Picture this: handsome pavilions nestled among traditionally terraced rice fields, surrounded by lush, tropical palms and ferns; and in the distance, Thailand’s highest peaks. Set in the Mae Rim Valley, Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is the place where you and the family can immerse yourselves in authentic Thai culture.
Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North,” is the country’s cultural capital. It’s also a verdant oasis, just a one-hour flight from Bangkok. The resort’s cooking school showcases Northern Thai cuisine. Try yoga and tennis, perhaps a trip to a butterfly farm and “elephant camp”—trekking atop the giant beasts past tribal villages through the jungly mountains, steeped in legend and mystical lore.
Go in April to join the no-holds-barred Songkran (Thai New Year) fun and mischief. The one and only time in the year people allow total strangers to squirt them with a water gun or toss a bucket of water over their head! Lonely Planet calls the Songkran Water Festival one of the world’s best. (The water pouring symbolizes goodwill, love, compassion and thankfulness.) And Chiang Mai reportedly puts on the country’s liveliest, lasting six days. Celebrate with the locals in 2012 April 13 to 15.
Another great time to visit is November’s Loi Krathong festival of lights celebration where residents launch thousands of candle-lit banana leaf boats onto ponds and canals; and also at this time release hot-air paper lanterns up into the sky. Or go in early February for the flower festival: the city’s magnificent parade and displays of chrysanthemums, orchids and Damask Roses.
Every evening at 5 o’clock, gather around the resort’s lower pool to watch the procession of gardeners heading back home through the rice fields: many are smiling, some dance, some wave, some even play traditional drums. It is a small celebration of their hard work each day—and guests are welcome to join!
Read more on Chiang Mai in Four Seasons Magazine.
Michelle Pentz Glave is the Have Family Will Travel editor. Before diving into communications/PR, she was a journalist for 25 years in the US and Germany including stints with The Wall Street Journal Europe, Gruner+Jahr (Bertelsman) and the Albuquerque Journal. Her work has appeared in Outside, Wired, Travel + Leisure, Sunset and Fortune. She has a Bachelor's in English from Yale and a Master's in Journalism from Columbia University. Michelle is passionate about family, food, farmers, her garden and taekwondo. She lives on Bowen Island, near Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two kids: Sabrina, 12, and Duncan, 10.
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