Travel black book: History meets hip

Travel black book: History meets hip

Who: Patrick Fiat, 62, general manager and chief experience officer of Royal Plaza on Scotts.

The Singapore permanent resident is from France and has been in the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He was recently named Hotelier of the Year for 2014 by the Preferred Hotel Group.

Favourite city: Chiang Mai

Why: My daughter Nadia Estelle, 21, lives there, which is one of the reasons I have been visiting this northern Thai city four to five times every year for more than 20 years.

I have seen it transform from a quiet place to a hip and lifestyle-centric city, fast growing in popularity with tourists.

Yet, even as it has become more developed, Chiang Mai is still not as commercialised as places such as Bali and Phuket, and continues to maintain its charm.

Best places to stay

I recommend Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai (51/4 Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road, Moo 1, T. Tasala, A. Muang, tel: +66-53-888-888), a luxury resort I dub "The Pearl of the Orient".

With its intricate architecture that reflects Chiang Mai's history as the last capital city of the old Lanna kingdom, the hotel feels more like a palace.

The service is immaculate. Antiques are found throughout the resort and guests will feel as if they are walking through a museum.

It also offers a host of activities such as arts and crafts demonstrations, and cooking, fitness and rice- planting classes, which means guests can spend the day meaningfully without having to leave the resort.

Book the rooms facing the rice fields. The tranquillity of the place will help you feel relaxed. I recommend a walk around the property during sunset too.

The resort is a destination on its own. The only drawback is that you will never want to leave. Room rates start at 20,000 baht (S$811) a night.

Another hotel I would suggest is Rachamankha (Mueang Chiang Mai District, tel: +66-53-904-111), located in the heart of Chiang Mai's old town. The rooms open into wide courtyards and a lot of thought has been put into the landscaping surrounding the hotel. The result is a peaceful environment for guests.

Room rates begin at 6,518 baht a night.

Favourite restaurants

For lunch, head to Khaomao-Khaofang Restaurant (Ratchapruek, Nong Kwai, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230, tel: +66-53-838-838). The open-concept restaurant has a rainforest theme, with views of waterfalls and an orchid garden. This is a very relaxing place to have a meal.

Order the banana blossom salad as an appetiser, soft-shell crab curry as a main and banana fritters with sesame glaze for dessert. A meal costs about $15 to $20 a person.

For dinner, try Cuisine de Garden (Nong Khwai Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Chiang Mai, tel: +66-53-441-599). The chef prepares a set menu every day, depending on the produce he buys at the market.

He uses molecular gastronomy for his presentation, making every dish a creative work of art.

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