By Joshua H. Liberatore
Chiang Mai
Thailand
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Thailand's most charming city and northern cultural capital, Chiang Mai beckons EscapeWizard.com visitors with its incredible variety of well-preserved temples, quaint, walkable streets, and friendly local commercial district. Chiang Mai is by no means a small town – it's Thailand's second-largest city after Bangkok – but the cool northern climate and tranquil sensibilities make it feel like a more intimate place, full of rare discoveries for the first-time traveler to happen upon without reference to a guidebook.

The biggest draw to Chiang Mai is undoubtedly the Buddhist temple architecture that sprawls across the city's historical town center. Chiang Mai boasts a 700-year history of the finest temple styles, straddling all the major periods of Siam's dynastic and imperial past splendor. In a country nearly 95 percent Buddhist, this preponderance of temples means that Chiang Mai also figures as a major pilgrimage site for Thailand's faithful. EscapeWizard.com notes that Chiang Mai's temples are active sites of worship, and many of them house monasteries. All Thai men are expected to spend at least a few weeks as monastic initiates at some time in their lives, usually in early adolescence. The presence of affable orange-robed young men raking leaves or sweeping paths in temple courtyards reminds lay visitors of the striking degree to which religion is integrated into daily life in all of Thailand.

If you're lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai during the mid-to-late fall, EscapeWizard.com recommends catching the spectacular Loy Kratong festival that unleashes thousands of rice-paper lanterns into the night sky and small candle-bearing rafts onto the Ping River. Like many festivals in Asia, the exact timing of the Loy Kratong ("floating raft") festivities is pegged to the lunar calendar, specifically marking the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. Loy Kratong is a national festival, offering events and good cheer in ever corner of Thailand, from the smallest village to bustling Bangkok, but Thailand's cognoscenti know that Chiang Mai's glorious production is the finest of them all, drawing huge numbers of both local and foreign tourists each year.

During Loy Kratong, droves of young monks clad in saffron robes will be found in temple courtyards assembling floats and building lanterns. As with any festival in Thailand – and your EscapeWizard.com visit must include at least one – community life is at its richest and most colorful. Food is being prepared in great quantities and laid out; families are gathering from distant locations; tents are being set up. Everything is in motion, and yet, all this activity is executed with intoxicating peace of mind. As an added bonus, the night market that sprawls right across those well-traveled streets near which you are likely to stay in one of Chiang Mai's fine small hotels (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl) or guesthouses is among the best in all Thailand. If you missed Bangkok's enormous Chattuchak Weekend Market, be sure to browse the local handicrafts in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai has a decent-size airport with many daily flights to and from Bangkok, other cities in Thailand, and some regional capitals as well. If you've got the time and the energy, however, take a night train from Bangkok. You can reserve a second-class sleeping berth in person at Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok or through any local travel agent. EscapeWizard.com recommends it as an inexpensive way to get to the northern part Thailand, offering stunning post-dawn views of rice paddies and small villages as you approach your destination. Thai trains aren't immaculate by European standards, but they are quite reliable and tend to be punctual. You can pack your own snacks and beverages for the ride. Early morning intermediate stops will also find local vendors boarding to hawk everything from delicious roast chicken, packets of hot sticky rice to snack on, pastry-type fare, beer and soda, and other munchies. Your purchases will be most welcome. Visit EscapeWizard.com to book your flight (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php) to Chiang Mai, Thailand, today.
Hotels in Chiang Mai
By Rose Overbey
Holiday Inn
318/1 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, Tumbol Wat Kate, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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If you're looking for great value, breathtaking views and comfort, the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai is the place to stay during your visit to this northern Thailand city. The Holiday Inn is located in a great location for sightseeing around the city. It is minutes from temples, city centre and the popular night bazaar. For your traveling convenience the hotel is located only a short 10 minutes drive from the Chiang Mai International Airport. There is much to explore in the area as well. Golf course, hill tribe villages and even an elephant camp are all within a short drive.

The hotel features a variety of amenities sure to please guests. Visitors will be happy to find a variety of dining options inside the Holiday Inn. The River Terrace restaurant is an enjoyable place to enjoy a meal with the Mae Ping River as the backdrop. The River Terrace offers a variety of international choices and also traditional Thai dishes.  There is also the China Palace that features Chinese cuisine; it is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Chiang Mai. There is also a lounge where guests can grab a cocktail and unwind. And in the spirit of enjoyment, there is also entertainment nightly at the lounge for guests to enjoy.

Another popular place to grab a bite is at The Pool. Guests can have their meals served to them while they relax poolside. The outdoor pool is a nice place to cool off after a hot day, and the deck is a relaxing area to decompress after a long day.

If guests prefer to decompress inside a gym, there is a health and fitness center on site for guests to use. It includes a sauna and steam room. It is open from early in the morning until later in the evening. Guests are also welcome to use the sports courts and barbeque grills.

