Just outside the attractive old city of Chiang Mai in northern
Thailand lies the Mandarin Oriental's Dhara Dhevi resort. Set amid
60 acres of paddy fields and lush greenery, this makes the ideal
base from which to explore the region's natural beauty and cultural
attractions. Elephant trekking, mountain biking, river rafting and
visits to the villages of the local hill tribes are some of the
activities on offer.
Chiang Mai itself, founded as the capital of Lanna - the
'Kingdom of One Million Rice Fields' that once ruled this part of
Southeast Asia - has impressive temples and atmospheric shopping at
the famous night bazaar.
The Dhara Dhevi has a renowned Ayurvedic spa and several good
restaurants that will appeal to parents. For children, there's an
excellent kids club where they can do everything from learning to
write their names in Thai to riding a water buffalo, mastering the
basics of yoga and Thai boxing, or planting rice in the paddy
fields. Nearby there are elephant camps where they can learn to
care for, ride, clean and understand these beautiful creatures, and
in the evenings there are 'night safaris' in the jungle to observe
nocturnal animals. Back at the resort, families can also enjoy
private dining in a traditional rice barn.
From Chiang Mai, there are direct flights down to Phuket, which
saves connecting via Bangkok. Thailand's largest island has some of
the best beaches in Asia and, in the Evason Phuket, another
top-class family-friendly hotel.
Like Dhara Dhevi, the Evason has a spa and a good kids club, but
the star attraction is its own private island, reached by a
fifteen-minute trip in a long-tail boat. Here there's a wonderful
sandy beach and a variety of watersports to choose from. The Evason
also has volleyball and floodlit tennis courts, its own dive centre
and offers day trips to destinations such as the scenic Khow Ping
Kan Islands, which featured in the James Bond film The Man with the