Worth getting out of bed for
It's hard to resist a cooling dip in the slinky pool, or time out on its harem of loungers, where you can order refreshing sorbets, snacks and drinks poolside. Old-growth Lady Palm and Mimosa trees shade the gardens, with indigenous flowers and plants lining the stone paths. Active types can book a yoga or Pilates session or head to the gym, tucked under the raised heritage William Bain House, with views through glass walls over cabinets of archeological curios unearthed during the property's revamp. Make a date with the spa, too, which tempts with a range of Thai treatments, including aromatherapy massage. Gourmets can learn to whip up Thai treats at the hotel's small cooking school, or look out for regular scheduled events on the Lawn, including Thai music and dancing, cultural lectures and cocktail parties.
Beyond the hotel, golfers can tee off at scenic Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Course (www.chiangmaihighlands.com), or staff can hook you up with elephant safaris for a more exotic day out. Hot shopping beckons a stroll, or tuk tuk ride, from 137 Pillars House, or request a chauffeur-driven car for gadding about. Just west over the river bridge, you'll find Ton Lamyai fruit and flower market, which also sells clothing and other edible produce (insects will appeal to the more adventurous). A hop further south, the famous Night Bazaar is a happy hunting-ground for more touristy souvenirs and handicrafts.
The local Wat Gate area is worth exploring by foot or bike, with its legacy of European architecture from the days when this was the dedicated residential enclave for foreigners. The result is historic buildings such as 137 Pillars House, grouped around the Khar Ram Temple, still an active centre for monks. For a culture hit, check out the Wat Gate Khar Ram Museum on the same site, at 96 Baan Wategate, which displays Lanna (northern Thai) royal costumes, ancient coins, pottery and vintage black-and-white photos. This boho riverside neighbourhood is home to many local artisans, such as the talented weavers at the Healing Family Foundation (www.hffcm.org) at 2 Nha Wat Gate Road.
A good street to wander is Charoen Raj Road, where you'll find independent stores Circle Source Paper (www.online-natural-paper-shop.com), Oriental Style (www.vilacini/orientalstyle), Vila Cini (www.vilacini.com) and Kome Tong (kometong.wordpress.com), perfect for picking up quality textiles, paper art works, lanterns, homewares, ceramics and antiques. Nussara, at number 88, is worth a look for stylish scarves, indigo-dyed fisherman's pants and monk's bags, or buy a cute elephant ornament at Colour Factory (www.colourfac.com), at number 154.
In need of a sushi fix? Then stroll to Kitchen Hush (+66 (0)5324 7731), one of the best Japanese restaurants in town, and an especially good spot for dinner. Set in a two-storey trad wooden Thai house, you'll find it at 18/1 Kaewnawarat Road, Soi 2. For pan-Asian curries spanning Thai, Indian, Burmese and Sri Lankan styles, gorge yourself at Hinlay Curry House (+66 (0)5332 4621), at 8/1 Na Wat Gate Road, an informal, open-air eatery with a patio overlooking the river.
The neighbourhood's best known restaurant The Gallery (+66 (0)5324 8601; www.thegallery-restaurant.com), at 25-29 Charoen Raj Road, attracts the diplomatic and celebrity set with its tasty Thai and international fare, aided by a prime spot by the Mae Ping river (Hilary Clinton is a fan). Head to the tree-shaded terrace for sunset cocktails. For another romantic option, try riverside Deck 1 (+66 (0)5330 2788; www.thedeck1.com), at 14 Charoen Raj Road, a smartly designed open-air space with a creative menu, embracing fusion dishes such as grilled salmon with wasabi mash, along with cocktails or healthy mocktails.
A top spot for a drink, including cocktails and draft beers, is The Riverside Bar & Restaurant (+66 (0)5324 3239; www.theriversidechiangmai.com), at 9-11 Charoen Raj Road. A legendary, if a dash touristy, venue, the Riverside also offers Thai and international food, live music and river boat rides for dining on the Ping.
Enjoy sweet treats at cosy Bite & Bake café (+66 (0)5324 9689) at Kaewnawarat Road, Soi 3/2, in Wat Gate, where the American-trained Thai chef whips up bagels, buckwheat pancakes, wraps, sandwiches and enchiladas. Climb the stairs to Green O'Clock (+66 (0)5324 2922), along the road at number 10, Soi 2, a casual café in a lofty nook, which serves up local faves such as pad Thai and chicken stir-fry with cashews, as well as chunky American-style sandwiches.