pretty well even though we were not in Chiang Mai for very long.
Pretty much every time I stay in a Starwood hotel, I promise myself I’ll endeavor to be more loyal to the brand. After our visit here, I think I may finally follow through on that promise.