Jul 15 2011

Lanna style in North Thailand

Published by at 1:37 pm under Accommodation


Looking around Chiang Mai’s accommodation offerings it’s clear that for anywhere with pretensions above standard Thai hotel style or backpacker guesthouse chic then Lanna style is flavour of the month — or decade. But what is it? Good question. Historically and culturally Lanna refers to the northern Thai kingdom, founded in Chiang Saen but for much of its incarnation centered around Chiang Mai, and which lasted from the 13th to 18th centuries. So most older buildings, principally wats, are classified as Lanna style.

Typical elaborate Lanna period temple

Typical elaborate Lanna period temple.

For some, it’s a mere marketing ploy — a concrete block with a couple of antique-ish wood carvings on the wall might lead some hotels to claim a Lanna title, while some go totally to town on it and end up resembling a Lanna-style wat — Rachamanka is a case in point, where you could easily think you’ve walked into an impeccably manicured Chiang Mai temple (or museum) instead of an upmarket hotel.

Lanna hotel sign - not an original though

Lanna hotel sign. Ahem, not an original.

For most hotels, it means buying a job lot of reconditioned teak, lots of whitewash, a few ferns and palms and some objets d’art — ideally of a Buddhist nature — on said whitewashed walls. Oh, and dressing the staff up in what might pass for traditional northern Thai attire.

No - not a temple but a 'boutique resort'

Not a temple, silly, it's a boutique resort.

When it’s well done, it can look great: tasteful, elegant, classy and certainly better than knocking up a concrete block. See the lovely Lanna swimming pool below at The Rim Resort.

14th century swimming pool?

14th century swimming pool.

Though we did think perhaps the resort went a bit OTT on their spectacular entrance gate:

Prententious - moi?

For VVIPs.

It’s easy to be cynical but it’s a beautiful resort, with lush gardens, whitewashed stone walls and rooms tastefully finished off in wood, reconditioned teak and decorations — but there are a lot of places around like this. We reckon Tamarind Village would have been one of the first in downtown Chiang Mai to adopt the style, and their success certainly inspired others to follow.

An aside: Apparently even our townhouse is now Lanna style. It was just a regular concrete townhouse when we bought it but my wife decided to add a few traditional touches.

'Boutique' concrete townhouse?

'Boutique' concrete townhouse?

Now, locals and visitors alike often walk past saying, “Ooh, look at that Lanna-style townhouse!” and take photos. Some even come in to ask how much for a spa treatment. Or do we have rooms? Yes, that’s how popular the style has become. You’ve been warned.

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