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Go beyond temples and markets with 36 hours in Chiang Mai

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Traditionally, tourists have trekked to the star of Thailand’s north in search of MEAT: markets, elephants, artisans and temples. And Chiang Mai, a laid-back old riverside city whose population (fewer than 200,000) is a fraction of Bangkok’s (more than 8 million), obliges those fantasies. But these days the 700-year-old city is brimming with far more modern attractions, too, namely the works of artists and designers. Thanks to a blossoming creative scene, a Chiang Mai weekend now offers the chance to soak up contemporary art in world-class exhibition spaces, purchase stylish 21st-century design in new shops and craft villages, and sleep in gallery-like new hotels, from the frivolous to the fancy. The culinary and night life scenes are also thriving, with ambitious upstart restaurants and a buzzing bar district joining the city’s traditional eating rooms and street-food zones. Just be careful to avoid Chiang Mai in March and April, when the region’s farmers burn brush and overgrowth en masse, filling the air with smoke and ash.

FRIDAY

5 p.m.: Handmade haven

Handmade creations abound along Charoenrat Road. Siam meets Soho at Woo, a cafe and concept store that blooms with Thai creativity — literally — starting with plants and exquisite floral arrangements. The upstairs art gallery exhibits painting and sculpture, while the boutique’s wide-ranging collection includes rice extract lip balm, minimalist ceramics, kaleidoscopic hippie-chic dresses and a skull covered with tiny white seashells that would make Damien Hirst jealous. Down the street, the Meeting Room Art Cafe is piled with stacks of prints and canvases by local artists — all for sale — while elegant Sop Moei Arts sells textile creations to decorate your body or home, from scarves to embroidered wall hangings.

7 p.m.: Sunset on the river

For a sunset drink on the Ping River, the most stylish hangout is On the Ping in the Sala Lanna hotel. With its swimming pool, white lanterns, white canopies and white couches, the back lawn channels the spirit of St.-Tropez. The menu, meanwhile, includes house cocktails like the Ping River (vodka, lychee, lemongrass and lime; 290 baht, or about $8.70 U.S.), Thai craft beers and even Thai rosé.

9 p.m.: Quirky and romantic

It looks as if some eccentric, globe-trotting English lord is behind Ginger & Kafe restaurant. Who else would dare add sliced cucumber and toast points to the chicken satay? Who else would include scones in the dessert menu? And who but an aristocratic British bloke would decorate the space with chandeliers, armchairs, Oriental rugs, lacquered chests, flickering candles and other drawing-room accoutrements? English lord or not, Ginger & Kafe is a quirkily romantic place to pop the question, or simply your gut — courtesy of braised beef in lime-coconut reduction, pork ribs in tamarind sauce, or a red curry with duck breast and tropical fruits. (A three-course meal for two costs around 1,800 baht.)

Then move to the adjoining House Lounge, another elegant throwback where monkeys and birds frolic (on the wallpaper) and vases of plants and flowers complete the jungle lodge vibe. A Colonial Cordial (Scotch, Papidoux calvados, Grand Marnier, thyme liqueur, bitters; 350 baht) is practically a must, and the dress code is BYOPH: Bring your own pith helmet.

SATURDAY

10 a.m.: Wisdom of the Wat

First the bad news: “All things arise, exist and expire.” On the other hand: “Detachment is a great way to relax.” Such are just a few of the maxims on signs that adorn trees in Wat Umong, a forested sprawl of temples, pavilions, statues, fountains and lakes. Founded in the late 13th century and still home to many Buddhist monks, the complex is best known for its bell-shaped, 14th-century stone pagoda — reached by stone stairs lined with scaly beasts — and rock caverns filled with Buddha statues and figurines in the niches and alcoves. Beat the heat by arriving in the morning and taking a meditative stroll amid a soundtrack of birds, roosters, chants and bells.

Noon: A crafty scheme

The mood shifts from contemplation to creation in the nearby forest clearing containing Baan Kang Wat artisan village. Meandering paths lead to cafes, tea houses, juice stands, funky shops and craft studios selling everything from handmade paper goods to baby clothes. Follow the sound of hammer-tapping to Saprang, where award-winning jewelry designer Supat Suwannasing makes delicate earrings and bracelets that often employ nature motifs such as leaves and vines. Wood and ceramics are the choice materials at BooKoo Studio, which sells smooth and simple creations such as bowls and chopping boards.

