January 29, 2003
This 375-room hotel would have been an excellent choice IF only it had a quiet dining room where I could have relaxed over a drink while composing travel notes.
The Empress bills itself as an "international business and conference center" and, indeed, seemed to be well-equipped for that. There were ample meeting facilities, a business center with secretarial service and other anenities, and a banquet hall. For an extra USD $25 a night, visiting executives could enjoy exclusive use of the top two floors and a private "Keyman Lounge".
My first encounter with the front-desk desk staff was certainly impressive. Told that there would be many steps to climb during the next day’s temple touring, I asked my guide if she could help me find a walking stick. This at about eight at night. When I came down for dinner after washing up, she was still in the lobby. "Wait with me a moment," she said. Shortly afterward, a hotel employee approached with a new, still in the wrapper, adjustable metal cane! Sign for it, he said, and it would be mine as long as I was a guest in the hotel.
Alas: The grill room that looked so appealing in the photographs on the elevator wall was closed for the winter. The only dining options were:
- A newly-opened supper club, with very loud live music. Dinner in a dance hall! or ...
- A 180-seat coffee shop in which I would have been the only diner.
The supper club had a small, semi-private dining area on a mezzanine above the dance floor, still loud but not quite as bad. The meal was fine, but I’d have preferred enjoying it in a more relaxing atmosphere. The second night, I arrived before the band and, by the time they started, was well enough into the meal - an excellent seafood dish - that I didn’t mind the music.
The Empress had a large, though shallow, swimming pool and a fitness room. The brochure said it was "just a 10-minute walk" from the Night Bazaar, though it seemed longer than that by car. The hotel is just 20 - 25 minutes from Chiang Mai International Airport and 15 minutes from the railstation. All major credit cards are accepted.
Thanks to the quality of service, I’m going to rate the Empress Chiang Mai "Recommended" despite the dinner disappointment.
From journal Beyond Bangkok: The Temples of Chiang Mai