As many of you know, I just returned from exploring several countries in Southeast Asia and one of my favorite areas was the north of Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai. The experience was made particularly special by my stay at 137 Pillars Chiang Mai, which many of you have asked me about since I chronicled the experience so thoroughly on my Instagram and Instagram stories. If you missed it, you can view the stories in the “Highlights” in Instagram under Thailand, as well as see the photos in my Instagram feed. Today I thought I would give you an inside peek into this beautiful hotel property and what makes it one of the most unique and special hotels that I’ve stayed at.
Inside 137 Pillars Chiang Mai:
The hotel was once the headquarters of the East Borneo Trading Company originating from the 1800s. It was a single structure that went through meticulous restoration to become what it is today.
The original teak homestead is now the restaurant and bar, Jack Bain’s Bar, named after Jack Bain, who’s father bought the property from the Borneo Trading Company.
The importance and wealth of a property owner in Chiang Mai was often recognized by the size of their Lanna style Thai houses, and in particular how many pillars the house had… the more the pillars, the more important you were, thus the name it has today.
You feel as though you’re stepping into another era, the bar itself has a Hemingway quality, and makes you want to settle in and take in the rich teak wood, leather, beautiful colors and scents.
Photos of Jack Bain and Louis Leonowens, hang behind the bar. Louis was the first resident of this place–he joined the Borneo Trading company in 1886 and in 1889 established its headquarters in Chiang Mai. He was the son of Anna Leonowens, who tutored Prince Chulalongkorn, son of King Mongkut, from the famous story of Anna and the King of Siam, or more famously known from the musical The King and I.
Thailand in the ‘off’ season is lush and green and comes with some rainy mornings. But it’s just a wonderful excuse to linger over the breakfast wonderland at 137 Pillars… green tea and oranges, dumplings, watermelon juice, exotic fruits, eggs with all the things in it, sautéed bok choy, Brie cheese, little salty cornichons, toast with guava jam, coconut sticky rice, steamed okra, and one more cappuccino to finish it off and get you going out into the day.
137 Pillars also offers a cooking class so that you can learn to make these delights. The hotel chef took us to a local market and let us taste the plethora of ingredients, that we then brought back and learned how to cook. And of course we ate it all in the end!
Years after the Borneo Trading Company housed its headquarters here, Panida Wongphanlert arrived in Chiang Mai looking for a relaxing getaway from Bangkok. She returned to Chiang Mai repeatedly looking for what would become her vacation home and stumbled upon this abandoned teak house, black from age and linseed oil. She was mesmerized by the place and convinced the Bain family to sell it to her. She soon set out to meticulously restore the structure, using her degree in architecture along with help from other experts. The detailed ornamental architectural elements had to be painstakingly repaired, restored or re-created. And soon she realized that she couldn’t keep this place for herself, but instead had to share it with the world. The property soon expanded and she collaborated on the design of the surrounding British colonial-style structures to create a relaxing 30-suite luxury hotel.
The pool is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever set my eyes on. It is the color of pure aqua and set against a living wall of vines that is sky high.
I quite literally had to hug the wall before I left.
The suites are magical. Each room has a personal butler and includes about 5 rooms in total: a sunroom with beautiful tile floors and a couch for morning tea and reading, a four poster king bed with couch and bar, a wardrobe suite, and a bathroom suite with a clawfoot bathtub, indoor shower, and an outdoor rain shower.
There was a reverence for nature on the property that really stood out to me. For example these incredible trees had roots that spread out into the pathways and the stone paths were carved so that the roots could be shown and celebrated. The trees also had plaques identifying their genus.
The property feels like a lush maze of sorts that you want to get lost in.
Each beautiful pathway leads you to a new delight, in this case on the way to the massage house.