137 Pillars House: An Urban Oasis in the Heart of Chiang Mai
After years of watching what seemed to be like everyone around me jet off to Thailand and explore the ancient country, I was officially sick of the FOMO this year and decided to travel there to see it for myself. On the (long) list of places I wanted to see was Thailand's cultural capital in the North: Chiang Mai.
The city of Chiang Mai, whose history can be traced back to over 700 years ago, provides a cultural look into the past juxtaposed with a modern look into the future. It's a beautiful city where travelers can see these two elements cohabitate harmoniously. To give a visual example that you can imagine, there are areas where you basically have the ancient ruins of the old walled city right next to an incredibly chic row of trendy coffee shops and restaurants. It is the perfect mix of old and new!
During our 4-day stay in Chiang Mai (which proved to not even be nearly enough time as we had wished to have), we wanted to get a taste of both "the old" and "the new." I love a really well-designed boutique hotel just as much as the next traveler, so when I came across 137 Pillars House in the heart of Chiang Mai, I knew this would be the perfect home for a few nights. It just exuded the utmost elegance, modern luxury, and this unique feeling of comfort that you can only find in a few places around the world.
A Location With a Story as Beautiful as Its Architecture
It's worth noting that the city of Chiang Mai, which was once its own kingdom, is full of its very own unique culture and history (hence why people sometimes refer to it as the cultural capital of Thailand). The property and plot of land in which 137 Pillars House stands is no exception to that either.
The main bungalow-style house (and focal point of the property) was once the Northern Headquarters of the Borneo Trading Company. The Borneo House, which was constructed from teak wood, was built over 125 years ago by the son of Anna Leonowens. Leonowens was the British tutor of the King of Siam who inspired the popular book "Anna and the King." At the time of construction, it was standard in Lanna style Thai houses to show their wealth and status by having as many pillars on your home as possible. The Borneo House had exactly 137 pillars, which clearly showed the high status of the person who built it.
After some time, the Borneo House was purchased by a family in 2002 who fell in love with the location, beauty, and integrity of the architecture of this home. An incredible team of architects and designers worked together to rebuild and restore the old Borneo House into the gorgeous property that we see today. While keeping as true to the Lanna style as possible, they've included some modern touches that are sure to make all guests feel welcome and at home. They kept the name original--137 Pillars House--since that was one of the features that made the home unique in the first place!
Arriving at the Resort: Taking Personal Service to the Next Level
You know how they say you only have one chance to make a first impression? I'm pretty sure that the executive staff at 137 Pillars House kept this in mind when they put together their plan of action for how to welcome and greet their guests. Let me just say that I've never had the kind of first-class service that I experienced here at 137 Pillars House anywhere else in the world. Let me give you the rundown of how it all happened...
1. The Transfer Service
We were greeted at our previous hotel by a member of the 137 Pillars staff, who transferred us to the new hotel in a luxury vehicle that had Wi-Fi, personal TVs, magazines, cool towels, and more. It basically made it impossible for me to enjoy any other transfer service without these amenities from there on out.
Upon arriving at the hotel, which was tucked away in a local neighborhood just outside of the walls of the Old City, we were graciously welcomed by the concierge and reception staff with chilled towels to cool off and a refreshing beverage to sip on the side. We checked in, got a quick tour of the property, and then were escorted to our impeccable Rajah Brooke Suite.
2. The World's Greatest Butler Service
Waiting for us at our suite was our wonderful butler, Pui. As if I thought I wasn't in love with the property already, this woman and her expertise of the city and hotel really took our experience to a whole new level. Where most butlers or concierge members would kindly let you know to ring them if you needed any assistance, Pui actually took the time to stay and speak with us to share bits of information about the neighborhood to really make sure we felt comfortable and at home.
She gave us a small pocket map of the area and highlighted the places that she suggested would help us make the most of our time. It was basically like getting our own personal travel agent on site! She even let us know that we could text her for other tips (or bookings/reservations) at any time, which she was super quick to respond to. I mean, this woman was on top of her game.
3. The Custom Pillows and Fragrances
Just when we thought she had gone above and beyond, she mentioned that all guests at 137 Pillars House receive their own custom choices of pillows and toiletries. This was really my favorite part... She pulled out a mini box of tiny pillows that you could feel and touch to see which ones were best for your sleep style. OH MY GOODNESS--WHY ISN'T EVERY LUXURY HOTEL DOING THIS?! Gone are the days of sleeping with pillows that are too thick or too thin! You can basically be like Goldilocks here and choose the one that is juuuustt right for you. She also had a set of fragrances for the toiletries, which you could choose from as well! We loved the Thai Jasmine & Mint :) Definitely recommend it.
When History Meets Modern Luxury
Something beautiful tends to happen when you flawlessly combine antique architecture and design with modern, luxurious details and finishings. The designers and architects of 137 Pillars House have really gone above and beyond with the decor and ambiance of this property to make you feel like you are right at home--or at least in a home that you wish was yours.
If there is a such thing in design and decor as "eclectic style-meets-modern luxury-meets-contemporary elegance," then that is this property. Seriously, every nook and cranny of this place is so picturesque, it will make you never want to leave! The attention to detail is just remarkable! I want whoever designed it to come to my house next...
