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Zen Golf in Thailand

Where to Stay
The top beach facility is the Hilton Hua Resort & Spa (from $160 per night; www.hiltonworldresorts.com), but the town is now widely known for several classy health spas, of which Chiva-Som (three-night stay minimum, from $1,140; www.chivasom.com) is justly famed as the place to get pampered.

Where to Eat
The cluster of restaurants fronting the seaside includes fusion and French bistros. The best of these may be Chao Lay, where a table by the waves, four rock lobsters, a green curry of scallops and squid, and a mean crab fried rice weighs in at around ten bucks. $

Thailand’s "Rose of the North" is the country’s second largest city, and while commercialization has spoiled its night market (and much that lies east of the Ping River), its moated Old Town still retains the sparkling wooden temples and peaceful charm that first lured the backpacking crowd. The surrounding hills hold elephant camps, colorful local tribes, stilted villages and New Age spas.

Where to Play
Chiangmai Highlands Golf & Spa The high-altitude tropical climate and lush rolling valleys here were tailor-made for golf, and this new entry takes full advantage of them. A year old, with outstanding clubhouse facilities, the design rotates with increasing difficulty around the wooded hillock where the region’s most illustrious monk did his meditations. The superb views of distant peaks and the final holes, descending through large ponds, will have golfers contemplating the meaning of life’s many scorecards. 167 Moo 2 Tambol On-Nuar, Amphur Mae-On, Chiang Mai; 011-66/01-961-0028; www.chiangmaihighlands.com. Yardage: 7,063 Par: 72. Greens Fees: $35–$60. Architect: Schmidt Curley Design, 2005.

Where to Stay
The Rachamankha Hotel (from $320 per night; www.rachamankha.com) is the Old Town’s sumptuous, silent retreat, done in traditional Lanna architecture. There’s also the new riverside Chedi Hotel (from $276; www.ghmhotels.com), a Four Seasons (from $425; www.fourseasons.com/chiangmai) and, at the lower end, the Belle Villa Resort (from $85; www.bellevillaresort.com/chiangmai).

Where to Eat
The area around the Night Market features dozens of tourist-friendly spots for sampling fiery tom yam goong (spicy lime-tamarind soup with shrimp). Locals love the Issan sausage and other regional specialties at Huen Phen in the Old Town.


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