Located in the Wat Thanon Gate area of Chiang Mai sits a beautifully unique establishment laden with painted white wooden pillars and auburn teak wood which brings you back to the colonial history of Asia, the heritage hotel known as 137 Pillars House. This place is iconic not only for its Anglo-Thai architecture, but also being the former home of Louis Leonowens, the son of Anna Leonowens, famed English teacher to King Chulalongkorn, son of King Mongkut from the fabled story of Anna and the King of Siam, or more famously known from the musical that is The King and I.
As you enter into the grounds of the hotel, you are instantly greeted by its pristine façade, built on white painted wooden pillars surrounded by emerald ponds. The entirety of the hotel takes you back to a time where the east met the west for its first cultural exchanges. As typical of Thai hospitality, you are greeted straight away with the warmth that reminds you that you are indeed on a vacation.
137 Pillars House was the project of architect and one of the current owners, Panida Wongphanlert, who wanted to create a home-like environment in a respite away from the city of Bangkok, and found the location by chance on a visit to Chiang Mai. It was after some research that they discovered its rich cultural history and decided to restore it to its current state.
Today 137 Pillars House stands as one of the most luxurious boutique hotels, which was once known as the Black House, or Baan Dam in the Thai language. The main structure of the hotel is built around the restored Baan Borneo, standing on the site of the original 137 pillars, in which the hotel lends in name from.
When asked what the philosophy behind 137 Pillars House was, Chris Stafford stated: –
“The philosophy behind 137 Pillars House is that it historically was a commercial entity in its heyday as the East Borneo Company and is thus known as the Baan Borneo today and serves guests for both leisure and business from around the world. The restoration was a passion of its current owners the Wongpanlert family who envisioned it becoming a hotel with its unique close to centre of Chiang Mai location in the historic Wat Thanon Gate area. We believe that business and hospitality go together and what better home than 137 PIllars House. The owners wanted to bring back the house to its original splendour and felt it would make a wonderful location for a historic luxury boutique hotel. Our hotel has a deep and meaningful historic connection to the Chiang Mai from the 19th and 20th centuries. A building that genuinely in its 127-year existence can trace its roots through the modern commercial evolution of Chiang Mai.” — Chris E. Stafford, Chief Operations Officer of 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts.
137 Pillars House Rooms
There are 4 types of rooms that are available, Rajah Brooke Suite, which is the most widely available, followed by the East Borneo Suite that comes with a private corridor, the William Bain Terrace Suite, complete with a living room and the opulent Louis Leonowens Suite, inclusive of a private pool. Each room is beautifully decorated with colonial design and décor, complete with modern and luxurious essentials, and comes with an indoor and outdoor shower area, great for privacy in the serene settings of its wonderfully warm environment.
Rajah Brooke Suite
The most basic suite is the Rajah Brooke Suite, consisting of 20 rooms. These rooms average out at about 70 square metres, equipped with a king sized bed, a veranda with a rattan chair and a day bed, a walk in wardrobe, sunlit bathroom, Victorian bath, indoor shower and an outdoor shower in the garden. There are even interconnection suites for families.
East Borneo Suite
The second type of suite available is the East Borneo Suite, consisting of 6 rooms. These rooms average in at 75 square metres, and are in its own structure and accessible by a private corridor. These rooms are equipped with a king sized bed, a veranda with a rattan chair and a daybed, a walk in wardrobe, sunlit bathroom, Victorian bath, indoor shower, and an outdoor shower in the garden. These suites offer more privacy as the other units as its located a walk away from the main buildings.
William Bain Terrace Suite
The third type of suite is the William Bain Terrace Suite, consisting of only 2 rooms. These rooms average in at about 100 square metres. These rooms consist of a king sized bed, a large living room, a veranda with cane shades for privacy, a rattan chair and a day bed, a large walk in wardrobe, sunlit bathroom, a sunken bath facing tropical foliage, indoor shower, and an outdoor shower in the garden.
Louis Leonowens Suite
The fourth type of suites presented is the Louis Leonowens Suite, consisting of only 2 rooms. These luxurious rooms average in at about 135 square meters. These rooms include a super king bedroom with French doors overlooking the infinity pool, garden wall and pillar house. These rooms have a large living room, a large walk in wardrobe, sunlit bathroom, a sunken bath facing tropical foliage, indoor shower, and an outdoor shower in the garden. This is definitely as luxurious as it can get when it comes to hotel rooms.
Review: East Borneo Suite
Paving the way into a private entrance into an isolated building is the entrance to the East Borneo Suite. This building laid in colonial wooden fixtures and awning houses only 6 rooms. What sets these rooms apart from the others is that is it located quite far away from the other rooms, yet convenience is a stone’s throw away. As you enter the suite, you are greeted by a long walkway, with the walk in closet on the left, and bedroom at the end.
The Bedroom comes complete with a king sized bed, overlooking the verenda. The room comes with comfortable couches, a sizable tv for viewing, an espresso machine, but also a stocked bar, complete with local and international snacks. Another great service that the hotel provides is the extensive pillow menu, ensuring a great sleep. The room is very spacious, complete with a working desk and historical and traditional art places all around the room, setting the mood.
The vanity counter comes complete with two marble wash basins, as well as enough closet space for a function. The towels and amenities provided are perfect for people who have forgotten their essentials and bathrobes, where mosquito repellents are even provided. The vanity closet really speaks to the opulence you would not expect.
