Resorts with a view are a dime a dozen. Hotels with water features? There are aplenty. How about one that has a waterfall cascading through the property? When we had a chance for a three-night getaway to Chiang Mai at Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa, we jumped at the opportunity. Oh did I mention Angelina Jolie has stayed there before too? Not that I’m a huge fan, but her photo is showcased quite prominently on the hotel website, so thought I’d drop the name.
Airport pickup was included as part of the package – it would’ve been THB 800 (~US$25.70) one-way for the Chiang Mai airport taxi counter otherwise. 40 minutes later, we arrived to the sound of a dim hum which got louder and louder as we walked towards the reception counter, also noticing the considerable difference in the crispness of the mountain air.
Check-in was swift and we were shown to our room, located on the second floor of a building flanking the side of the waterfall. All the staff are locally-hired, and quite sweet. We did notice that every single one of them asked us if we wanted to go on a tour. They weren’t pushy, but definitely seemed like someone was paying good commission.
Our room, the Deluxe Jacuzzi Panorama, had a large day bed, a small desk with a water boiler and some complimentary coffee and tea packets, and a bathroom with a Jacuzzi that filled up fast (but they sadly didn’t provide any bath salts or anything of the sort). The balcony was big and provided glimpses at the waterfall through the surrounding mature, green landscape.
Bags down, we got straight to exploring. First on the list? The menu for lunch. I’d been thinking about two of my favorite northern Thai dishes (link to northern Thai dishes blog) – gaeng hung-ley and saiua – for days. But alas, as the diet gods would have it, I had to wait for the kitchen to restock both. Instead, we ended up having a light(ish) lunch of healthy treats.
Full of good fresh food (decently priced), we continued on our reconnaissance mission.
A suspension bridge leads to the opposite bank of the river, which is home to just two rooms (both Ecotented Villas). This would be ideal for a group of friends – the waterfall is loud enough to drown any rowdiness and noise, and you’re practically inserted into the jungle for that additional glamping feel.
I had previously scanned the spa menu in the room, but decided to skip a treatment as the rates were high, even for a resort spa. And that’s coming from a spa-lover who is quite liberal with the purse strings on holidays.
We were one of the few guests at the resort at the time. That is, if you don’t count the resident pair of geese, brood of miniature chicken, and ostentation of peacocks which strangely added to the laid back atmosphere of the place. They mainly stuck to the water’s edge and around the restaurant, save for some nosy peacocks that wandered up to the unoccupied balcony adjacent to ours.
What I did not expect was how noisy the waterfall was – you really do notice the constant ringing in your ear. Not annoyingly so, but enough that I had to make occasional breaks inside the room with my book to bask in the relative silence. The internet was patchy. Serves us right for working on our holidays I suppose. We did find some time to off-road stomp around the grounds though, in the hills behind the Eco-tented villas.
We didn’t leave the resort during our three nights there. This could have driven some people mad (but I guess they can just ask any of the staff to book them onto a tour), but we absolutely loved it. The rooms aren’t ultra luxe, nor the newest, and in terms of maintenance and building materials, Sukantara is more rustic than luxury. It’s not for everyone, but for those looking for a natural hideaway, it doesn’t get better than this.
Know before you go:
+ Stunning forest setting with a waterfall gently cascading through the property
+ Decently priced food that tastes great.
+ Natural and relaxing atmosphere and (literally) a breath of fresh air
– There’s nothing within walking distance, so you need to organize wheels
– The setting is au naturel, so expect a few ants
– Some guests might not like the resident birds roaming freely around the resort grounds