Once an independent kingdom that spanned across Myanmar and parts of Thailand, “Lanna” is now a term that is used to describe the unique traditions of Northern Thailand. Although I’ve lived in Thailand before, I’ve never lived in Northern Thailand, and I was excited to see the subtle cultural differences between our previous home in Ratchaburi Province, compared to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai, everything from the food and language, to the architecture and art is defined by the area’s Lanna heritage.
Traditional Lanna houses, called Ruen Ka-lae, are constructed entirely from teak wood and built on stilts, elevated from the ground in order to protect against flooding during the rainy season. When we first arrived in Chiang Mai, we were very lucky to spend 6 nights at Swiss Lanna Lodge, a traditional Lanna house that has been beautifully converted into an intimate 7-room guesthouse.
The Artistic Room
We spent our first two nights in the Artistic Room, a small, fan-cooled room with two single beds. It’s one of the cheapest rooms at the guesthouse, yet I could immediately see the care taken into bringing together every detail of the room. Everything, from the mirror to the furniture, complimented the dark wood of the flooring and walls.
I wasn’t sure if we’d be warm in this second floor room during Chiang Mai’s hottest season with only an overhead fan, but the nighttime breeze from the two large windows beside the beds (which were mosquito-proof, of course) was absolutely perfect. Our bathroom was shared with some of the other guests and it was completely immaculate, plus we had easy access to a peaceful upstairs patio.
The Lotus Room
We spent the next two nights in the massive Lotus Room, which offers air-conditioning, a king size bed and a single bed. The king bed was the kind of soft that made it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, which is a rare thing in Asia, where the beds are often quite firm even in nicer guesthouses.
The room has a small sitting area, with a couch and cable TV, which Brent and I struggled to pull ourselves away from; after living without a TV for over two years, we get very easily sucked in by English movie channels.
At the far end of the room is a set of patio doors that lead to the outdoor bathroom and shower area. Despite being set outside, the bathroom rarely even had a stray leaf on the ground. It was amazingly clean, and it felt lovely to shower under the warm Thai sun.
The Pasha Room
Our last two nights were spent in the Pasha Room, which was probably our favourite of all three. This room has a king size bed, air-conditioning, and a small separate room with fridge and safe. Like the other rooms, the decorations in this room are completely unique, with deep red and grey linens, Buddha-inspired accents, and an antique-looking gong.
The bathroom is set outside, around the corner from a large terrace, lawn and Jacuzzi. Again, it was the small touches that impressed me the most, like the bright purple flower that appeared on our bathroom sink every day.
If there’s any downside to the Swiss Lanna Lodge, it’s that it’s located a little less than 4km from the main tourist area, the Old City. However, the guesthouse offers both motorbike and regular push-bike rental on-site, and with a scooter, it only took us about 5 minutes to drive downtown. The sites in Chiang Mai are widespread enough that we would have rented a scooter either way, so this really didn’t affect our experience.
With only a few rooms, there was a really welcoming, small family kind of feeling at the Swiss Lanna Lodge. We tended to see the other guests at the patio each morning for breakfast, and Toto, the manager, was almost always around, asking us about our day when we returned each evening.
I really enjoyed the breakfast menu of staples like muesli and omelettes, although the highlight was probably the coffee, which came in two styles: Lavazza Italian-style coffee, or Doi Kham, which is a brand of coffee produced in Northern Thailand.
Overall, I highly recommend Swiss Lanna Lodge, particularly if you’re interested in staying in a one-of-a-kind location that really embraces Chiang Mai’s distinct heritage.
Disclosure: Swiss Lanna Lodge hosted us for 6 nights in exchange for this review, however, I strive to provide honest reviews, and I only tell you something is good if I really do like it!