If travelers need to take care of any business during their stay, there is a business center complete with PCs, printers, faxes and much more. It is staffed during working hours, so guests can get any assistance they need during the day.

There are a variety of rooms to choose based on your needs. But all rooms offer complimentary drinks, a free newspaper delivered and color TV with cable. Bathrobes are available in all rooms, as are a hairdryer and dressing room.  There is a mini bar in all rooms and a mini refrigerator is included.

Guests will be pleased to know that breakfast and free internet are included in their stay. EscapeWizard.com highly recommends booking your hotel room at the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai. You can do so by following this link (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl).
Hotels in Chiang Mai
By Jaclyn Bealer
Le Méridien Chiang Mai
108 Chang Klan Road, Tambol Chang Klan, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Located in the heart of Thailand’s northern capital, the Le Méridien Chiang Mai hotel provides the ideal blend of European heritage with contemporary Thai touches, offering a truly unique experience for any guest. The hotel is only 4 miles away from the Chiang Mai International Airport and minutes from the Chiang Mai Railway Station and bus station, making travel stress-free. Check-in is at 3 p.m.

EscapeWizard.com knows that the contemporary Asian design combined with endless amentities will make you feel right at home. All 383 guest rooms and suites come with an ultra-comfortable Le Méridien bed as well as glass and marble bathrooms. Sit back and relax while you watch the 32” LCD TVs or surf the web using the high speed Internet access. Choose from a Deluxe room or studio, or upgrade to a Le Royal Club room. If you’re looking for something extra, select a Junior, Diplomatic, or Royal suite to make your stay in Thailand that much more luxurious. Whichever room you choose, EscapeWizard.com knows that you won’t be disappointed.

While each accommodation is a truly magnificent getaway, but sure to experience the all that this hotel has to offer. The state-of-the-art gym boasts a variety of equipment so that you can keep up with your exercise regimen. Or if you prefer to be outside, take a few laps in the swimming pool and enjoy the surrounding panoramic views of the mountain and city. Need to relieve some stress? Stop by the spa for a massage. When it’s time to eat, the hotel features a variety of dining options ranging from international cuisine to a casual poolside lounge to contemporary Italian to exotic cocktails. With so many choices, you’ll never have to leave the hotel.

With its picturesque rooms and ideal amenities, you’ll enjoy every minute spent at the Le Méridien Chiang Mai hotel. Let EscapeWizard.com help you reserve your room. Click the link (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl) to get started today.
Hotels in Chiang Mai
By Debra R. Messick
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
51/4 Sankampaeng Road Moo 1 T. Tasala A. Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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This 60-acre “Resort of Treasured Dreams” offers a distinctively luxurious destination where guests are royally pampered amidst lush tropical surroundings and scenic splendor inspired by Northern Thailand’s historic  heritage.  Located just 15 minutes via complimentary shuttle to Chiang Mai International Airport, the resort is 10 minutes from the city centre’s bazaars, coffeehouses, and restaurants. Convenient check in time is 2 p.m.

Serene, spacious, and spectacular don’t begin to describe the resort’s 123 suites, villas and residences each featuring generously sized seating areas and bathroom facilities. Enjoy privacy, featuring personal plunge pool, deck, outdoor shower, terrace, and even a massage area, or opt for a room ensconced within the resort’s world-class Dheva spa.

The spa’s breathtaking design is surpassed only by the sumptuous array of healing services and holistic programs offered. An on-site academy ensures a staff of practitioners carefully trained in traditional and advanced techniques available to individuals, groups, and business gatherings (mini-massage sessions may be arranged during meeting breaks!). Free bicycles are available for exploring the expansive pastoral acreage. Tennis fans will love floodlit courts for nighttime play. Golf enthusiasts can arrange tee times at any of three courses within an hour’s drive. Exquisite pools offer refreshment and enchantment in equal measure. Every corner of the resort features accessible, cost-free Wi-Fi, while technology butlers, conference, meeting, and wedding planners/coordinators provide personalized logistical support. For wedding couples, the honeymoon night is on the house. Top-notch dining venues dot the landscape and cater to every imaginable taste in cuisine. In fact, the resort’s catering services will help flavor your function with traditional Lanna flair. While you’re busy taking care of business, the Lanna Kids Club makes sure youngsters are making memories—how many of their friends can say they know how to ride a water buffalo?

Appetites for adventure can be indulged by exploring the surrounding countryside’s temples, elephant camps and breathtaking scenery. Those craving exceptional artisan crafts and other treasures can visit the city’s centre for satisfaction. 12 p.m. check out time will arrive far too soon; you may never want to leave. Let EscapeWizard.com help get your stay at the Mandarin Oriental Dhavi Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand, underway conveniently. Click on the following link and EscapeWizard.com will help you make your arrangements: (http://www.whatscheaper.com).