Chiang Mai, Thailand

Renowned for its timeless elegance and calmness, Chiang Mai has a “second city” reputation in Thailand that Royal Holiday members would do well not to overlook. This friendly city offers a comfortable climate, easy access to some of the most beautiful scenery in Thailand in the nearby mountains, and a fascinating culture that demands exploration. Found near Thailand’s border with Myanmar in the north, Chiang Mai has a history that stretches back hundreds of years, while the tribes living in the hills outside town carry on traditions that are just as old. Royal Holiday members will find a city where the future and past meet peacefully, all in a handsome and timeless setting that brings travelers back year after year.

Royal Holiday travelers will stay just outside the city at the Royal Bella Vista Country Club, a natural paradise that offers condominium-style lodging at its finest. With its quaint grounds and Presidential-sized lodging picked straight out of a European village, the resort is designed to delight. The units come complete with patios, minibars, and kitchenettes. The resort includes a restaurant, Maew Ra Rueng, which offers both international and local cuisine, as well as tennis courts, a pool, sauna, and a variety of other services that will make any Royal Holiday traveler feel at home. The resort’s key feature, however, is its dramatic views of the city below, a vista that will likely draw guests down to Chiang Mai itself.

Established in 1296 as the new capital of King Mengrai’s Lanna kingdom, Chiang Mai, or “new city,” it remained a relatively small city for several hundred years, first as the Lanna kingdom gave way to Burma and later Siam. Abandoned in 1776, the city was re-established in 1791 and thereafter grew in importance. Today, the city is rapidly growing. While the population in the metro area remains just under 1 million, Royal Holiday members join 5 million other tourists visiting every year, all coming to enjoy Chiang Mai’s unique culture.

The first thing most visitors will want to tackle is Wat Phra atop Doi Suthep, the mountaintop temple which is a major landmark in Thai and Lanna culture. Royal Holiday members can visit Wat Phra That by climbing the Naga staircase, which has more than 300 steps. A scenic road to the temple offers a much more relaxing trip. Either way, the view makes the trip more than worth it. The Chiang Mai Zoo will probably offer more fun for children. Those who can stay up late will want to try the Chiang Mai Night Safari, which offers everything from the chance to feed wild animals to a laser light show. However, everyone will likely want to visit the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, where trained pachyderms delight audiences.

Those interested in immersing themselves in the beautiful Thai countryside will likely want to visit one of the province’s seven national parks, such as Doi Inthanon National Park, to rent a tent and spend a night reconnecting with nature. Shoppers will want to stay in Chiang Mai to browse the bazaars, while those who visit at the right time of year, such as Thai New Year, will find the city in a festival frenzy. While the city offers a more modern experience, Royal Holiday members looking for a truly authentic keepsake will do well to tour the nearby tribal villages, such as Mae Wang or Mae Klang Luang, where handmade goods are sold.