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Review of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

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Reviewing hotels is made all the more difficult the higher the reputation of the brand or hotel chain in question. Mandarin Oriental, which as a group, has won awards from all over the world for being among the best hotels available, is one such group where expectations are at their highest. Therefore to compare one of the group's most successful and well known properties, the Oriental Bangkok, a city hotel, with a brand new destination resort, The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai is no easy task.

The fact that the new Chiang Mai resort is the sister property of the infamous Oriental Bangkok poses the resort with numerous challenges. The resort has to, in as early a time as possible, recreate the excellent service levels, expected and demanded by guests who frequent its sister hotel in Bangkok. The amazing accolades, awards, and high repeat business that the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has achieved did not happen overnight, it took years of training, excellent management, an uncanny ability of being able to keep top notch front end staff and over a century of history.

But comparing a city hotel with a destination resort is like comparing apples and oranges, they aim to offer two completely different experiences, while maintaining a foundation of excellent service and product.

The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai Thailand, is absolutely unique, and has created much more than just a resort, it has created a destination in itself. Anyone who enjoys culture, art, antiquities, and history while staying in the utmost luxury for which the Mandarin Oriental group is renowned will adore this property. The luxurious resort provides an adventure into ancient Lanna culture and life, and allows guests to experience exquisite ancient buildings away from the swarms of tourists that visit many of Thailand's unique architectural heritage sites.

The resort itself, now in Soft Opening, comprises of 60 luxurious villas and 4 theme suites, spread out spaciously over 60 acres in an innovative village style. The grand opening is expected in November 2005, when a new Colonial Wing will be added offering an additional 80 colonial suites. At the centre of the villas lies an actual rice paddy field, which is used to create a feeling of being in the countryside and used for fun activities such as lessons on how to plant and harvest rice the traditional Thai way. The rice paddy even has its own buffaloes used to plow the field.

While the villas at the resort are extremely luxurious, it has to be said that they are not completely private. Guests in one villa are able to see into the downstairs area of other villas and if you are in one of the pool villas, then the pool is also visible by villas across the rice paddy. This is fine if your main aim is to enjoy the luxury the resort offers, but if complete privacy is your main aim, then this is an area the resort finds itself sadly lacking.

The resort which commands rates in excess of US$ 600 per night also has one of the smallest breakfast buffet selections we have seen. A very good selection of juices, some fruits, breads and a few other items make up the buffet spread, while some very innovative and delicious hot items can be ordered a la carte at an additional small cost. One has to wonder whether a resort in this price range, really needs to charge guests an additional US$5, or thereabouts, first thing in the morning for items which are considered standard offerings in a normal buffet breakfast.

Chiang Mai is becoming more and more popular with tourists, and even though it does not offer a beach is finally beginning to welcome some of the top five star brands in the hotel industry. The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi is a welcome addition to the luxurious five star market in Chiang Mai and is definitely a resort travellers to Chiang Mai should experience, if only for the unique history and architecture that makes this property so unique.

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