The Luxe List 2012, Thailand: 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai

The number of teak pillars supporting a traditional Thai house was once a measure of wealth and grandeur; and the old residence at the heart of this hotel in Chiang Mai’s artsy Wat Gate precinct definitely sits at the upper end of that scale. Built in 1889 for the British Borneo Company, when it served as the home of Louis Leonowens (son of the English governess of Anna and the King of Siam fame), the house has been restored to its former resplendence, and is inhabited by a library, a gym, and a colonial-styled lounge where guests can kick back with a lemongrass-infused cocktail or enjoy one of the regular art exhibitions and musical recitals. Its open shutters look onto manicured lawns strewn with teal-cushioned opium beds in the shade of centuries-old mimosas and lady palms.

A sense of grand nostalgia extends to the 30 large suites, each with inside and alfresco living areas. Silver claw-foot bathtubs, hand-painted tiles, and four-poster beds are complemented with pretty fabrics and high-tech toys, including espresso machines and speedy Wi-Fi. Should you wish to rouse yourself from your canopied daybed, you can sign up for northern-Thai cooking lessons, indulge in treatments at the spa, or go for a dip in the pool under a wall of vines.

2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Rd.; 66-53/247-788;; doubles from US$210.

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