North Thailand’s Lanna heritage charms business events professionals.
Thailand’s northern capital is proud of its unique Lanna heritage and the diversity of smaller cultures that populate the region. And they like to emphasise their hospitality.
“The hospitality of northern Thai people is tops,” says Thai Hotels Association (Northern Chapter) president and Chiang Mai native, La-iad Bungsrithong. “Hospitality is in our DNA.”
A record 2.6 million visitors came to Chiang Mai in 2018 and an increasing number of those visitors are business travellers. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second biggest ‘MICE city’ (after Bangkok) and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is strongly promoting the region to business events professionals.
“Chiang Mai is ready,” says Bungsrithong. The city is home to the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre (CMECC), which opened in 2013 and can accommodate 10,000 delegates. There are also several five-star hotels with meeting facilities.
In 2018, the city hosted 25 international conferences and is currently ranked 25th in Asia in the latest International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) city rankings (110th globally).
Getting to Chiang Mai is easy (the city is currently served by more than 200 daily flights by 26 airline), but the logistics of getting around can be challenging and infrastructure development is slow due to the city’s many archeological sites, some not yet discovered.
“The good news is investment is being made in roads and rail routes,” insists Chiang Mai vice governor, Komson Suwanampa.
Chiang Mai has more than 250 hotels, with 60,000 rooms — a remarkable number of a city its size. Accommodation runs the whole spectrum from luxury five-star hotels, resorts and spas to guest houses and homestays.
RatiLanna Riverside Spa Resort (below) is popular for private events with its spacious riverside lawn and restaurant that seats more than 100 inside and out. Guest rooms have big balconies, while its spa specialises in Lanna-style massage. An additional 40 rooms will open by the of this year, taking the total number of rooms to 115.
Housed in one of the city’s tallest buildings, Le Meridien Chiang Mai has great views and includes private meetings rooms, an executive lounge and a grand banquet hall that seats more than 1,000 pax.
Meanwhile, the 277-room Shangri-La Hotel has garden-view rooms and is an easy five-minute walk to the night market.
Twenty kilometres north of the city centre, Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, includes a small working rice farm in its landscaped gardens and rice terraces. The property is designed to be environmentally sensitive, both in its use of materials and how it fits with the environment. Located in lush Mae Rim Valley it includes meeting facilities, and a spa.
For a taste of Lanna cuisine and culture, the traditional Khantoke dinner and show at the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre includes local dishes served on authentic Khantoke (pedestal trays). Couple this with a Lanna massage at Health Lanna Spa or RatiLanna Riverside Spa Resort.
At Meena Rice-Based Cuisine (above), corporate groups can learn how to make spicy Thai salad, then eat their efforts. The restaurant, set among trees and a garden, offers a range of cooking workshops.
At Baan Tawai, renowned for its carvings for more than 100 years, you can watch and learn from experts, and you can try your hand at carving your own masterpiece, or at least a unique souvenir.
At the Patan Community the Yong Chom people (main image) have preserved their traditions and offer workshops in painting cloth bags, making baskets from palm, and other crafts (above). Be sure to visit village’s 206-year-old temple.
For coffee aficionados, watching the upstream production at Ban Mae Ton Community Fresh Coffee Enterprise where the coffee is grown in a clean environment more than 1,000 metres above sea level is a must. Then visit Doi Saket Agricultural Cooperative to watch the downstream process of selecting, roasting and grinding the coffee beans.