Teak forests abound in northern Thailand so it’s not surprising that FOUR SEASONS RESORT CHIANG MAI is one big teak tribute. That night, sitting at a teak table on the teak terrace of Khao restaurant, the view around made the word ‘verdant’ seem understated. The horseshoe-shaped pasture of the 16ha estate is a collage of grass, undergrowth and trees. Areas of paddy fields are tended partly by water buffaloes, partly by local women in deliberately-shapeless outsized blue pyjamas topped by straw coolie hats.
Khao’s menu is divided geographically. Choose northern, for local tapas in the form of a 30cm-diameter platter of small dishes and three tiny straw baskets (see image above). There were curries and sausage, and blanched broccoli and cauliflower sprigs, and teeth-breaking pork cracklings. Next came individual dishes of must-have Pad Cayote, a chicken leg in white curry with a semicircular ‘fence’ of deep-fried noodles. Obviously it was essential, too, in this land of produce, to have bowls of stir-fried local veggies. Thai food is clean, stressed hotel GM Sean Mosher. Not a hint of that current bête-noire, ultra processing. Even the wine tasted clean. Thailand’s best, Monsoon Valley 2022 Blended Rosé.
The 98-key resort, built in 1995, appears to be timeless, one of the many reasons that travellers come to chill out after the buzz of Bangkok or the beach culture of Koh Samui. Come to Chiang Mai for slow living. That having been said, when you want something it is done, immediately and more than anticipated. Housekeeper Moo, asked for a glass of fresh lime water, brought it on a linen coaster with a wrapped straw and bowls of ice, and lemon slices.
Girlahead had to succumb to slowness. She was in an owned villa, four bedrooms, two floors (32 stairs, teak like the entire villa except for walls), outdoor dining and a 15-metre pool, with inset hot tub, cantilevered over a natural stream. The challenge was that this villa, #29, was furthest from any of the facilities, including the excellent 24/7 Technogym and a spa that uses only local ingredients to produce a facial that is so empathetic that one falls asleep there and then. To be closest to hand for things that matter, go for anything in villas 13-16.
Breakfast was anything but slow. Although there is a steak and international restaurant, North, breakfast is back at Khao. The extensive buffet spreads are in an air-conditioned area – left-over buffet foods are picked up by a local orphanage outside are western and Thai cooking stations, and a do-it-yourself table with an electric griddle where a pre-teen girl was painstakingly making her own meal. Girlahead’s meal was brought to her. A plain omelette? Perfectly formed. Bright yellow on an azure ceramic plate, six cherry-sized postbox-red tomatoes and three bright green baby lettuce leaves. Over-expectation. With an absolutely genuine Thai smile.