Chiang Mai is kind to the thrifty traveller: there are heaps of competing guesthouses, and resulting low rates. A new crop of concept/boutique hotels have recently filled in the anaemic midrange to top end to capital ise on the hopes of the city becoming a more upmarket destination. Many cultural students come to Chiang Mai for long-term stays and most places ofter weekly and monthly discounts or a Hat monthly rate with additional electricity and water usage fees.
There are basically two kinds of budget accommodation: converted family homes and multi-storey apartment buildings. The old houses typically have the best atmosphere but the least privacy, while the apartment blocks have solid quirkless rooms. In both, the furnishings are basic - a bed and a few sticks of furniture. Most guesthouses make their money from trekking commissions, which in turn subsidises the low room rates. When checking in, most places will ask if you're planning on trekking and might limit your stay to three nights if you opt out.
Straddling the budget and midrange category, you will find the classic Thai-Chinese hotel: a multi-storey building that must have seemed sophisticated in the 1980s. Most are showing their age but there is a slight retro appeal. Several 'flashpacker' hotels otter excellent value for a tad more baht. Most will have grown-up expectations like stylish and quiet rooms, but they skimp on the services, such as bellhops and concierges, to keep the tariffs low. In this category, you can expect daily room cleaning, air-con, fridge and cable TV. In most cases, rates include breakfast.
Many budget and midrange places have bicycle and motorcycle rentals as well as free internet and wifi. If you phone ahead, some will collect you from the train or bus terminal for free to avoid paying a commission to a driver.
The top-end range is dominated mainly by huge corporate-style hotels, some of which are international chains. The more interesting ones are the intimate boutique hotels that tend to marry antique Lanna elements with modern amenities. At the summit of the scale are the destination resorts that have recreated a village setting complete with rice fields and historic architecture on the outskirts of town. Most top-end hotels include breakfast in the rates but charge for internet access. A few still offer smoking floors.
For midrange and top-end hotels, always check online for discounts especially during the low season.
There are so many guesthouses in the residential sois off Thai Moon Muang, especially in Soi 7 and Soi 9, that a Chiang Mai friend recently clubbed it Th Khao Muang northern Thai for 'sticky rice', a reference to Bangkok s popular Th Khao San, which means 'uncooked rice'). There are also a few guesthouses in the southeastern corner oflhe old city off Th Ratchamankha and in the lower numbered sois off Th Moon Muang.
Julie Guesthouse : Part hostel, part guesthouse, Julie has cornered the young backpackers social scene. The garden cafe is full of enthusiastic first-timers swapping tips and tales, in the evenings, folks retire to the covered roof ter-race strung up with hammocks.
Malak Guest House : Newly refurbished apartment build-ing has all the backpackers flocking inside for its crisp clean rooms with private bath.
Lamchang House :One of Chiang Mai's cheapest, this old wooden house has basic tan rooms with shared bath. The downstairs rooms are a little dark but there's a pleasant front-yard garden and attached restaurant.
Supreme House :This nondescript three-storey building is run by Mr Gordon, a backpacker who turned into a life-term expat. The atmosphere is relaxed, the clientele devoted and there's a small library on the ground floor,
Jonadda Guest House : Run by an Aussie-Thai couple, this multi storey building has spotless but basic rooms. There is a pleasant ground-floor cafe filled with trekking information.
Smile House 1 : A little backpacker village flourishes around an old Thai house, which has basic shared-bath rooms. Next door is a grubby multi-storey building that might make you migrate elsewhere. The one-storey buildings that flank the pool arc much nicer and popy, lar with families. The atmosphere is friendly and the staff gets rave reviews. The owner confirmed that the old house once served as the 'safe house' of Kun Sa, the infamous Shan-Chinese opium warlord.
Siri Guesthouse : This mellow place of fers fairly stylish rooms considering the price Some rooms can be a little dark but are still comfortable and clean.
