Illars House in Chiang Mai at Colonial Splendour

Chiang Mai has no shortage of chic resorts, but most of them are located miles from the city or lack the boutique touch that makes a hotel stay so memorable. However, 137 columns House delivers effortlessly on both fronts.

The location of the complex is hard to beat: it is located on a quiet street in the Wat Ket district and is surrounded by chic cafes, original shops and fantastic restaurants by the river. And, most importantly, far from the crazy crowds of tourists in the old town and in Nimmanhaemin.

Surrounded by high walls and strategically positioned vertical gardens that keep neighboring buildings out of sight, a garden of old banyan trees, blooming orchids and happy daybeds offers the feeling of a getaway in the middle of the often hectic streets of Chiang Mai.

Around everything are a dozen whitewashed villas. This is a pure suite affair, so whichever room you book, you can be sure to have plenty of space, complemented by marble bathrooms with Victorian bathtubs, indoor and outdoor showers, double sinks, stupidly large four-poster beds and secluded private balconies or terraces. Jasmine-scented panpuri equipment and modern comforts such as Nespresso machines and huge flat-screen TVs complete the set.

The suites aren’t as glitzy as those at the resort’s much flashier sister property in Bangkok – but that’s a good thing. They offer a colonial splendor with dark wood floors, sensual red accents and black and white photographs on the walls. We especially liked the decorative pillows and the curtains printed with little elephants – a delicious local touch.

The magnificent 137-column teak house (also known as Baan Borneo, it served as the headquarters of one of Chiang Mai’s first foreign companies) is the resort’s Pièce de Résistance and houses two Restaurants: chic Palette is a white tablecloth, silver cutlery, European classics such as excellent French onion soup, feta beet salad and grilled salmon steak (but a mediocre Burger)-all to something very special with live piano music for dinner.

In the elaborate back room is the dining room, an elegant Thai Restaurant where Northern Thai specialties dominate the menu-mainly with local organic products. End the night at the Jack Bains Bar, a men’s cocktail venue where the resort’s rich history is clearly visible.

The crowning glory of all this is an army of well-trained and really friendly employees who cater to all the whims of the guests. An on-site butler was available throughout our stay and was JUST a text away to help with dinner reservations and bottle cleaning.

Tip

The balconies of the 2nd level suites are dotted with pillows and comfortable daybeds, perfect for relaxing in the afternoon. They also offer a little more privacy than the ground floor suites.

The lively Warorot Market (a perfect place for original and inexpensive Thai Souvenirs) is located right in front of the Ping River, a 5-minute walk from the hotel lobby.

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