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Hotel Review: Marndadee Heritage River Village

By Courtney Ridgel

To begin with, I LOVED the Marndadee Heritage River Village.  Fair enough, this particular property suits my personal tastes, but I feel confident that I will not be alone in appreciating this beautiful hotel.

This property seeks to encompass the feeling of ‘Old Thailand’ so there is a mix of colonial- style buildings and traditional reclaimed wooden houses with tiled roofs.  The property is situated right on the Ping River, so the setting is very peaceful and quiet, and in the spirit of a Thai village, there are small decorative rice paddies on the grounds.  The owners are avid collectors of art, sculptures, and antiques so the property boasts quite a collection displayed throughout the grounds, with unique pieces showcased in each room.  In addition, the original old trees and wells (now filled in and serving as flower pots for ferns) are interspersed between the buildings, as none of them were removed when the hotel was constructed.

In general, this property will be an excellent fit for travelers who are planning to spend more time in the countryside around Chiang Mai, visiting elephants, sightseeing, trekking, etc., and is perfect for those seeking relaxation, a beautiful view and peace and quiet with a romantic nostalgic ‘old-world’ feel.  The Marndadee Heritage River Village can accommodate families, family groups and couples.  The Rice Barn Villas in particular were designed for families, groups of friends or extended families with a three-bedroom option where three separate villas share an outdoor space together in the center, and a private outdoor space to relax beneath each villa.

All that said, this hotel falls in the category of ‘outside of town’.  I’m told that the hotel is normally about a 40 minute drive from the airport but while I was visiting, it took us a bit longer due to Loi Krathong traffic and the bridge along normal route was undergoing repairs which have since been completed.  This property is not particularly well suited for travelers who prefer to be situated at the center of the action in bustling downtown Chiang Mai. Going out to eat frequently may also be problematic, as there isn’t much nearby besides the river, the scenery and the local neighborhoods along the river.  That said, this property does offer a restaurant, spa, pool, fitness room, and free shuttle service to and from downtown Chiang Mai 4 set times a day to keep guests entertained.

Hotel Reviews: Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai

Hotel Name: Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi 

City: Chiang Mai

Star rating:5

JW Rating: Everything off in the Colonial Suites, but not in the villas!

(Shoes on, socks on, socks off, everything off)

This hotel is truly an amazing property. On a 60-acre plot 15 minutes outside Chiang Mai the Mandarin Oriental really offers it’s own Thai experience without you ever having to leave the resort. While I understand the sentiment of this, I’m not sure I like it. It’s a beautiful property, but by bringing all the art, crafts and even rice fields to them, I felt that it all lost a little bit of the reality. Their rice paddies stretch out below the pool so as you lounge on your deck chair you can watch a buffalo and farmers plant, tend and harvest the rice depending on the season. Then you can wander back to your villa past the Traditional Craft stations and see how local pieces are made. While this looks and sounds amazing, I feel that it takes a lot of the authenticity out of it…it’s like going to Disneyland and saying you’ve seen California! With that said, the gym, the spa, the restaurants, are each housed in their own stunning architectural wonder and you do drive around the property in awe – there’s a lot of architectural and design eye candy!

One of many pools on the property

As for the rooms, I love the Colonial Suites; they overlook the pool or the gardens and are colonial charm at its best. They are the type of rooms I love…an open invitation to get naked and enjoy the opulence. On the other hand, the villas that the Oriental touts as its best rooms, I find not as well designed. They are two story buildings with a bedroom upstairs and a living room downstairs. This sounds great except the stairs to connect the two levels are outside! This means when I wake up in the morning and want to go and make some coffee I have to go out on the stairway (in view of other villas, etc), walk downstairs, go into that room, make the coffee, go back outside and upstairs. No way! If I’m on vacation in a place like this I want to be in my pajamas until 10am, and my pajamas aren’t decent for outside stairs.

The Colonial Suite

I understand why this hotel has the reputation it does, everything you need is right there and the property is expansive and the buildings are incredibly unique, it’s the Mandarin Oriental Shangri La, but I just feel for the money it doesn’t have the right room design that I look for and I’m scared that guests staying here would have everything out their front door, but might miss the real Northern Thailand.

A Deluxe Pool Suite

Insiders tip: They have five smaller villas that have bedrooms upstairs and an open air sitting room downstairs. They are located around the vegetable gardens and I loved their simple charm and I felt the design felt authentic, and also more practical so I would stick with one of these or the Colonial Suite.

*All photos are from the Mandarin Oriental website 

The Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2011 aka April’s next Thailand adventure

By: April Cole

When the Tourism Authority of Thailand calls and says they will pay for your flight, plus accommodation, food and touring for you to attend their conference in Bangkok and represent Journeys Within Tour Company, you say YES! So this Monday I’m heading on my all expense paid trip to Thailand to attend the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2011.

The Travel Mart is a bit different from a typical conference in that buyers and sellers are introduced via email ahead of time, and we have scheduled appointments during the conference days. I’ll be taking advantage of the conference times to have face-to-face time with the managers of our current partner hotels, in addition to looking for new properties that would be a great fit for our guests.

Now, this wouldn’t be Thailand without some great adventures mixed in with the conference, now would it? I’m squeezing in as much as I can in the short seven days I’ll be there. Ill be touring Ayyuthaya, watching a Muay Thai match, heading out for drinks and dancing with our Bangkok guides, and I’m also hoping to find the time to get a maid of honor dress made for my sister’s upcoming wedding. And that’s just the extra activities in Bangkok!

After the conference I’ll be heading to Northern Thailand on tour. I had quite a few options of tours (one of which was basically lazing at the beach and trying out a bunch of spas!) but I chose to head to Northern Thailand. One, because I love Northern Thailand’s beauty and two, because there were places in the tour I think JW guests will love. I’m really excited to check these new locations out to see if they are as incredible as they sound. I’ll be staying in a home stay outside of Chiang Mai city in a nature reserve, then off to a jungle retreat and then the elephant nature park!

It will be a whirlwind trip with things planned every minute, and it will be amazing. Can you expect anything less from Amazing Thailand??