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Review: Le Meridien Chiang Mai

The towering tan building shoots toward the sky above Chiang Mai, Thailand from the heart of town. Surrounded by a handful of other older tower-like hotels, the Le Meridien comparably appears newer. The five-star hotel can’t necessarily be called a resort, but has many of the amenities you’ve come to expect from resort-like hotels.

Le Meridien is Starwood’s only property in Chiang Mai, and one of only a few internationally recognized brand hotels; with that comes the peace of mind of a certain quality and standard, but it leaves much to be desired when it comes to a cultural experience. Le Meridien’s raised-ceiling lobby is stuffed with modern furniture and a sleek, polished reception area, but it lacks the uniquely Thai touch.

The building is centrally located just blocks away from Chiang Mai’s old town where you’ll find several of the city’s biggest temples along with an array of western restaurants and tourist shops. Just steps from the Le Meridien itself is Chiang Mai’s bustling night market – it literally wraps around the hotel. If you’re traveling with kids, a McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, etc. are just across the street so you can satisfy those picky eaters.

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The service is unparalleled as dozens of true professionals stand ready at the door, with the concierge or behind the reception desk. They can and will help with absolutely anything you need. If you are a Starwood Preferred Guest member, more specifically a Platinum member, you’ll be ushered to the lounge located on the 21st floor for check in. They truly do honor your membership status here with upgrades and top-notch amenities. For Platinums, you’ll find your free breakfast in the lounge until 11am (or you have the option of eating at the more extensive buffet downstairs until 10am), a free tea and hors d’oeuvres from 3pm to 5pm and cocktail hour with a decent array of finger foods (enough to make a meal while you drink the night away) from 6pm until 8pm. During cocktail hour, an actual bar, staffed with a professional bartender, is assembled in the corner of the lounge and each night a signature cocktail is offered. While there is a bar area, it’s simply not used as such and guests tend to order drinks from a menu at their seats from one of about three staff members assigned to the lounge. The lounge itself is two floors and decorated in the same modern, black and tan style that graces the downstairs lobby. The chairs themselves aren’t the most comfortable, but it is one of the better lounges we’ve had in Southeast Asia and the views of Chiang Mai and the nearby mountains are wonderful.

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If you’re a Starwood member with status, chances of receiving an upgrade here are very high and the suites are pretty sweet. I can’t speak for a standard room, but across the board this is one of the more comfortable rooms we’ve come across in the region. A beautiful, modern living room separated from the bedroom by a wall, mounted on each side with large flatscreen TVs, is a great place to relax and includes, in our instance a somewhat dirty couch, a full size, round dining table, a circular coffee table, a Bose audio system, a DVD player and a beverage bar with LaVaza coffee maker, complimentary water (four bottles per day) and a mini-bar.

The bedroom is flanked by yet another lengthy couch and centers around the most luxurious and comfortable bed we’ve slept on in our five months of travel. The mattress or pillow top is perfectly soft and the pillows themselves are heavenly with four pillows – two firmer and two softer.

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To the right of the bedroom sits the bathroom with the largest bathtub we’ve seen. The square tub is more like a the size of a small hot tub and is perfectly positioned to overlook the city from two ceiling to tub windows. The shower is no joke either with the best shower head with the highest water pressure we’ve encountered. A massive shower head hangs directly from the ceiling in the large walk-in shower, while a wall-mounted, hand-held head is offered on the side. Two modern sinks, a walk-in closet and a separate room with a toilet and sink complete the bathroom. I assume the sinks are the same across the board, and my advice is to turn them only gently as the way they’re designed lends itself to soaking your pants with water.

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While the Le Meridien is definitely one of the top hotels in Chiang Mai, it does have its pit falls. For starters, it’s extremely busy. Big tour buses pull in throughout the day dumping dozens of tourists, and many linger downstairs to soak up the free wifi offered in the lobby. There is plenty of staff, but they can oftentimes get overwhelmed when a large group arrives; however, we never once waited for more than a few minutes for help with something. The constant crowds, though, lend to a very hectic and unnerving breakfast experience. They’re often out of food, and working frantically to refill it but they always do. At one point, the executive chef was out at the buffet trying to make enough pancakes and waffles. With that being said, the buffet is wonderful and extensive, but there really isn’t a time you can avoid the crowds unless you’re up with the sun. In addition, the tables are laid out extremely close to each other and you’re surrounded by people, which doesn’t lend itself to a relaxing breakfast atmosphere.

The pool is great, but on the small side. There are two other small plunge-type pools along with the main infinity pool on the 4th floor. That’s where you’ll also find the Le Meridien Spa, which is about what you would expect from a hotel spa, prices included. During our stay, there was a 50% off promotion for services from 10am to 12:00pm, but that only knocked the price down to 30-40 dollars for a 120 minute service, which I must admit is a fraction of what you would pay in the US. I would have definitely taken advantage of the deal, but we’ve been traveling for months and are watching our pennies. If that’s the case, you can opt for a 60 minute Thai massage for 200 Baht ($7 US) just about anywhere in town including just one block down from the Le Meridien. The fitness center is complete with everything you would need for a work out including great cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights.

Overall, it was a very, very pleasant stay and one I would highly recommend, especially if you are an SPG member. The points to value ratio is decent at this property as we only used 4,000 points for this category two (3,000 points for weekend nights) or you can pick up a room online through Agoda and other booking sites for around $120.00 US in the low season – a decent deal, but still slightly overpriced for Southeast Asia and Thailand especially. It seem Starwood Hotels and Resorts as well as other well-known international hotels don’t dip their prices as much as you would expect in some foreign countries – but demand, the name and the reputation set the price and the company can get away with it.

On a side note, I want to take a moment to truly thank the concierge staff at the hotel. After leaving our rain jackets (a must-have for Southeast Asia in rainy season) on a bus from Chiang Rai, two members of the concierge’s desk made an extra effort to help us get them back. Not only did they call the company and file a report, but they followed up constantly for two days until our jackets were found. Once the company located them, the hotel made sure the were delivered from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, even after we had left. They then mailed them both to the Sheraton Four Points in Bangkok where we were staying at the time. They truly went above and beyond the call of duty – and that seems to be the case for all the staff at the Le Meridien. They honestly work their tails off each day to ensure your stay is a pleasant one. They are prompt and professional and deserve the utmost thanks and respect.