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The Lure of Chiang Mai

Thailand’s second city is a great choice to avoid the teeming herd of tourists, and yet still quenches the thirst for culture, cuisine and shopping…

Thailand’s second city is a great choice to avoid the teeming herd of tourists, and yet still quenches the thirst for culture, cuisine and shopping.

From the air, Chiang  Mai is a vast valley surrounded by hills  and mountains. Upon  closer look, the Ping River appears, gracefully snaking up and down the endless landscape. Much like what  the Nile does in Egypt, the Ping River feeds the farmland, and is the lifeline of the medieval Lanna kingdom, the northern domain of which Chiang Mai was the capital.

Arriving in November, a week before the Loi Krathong festival, one of the two major events in the Thai calendar, we found the city in a festive  mood. Loi Krathong is traditionally held during the full moon of November, and is celebrated to honor the Goddess of Water at sunset with thousands of floating banana leaves decorated with candles and flowers in the Ping River, and hundreds of paper lanterns launched in the air.

The airport was relatively uncomplicated, we were in and out in ten minutes, and shortly thereafter, driving across the river to an elaborately carved wooden gate and entering the enclave of a magnificent ancient kingdom. Or so it seemed. There is no better way to appreciate the façade of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi than in the dramatic hues of dusk. The first sight of multiple ornamented roof tiers can easily take your breath away, while the impressive dark wood and the warm welcoming staff in the reception area was a promising start to our four-day stay.

Designed by the local architect Rachen Intawong, the sprawling resort took seven years to build and was created to fulfill the heritage passion of a Thai tycoon. Set in sixty acres of rural farmland, the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi is a small village of its own, and  our quarters for the duration of our stay was a villa overlooking the rice paddies and carabaos. Staying true to traditional Lanna architectural style, the teakwood two-story villas provided all the modern amenities mixed with artwork, artifacts and luxurious silks and textiles weaved in the neighboring hilltop tribes. In  all, the complex houses 64 villas and  54 colonial suites overlooking a large pool, and an expansive array of dining choices – French at Farang Ses, Chinese at Fujian, buffet breakfast and lunch  at Akaligo, an English teahouse at the shopping village called The Oriental Shop, as well as an impressive room service menu that can be served in the room or at any of the public places. For the best taste of Northern cuisine, locals and visitors go to the Le Grand Lanna where the chef uses only the freshest ingredients for a meal fit for royalty.

But the heart of the resort is the luxurious Dheva Spa, a palace on its own with 18 treatment rooms and five residences with a thick menu for pampering.

For retail therapy, Chiang Mai is a haven. The night market on Saturday is a good precursor to the more extensive one the following day. Hard- core bargain hunters won’t let both chances slip by. The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi thoughtfully provides a shuttle for their guests to the city center, a short 15-minute drive away. And if the schedule doesn’t fit, cabs are available at  very reasonable rates.

The weekend night market  comes alive at dusk, when wheeled carts are set up to line the streets. On Saturday, it stretches a good kilometer at Wu Lai Road, where vendors compete with existing shops in this busy commercial road known for its silverware.

The Sunday market is much bigger and located close by, at the  center of the old walled city, starting at the Tha Phae Gate. Shoppers are bombarded with a huge selection of the usual knockoff T-shirts, athletic shoes, clothes, pirated CDs and DVDs; and cheap woodwork. If you haggle, you’re likely to find prices cheaper than those in Bangkok. Food stalls and fruit vendors selling kluk (a local delicacy of fresh strawberries tossed with salt and sugar) pepper the whole scene. The Sunday market is also more interesting as it showcases the art and craftsmanship of the northern tribal villages. Many of the stall vendors make and sell their own products mostly cotton and handwoven fabrics, as well as pottery, wood- carvings  and metal works. To add to the festive mood, strings of colored lights and lanterns are hung all over, while musicians and puppeteers perform in the middle of the road.

For culture, Chiang Mai’s temples are much older than the ones in Bangkok, some as old as the city itself, which celebrated its 700 years in  1996. We visited the mountaintop Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, an important pilgrimage temple with a full monastery. The 800-year-old temple  is famous for its gold domed rooftops overlooking the city, and a short hop to various hill tribe villages.

For first time visitors, Chiang Mai is a place to escape to, where the sights and sounds are to be appreciated and to partake as needed, especially if you choose a luxe resort. There is no sense of urgency visitors usually get from a Thai vacation in Bangkok or Phuket. Chiang Mai is best taken with a long massage in the afternoon and night shopping. Just as the doctor ordered.

  • by Eva Gullas

Travel

THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard

FOR SAIL

With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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Culture

Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant

Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.

Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.

Visit Da-In restaurant today!

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Featured

Head Up North, Where A Relaxing Escapade is in Store at Maayo San Remigio

On your next trip out of the city, head up North to Maayo San Remigio, where a relaxing escapade awaits.

Oftentimes, when it comes to deciding the next travel destination, the Northern part
of Cebu is overlooked in favour of its Southern end. The South boasts of sunny beaches,
cascading waterfalls and the popular whale sharks who have made its waters their home.
While these are beautiful aspects that the South has to offer, the North is just as—if not
more—abundant in offerings. The North’s natural scenery is relatively untouched, and on top
of that, it’s less likely to be flocked by tourists.

This means more opportunities for a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the
city. The roads heading North are long and winding, yet the beauty that lies at the end of the
journey proves that the trip is worth it. Knowing that, where does one go in the North?

Hidden away in the northern part of Cebu, Maayo San Remigio is a haven for those
who seek peace and serenity, making it an alluring abode for a sojourn on the island.

The resort’s guest rooms are vibrant and reminiscent of the Carribean.

Approximately a 3-hour drive from the city, the resort grants access to a tropical
retreat with a captivating beachfront setting—a charming destination away from the daily
hustle. Whether on its fine white sands and blue waters or inside the cozy rooms, Maayo
San Remigio is a delight to local and foreign tourists alike.

A newly-opened resort under Maayo Hotels flagship, Maayo San Remigio is a
destination that guarantees a refreshing, laidback experience, sure to wash away the worries
you brought with you from the city.

A clean white aesthetic is made tropical with bamboo accents and greenery.

It’s equipped with a mix of luxurious relaxation and wellness, fun and entertainment,
and enticing wining and dining options. This Caribbean-inspired resort is a serene hideaway
on a lush slice of tropical paradise with emphasis on ultimate comfort and exclusivity.

The resort’s location makes it doubly precious; scattered throughout the resort
grounds are viewing areas that grant you access to the sunset. Watch the sun sink down the
horizon by the infinity pool, on the beach’s shoreline, or atop the cliffside with the waves
crashing below. When night falls, the stars come out to dance across the clear skies, making
for an unparalleled stargazing experience.

Sunsets at Maayo San Remigio are a sight to behold.

Maayo San Remigio blends authentic Cebuano hospitality with its tranquil
atmosphere and exceptional design. Its well-appointed rooms and villas ensure a relaxing staycation, while its thoughtful amenities and facilities evoke a feeling of belonging in
paradise. The resorts brings the culinary excellence that is found in the Maayo Hotels brand,
creating palate-pleasing Filipino dishes with a modern twist. Complemented by the resort’s
wide menu of drinks—from juices to cocktails to shakes—one will truly enjoy a stay here.

So on your next trip out of the city, head up North to Maayo San Remigio, where a
relaxing escapade awaits.

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