Tamarind Village Resort Chiang Mai – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Interestingly enough, the Tamarind Village Resort gets its name from a 200-year old tamarind tree in the courtyard around which the resort has been built. Much like the traditional Asian village concept of yore, there are mini courtyards laid out within the acreage, surrounding which are low-rise dark teakwood buildings that house the 46-rooms, the whole accentuated by startlingly green lawn expanses and fig as well as longan trees.
The lobby is a very small and narrow, open-air space, but somehow exceedingly charming, with a vaulted, tiled roof and colourful Lanna embroidered cushions breaking the monotony of the dark teak furniture.
Quite honestly, there is some traffic noise and also that from overhead jets, which does percolate through to the rooms at times. That said, it is very tranquil in the courtyard by the pool, with just the sound of birds twittering. Rambling around the courtyard, you’ll also come across wooden benches or cupboards placed randomly along the corridors – more than a hotel, you feel as though you have stepped into somebody’s country home.
The rooms are divided into the following categories: Lanna Room (25sqm); Lanna Deluxe (30sqm); Tamarind Suite (50sqm); Lanna Suite (50sqm) and one Spa Suite (60sqm) which is housed in the spa building.
In keeping with the theme, the resort aims for the rustic look and hence, the rooms all have whitewashed walls and handwoven rugs scattered on red-tiled floors, with the ubiquitous Lanna embroidered cushions adding a splash of colour. It’s all somehow peculiarly cheery and restful. The Lanna Suite has a small sitting room with a wooden settee and dark furniture. The bedroom is quite spacious and has an antique style chest which serves as the TV trolley, as also bedside tables in a similar antique style. The bathroom is done up in black, with twin washbasins in black marble.
The Lanna Deluxe rooms on the ground floor are more spacious than the ones on the upper floor, which are reached by a narrow, rough-hewn wooden staircase, rather like climbing up to one’s own treehouse!
The Deluxe rooms on the first floor have sloping, vaulted ceilings and follow the same décor lines. It must be said though that these rooms are rather cramped; the luggage rack as well as a small table with the tea-making implements is on one side of the bed, leaving no space to manouvere that end.
The bathroom is admittedly a novelty, as it has this brass bowl embedded in wood that serves as the washbasin, including a brass faucet. The door itself has a cane frame, as do the wardrobe doors and are closed with short wooden jambs. All the suites have bathtubs, while the other categories have shower spaces.
All rooms are equipped with tea/coffee maker, electronic safe, medium-sized television, colourful cotton bathrobes and slippers for Him and Her and four complimentary bottles of drinking water. Although the toiletries are in-house, they are of excellent quality, while the organic bath soaps are from the well-known, locally sourced Sabu Sabu brand.
In terms of F&B, there is only one restaurant, the Ruen Tamarind, with about 40-covers indoor and another 20-covers on the patio by the pool. In a semi-rustic ambience, it has an ordinary stone floor and cane chairs painted black, offset by red cushions. Most people prefer to explore Chiang Mai town or else, head for day-long excursions and hence, there isn’t much of a call for in-house F&B. The Ruen Tamarind serves a limited Lanna menu, but features other Thai and international dishes, as well as offers a seasonal organic menu. The breakfast spread is average; the usual fare of Asian plus western food like cereals, eggs, sausages and suchlike. However, it must be said that apart from breakfast, the food as such is simply outstanding! That’s quite a master cook they’ve got in the kitchen and they should hang on to him!
There are no banquet or convention facilities at the Tamarind Village, nonetheless, above the restaurant is a lounge that can be used as an informal meeting room for about 15-20 pax.
Recreational pursuits are taken care of by the resort, in the form of (free) activities such as paper umbrella painting, banana or lotus leaf folding or a daily village walk, which includes offering food to the monks at nearby local Wats (temples.) Aside from this, there is a small swimming pool flanked at either ends by the lobby and restaurant. Furthermore, there is a small boutique that sells Lanna handicrafts, as well as a library of sorts above the restaurant.
There is also the small Village Spa, with three couple treatment rooms (one dedicated to Thai massages.) In keeping with the interior design of the rooms, one finds the same red-tiled flooring here, with black canework chairs and the cane screen doors. The signature treatment here is the Village Signature, which is a 90-minute therapy combining Thai massage with oil treatment, along with heated poultices made from Thai herbs.
All the staff are very friendly, offering shy smiles even if they don’t speak fluent English. Housekeeping service is efficient and prompt. F&B is attentive during breakfast time, but slightly easygoing at other times. Front Office staff is helpful and knowledgeable about local sights, etc. The resort also has mini vans for airport pick and drop services that have these really great massage seats in the van; a truly fantastic idea!
The hotel gets many things right, but equally, some tweaking is required. For instance, there are no mirrors in the room itself; a full-length mirror especially is an essential requirement. Moreover, placing a plug point (socket) at table level for the tea kettle is a good idea; presently, the socket is at floor level and so I had to place the kettle on the floor. Bright reading lights will also be very welcome. The boiler is very effective, but I can’t say the same for the air conditioning. The breakfast time ought to be increased to 10.30; 10am is too early for a resort. Pest control can also be improved upon.
Tamarind Village is just a two minute walk away from Tha Pae Gate, which is pretty much the centre of town. Chiang Mai is a city of Wats (temples) and so one can wander in a will (decently dressed, of course) at any of the local Wats. Tha Pae has a huge courtyard, where often times street musicians gather of an evening for an impromptu concert, along with hawkers squatting on the ground selling kitsch like keychains, scarves etc. The daily Night Market is about a 20-minute walk from Tamarind Village, while the Sunday Market is closer. Things to buy should include the Lanna embroidered cushion covers or tops for ladies. In terms of mall shopping, there is a Central and a Robinson. Those who are worried about food can relax; there are plenty of restaurants serving the usual western dishes such as pasta, pizza and burgers, while the city also has MacDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks outlets (sadly!)
The Doi Suthep is worth a visit – a temple perched on quite a high mountain top. There are plenty of elephant camps you can visit, although all do not offer rides in keeping with animal welfare practices; for the same reason, I am not sure if Tiger Kingdom is in operation anymore. From Chiang Mai, you can also do day excursions to Lampang, an hour away and known for its local pottery, or Chiang Rai, two hours away and famous for its exquisite White Temple as well as the dark and majestically carved Black Temple. Chiang Rai is on the border with Myanmar, so you can buy cheap jade as well as silver trinkets here.
Chiang Mai is a 75-minute flight from Bangkok, with several airlines such as THAI, Bangkok Airways, NokAir etc, flying to the ‘Rose of the North.’ The airport is among the largest in Thailand and several carriers fly in directly from various international cities, bypassing Bangkok. A return trip Bangkok-Chiang Mai on Bangkok Airways costs THB 2,900 as an example; of course, the earlier you buy your ticket, the better the price. By train or bus from Bangkok, it would be an overnight journey; by train from Hua Lampong station, it is approximately 800 baht one way in a second AC sleeper.
Tamarind Village, Chiang Mai
Tel: +66 53 418896
Fax: +66 53 418900
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.