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Puripunn exterior, day

Chiang Mai, Thailand
It's a country synonymous with backpackers, noise and nightclubs, but Thailand's ancient culture is never far away. Simon Gresswell discovers a tranquil oasis in Chiang Mai.

first impressions
Located on a leafy side street near the Ping River, the Puripunn, with its oriental roofs and modern pillars, offers traditional luxury in the most tranquil setting you can imagine.

This small and intimate hideaway has 30 bedrooms overlooking a swimming pool and lush, tropical gardens. It was built, lovingly, in a contemporary 'Lanna-Oriental' style reflecting the traditional homes found in Chiang Mai during the colonial period.

Indeed, the word puri means town or city, and punn means 'to share'; as a literal translation, Puripunn means 'we share our home-town with you'.

The hotel itself is only a short (complimentary) ride by tuk-tuk from the hustle and bustle of the city's markets, bazaars and riverside restaurants. Here you'll discover a melting pot of cultures and traditions.

Property magnate Att Viravaidhya, the hotel's managing director, said he was so touched by the generosity of locals that Chiang Mai was the obvious spot to build.

He added: "I want it to feel like a home more than like a hotel."

The high ceilings and unique twin-door entrance are typical of Lanna-Oriental luxury. Rooms are simple, spacious and elegant, with rich greens, reds and polished wooden floors. Golden picture frames with artwork of the traditional mule caravan routes of the ancient kingdom adorn the walls. Here's a nice touch: the hotel's designers purposefully used five different colour schemes to give returning guests a 'new' room.

Puripunn bedroom

Rooms have king-sized beds, a day bed-cum-recliner, private veranda (bring a good mosquito spray – they come out in force at dusk and at dawn!), flat-screen TV with cable, IDD telephone and DVD player. There's also a mini-bar, safe, tea and coffee making facilities, desk and stationary, torch and complimentary wireless internet access. The Puripunn Grand Suite even has its own private swimming pool.

Bathrooms have marble floors and ornate wooden carvings. Deluxe rooms and suites are extra spacious and come with complimentary amenities, a separate rain shower room and a giant raised pot sink big enough to swim in.

food and drink
Whether you fancy traditional Thai cuisine (Penang Moo is a local specialty), or some home comfort Western food, the Punna Café caters for both the adventurous and the homesick. Dine inside or on the veranda overlooking over the Puripunn complex – the choice is yours. For some local food try the Northern Thai dishes.

The Pool Lounge also serves light meals, snacks and a selection of drinks, cocktails and wines from 11.00am to midnight. High Tea, reminiscent of those who lived in majestic homes of Thai Lanna nobility, is the pride of the Puripunn and is served between 3pm and 5.30pm.

Puripunn exterior, night

If you fancy heading out for dinner, a five-minute stroll will bring you to Riverside Restaurant, where you can dine on a boat, or in either of the restaurants. Portions aren't huge, but the food is delicious. Stick around after your meal for the nightly live bands and draught beer.

service with a smile?
It's always nice after a long flight or bus ride to be welcomed into the hotel with a complimentary drink, and the Puripunn doesn't disappoint. Staff are friendly at all times, and are always available to lend a hand.

Traditional Lanna service the byword here; the Puripunn does everything to make you feel at home. Expect complimentary tea and coffee, a fruit basket, flowers, Thai desserts and a daily paper.

local attractions
Ask any Thai person where to go to experience 'real Thailand' and they will tell you Chiang Mai. Locals are extremely proud of the country's second city and its colourful past.

Circumvented by a two kilometre moat, this historic city is packed with culture, markets and temples, or 'Wats'. The main market is the night bazaar in the centre of town, but if you're not looking for souvenirs and want a more authentic Lanna experience, head to Gad Waroros, a traditional open-air market. Here you'll find everything from farm produce to ceramics.

Chiang Mai is the country's trekking centre and, if you have the time, an expedition into the mountains or jungle is a must. Ride elephants, go white-water rafting or throw yourself into oblivion off a bungee chord; if you're in search of thrills, you've come to the right place.

For a more relaxed excursion, take an architectural tour of Chiang Mai. Stroll along Charoenrat Road and admire the exquisite old buildings, from galleried teak mansions to Chinese-style shops. Taking a tour is also a good time to learn about the region's past. Did you know: Thailand's far north is an historical crossroads where Thai tribesman traded goods with dignitaries from the Chinese Empire.

will it break the bank?
Not at all; rooms of sizes and styles are reasonably priced. There's an array of seasonal offers, too. Prices change regularly, so check out the website for details.

Puripunn - A Baby Grand Boutique Hotel
104/1 Charoen Muang Soi 2
Charoen Muang Road
T. Wade Gade, A. Muang
Chiang Mai 50000

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