The large monolithic red brick Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel next to Central Huay Kaew shopping mall might not look desperately exciting from the outside, but it’s a good spot to waste away a few hours on a hot Chiang Mai afternoon if you’ve no pool in your own Chiang Mai hotel. The hotel itself is actually rather a good midrange deal, but the main attraction for non-residents is their large, clean and almost always practically empty pool.
The open-air swimming pool is located on the third floor of the hotel, overlooking Huay Kaew Road, and while not exactly surrounded by a lush garden, it’s pleasant enough.
Loungers beckon around the pool, a few pot plants lend a little green and if you’re lucky there may even be drink and snack service — but you most definitely won’t get bombed by obnoxious brats, have to do exaggerated zig-zag lengths to avoid other swimmers or queue up to use the showers.
In addition to the pool, you can use a well-equipped gym, with staff on standby to provide assistance and both male and female saunas. The gym looks to have lots of impressive and complicated machines but we’ll admit it’s not our area of expertise, while the saunas are spacious and clean. You’ll probably have the sauna to yourself and are never going to have to wait to use one of their torture apparatuses either.
Staff are helpful, a little bit of English is spoken and towels and soap are provided. For non-guests it’s 150 baht for unlimited time, and free for kids. (We’re not quite sure how old the latter need to be to earn the free entry, but Thais usually go on height, so ask your kids to kneel down a little when you’re paying the entrance fee.)
You pay your entrance fees in the downstairs lobby then take the lift to the third floor. The facilities are open all day, every day from 8:00ish in the morning to around 20:00. The Orchid is located on Huay Kaew Road immediately next to Central and below is a photo of the outside, just so you know you’re at the right place. The rather ritzy lobby has an open-air beer garden attached, so you can re-hydrate after a sauna.
This isn’t the cheapest pool in town but it’s a good deal if you do have a few hours to while away, especially with kids in tow.
By Mark Ord.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.