As one of Thailand’s top ranked tourist draws, it is no surprise that Chiang Mai has some pretty lavish hotels. But the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi is in a league of its own – surely one of the most extravagant properties in the world. It is probably also one of the most beautiful. Located just outside the city’s outskirts, it is a village of luxurious whitewashed villas set among faux-temple spires housing spas and restaurants (as well as one real temple). These are linked by wandering pathways shaded by tropical trees and real rice fields – the hotel operates three rice paddies, as well as its own organic vegetable garden. It even owns a buffalo.
It is a peaceful, privileged world where songbirds flit in the treetops and herons stand watch over the rice fields, smiling housemaids do the rounds on bicycles and guests stay, for the most part, secluded in their own little patches of paradise. Who can blame them?