You drive up an undulating hill from Chiang Mai's centre to get to this riverside hotel, and the open-air reception sits under huge white pillars, so the first impression is a regal one. Listen to the birds chirping, the water flowing along the river, Thai music playing on a small fisherman's boat passing by: we defy you to not feel relaxed.
Raya Heritage sits on the Ping River in a quiet residential area, so the direct neighbourhood isn’t worthy of too much exploration. A great dinner option just a few minutes away is Huan Soontaree, a very traditional northern Thai restaurant where famous-in-Chiang Mai singer, and restaurant owner, Soontaree, serenades the almost exclusively local clientele most nights.
This is a boutique hotel: there are only 33 rooms, split into three categories.
The ground-floor Kraam Pool suites are decked out in locally dyed indigo blue fabrics and come with private pools; the first-floor Rin Terrace suites feature black and white decor; and the second-floor Huen Bon suites are an airy study in neutrals. The suites on both floors feature dreamy river-view terraces with comfy daybeds.
Which room should you book? We would personally forgo a lap pool for the day bed that looks out to the river, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Polite and eager, yet very discreet: this is a relatively new hotel, but any teething issues were superseded by the team’s warm sense of hospitality.
Designed by Thai architect Boonlert Hemvijitraphan, the ethos, decor, food and architecture of the hotel are all inspired by the Lanna Kingdom that ran across northern Thailand, Laos and parts of China in the early and mid-20th century. Think raw, earthy materials and textiles.
People-wise, the hotel is designed so you don’t see or hear others, and we’re just fine with that.
Hotel breakfasts are very important to me, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Raya Heritage breakfast, included in most room rates, is the best we've ever had. It's served in the Khu Khao restaurant, which boasts decor that is very Lanna Kingdom meets The Hamptons. It's a choose-your-own adventure journey through an extensive a la carte menu: from sauteed mushrooms in interesting shapes and sizes to duck noodle soups and incredibly fresh juices – it's a feast that will see you through the day.
The attention to detail: the linen is of a dazzlingly high thread count, the eggs are organic and the soaps smell delicious. The little things count here, and that gives the whole place a sense of effortless luxury.
Nothing, truly. That said, the hotel is small and quite isolated: there’s not much to do on the property, or much to see within walking distance. This will be nectar for some, but a pain for those who prefer constant hustle and bustle. But you’re only a 20-minute drive to Old Town, which Raya offers a free shuttle bus to.
A small but well-formed hotel that’s perfect for those who detest big unwieldy resorts: one more for wedding parties or couples, rather than families with toddlers that need constant entertainment.
The bottom line
Rooms at Raya Heritage start from Dh1,100 per night, including daily breakfast and free transfers to and from Chiang Mai’s Old Town.