I've just come back from the most wonderful vacation in Chiang Mai, so just wanted to share a little about where my husband and I were lucky enough to be able to stay: The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi. We booked the vacation at the very last minute and had explored all the usual beachy options such as Phuket, Cebu etc., but just weren't finding anything that felt terribly exciting. I had always wanted to go to Chiang Mai, as it sounds so mysterious, and I loved the idea of escaping to somewhere cooler from the Hong Kong heat. We stumbled across the Mandarin Dhara Dhevi, and were initially a little wary, as we generally try to choose small hotels rather than big resorts. Then we realized that even though the resort is spread over an incredible 60 acres, the hotel actually only has 90 rooms, so isn't enormous.
When we arrived at the hotel, we had read some reviews on Tripadvisor that accuse the place of being a little Disney-fied, as it was only built 3 years ago, but made to look old, e.g. fake rice paddies, imitation temples, over-the-top theme park-sized dragons. We did see that point of view, but also fell in love with the huge pool, our incredible villa and the amazing service. The fact that the resort has been created to be larger-than-life just made it feel more fun for us, and more of a contrast with Hong Kong aesthetics. It felt like a vacation for the eyes to be surrounded by so much beauty. The current financial climate also means that you should be able to get a great deal - free nights, spa packages and room upgrades are all among the extra perks you can negotiate.
Our trip to Chiang Mai ended up being our most relaxing vacation for years - now we're hooked on countryside rather than beach holidays!