80 Charoenrat Rd., Wat Gate
At this sunlit space adorned with tons of flowers and intricate, patterned ornaments, you can order one of the city's best lattes and Thai-fusion dishes made with locally sourced organic ingredients. But what really stands out is the art. The upper floor is home to a gallery that hosts Abstract Expressionist paintings. If you’re looking for a souvenir to bring home, visit the home-goods store in the back of the café. You can find everything from brass candlesticks to textile stamps, all crafted by local artisans.
51/4 Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Rd., Wat Gate
Slightly west of the Ping River is Dhara Dhevi, a hotel and resort we’ve been dreaming about since our first visit to Chiang Mai. A gigantic wellness retreat set on sixty acres of gardens, moats, and rice paddies, Dhara Dhevi prides itself on its elaborately adorned Lanna buildings and holistic spa treatments. You can choose from traditional Ayurvedic, Thai, and Chinese treatments. For a more in-depth wellness experience, there are retreats, which range from three to ten days and focus on whatever's ailing you—stress, back pain, stubborn weight, loss of energy. You'll leave completely revitalized. What also intrigued us here were the cultural workshops: You can take classes in traditional Thai cooking and bamboo weaving that give hands-on insight into the country’s traditions.
113 Bamrungrad Rd., Wat Kate
It was the story behind David's Kitchen that did it for us. The owner, David, is a Londoner who first came to Chiang Mai two decades ago after a long and successful career in theater. He moved to Thailand, taught English to monks, met his wife, Khun Prom (a professionally trained chef), and then together they opened a restaurant. In other words, he lived out the fantasy that so many of us have here—and we wanted to see what it tasted like. David’s Kitchen has become one of the most popular places to eat in the city. Chef O makes decadent classic French dishes with a Thai twist (like incredible spicy fish salad with crisp green apple, wild mushroom risotto, and pan-seared tuna with mango). The cocktails are fresh and inventive (the Golden Triangle, a mix of bourbon, Thai orange, lemon, and honey, is bright and refreshing), and the desserts—made by Khun Prom, who is the pastry chef—are incredible. (Or maybe freshly made ice cream and sticky toffee pudding just taste better in Chiang Mai.)
137 Pillars House
2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Rd., Wat Gate
137 Pillars House has an old-world aesthetic and total exclusivity. The grounds are centered around an ornate antique teak Lanna-style house (the Lanna kingdom ruled what is now northern Thailand from the thirteenth to eighteenth centuries) that the owners purchased and refurbished in the early 2000s. It’s worth spending several days just on the grounds. Have afternoon high tea in the house; lounge in the spacious, light-filled guest suites; and relax by the pool enclosed by a towering wall covered in tropical plants. The spa is pristinely decorated with oriental antiques. Treatments include facials and traditional Thai massage, but you can also ask the team to customize a wellness itinerary that can include a range of spa treatments, exercise programs, and healthy meals.