Lacking the white sand beaches and seaside resort feel of some of Thailand’s more popular tourist destination, Chiang Mai has attracted tourists more due to its rich culture, Lanna heritage and the mountainous terrain that surround the city. Chiang Mai also has an interesting history as one of Southeast Asia’s key markets for the burgeoning teak tree trade in the late 19th and 20th centuries and no where is this rich history experienced in more comfort and luxury than at the all-suite 137 Pillars House hotel.
Named for the number of teak tree pillars on which it was built, 137 Pillars House used to be part of the headquarters of the Borneo Company Limited, which, following a royal decree in 1883 by King Mongkut which gave permission for foreigners to exploit the riches of the dense forests in the region, expanded its business into northern Thailand. Up until the Second World War, the house was the home of the head of the company, amongst them Louis Leonowens, the son of Anna Leonowens, who taught English at the royal court of King Mongkut and inspired the novel Anna and the King of Siam.
Today, 137 Pillars House has been renovated into a beautiful 30-key boutique hotel, located in an quaint area of the city full of little shops, tea houses and restaurants. The renovation of of the main heritage building took more than three years, during which all the original woodwork was restored and a new ceiling put in. Amongst the modern luxuries include espresso machines in all suites, complimentary Wifi internet, intelligent air conditioning system that automatically turns off when the door to the balcony is open – and turns on when it closes –, and flat screen LCD television. The hotel is undoubtedly one of the more luxurious in the city (with rates to match), but remains unrivaled in its unique experiential offerings.
137 Pillars House is located on Nawatgate Road on the east side of the Ping River, which during the 19th and 20th century was the only enclave where foreigners were allowed to settle.
The main building features beautiful hardwood furniture and colourful silks which complement the 125 year old house beautifully. (Due to tricky lighting issues I’ve borrowed these two images from the hotel website to really give the space justice!)
The main building of 137 Pillars House, whose original structure dates back to 1889, hosts the hotel’s restaurants, bars and lounges. The menu at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Dining Room features northern delicacies and Thai favourites with a twist, including (clockwise from top-right) red curry with duck, eggplant and stir fried chayote greens in a smokey oyster sauce, and a twist on the classic Thai som tam salad, here using smoked Norwegian salmon.
The pool area at the 137 Pillars House is framed off from the spa and the reception area by a tall green wall. It gives the 25-metre pool a lovely tropical touch, despite the hotel’s urban setting.
The reception area of 137 Pillars House. Everything apart from the main building was newly built for the hotel’s opening in 2011 (soft opening) but the architects kept the style clean and in line with the same quaint, historic charm as the main building
All 30 suites at the hotel feature a private balcony or terrace overlooking the lush gardens of the hotel. The 30 suites come in four different types; Rajah Brooke Suites (70 sqm), East Borneo Suites (75 sqm), William Bain Suites (100 sqm) and Louis Leonowens Pool Suites at (135 sqm).
All the rooms and the common areas feature framed pictures of Chiang Mai during the time of the Borneo Company. The pictures depict architectural landmarks, notable gentlemen or captured moments of everyday life.
The suites are tastefully decorated with colonial hints – everywhere you look there are vintage touches, such as this lion’s claw-foot bathtub. All bathrooms feature both indoor and al fresco showers.
The beds at 137 Pillars House, wrapped with 400-thread count linen, may be amongst the most comfortable I have tried.
All suites come with bright and airy marble bathrooms with dual wash basins, Panpuri bathroom amenities, bathtub, plus indoor and al fresco showers.