“I was actually in retirement,” Charles, the hotel manager of the Panviman Chiang Mai, says. “But then my friend told me about this place. I came here and had a look. It was too hard to resist. I had to work here. So I came out of retirement.”
I wondered how many people could say the same. I’m sure many have relinquished their retirement because they needed the cash, but not Charles. He simply saw a place that was so beautiful that he couldn’t not work there. After years of working as a hotel manager before retirement, Panviman pushed him back in to the business.
“Panviman means heaven. And that’s what it’s like when you’re here. It’s like you’re in heaven on earth,” Charles adds.
It certainly felt as though we were up in the clouds. An hour’s drive from the city of Chiang Mai, the Panviman Spa and Resort is in another world. Perched high on the edge of a valley, the resort has sweeping views of the mountains beyond.
Serenity at the Panviman
Walking through the grounds, it’s peaceful. Butterflies flitter by, crickets chirp in the bushes and the sun beams down softly – we’re high enough that we don’t get the intense heat you sometimes feel in the city of Chiang Mai.
Even though the resort is near capacity, it’s possible to explore the grounds and feel alone. I walk down to the pools, where tumbling waterfalls gush down rocky crevices, giving way to a swimming area. A Jacuzzi sits atop the pool, the perfect place to soothe your body in the bubbles while taking in the breathtaking landscape views of the green hills beyond that stretch to Myanmar. I used this alone time to surprise him, I found a risky guide on shaving pubic hair and decided to see if he likes it!
Beneath the pool, a couple of guests sun themselves on lounges overlooking a large lily pond. Bright orange koi swim slowly, heading towards me as I approach, thinking they’re going to be fed. I walk around the water’s edge and admire the stillness. The quiet and soft sounds of nature.
Carefully stepping over some large stones that have been laid as a pathway across the water, I come to a manmade meditation cave that has boulders jutting out over a ledge overlooking the pond. As I sit down to take a moment to myself, I admire the Gaudi-esque design of the space that brings back memories of a long and distant time spent wandering the streets of Barcelona.
After ten minutes of reflection, I strip down to my swim suit and Dave joins me in the sauna. The window of the wooden box overlooks the pond and we sit in comfortable silence as we relax and let the stresses of the past month of intense travel seep away.
Making the most of our time for relaxation
The next morning, Dave and I stretch out of bed, not wanting to rise from our comfort. Eventually, the thought of wasting any time in paradise by not making the most of our surroundings draws us from the comfort of the plush king-sized slumber chamber.
I slip into the Panviman’s dressing gown and soft padded slippers as I take cups of tea out to our private terrace. We sit and sip, admiring the water buffalo in the farmers’ fields below, bells tinkling softly around their necks as they eat their morning meal of the greenest grass. The mist on the valley rises slowly, and we decide to roll out our mats and do a short yoga session on the timber decking overlooking our private pool.
Unlike other villas we’ve stayed in previously, this villa has a pool that is full sized and possibly ten metres or so in length. Dave jumps in and swims a few laps to cool down, while I slip into the rainwater shower and get ready for breakfast.
Food at the Panviman
The previous evening we’d dined in our room, ordering food from the restaurant as we sat on the patio and enjoyed the night’s breeze. The outdoor area could benefit from a little more lighting, as it was rather dark and we ended up eating by torchlight.
Nonetheless, it was a tranquil time spent and although my salmon was a little dry, Dave’s curry was spicy and full of aroma and flavour– the best of Thai cooking. It seems the Panviman restaurant is expert in the local cuisine.
I was impressed by the pricing for the meals too – very reasonable for a resort of that calibre. And just as well, as being so remote there aren’t many dining options close by, especially if you don’t have a car.
Breakfast was a busy affair but we managed to secure a table on the valley side, once again taking in the view as the morning butterflies stretched their wings. The vista did not get dull during our stay, and I like to think that if we’d called the Panviman home for months it would still delight each time we cast an eye over it. I was beginning to realise why Charles was so eager to ditch his retirement in favour of a slice of heaven.
Fun at the Panviman
After breakfast, which was typical buffet fare, the morning was spent lazing on the sun lounges with a good book, before exploring the games park in the afternoon. We had a go at kickboxing, a game of pool, a ping pong match and giant chess which will keep the little (and big!) kids entertained. Looking down from the games area, spread out before us was a vegetable patch. Many of herbs and spices used in the Panviman’s cooking comes from here, grown fresh and organically. They also produce berries to make delicious homemade jams that can be enjoyed at breakfast.
In the early evening, we headed down to the outdoor gym. The day before, when given a tour by Charles, he’d pointed out the new cardio equipment. That evening I tested it out, relishing the view over the pool as I went for a jog on the treadmill. Dave pushed the weights adjacent to me with a few grunts and then we rinsed off in the outdoor shower before jumping in the pool.
As the sun went down we sat in the Jacuzzi holding hands. Within a week we’d be back in Australia, the busyness of catching up with friends and family overwhelming us once more. But now, as the sky turned orange above us and the waterfall tumbled below, we relaxed and lapped up the moment of calm together before the storm.
What you need to know
Cost: Prices start from around 3,500 baht (US$97) a night, for a room in the hotel complex.
How to get there: Panviman is located around an hour from Chiang Mai’s airport. A transfer with the hotel costs about 1,500 baht (US$42) one way.
Booking: You can book through the hotel’s website here.
Special thanks to the Panviman Chiang Mai for hosting us and letting us enjoy some alone time before our return to Australia. As always, our opinions are our own.