Thapae Gate lodge : Across the street from All in 1, this multi-1 storey building has clean and cheap rooms with small terraces and a friendly owner who speaks good English.
Awanahouse : What started out as a small guesthouse has grown into a standard multi-storey apartment building on a quiet soi. Awana has large and bright rooms, some with balconies, TV and fridge. The cheapest rooms have fan and shared bath. The lap pool is good for a plunge hut not for sunbathing. The top floor has been converted into a chill-out space with city views and a pool table.
Rendezvous Guest House : An adequate wallflower of a place, this three-storey guesthouse has clean and cheap rooms. The primary difference in price is if you opt for tan or air-con. Some rooms have spiffier tiles and all have TV, safety box and fridge. Rates include breakfast.
Safe House Court : This apartment-court building is in the middle of the old city and has no-nonsense lodgings. The rooms at the front of the building will get a lot of street noise, while Ihe hack end will get monk noise from the nearby temple.
Gap'sHouse : A quirky little gem. Gap's House has Thai style wooden rooms planted in a thick jungle garden cluttered with statuary, cabinets of trinkets and a sah-lah (open-air pavilion, often spelt as sola). Some rooms have antiquey furnishings but are a tad musty with thin walls. The cheaper, sturdier concrete rooms are more basic. Bring your mozzie spray. Gap's is also famous for its Thai cooking course and nightly vegetarian buffet.
All In 1 : Formerly named Baan Manee, this apartment building has received a makeover and boasts clean rooms with cable TV. Soi 2 tends to attract an older male clientele and the nearby Mandalay disco isn't a good sleeping companion.
RCN Court : This basic place is well known for its af-fordable monthly rates (from 63UOB) and quiet central location. The rooms are nothing special but have cable TV and fridge. At the time of writing, the 2nd floor was getting a makeover. There is an outdoor kitchen for guests, a small front patio and a fitness room.
Tri Gong Residence :Guesthouses often have humble beginnings; Kun Adam was sitting in his garden one day when a traveller asked for a room and now he's a stay-at-home boss ushering foreigners into a comfortable home away from home. Built around a courtyard, the large rooms have better-than-average furniture, cable TV and fridge. There is also a common kitchen, free coffee corner and the enthusiastic proprietor.
Mini Cost : This apartment-style spot has modern rooms with easy chairs, calming colours and a few touches of Thai-style decor. The cheapest rooms have shared bath and occupy the top floor. Except for the new construction projects, Soi 1 is a quiet and easy escape from all the tourist action on Th Moon Muang.
Montri Hotel : A classic Thai-Chinese hotel, the Montri might need a littte Botox work on the beds but the spacious rooms are filled with light. It is centrally located on the busy corner of Th Moon Muang and Th Ratchadamnoen. A renovation was still in progess at the time of writing.
Top North Hotel : Close to Pratu Tha Phae, this old-fashioned high-rise has a central location among Th Moon Muang's tourist services. The centrepiece pool is the main attraction for budget-minded water-lovers. Otherwise the rooms are a tad tatty.
Sri Pat Guest House : Some flashpacker hotels can be convenient and comfortable but a tad too cookie-cutter. Sri Pat has just the right dose of personality. Rooms have sunny outlooks, celadon-coloured tiles, folksy cotton drapes and balconies. Skip the fan rooms though, as your money will go further elsewhere.
3 Sis :Get all the comfort of a hotel without all the fuss at this new flashpacker place. Rooms in the primary building (the 'vacation lodge') have spacious beds, clean white walls, fridge and cable TV. The adjoining building (aka 'B&B') has smaller carpeted rooms that might not stand up to the rainy season.
Charcoa House : Popping up in the backpacker neighbourhood, this new boutique hotel is reminiscent of a petit four, a pretty confection in miniature. The 10 rooms rely on an imported heritage style with exposed timbers and whitewashed walls but they are smaller than small. The attached bakery and restaurant is well known among Chiang Mai's hi-so Thais.
