Finding luxury in the rice fields of Thailand

Lifestyle

Yes, this can be yours at Four Seasons Resort Chiang MaiYes, this can be yours at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

As the cultural capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai is home to an eclectic mix of art, history, tradition and Buddhism. Often referred to as the “Rose of the North,” it’s a colorful and vibrant city filled with night markets, street food and cheap but deeply healing massages on every corner. 

It’s also got a really luxurious side for which the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai could be the poster child. If they didn’t create the new trend in luxury travel – authentic local experiences by day and five-star accommodations at night – they’ve definitely perfected it. 

Located on working rice fields and surrounded by lush greenery and Doi Suthep mountain, the Four Seasons’ natural beauty is a bucolic backdrop for the vacation of your dreams. Whether that means filling your time with Muay Thai boxing and bike rides, or filling your stomach with dishes made by Executive Chef extraordinaire Liam Nealon – or by you – the choice is yours. 

Here are 10 reasons to splurge now. 

Rice planting 

Rice planting is a signature activity at Four Seasons Resort Chiang MaiRice planting is a signature activity at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Four Seasons is all about authentic experiences and this one is a must-do. Slip on the traditional blue “Mor hom” you’ll see on the real farmers working in the field, and wade into the shallow waters of the rice paddies to experience rice farming firsthand. 

Using methods handed down over generations, you’ll learn about the harvest process and plant your own shoots. Along the way, you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for the farmers whose backbreaking work is the reason you’re able to enjoy kao-pad.

Morning monk offering

Wake up early to participate in the morning monk offeringWake up early to participate in the morning monk offering — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

At 6:45 every morning, monks from Wat Pa Daraphirom, the local temple in Mae Rim village, visit the resort to receive offerings and, in return, offer a blessing.  

This ceremony is called “making merit” and it’s a cherished part of life in Thailand. The resort puts together baskets of rice, water and fruit for guests to fill the monks’ bowls, so all you have to do is show up. It’s a profound way to start the day, and definitely worth getting up early to experience.

Afternoon Tea 

Afternoon Tea is a beautiful traditionAfternoon Tea is a beautiful tradition — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Four Seasons Chiang Mai is all about honoring rituals, and nowhere is that more evident – and delicious – than during Afternoon Tea.

Every day from 1 to 5 pm, exclusive teas (or coffee) are presented to guests in the tasting room, then served, per their preference, along with sandwiches, petit fours, mini pastries, tarts, pies and Thai-inspired snacks, all while overlooking the lush grounds and misty mountains. Savor every bite and stay until 5 to watch the farmer’s parade. 

Yoga

Yoga becomes a spiritual experience in these surroundings — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is considered a powerful spiritual healing environment, and you can find strength and serenity in one of the Four Seasons’ daily yoga classes.

Start the day with sunrise yoga or opt for open-air asana, nidra and pranayama, all offered at the Yoga Barn overlooking the beautiful lake. You can even try wheel yoga to help stretch muscles and work on challenging poses. Resident yogi Dheeraj Patwal will guide you through your practice and inspire you.

The Spa

The Spa is almost as relaxing as the treatments themselvesThe Spa is almost as relaxing as the treatments themselves — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Just sitting in the lovely spa, sipping tea and daintily chewing rice cakes, is enough to relax your muscles and lower your blood pressure. 

But for real pampering, there’s nothing quite like the Royal Samunprai, which uses silk poultices filled with hot medicinal herbs, or the signature Royal Lanna, based on the ancient beauty secrets of Thai princesses. After one treatment, you’ll feel like this luxury is really a necessity. 

Cooking class

Learn to cook your own traditional Thai dishesLearn to cook your own traditional Thai dishes — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Learn how to re-create some of your new favorite meals during a hands-on, fun-filled class in the open-air Rim Tai Kitchen, where Chef Tor or one of the Thai Chef Instructors will teach you all about Thai cuisine. 

After a demonstration of each recipe, you’ll be sent to your own station to whip up dishes like phad Thai with pawns and green curry with chicken in coconut milk. Best of all, you’ll then get to sit down and enjoy your creations, surrounded by the natural beauty of the banyan trees. 

If you want to taste the professionals’ versions of these, Rim Tai Kitchen also offers “Thai Kitchen Live,” a unique dinner experience featuring interactive cooking stations ranging from traditional Thai salads to authentic street food.

Nature Trail

The Nature Trail is a treat for all the sensesThe Nature Trail is a treat for all the senses — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

You could happily spend your entire stay simply strolling around and admiring the gorgeous grounds, which are lovingly tended to by the talented artists of the horticultural team. But if you sign up for a free tour, you’ll also get to hear stories and gain insight from cultural guru and nature expert Padi Yuthasastrkosol. 

Her interactive tour lets you explore a wide variety of exotic plants and flowers, magic rain trees and tropical fruits through sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste. Although this is an Instagrammer’s paradise, for a truly memorable experience, you may choose to just be present and capture it all with your senses.  

Khao

Every meal is a culinary adventure at KhaoEvery meal is a culinary adventure at Khao — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

It’s fitting that Khao, the Four Seasons’ signature restaurant, means “rice” in Thai since that is literally the foundation on which it’s built.

Traditional Thai and Asian dishes are elevated to a whole new level and made with the freshest ingredients from sources as local as the chef’s own organic garden.

Private Retreats 

Private Retreats all come with live-in butlersPrivate Retreats all come with live-in butlers — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

All of the Four Seasons’ accommodations are aspirational but if you want the ultimate in indulgence, book a Private Retreat.

Not only are these villas the epitome of luxury, but each comes with its own pool and sundeck, as well as a Mae Baan – a live-in butler who will take care of your every need from preparing meals and parties to arranging local experiences. The only wish they may not be able to fulfill is your request to stay permanently (although, FYI, there are villas for sale).

Farmer’s parade

The working day ends with the farmer's paradeThe working day ends with the farmer’s parade — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Signaling the end of the working day on the rice fields, the farmer’s parade is a daily tradition, with the farmers all returning from the paddies.

As they walk in their blue uniforms to the beating of the drums and gather to sing a traditional Thai song, it is impossible not to feel gratitude for these hard workers and for being able to celebrate them in such beautiful surroundings.

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