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Leading in Chiang Mai

Manfred Ilg - EDITED

Manfred Ilg could choose pretty much anywhere in the world as a much-respected hotel General Manager, but 14 years in Thailand has convinced him that here is where he wants to be.

“Now that I’ve moved to Chiang Mai to take charge of 137 Pillars House,” Ilg told HM. “I’ve found Thailand even more enjoyable. Chiang Mai has a quality of life that is very agreeable to me.

“Thai people are famous for their hospitality and nature, but here they are even more genuine and polite. I think Chiang Mai is a destination quite apart from any other in Thailand and international guests are discovering this and talking about it.”

With veiled modesty, Ilg is quite possibly referring to the recent TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2013 Award for ‘Best Service’, ‘Luxury’ and ‘Top Hotels’. Or maybe it was inclusion on Conde Nast’s 2013 Hotlist for best new hotels worldwide?

Now open just 18 months, 137 Pillars House has clearly captured the imagination of both top-flight critics and the discerning travelling public.

Conde Nast Traveler describes the property thus: “Irreverent colonial. Rooms and public spaces are outfitted in gleaming dark teak and accented with cotton elephant-print cushions and celadon urns, but this is no slavish re-creation of a bygone era. Beautiful partitions thick with creeping vines punctuate the property, and behind check-in is a wall designed to look like an apothecary’s many-drawered chest.”

“The media and public are naturally drawn to a property with such character and charm and we all took great pride in opening such a carefully renovated and preserved structure as the original house,” Ilg said.

One story has it that Anna Leonowens, of ‘The King and I’ fame, resided in the now 120-year-old house briefly after her tenure as governess to the royal household. Let’s remember that Chiang Mai was once capital of Thailand and the location of the royal residence. But it is most famous as being once a part of the East Borneo Company, with Anna’s son Louis Leonowens opening its Chiang Mai office in 1889.

The 30-suite 137 Pillars House’s prime location is in a tropical enclave near the Ping River, adjacent to the famous Wat Gate Khar Rham Temple. It is managed by SilverNeedle Hospitality and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels. RODERICK EIME

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