Our group held on to the last remaining lantern at the grounds of Dhara Dhevi, waiting for the air inside to heat up and make it buoyant enough to rise across the deepening night sky. Quicker than expected, I felt it pull upwards, wanting release. Silently, each one said their personal wishes and let it go.
Chiang Mai was the second city we visited for TCEB’s Thailand Connect: Hip & Heritage Business Events tour. The city is second only to Bangkok when it comes to MICE tourism in Thailand.
From the Don Muang airport, we boarded a THAI Airways flight to Chiang Mai International Airport. Like our previous ride from Manila to Bangkok, it was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever had. After quickly checking in at the Siripanna Villa Resort we proceeded to Dhara Devi for dinner.
As we entered Dhara Devi’s manicured grounds, I was immediately struck by the clusters of structures dotting its lawn. That lawn, I was to find out later, was 60 acres vast. At first I thought we were at a Lanna historical site, judging from the buildings we were passing, when I heard my companion exclaim that she has actually stayed here previously.
Stayed? What? This is a resort?
Dhara Devi is in fact is fairly new, opening its gates to visitors only ten years ago. The heritage buildings I saw were mere reproductions of Lanna Kingdom structures prevalent during the 13th to 18th century on the northern region of Thailand. The temples, traditional villas and colonial mansions, however were so convincingly legit-looking that it led me into believing that we were actually inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like seriously.
Riding a golf-cart, we alighted at an open pavilion where we were greeted by Chiang Mai’s current governor Suriya Prasatbandit and his wife. They presented us with a baci bracelet for peace and good fortune. It was said that those presented with such must keep the bracelet on for three days before untying it. No scissors too.
Our group was then led to a court at the back of the pavilion for dinner.
A long table was set, complete with candle lights. It was a really lovely setting, with Dhara Dhevi’s ancient looking structures proudly silhouetted against the evening sky as our backdrop.
Starters were deep-fried prawn rolls with breaded sour pork sausage and grilled marinated pork; a traditional Chiang Mai hors d’oeuvres. Even with such fanciness, I immensely enjoyed it; it was like street-food with style! It was curious to note that the grilled marinated pork is actually something we Filipinos are quite familiar with, chicharon.
On the left side of our table is a small field with rice paddies. And after some bites, we were requested to turn our attention to its direction. Three women dressed in beautifully printed dresses suddenly came into view, walking along the ridges of the paddies, holding colorful paper umbrellas; the Lanna Umbrella Dance.
The dance was accompanied by three guys playing traditional Thai music. One was holding a string instrument called sueng, another a khim (hammered dulcimer) and the last, a Thai drum called taphon. This sort of brought me back to Cambodia where I first heard and got enchanted by the sound of a khim. There is absolutely nothing like it.
Unfortunately, the heavens weren’t as eager to cooperate as we’d like. Halfway through the performance, rain started to patter down and we have to move inside Dhara Dhevi’s Farang Ses restaurant.
A Burma Mark Dance ensued as we continued our dinner and finally a Lanna Candle Dance. I was inadvertently seated on the governor’s table and when I tried to change seats, I was unable to. The governor insisted that I stay with them.
Err… Okay then.
While I’m not really the most social person, I did have some interesting conversation with Chiang Mai’s head honcho.
Before closing the night, we headed to one of the temples inside Dhara Dhevi to release giant sky lanterns. The locals call these Khom loy and are used for good luck. I’ve always wanted to do this, but never really got the chance given that I live in Manila and releasing one would probably trigger a massive fire outbreak.
But this time, in Chiang Mai, I finally got to get my wish granted. And more than that, I got to ask for another wish as I released my Khom loy and watch it soar and light the evening sky.
Dhara Dhevi Resort and Hotel
Address: 51/4 Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road,
T. Tasala, A. Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Contact Number: +66 (53) 888 888
Rates and Online Booking: Click Here
GPS Coordinates Map: 18°46'40.9"N 99°02'12.5"E