It’s a trap I easily fall into whenever I’m in one place for a long time.
I stop exploring.
I get stuck in a routine of doing the same things, going to the same places and see the same people…even if I know there’s still more to discover.
When it comes to exploring Chiang Mai, I’ve certainly seen a lot. I could literally name nearly 100 cafes off the top of my head, have visited just as many temples, have been lucky to get massages in the region’s nicest spas, have walked every little soi in the Old City, and generally can come up with at least a couple recommendations in response to any question I get asked from visitors.
And sometimes it feels like I’ve seen all there is to see. I mean, I pass the same fruit shake sellers on the street that were there in the same place when I first moved here.
Sometimes it feels a little stale…but then something happens or I get the opportunity to experience something new and I realize (yet again) that there’s still more to explore.
Especially when it comes to experiencing more just outside of town.
One of the best things about Chiang Mai is how quickly you can get out of it. From the center of town you can be on the top of Doi Suthep within 30 minutes or in the middle of the hills next to a hidden waterfall in 45.
For those looking for a quick getaway from Chiang Mai’s increasingly crazy traffic or those visiting from abroad who want a taste of a typical northern Thai hospitality, Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa is the place. Located in Mae Rim, a suburb and rural area just north of Chiang Mai, the resort feels worlds away from town and is built right around a large waterfall. Stilted individual bungalows over look the falls while other rooms and tents are situated further down on either side of the falls.
It’s pretty incredible.
Particularly when you go in the rainy season and there are less people but more water. Ten minutes after we arrived the relatively calm falls turned into a raging cascade of water as water from heaving rains higher un in the mountains made their way down in what’s called naam bpaa – which translates literally as “jungle water”.
While it had been raining almost nonstop the week before, we lucked out on weather and had relatively clear skies, but honestly it would have been just fine in the rain with large windows from our Waterfall Lanna Cottage looking out on the property and falls below.
Along with the stunning location, the boutique resort stands out for being totally Thai. Northern Lanna touches are apparent everywhere, from the red paper umbrellas and clay water pots, to wooden fixtures and a complete khantoke meal (featuring several small sharing dishes of northern delicacies) available for dinner.
It’s also a little quirky. Real peacocks roam the property while some larger-than-life bird figurines greet you near reception. (You’ll find a lot of large cartoon-like statues in Thailand, something I still haven’t figured out.) If you’re squeamish about birds or bugs in your outside bathroom, you may want to consider somewhere else. The resort is nice, but it’s in the middle of the hills surrounded by jungle so has a rustic quality to it.
At its core though, the resort is about relaxing and reconnecting with nature…
…or relaxing at the spa which has an open air reception sala and also overlooks the falls.
Rooms at Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai are priced starting at 3,500 baht in the low season from May 1 – October 31 and 6,000 baht in the high season from November 1 – April 30. The Waterfall Lanna Cottage that I stayed in is priced at 4,700 baht and 7,800 baht respectively. I like to try and book directly through hotels themselves, especially for boutique properties, but that said, for the low season prices were considerably lower on Agoda.
It’s very easy and direct to reach the resort. Even though it’s in a relatively remote area, there is a direct route and the location on Google maps was correct. We drove up on a motorbike and just followed GPS. The drive is not difficult or steep and takes just 45-50 minutes from the center of Chiang Mai’s Old City. Of course, the property can also arrange transportation.
Note: I was a grateful guest of Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
Enter your email for a taste of different worlds, must-read posts, and special offers.
(Don't worry, I'll never spam you — just send the good stuff.)