Buri Gallery : A glorified guesthouse, Buri Gallery occupies a converted teak building decorated with Lanna handicrafts. Most of the ground-floor rooms don't have windows and the walls are too thin to block out noise. The upstairs deluxe rooms are quieter and have small terraces and in-room internet-enabled computers. Though the rates are a tad high, the staff provide the kind of services you'd find at fully fledged hotels.
VillaDuangChampa : Victorian architecture meets modem minimalism in this mini boutique hotel. With only 10 rooms, Duang Champa occupies a colonial-style building with rooms so sparse they're almost bare, save for the mattresses suited for ageing backs and the modern electronic toys. The top floor deluxe rooms have views of Doi Suthcp.
U Chiang Mai : Golt clubs and briefcases are shuttled in and out of this corporate-friendly hotel, a rare find in the heart of the old city. The rooms are situated around a central infinity pool and have lavender-and-black colour schemes that are contemporary without being cutting edge. Superior rooms have shower only (no bathtubs). The hotel has a 24-hour checkout policy: you leave at the same time you arrived.
Tamarind Village : Considered to be one of the first of the 'Lanna revival' hotels, Tamarind Village has recreated the quiet spaces of a temple with galleried buildings and garden courtyards on the grounds of an old tamarind orchard. The bamboo-shrouded walkway and whitewashed perimeter wall shut out the distrading modern world. Cultural and religious activities at the nearby temple are an added bonus. Internet is available in the common spaces only.
Rachamankha : The encore effort by architect Ong-ard Satrabhandu to Tamarind Village, Rachamankha imitates an ancient monastery in Lampang. Considering the reputation, the rooms aren't opulent and the superiors are quite small. The deluxe rooms are more generous with four-poster beds and bathrooms that double the living space. The highlight of the hotel is the library, a light-strewn room smelling of polished wood and musty paper.
East of the Old City
Traffic is more intense outside of the old city and the roar of engines often detracts from Chiang Mai's low-key ambience. While it isn't as quaint as the old city, Th Tha Phae is just as convenient for sightseeing and nightlife and even closer to the night bazaar. More upmarket visitors will also like the convergence of stylish lodging next door to ordinary Thai life -musty old houses, commuting motorbikes, and housewives selling coffee and noodles.
Corporate hotels with business centres and conference capacity occupy the area near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. The surrounding business cater to conservative travellers. Previously, Chiang Mai, tilled the corporate niche with home-grown hotels while the international chains could hardly find this backwater on a map. But multinational brands have now staked out massive claims in this area in preparation of Chiang Mai becoming a new conference destination.
Daret's House : A long time backpackers'r fave with stacks of basic, well-worn room Daret's looks like many of Th Khao San's backpacker flops. But because this is Lanna, land, Kun Daret is an amiable guy often found in the cafe with his pet bird. You pay more for the luxury of hot water.
Tawan Guesthouse : This simple guesthouse stands out from the pack with its stunning garden filled with fountains and koi ponds, all woven together by the flowering vines of hougainvillea and a big shade tree with hair like tendrils. Rooms are nothing special: some occupy an old wooden house while others are in a flimsy bamboo hut, where noise will be a factor. Everything was clean but the staff ' were a little grumpy about showing us a room (maybe our timing was bad).
Sarah Guest House : A long-running back packer spot, Sarah's sits in a quiet garden and is run by the original English owner. There are only 12 simple rooms, which have chunky wood furniture and large bathrooms, and the option of fan or air-con.
New Mitrapap Hotel : Near Talal Warorot, New Mitrapap is a bit of a time warp both t'or its prices and its classic Thai-Chinese hotel decor. The air-con rooms are good value with TV and mini-fridge. The hotel is built around a central atrium and skylight matting the hallways bright and sunny.