2 p.m.: Pig out

Your lifelong quest to consume spicy frog soup and stir-fried ant eggs ends at Huen Muan Jai restaurant, another villagelike sprawl of rustic wooden houses and pavilions. Porcine dreams are also satisfied, with a menu that features pork wrapped in banana leaves, tossed in jackfruit soup, stir-fried with mushrooms, encased in an omelette or cooked to cotton-ball softness in a red curry as thin and powerful as a flyweight boxer. More mainstream meats and fish also make appearances in local specialties like khao soy — a mix of chicken or beef with boiled and crispy noodles in sweet coconut broth — while desserts combine coconut milk with either bananas or corn and sticky rice to ambrosia-like effect. Two can lunch copiously for 600 baht.

4 p.m.: Creative corridors

You can hardly hurl a beret without hitting an art or design business on Nimmanhaemin Road’s side streets. Local artists have contributed to almost every space in Art Mai? Gallery Hotel, from the themed rooms to the restaurant’s recipes, but nowhere more so than the ground-floor art gallery (well curated, with artist biographies in English) and boutique (which sells drawings and canvases, along with artist-designed scarves and bags).

Southward, Gallery Seescape has rotating exhibitions and also showcases the work of its founder, Torlarp Larpjaroensook — including his dreamy abstract paintings and playful robot sculptures — while Jojo Kobe specializes in screen prints by artists like Kittisak Chaimoonta (notable for his surreal, dark humanoid figures) and Thaiwijit Puengkasemsomboon (a devotee of colourful abstraction). Farther south, a sculptural white unicorn announces Chiang Mai University Art Center, a Le Corbusier-inspired concrete-and-glass structure filled with airy white galleries, modernist Bauhaus lines, rotating contemporary art exhibitions — and puzzlingly few visitors.

7 p.m.: Seafood speakeasy

How do you like your crab fat? If you answered, “As a warm brown gravy for a crispy crab meat wonton with pickled local cabbage, please,” then you will get along swimmingly with Blackitch Artisan Kitchen. Another hidden gem off Nimmanhaemin Road, the cult restaurant is not fancy (simple cement floor and tile tables), not romantic (bright lighting), not large (barely space for a dozen), not easy to reserve (you must book the day before you want to dine), not easy to find (one floor above street level and almost unmarked) and not abounding with choices (the nightly set menu, at 1,800 baht, is the only option). But the imaginative seafood-rich dishes are exceptional: roasted, basted catfish in a juice made from its own head and tail on a velvety sweet purée of lotus seed boiled in coconut oil; or perhaps a seaweed-wrapped mackerel nugget topped with salmon roe on a cube of smoked yuzu-marinated rice larded with river shrimp and pink petals. Whatever the chef’s whim, it will likely be precise, daring and exquisite.

10 p.m.: Beer and botanicals

Along nearby Nimmanhaemin Road you can travel the world in 80 beers — more, in fact — at Beer Lab. The convivial outdoor bar draws college kids, NGO workers, expats and local young professionals with its menu of beers from the United States, Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond, including Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale from Japan (310 baht) and Chiang Mai’s own Tropical Wheat beer (220 baht). Or you can soar above the city at the open-air rooftop bar of the Hotel Yayee. Plants hang from the rafters and sometimes end up in your drink, too, thanks to botanically infused cocktails (260 baht) like Ananda’s Flyboy (juniper spirit, aloe vera, thyme and white grape).

SUNDAY

11 a.m.: Art of Asia

Surely you have wondered: What would happen if Hieronymus Bosch was reincarnated as a LSD dealer with a pop-culture obsession in 21st-century Thailand? He might create something similar to artist Navin Rawanchaikul’s “Super(M)art Bangkok Survivor,” a huge, frenzied, feverish, cartoonish wall-size painting that bursts with debauched Thai characters, real and invented, including a Kalashnikov-toting Buddha; vomiting tattooed monks; elephants; Vespas; blimps and the famous twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. The work is the marquee attraction of Maiiam, a world-class museum that opened in 2016. The permanent collection of Thai contemporary art also features playful and sinister severed sculptural limbs by Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, and paintings of pained, howling faces by Chatchai Puipia. Maiiam is about 30 minutes from the city by taxi or ride share. Admission: 150 baht.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Somebody likes bikes at Room No. 7 Hotel (9 Nimmanhaemin Soi 7, 66-63-797-7997), which opened in 2016 in the Nimmanhaemin Road district. Some of the 21 rooms have a motorcycle theme (others are more minimalist white or grey), and common areas are decorated with vintage Vespas and motorbikes. Doubles from 1,250 baht.

A luxurious and stylish option along the riverfront, the 19-room Hotel des Artists Ping Silhouette (181 Charoenrat Road, 66-53-249-999) is a jigsaw of right angles and dark colours with pool, spa, tea room, restaurant and large groomed backyard lounge along the water. Doubles from 4,000 baht.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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