The hotel's 30 suites are all bright, colorful, and spacious; some are even eqipped with their own private pools or outdoor showers! The clawfoot bathtub (just adjacent to the changing room) was a beautiful centerpiece of the bathroom, and the balcony made for a great place to kick back and relax. We particularly loved how plush and comfortable the bed was--especially with our personalized pillows that we chose!
How to Spend Your Time Here
I felt so conflicted when I arrived at 137 Pillars House because I obviously wanted to explore the city of Chiang Mai since I had never been before (and it was just steps outside the front door), but the hotel had so many amenities and services that it is so easy to just stay home in this urban oasis and spend your entire vacation on the property! What's a girl to do?!
However, if you find yourself at 137 Pillars House, I definitely recommend these things:
Sign Up for a Spa Treatment
If you're gearing up for your first trip to Thailand (or you've already been and you're returning), you've probably heard from all your friends that you "absolutely must get a Thai massage when you're there." I can't even count how many times I had heard that...
After the 24-hour trip from New York to Thailand, Jay and I figured we deserved a little pampering after that long haul travel. We signed up for the 2-hour couples massage, which had a combination of Thai and Swedish methods if I remember correctly, and included various essential oils and organic products. WOW, did we pick the right place to indulge! I just feel bad because I was so relaxed I fell asleep halfway through it! I guess I'll just have to go back to do it again...
Take a Thai Cooking Class
When in Thailand, learn to cook as the Thai people do! This is actually one activity that I'm so sad we didn't have time to do, but will definitely be doing when we return. The 137 Pillars House Thai Cooking Class comes with a few different menu options that you can choose from when you sign up. Guests can opt to also take a trip to the local market with the chef to see where locals actually get their ingredients! Once you have your ingredients, you head back to the hotel where you learn how to cook these authentic Thai meals. I'm very much looking forward to doing this when we return.
Relax by the Pool and Garden
It gets pretty hot in Thailand, so having a great pool you can dip in to cool off is a necessity at any Thai hotel. The live wall near the infinity pool of 137 Pillars House is certainly a jaw dropping focal point that will entice you to slide into one of the canopied chaise lounges or private cabanas for a little R&R. The pool side food and drink service is not one to miss either!
Drink and Dine On Site
If there's one thing I can promise you about staying at 137 Pillars House it's that you will not leave hungry. The food here is to die for; it's nearly impossible not to indulge. And even though I always like to go out to eat when I'm in a new city, the food was so good here that we kept coming back for more.
There are 2 main restaurants on site: The Dining Room and Palette. The Dining Room offers more traditional Thai and Lanna dishes, while Palette offers a more western-style menu of farm to kitchen dishes. Since we can get western food just about any time we want to back home in New York, we opted for the The Dining Room for our meals.
Once you're done with dinner, hop over to the hotel's uber chic cocktail lounge Jack Bain's Bar. It's another one of those jaw dropping type of rooms in the hotel that just makes you never want to leave. Plus the cocktails are awesome.
PS: YOU CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT TRYING THE MANGO STICKY RICE DESSERT. Thank me later... It was literally the best we had in Thailand.
Other Notable Mentions:
- Take advantage of the breakfast buffet in the morning! It is exquisite and offers plenty of options for all dietary styles. There are even tons of freshly squeezed juices and fruits if having a big breakfast isn't your thing.
- Visit the on site museum that tells more about the history and story of the property.
- Walk through the property and garden areas -- lots of tropical and exotic horticulture right outside your room!
- Have Afternoon Tea in the gardens or the Parlor of the Borneo House.
- Hit the gym in the morning to get your day started with a little exercise.
- Sign up for a private tour/excursion in Chiang Mai, which can be organized with your butler or the concierge.
- Explore the shops, cafes, and galleries nearby the hotel. My personal favorite is Woo Cafe!
- Take a walk into the Old City, which is just about 10 minutes from the hotel. The Night Bazaar is another popular stop for travelers, which I definitely recommend at least once just for the experience.
Good to Know Information
- If you want to do any of the activities on site, like cooking class or a spa treatment, I would recommend booking as far in advance as you can so the spots don't fill up. The resort only has 30 suites afterall, and they like to keep experiences cozy and intimate.
- Book your transfer to/from the hotel with your concierge. You'll want to experience that 5-star greeting, so make sure to arrange that as soon as you can!
- Utilize your butler and concierge to make the most of your time! The staff at 137 Pillars House was so excellent and helpful. We wouldn't have had as good of a time if it weren't for them!
- The hotel is perfectly located and walking distance to the Old City, but it can definitely get hot and sweaty on some days, so I recommend taking a water bottle with you when you head out.
- If you're traveling outside of Chiang Mai, check out their new property 137 Pillars Suites & Residences in Bangkok, which just opened in Spring 2017!
Our stay at 137 Pillars House really made our entire experience in the downtown area of Chiang Mai unforgettable. Like I said earlier, I don't think that 4 days was even close to enough time in Chiang Mai as we had wanted to have! This city really has something special to it and I'm itching to get back and explore more.
I'm definitely looking forward to returning here when we come back to Chiang Mai--and also seeing their new 137 Pillars property in Bangkok! If it's anything like our experience in the cultural capital, I know it will be one for the books!
137 Pillars House Chiang Mai
2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Road,
Muang Chiang Mai
Thank you to 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai for hosting our stay. And a special thank you to all of the incredible staff members who made our visit spectacular. All opinions are my own.