I’ve always thought it a pity that regions of the world with perfect beaches and ideal climates are pretty much out of the running in the category of world class naturist destinations. When we travel, we do all we can to maintain a low profile as American tourists. (e.g., Observing local customs about nudity on the beach.) And thus, when a sanctioned naturist place does appear on the scene, we are eager to support such entrepreneurial efforts while finding an excuse to explore a corner of the planet we might not have found otherwise.
Don’t know that I would have ever found my way to Chiang Mai, Thailand had it not been for the allure of a little resort in a neighboring village called Oriental Village. As you will find on TripAdvisor, it’s located out amidst the rice fields – the spring burning of which contributes quite a lot to the hazy conditions that make it difficult at times to tell if the sun is shining. As that has been our experience throughout much of Asia, we found that neither surprising nor off putting, though I did find myself longing for the deep blue skies that appear in some of the photos.
The place is run by a quirky French fellow who apparently took over the property from the previous management that ran a textile resort there. The chalets are simple and well appointed, and we very much enjoyed the little restaurant on the premises that served simple local cuisine. We even booked a massage one day from a woman they bring in for their guests who was a bit more thorough (though not inappropriate) than I am accustomed to. Maybe the most enjoyable massage, ever…
The pool area is the centerpiece of the property, and while quite small, it was completely adequate for the ritual of sunbathing and soaking. In addition to a few Europeans, we were pleased to meet a couple Malaysian travelers who try to frequent this resort two or three times a year. As this was our midyear break, we found lounging by the pool to be our favorite activity, but we did manage to make it to the elephant reserve (a good distance away) and do a bit of exploring in the old city of Chiang Mai, which I find much more interesting and accessible than Bangkok.
I have been following the Naturist Association of Thailand for some time now, which lists several resorts scattered about this vast country, each of which emphasizes in one way or another that nudity must be confined to the space within the barriers of the resort – once again, not surprising given the very strict laws about nudity on beaches and such. That said, I was delighted to discover a new resort that has recently popped up near Phuket that appears (by their website, and the first round of Trip Advisor reports) to be a lovely facility. Had we known The Lemon Tree had existed during our recent visit last April we would have stopped in for sure. Another reason to go back.
Would I return to Oriental Village near Chiang Mai? You bet. We find the perfect naturist vacation is one that provides an opportunity to explore and experience another corner of the planet, while affording a place to get naked at the end of the day. I can only hope that these trend setting proprietors of naturist resorts in Thailand will open the gates for other creative naturist solutions in Southeast Asia, where the sun is shining while much of the northern hemisphere lies under a blanket of snow.
One more thing… next time we go, we will rent a car, though that requires driving on what we consider to be the wrong side of the road. I was even more concerned about the prospect of road signs written with indecipherable diacritical markings that would leave me “unnaked and afraid.” But alas, nearly all the important road signs are in English as well, and my phone GPS worked like a charm.
So there it is. Go to Asia and get naked. These little places need our naked support, and we naked people need nice places to stay. This is a trend that I hope to see pick up momentum in the coming months and years.