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Thailand - 2014


Our trip to Thailand was split between Chiang Mai and Hua Hin. We had not been to the North of Thailand for several years and wanted to visit Hua Hin, meeting up with an old work colleague and additionally to meet up with a couple that we had met, and had an excellent time with, on our Road to Mandalay trip on the Irrawaddy in 2012.

We booked excellently priced flights through Trailfinders with EVA Airways and noted that they also had very good prices for the Chedi in Chiang Mai. We were also able to get a special upgrade deal on a Club duplex suite at the Centara, Hua Hin.

We had an excellent flight, EVA Elite to Bangkok, arriving early. I had insisted on Bangkok Airways for our internal flight and unfortunately this made for a lengthy wait (about 5 hours) in the airport at Bangkok as our baggage was checked through to Chiang Mai. The Bangkok Airways lounge (complementary, even on internal economy flights) was a godsend and it was far better than just hanging around Suvarnabhumi Airport, with free refreshments, snacks and Wi-fi available.

An excellent flight on Bangkok Airways to Chiang Mai, with an in-flight meal, and an easy, pre-arranged transfer to the hotel which took the strain out of what had been a lengthy trip!

The Chedi had been taken over by Anantara hotels, between our booking the hotel and our actual trip, but the facilities remained the same and we have always enjoyed Anantara hotels, so this was no problem for us.

Chiang Mai - Anantara Pool
Chiang Mai - Anantara Room

Chiang Mai - Anantara Pool

Chiang Mai - Anantara Room

Our reception at the Anantara was warm, speedy and efficient. We were shown to our room which was on a high floor with views over the Mae Ping river. It was an exceptionally well appointed and stylish room with modern facilities and an additional day bed on the outside veranda. The bathroom facilities were excellent, having a separate bath and shower and a full range of good quality products provided.

There was, however, a major letdown in that the styling of the room provided for very little hanging wardrobe space - certainly insufficient for our needs and a great surprise for a hotel of this standard. The duty manager was helpful and sympathetic and we talked about upgrading to a suite. On investigation it transpired that the suite accommodation, despite having further living space (or room for extra beds), did not provide any greater amount of storage space for clothing.

We decided to stay put in our current room and, credit where credit is due, the manager arranged for a modification to be made to the entrance cupboard space, which provided for much greater hanging capacity. The materials were purchased and modifications duly completed whilst we were out of the room on the following day. We certainly couldn't have asked for better service. We did find, however, that the hotel seemed to offer style over substance in many respects - a beautiful property in a great location, but lacking in several practical aspects.

The location of the hotel on the banks of the river, and in close proximity to Anusan Market and the Night Bazaar was excellent and formed a good base for the 6 night Chiang Mai, element of our trip.

Chiang Mai Town.
Chiang Mai was very quiet, with few tourists, despite it being early March. In some respects this suited us although it did mean that some restaurants closed, either early, or did not bother to open at all. We walked around Chiang Mai, visiting various wats, strolling near the river or wandering through the old town. On the first evening, due to our very late arrival and extensive grazing at Bangkok airport and the meal on the plane we opted for an early night.

The following evening we ate at the Whole Earth restaurant. This restaurant has vegetarian, Thai and Indian food and is set in a nice teak building, close to the hotel, just off the Sri Donchai road, which means that there is some traffic noise. The restaurant has an extensive menu and is on the expensive side, but serves reasonably priced wine by the carafe. Nice service, good helpful staff, but indifferent quality food - especially for the price.

We ate in Anusan market on 3 evenings, also frequenting a bar/restaurant on the corner of the market, where it meets the Charoen Prathet Road, on the way back to our hotel each evening. The food choice from the market restaurants is extensive, reasonably priced and we were very satisfied. I cannot remember the name of the bar, but it was relatively inexpensive and run by some great people - highly reminiscent of our first impression of Thailand, many years ago.

