Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel
A Colonial Style Hotel in Chiang Mai
I love a colonial hotel – I really do. It’s like stepping back into a bygone era… and from the minute you’re picked up from the airport in one of the Ping Nakara hotel’s classic vintage Mercedes, by a uniformed chauffeur in khaki pith helmet, you’re taken back into that world.
Built in the colonial style around 2009 (which I was surprised to learn as I thought it was an original period building!) with many Lanna architectural details, the Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa is a statement in style and elegance. And a fine example of east meets west architecture. Great attention to detail went into the design and build of the hotel, taking inspiration from merchants’ colonial-style houses from the early 1900’s when Chiang Mai was at the centre of the thriving teak industry. And it’s paid off – the hotel evokes the warmth and luxury of that past age. It’s a relaxing and peaceful haven – a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai city.
The Ping Nakara is located in downtown Chiang Mai on Charoenprathet Road, close by the Ping River. It’s a good location, within easy walk of the Night Bazaar and Iron Bridge. A little further afield is the Tha Phae gate, the entrance to the old city, about a 25-minute walk away. There are some great restaurants nearby; The River Market Restuarant, The Whole Earth, and Anantara Restaurants are all walkable. But if you’re feeling a little lazy, one of the hotel’s porters will happily take you there in a cycle rickshaw!… Another detail invoking that feeling of days gone by.
The hotel has only 19 rooms. Which I was surprised to learn, as it felt like there should be more. Not that it seems like a big hotel. It still has that boutique feel. But I think because the Spa building is attached, the hotel appears that much bigger.
The rooms continue the colonial style and are furnished with hand-crafted dark-coloured teakwood furniture. I liked the nice additional period touches like the traditional writing table, antique style phone, vintage bell alarm clock and the faded welcome postcard! All rooms are named after flowers. I stayed in room 307, or ‘Leelawadee’ (aka Frangipani).
Although furnished in an old-world style, the rooms have all the conveniences of the modern world; like LCD TV, free WiFi, in-room safe, rain-shower and luxury toiletries.
The rooms are spacious. I stayed in a Grand Deluxe Room with around 40 square metres of space, with kingsize bed, sofa, jacuzzi bath and a balcony overlooking the pool and gardens. Light, airy and extremely comfortable – I stayed for 9 nights, but could have quite happily stayed longer.
The hotel has a small but very pleasant restaurant where you can dine inside or out on the restaurant terrace overlooking the pool. I much preferred the outside area. The restaurant serves traditional Thai cuisine throughout the afternoon and evening. I dined here on a number of occasions during my stay and found the food to be of a very high standard.
Your complimentary full breakfast is also served here. A combination of a self-service buffet and made to order cooked Western or Asian dishes. Sitting on the terrace enjoying a freshly brewed coffee and eggs breakfast as the morning sun shone down on the pool was one of the highlights of my stay.
On the occasions that I dined here of an evening the restaurant was never busy, in fact almost empty each time. Perhaps because it was still low season in Chiang Mai, or because there is so much choice outside of the hotel, I don’t know. But I felt it was a shame, as it’s a nice place to dine. My only minor criticism was the waiting staff. I found them to be a little inexperienced. Perhaps they were trainees, I don’t know, but they didn’t provide a confident level of service I’d expect from a hotel of this standard, and indeed the standard that was provided by other members of hotel staff who I couldn’t fault.
The Nakara Jardin Bistro (or Nakara’s Garden) is situated just behind the hotel directly overlooking the Ping River. If you’re having trouble finding it just ask one of the porters and they’ll happily point you in the right direction. Set in a beautiful tropical garden you can enjoy French bistro food, imported teas and patisserie delicacies. I enjoyed two lunches here and the food was exceptional.
If you’re looking for afternoon tea on the river, this is the place to go.
The hotel has a number of areas where you can just sit and unwind and take in the ambience of this boutique property. There’s the light and airy Rotunda, the octagonal shaped hall, just off reception. From there you can wander into the Library Bar, with its selection of books on the arts and cultures of South East Asia, set amongst vintage style paraphernalia. Then stroll out onto the Colonial-style Veranda which runs parallel to the pool where the sunlight glimmers off the water through the long grasses, and where you can enjoy a game of chess, or admire the antique map of Chiang Mai at the far end. From there simply wander out to the poolside and take a chair or lounger by the pool.
All the above locations are of course best enjoyed with your favourite tipple in hand.
The Nakara Spa is located within the hotel and specialises in Ayurvedic spa treatments.
I chose the ‘Introduction to Ayurveda’ – a 90-minute treatment using ‘techniques like energy sensing, hook in-back-up and treating marmas among others’… I’m not sure what all that meant but I was happy to give it a try. The cost was 1,900 baht (around 40 GBP) which is very reasonable for a hotel/spa of the Ping Nakara’s standard.
From the moment I entered through the doors of the spa and walked into the calming teakwood environment with exotic spa aromas, I felt calm and relaxed. After a brief consultation where I was able to select my treatment and choose the oil for my massage, I was led into the treatment room where my 90-minute massage began.
90 blissful minutes later, and I felt like all my worldly woes had disappeared. I always enjoy a massage and the Ayurveda treatment at the Ping Nakara was as good as any I’ve had. My marmas were well and truly treated.
- I stayed for 9 nights during mid-October 2017
- I paid 110.45 GBP per night for a Grand Deluxe Double Room with Hotels.com
And just to conclude with one of the hotel’s videos as I think it captures the essence of the hotel very well. Just how I remembered it. I’m not sure I looked quite as glamorous as the model in the video when I arrived though.