A mighty cascade flows through Sukantara: beautiful to the eye, a perfect soundtrack for sunbathing or morning meditation.
By Emmi Laine
Sukantara. “Su” means beautiful or good, and “kantara” translates to “a multi-tiered waterfall.” A fitting name for Sukantara Luxury Eco Resort and Spa, a small boutique resort founded in 2004 on the sloping hills of Maerim, Chiang Mai.
Fitting, because water there is. A mighty cascade flows through Sukantara´s property, right next to their Lanna Cottages, Panorama Villas and Suites, and Luxury Tented Villas. Beautiful to the eye, and a perfect soundtrack for sunbathing or morning meditation, the cascade invites visitors to take a refreshing dip, or try their hand at Karen style fishing, using woven rattan baskets.
Besides the waterfall, Sukantara strives for harmonious atmosphere with other deliberate elements. The resort is about 30-minutes drive away from the city and Chiang Mai International Airport, which guarantees the serene green surroundings. The area is best explored by hiking, visiting nearby Karen villages, and joining elephant tours, but an equally good option is just chilling and enjoying a beauty treatment or a signature massage at the resort´s Chiida Spa.
Harmony is the goal up to the smallest detail: the rooms have no clocks, encouraging the customers to “listen to their body clock.” What the rooms do however have, are traditional Chiang Mai loin cloths for everyone ready for a fashion makeover. And the cultural embrace goes deeper. Soammarat Saowapak, their marketing director explains the secret of warm welcome is “treating our staff like family members, then our staff treat our customers like their family members.”
Cultural retreat can hardly be considered authentic without hiring local staff. “We keep the real Chiang Mai charming service-mind and culture. Some are local Karen people,” says the marketing director. Their website also states: “Community emphasis always come first, along with forest conservation, and finding ways to create employment opportunities to sustain the local community.” In fact, when building the resort, Somporn Sugunasil, the founder of Sukantara was supported by the Buddhist and Christian hill tribes. They even gave him an affectionate nickname: “por nai,”“boss father.”
The endeavor to peaceful coexistence within the staff and the community shines through the mostly “excellent” ratings in TripAdvisor reviews. The resort´s Chiang Mai restaurant has especially gathered praise, which AsiaPacMan´s words summon: “Food was great quality and good value.” The traditional Thai restaurant has been awarded as one of the “Chiang Mai 50 Best Places to Eat” by Trend magazine, and sets northern Thai Kantoke dinners under candle light by the waterfall.
As can be guessed, tradition and community are important here too: “It’s the culture of Chiang Mai (Lanna) to sit on the floor, eating food with sticky rice together as a family. The secret recipes are inherited from my grandma,” says Saowapak.
Lastly, Sukantara has also had some celebrities visiting, one of them Angelina Jolie with her family.
Saowapak remembers her positively: “Angelina is really down-to-earth, taking care of her adopted son, Maddox, by herself. She was very friendly to all our staff too.” Indeed, Sukantara´s website encourages us: “Fulfill your life, get back to nature.” If Jolie can do it, why not us?