A special mention must go to our favourite Chiang Mai restaurant, The Riverside, on the opposite side of the river. We, once again, had an excellent, reasonably priced meal, accompanied by some good music, overlooking the river. Unusually the restaurant, whilst fairly busy, was not packed out, which we attributed to the lack of tourists.

Around and About
We hired a car and driver to do a trip via Chiang Rai and Wat Rong Khun to the Golden Triangle on the Mekong and back. A very good day out, but we were surprised by the continuing development of, and around, Wat Rong Khun. The wat had been extended enormously and, with the expansion, so had the numbers of tourists and the touristy shops and stalls which spring up around such attractions. The wat can only be described as a beautiful undertaking, but we are glad that we first visited in the early days, before its fame had spread.

We could not believe the huge amount of development taking place on the Laotian banks of the Mekong at the point where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet.
The once undeveloped area is now, apparently, leased to a Chinese consortium as an "enterprise Zone" and they are busy developing gambling facilities, much the same as on the Burmese bank in earlier days, but to a much larger and brasher extent.

As we had stayed for a shorter period than we had envisaged, at both wat Rong Khun and the Golden Triangle, we stopped off at a non-tourist Aka tribal village on our way back to Chiang Mai. Once again "progress" can be seen with tarmacadam roads and concrete "accommodation" springing up. An interesting trip but, gosh, aren't we pleased that we are able to remember the area as it was on our first visit.


We are pleased that we returned to Chiang Mai. There is still much to recommend it and it is unfair to make too many comparisons regarding change. The Anantara is a beautiful, stylish hotel and well located. There are many interesting sites in Chiang Mai and still some excellent places to eat, catering for many diverse tastes. Will we return to Chiang Mai? - probably not. Had this been our first visit, however, we would have been more than content.

Chiang Rai - Wat Rong Khun
Thailand - Golden Triangle (Mar 2014)

Chiang Rai - Wat Rong Khun

Thailand - Golden Triangle (Mar 2014)

Return to Hua Hin

We flew back to Bangkok by Bangkok Airways, with complementary lounge facilities at Chiang Mai airport. Another good flight and on time. We had pre-arranged transport to the Centara in Hua Hin and the journey was rather slower than usual with several areas of congestion on the outer Bangkok roads.

Nevertheless we were soon being welcomed, like old friends, back to the Centara. Check in was speedy and painless and we were shown to an excellent duplex suite, where we had time to unpack, shower and dress for early evening drinks and canapes in the club lounge, where we caught up with the couple that we had met in Burma, Rob and Linda.

We passed most of the early (and mid) evening just talking, reminiscing and drinking. As time passed we decided that we would not go out for a meal, so Janet went off to order some room service and I accompanied Rob to the shops as he had run out of cigars.

We decided to have a couple of (not so) swift drinks in the Bintabaht. Needless to say, I returned to a cold meal and an even colder reception from Janet. From the slightly subdued manner of Rob, the next day, I can only assume that his return welcome somewhat matched mine. Needless to say, neither of us was brave enough to try that one again!

Centara Hua Hin - From Gardens
Centara Hua Hin - Sleeping Level

Centara Hua Hin - From Gardens

Centara Hua Hin - Sleeping Level

Our time in Hua Hin was spent just relaxing through the day and meeting up with Rob and Linda and / or Richard, my old friend and ex-colleague, for meals and food in the evening. As Richard only gets back to the UK infrequently, we tended to eat European food when we were with him and even took Rob and Linda for Sunday roast lamb at the Palm Bistro just outside of Hua Hin.

Our food, in particular at Orchids (Thai / Chinese / Fusion) and Chilli Bird (in the night market), could not be faulted and both are recommended.

We thoroughly enjoyed the hotel, the food and the company on this trip. Our 10 days in Hua Hin were over all too soon - we could have stayed an extra week or two! Our transfer to the Airport was swift and uneventful and our return flights to UK with EVA Airways was excellent. Thanks to Rob, Linda and Richard for your excellent company!

Hua Hin - Beach
Hua Hin - Night Market Food

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