The Rachamankha Hotel: an experience in quiet Thai luxury

Photo: courtesy of Rachamankha Hotel

Upon arrival to the Rachamankha Hotel in the old city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, it is easy to tell what the experience has in store. Set off of the street in a quiet enclave, the only Relais and Chateaux property in northern Thailand is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of tuk tuks and markets just outside its main walls.

The Superior is perfect for people not wanting to spend a fortune, but still wanting luxury. Photo: courtesy of Rachamankha Hotel.

The hotel, which is designed to echo the Lanna period, is quaint — it has only 25 rooms ranging in offerings from superior, deluxe and suites. The superior rooms, which line two lush courtyards, hold one king bed or two single beds (in typical style, these two beds are placed next to each other). I stayed in one of these rooms, and it was magnificent. The bed was soft, the linens crisp and the air-conditioning strong against the humid and wet weather outside of my double door. Each room includes a flat screen, DVD player, air-con (score!), complimentary Wi-Fi and more. The rooms, like the property, are filled with historic relics including 19th century Chinese furniture and Asian art. My favorite thing about the room? Aside from the spa robe and slippers, there was a cute little teddy bear sitting in the closet for me.

For those with a bigger budget, there are the deluxe and suite accommodations, too. These rooms are larger and include more romantic touches (think silk drapes and dark wood ceilings).

Photo: courtesy of Rachamankha Hotel

The property also features an elegant restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every morning, there is a three-course breakfast guests can enjoy included in the price of the room. Fresh squeezed orange juice, soft scrambled eggs, fruit plates and more, can be eaten either in the pristine dining room or outside on the patio overlooking a courtyard. One of the days I was there, the King’s nephew paid a visit to the restaurant for lunch, causing the streets outside the hotel to be shut down for hours. (Yeah, the food is that good and the property is that prestigious.) Above the restaurant, guests can explore the Gallery which showcases the history and culture of Chiang Mai.

For those looking to chill out after a day exploring the old city, there are two bars, a gallery to wander, a boutique to shop, and yes, a spa.

Despite the overcast sky and occasional rain, I still found time to take advantage of the hotel’s most important amenity for the tropical environment — the pool. This gorgeous pool comes complete with comfortable and cushioned lounge chair, umbrellas and trees filled with the soft chirping of birds.

The property has received numerous awards — Best Boutique Hotel, Outstanding Culture and Architecture, as well as the Thailand Boutique Awards recognition in 2010.

The bottom line: While it is a more luxurious and pricey option than the guest houses, it certainly makes for a perfect escape from budget travel. It is extremely private, staff is very attentive and the rooms are very well maintained. After spending a week at Elephant Nature Park, I went from hut to haute and booked into the hotel. It was the perfect mini-vacation to unwind and decompress. Rooms here start at around $200USD a night. The location is perfect for exploring the Sunday Night Market, Wat Phra Singh, and plenty of shopping, dining and drinking options.

Editor’s Note: I was a guest of the Rachamankha Hotel, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

Hotel Reviews

From hut to haute: checking in to the Rachamankha Hotel

The dirt embedded under my nails is thick. Despite having been “clean.” I guess, after a week at Elephant Nature Park as a volunteer with elephants, “clean” is relative.

When the Elephant Nature Park van arrives to the Rachamankha Hotel, an elegant boutique hotel inside the old city of Chiang Mai, and I catch a look at the pristine property and white walls, I tuck my hands into the pockets of my black sweats, hoping none of the staff notices my layer of grime.

“Welcome to the Rachamankha,” says one of the well-dressed bellmen as he hauls my brown backpack from the back of the Park’s white van and into the hotel’s compound.

I walk through the main entrance to the sprawling oasis of calm, casting a final look back at the van filled with the volunteers from my time at the park, throwing a last wave and blowing kisses, then follow the man into the little reception room.

He gestures to a cushioned seat, and I place my backpack and bag on the chair next to me, wiping a thin coating of sweat off of my face and making sure I am not too dirty from hugging elephants to sit in the seat.

Then, I am given an ice-cold can of a lemongrass drink with a straw. As my reservation is pulled up, I suck down nearly the entire contents of the long, skinny can.

“This way please, miss,” the man checking me in says, handing me a key attached to a bulbous red key chain with a smattering of fringe, and then leading me out the door and into the courtyard of the hotel.

With my bags in tow, he quickly gives me an overview of the majestic property, pointing out the restaurant, library (a wall-less sitting area with couches, chairs and books), the pool … then, my room.

He swings open the double doors made of thick wood, places my bag on the stand, and then exits, leaving me to soak up my new surroundings.

I look around.

Crisp white sheets on the bed. Windows with glass. A bathroom en-suite with a huge shower head. Toiletries. An air-con unit.

This is a far cry from my primitive palace at Elephant Nature Park.

I sit softly on the bed, taking care not to crinkle the blanket just yet. And don’t move.

I don’t want to let myself get to into this moment yet. I’m not ready to let go of the past week of my life. Of the elephants. And, I’m afraid if I rush into this new chapter in Chiang Mai, everything will disappear … dissolve into thin air and memories too quickly.

Instead, I take a few deep breaths. Look around at my new, luxurious surroundings. I don’t feel right being here yet. After a week of being overheated, dirty, exhausted, emotional, I feel as if I am an imposter at the Rachamankha. That me and my backpack don’t belong under the roof of a place this nice.

After a few minutes, I let myself be brought into the moment, shedding my dirty clothes and putting them into a plastic bag to be washed. Then, I step into the shower and let the warm water wash over me, rinsing clean the dust and dirt from my body. I run soap through my white string bracelet given to me a week earlier when I was blessed by the shaman, and I recall a conversation I had with Adele, one of the volunteers, about her bracelet.

“This here, it’s got everything captured in it,” she had said, moving it back and forth on her wrist. “Banana balls, poo, dirt …”

I stop myself from giving it too good of a wash.

After all, there are some memories I’m not ready to wash away just yet.

Then, I quickly dress, apply some make-up for the first time in a week, then head back into the Chiang Mai evening. I’ve got a Sunday Night Market to conquer, and then a meet-up with some of the volunteers.

I turn off the air-con in my room, shut the huge wooden door, and exit into the darkness of the humid night, ready for the Chiang Mai experience. And still holding strong to the week with elephants.

Editor’s Note: I was a guest of the Rachamankha Hotel, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

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