CHIANG RAI, THAILAND – The community-focused Visama Mae Chan luxury tented camp in the hill country of Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, opened 1 December.
The new project, with 10 luxuriously appointed tents, aims to deliver a holistic and immersive holiday experience combining cultural and nature activities, high end northern Thai culinary fare, much of it organic and sourced on an adjacent farm, and fully-appointed luxury tents in four categories.
Each accommodation category has a hill tribe name such as “Akha”, “Yao”, “Lahu”, and “Lisu”. The sumptuous tents, on raised platforms in a peaceful hill country setting, range in size from 48 to 80 sqm, including a 12 or 20 sqm veranda. The largest ones have two bedrooms, suitable for families.
Amenities include air conditioning, phone, espresso machine, French press coffee pots, WiFi, rain showers, safety deposit box, refrigerator, his and her bathrobes and slippers, bathtub and 24 hour concierge, to name a few.
Activities such as pottery, painting, foraging, private picnics, arts and crafts workshops, cooking classes with Lanna-Thai recipes, discussions with guest speakers, tree planting, body and mind sessions, and spa and wellness experiences will be central to the lodge’s diverse activities offerings – as will private trips to heritage attractions such as the opium museum, Doi Mae Salong, and Chiang Rai’s aesthetically stunning White Temple.
“What sets Visama Mae Chan apart is our ability to fill multiple-day immersive experiences that leave an unforgettable impression on guests, the local community and the environment,” said lodge co-founder Mark Remijan.
Local produce will feature widely in dining options. Chef Suphannat ‘Miu’ Amnuayrit and his culinary team have crafted a menu based on both traditional Lanna cuisine of northern Thailand, nutrition-rich international comfort foods and local specialties based on produce from a neighbouring farm.
Much of the culinary fare at the Reu Doo Gaan – “seasons” – restaurant will be organically farmed from around the resort, including “Khao Rai” traditional rice, locally picked teas and herbs.
A resort highlight will also be The Ambalama, a fireside gathering place for storytelling and talks by authors and historians.
The property also has a community purpose. It will support the neighbouring Friends of Thai Daughters foundation, which seeks to prevent child trafficking by empowering girls from hill tribe communities.
The foundation, registered in the United States as a not-for-profit, and created by its current directors, Patty Zinkowski and Jane McBride, issued a statement saying: “We are grateful that
Visama Mae Chan will provide sustainable income for the foundation and employment opportunities for some of our girls. We look forward to a long and productive partnership with Visama.”
Three hilltribe girls from the foundation are already working in the resort.
Visama Mae Chan will also host a farmers’ market once a month that will be open to the public. A proportion of the income from the market will go towards the hill tribe foundation, as will income from tree planting activities that the lodge will offer to guests.
“We aim to provide direct income, vocational training and sustainability benefits to the local community,” said Christopher Stafford, co-founder of the lodge. “Visama Lodge will also proactively involve itself in nature conservation and the promotion of local Lanna culture,” he said.
The people behind the new camp have a successful track record in operating the multiple award winning retreats such as Cardamom Tented Camp ecolodge in Cambodia, the Anurak Community Lodge in southern Thailand, and the 137 Pillars Hotel in Chiang Mai, also in northern Thailand.
Twelve additional luxury tents will be added to Visama Lodge in 2024.
“Visama Mae Chan is a holistic experience,” said Mr Stafford. “We give guests the opportunity to learn from northern nature and culture, embrace the art of living well, and at the same time give back in a meaningful way to the local community.”
The property is a 40-minute drive north of Chiang Rai international airport.