For those who enjoy some light reading, there is a comfortable daybed in the veranda. The daybed is soft with cushions which has rattan blinds that can be pulled down to avoid sunlight, and a fan to cool you down. There are also mosquito coils available in the evenings, ensuring your comfort.
The Victorian bath is a standalone piece in the middle of the bathroom, complete with bath salts and a view of the indoor garden. The bath is perfectly sized with window panels that can be opened up to the garden, giving you the option of an outdoor or indoor feel.
The outdoor shower is perfect for a shower in the day or night, with a rain shower and garden patio, with all the privacy and comfort you would want. This area is also perfect for a quiet and relaxing time away from the bustle from the hotel.
The hotel is fashioned like an island getaway in the middle of the city of Chiang Mai, and when asked why this was done so, Stafford replied: –
“Chiang Mai with its ancient temples, surrounding hills and rainforest pockets, is a city steeped in Buddhist and Regional history. We felt that for the luxury traveller we wanted to create an oasis in proximity to all the hustle and bustle of down town historic Chiang Mai. The Villa is in our view an oasis for the traveller – a venue to recharge, reflect and reinvigorate all the senses so the ‘ Island Getaway ‘ is a very apt description. The design of 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai was visioned by Architects from Habita with a view to restoration of the old house and most importantly for the owner maintaining the landscape with particular reference to the 100-year-old plus trees. They together created a peaceful haven with new built suites with large balconies making great use of landscape for shade from the tropical sun while linking the colonial past of the East Borneo Company house to the present day.”
The Parlor Lounge
The Parlor is the perfect place for afternoon high tea, as it serves tea in the way foreign visitors would have experienced during the colonial era. The high tea extends to the infinity pool, and could also be had on the Lawn. Here you can have a wide selection of teas, coffees and complementary Thai snacks.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room provides a classic environment for those who want to have a nice romantic dinner, yet are not willing to sacrifice on experience. This restaurant serves authentic contemporary Thai cuisine, in addition to its specialities of Lanna Cuisine, the variety that Chiang Mai is famous for. Here, you can dine in or have dinner in the courtyard.
In contrast to the Dining Room, Palatte offers a variety of Western cuisine, for those who are looking for something more contemporary. Palatte is located in the original homestead and utilises locally sourced and organic produce. Palatte as well as Dining Room offers the Khantoke (ขันโตก), a Lanna cuisine traditional dinner which is intricate and delicate.
The Wine Cellar
The Wine Cellar is a wine bar that also doubles as an extended restaurant of Palatte, hosting a number of international wines, ranging from New World to Old World, including Thai wines that are gaining international repute.
Jack Bain’s Bar
This bar derives its name from Jack Bain, former owner of 137 Pillars House. Although taken as a bar, Jack Bain’s Bar is mostly a historical library, filled with books about Chiang Mai and Thailand, complete with coffee table books history books and popular paperbacks and magazines.
The Kitchen: Cooking Classes
The Kitchen is a showpiece for demonstrations on Thai cooking by gourmet and visiting chefs. Here, you are able to partake in one of 137 Pillars House best offerings, its Traditional Thai Cooking Class. With a gourmet chef at its helm, you are taken to experience Thai culinary culture in an exquisite setting. You will be able to pick the brains of the chefs finding out about Thai recipes, ingredients and variety of food according to region, all whilst being driven about in a limousine to visit the markets in preparation of your meal.
For our suggestion, see our review of Cooking Class at 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai.
The Spa offers a wide selection of different Thai massages, the kind that Thailand is famous for. Essential oils uses are also all distilled on site and made fresh with products picked from the hotel garden itself.
If you want to cool down from the sweltering heat, you can also take a dip in the emerald swimming pool. With a high wall ivy on one side, and a tea side service of drinks and snacks by the pool, this is a great place to relax before a day out, or after a day out.
The Personalised Service
If there is one word to describe the service at 137 Pillars House, it is attentive. They attend to every single need you can think off, from referring to you by name, to attending to your needs after turn down service. There is also a limousine service equipped with Wi-Fi, which really makes a difference. When asked what inspires the experience at 137 Pillars House, Stafford quipped: –
“The energy of the late Jack Bain a long time servant of Chiang Mai culture and former owner of the house dating back to his father William Bain who was The Manager of the East Borneo Company. We have named the bar in the old house in which Jack grew up in his honour – he is an inspiration in that his good deeds for many things in Chiang Mai are today reflected in the warm welcome and our passion for hospitality. We are inspired in a hectic world to give our guests the feeling of stepping back in time to enjoy luxurious spaces no longer easy to find. “
The 137 Pillars House Experience
What 137 Pillars House has managed to do is set themselves apart from other boutique hotels in the Chiang Mai, by offering a unique experience with a peer into its history. This is seen through their philosophy towards service, something that most boutique hotels do not provide. As Stafford puts it: –
“Our philosophy is to develop our staff members to work coherently and with great passion for hospitality in its original sense. Each individual is cared for as if he or she were also a guest – crafting curating and creating great experiences for all our guests along with a great respect for nature and our communities in which we operate.”
If you have a penchant for colonial days and are appreciative of its rich history in Thailand, just grab out Chiang Mai Travel Guide to explore the city, and if you are looking for the perfect luxurious getaway, be it with your family or romantic holiday, look no further.
137 Pillars House
2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Road,
Muang Chiang Mai,
+66 53 247788
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: NICHOLAS NG & 137 PILLAR HOTELS & RESORTS | WEBSITE: 137 PILLAR HOUSE CHIANG MAI |