Roong Huang Hotel : With a prime location near Pratu Tha Phae, Roong Ruang is a great deal for an older-style hotel. It doesn't look like much from the outside but the interior courtyard is cocooned from traffic noise and thi 2nd-tloor rooms have pleasant sitting areas on the .shared terrace. The more expensive rooms have air-con, while the cheaper rooms have fan.
Lai-Thai Guesthouse : This three-storey apartment-court building is outfitted in northern Thai decor, transforming an otherwise institutional setting into ethno-chic. The rooms are comfortable if a little cramped, with cable TV and mini-fridge. The cheapest rooms are on the top floor and share a bathroom. This property comes at a decent price for a place with a pool, but the location is right beside a busy, traffic-filled street.
Thapae Boutique House : Smart and stylish Thapae Boutique House delivers all the flashpacker standards: a plum bed, bamboo-themed decor, cute bathrooms and breezy outdoor sitting areas.
Baan Kaew Guest House : Hiding away from the tourist crowds in a genteel part of the city, Baan Kaew is the type of place that Chiang Mai veterans might call home for an extended stay. The two-storey apartment building is set back from the road behind the owner's own residence. The rooms are well maintained but rather bland and have mini-fridges and outdoor seating areas. The manager speaks English and enjoys a good chat about world politics.
MIDRANGE STOP END
Amora :Think of it as Chiang Mai's Best Western: adequate rooms, adequate beds and hotel-issue decor. Amora's best features are the pool and the big drinkable view of Doi Sutnep from the rooms. Rates include breakfast but there's a usage charge for internet.
Imperial Mae Ping Hotel : Of the big boxy hotels near the night bazaar, Imperial Mae Ping has the best combination of Asian quirks and modern fashion. Renovations are creeping through the hotel floor by floor, and at the time of writing the superior rooms had just been nicely modernised. Starting at the 5th floor, there are grand views of Doi Suthep. Floors are segregated into smoking and non-smoking.
Banthai Village :The stylised rice village is a popular concept for Chiang Mai's new bou-tique hotels, but Banthai's version gets a few things right: the rooms are big enough to walk around in without bumping into hard modern corners. With only 33 rooms, it also strikes the right balance between intimacy and privacy. Rooms occupy several Lanna-style terraced row-houses with generously sized beds and glass-fronted bathrooms with mini soak-tubs.
Yaang Come Village : A clever twist on the Lanna reproduction hotel is this homage to a Tai Lue village, based on the owner's travels to the Yunnan region of China. The hotel recreates architectural and cultural elements of the highlands village, including the shrine-like wafer well near the entrance of the property and the steep rooflines of the hotel buildings. Rooms are large and tastefully decorated with murals, textiles and teak furniture. Winding paths and a manicured garden lead to the pool and restaurant.
Le Meridien Chiang Mai : Scheduled to open a month after the research of this book, Le Meridien is one of three international chains to migrate to the night bazaar area (described on its website as the city's central business district) to capitalise on the promotion of Chiang Mai as a convention centre.
Manathai : Boutique Manathai merges Lanna and colonial elements to create a secluded village around a central swimming pool. The rooms are tightly packed with teak furniture, black-and-white photographs and contemporary bathrooms. Although professional and suited for the sophisticated traveller, the intimate atmosphere seems a tad claustrophobic considering its romantic ambitions.
Shangri-La Hotel : This massive corporate tower looks as if it were airlifted from a much bigger megalopolis. It isn't Chiang Mai's most charming hotel, but it was built to address the city's lack of meeting space. The rooms are standard for the chain and the grounds include a huge pool and tennis courts. There's free wi-fi in the lobby but the rooms only have broadband for a charge.
DusitD2 Chiang Mai : An anomaly in Chiang Mai, D2 is the -hotel version of an urban hipster fuelled by funky cocktails and pulsing lounge music. The lobby is a chic chill-out space with orange sherbet palette and moulded furnishings. The rooms are more functional than fashionable. There's a top-floor fitness room with a view of Doi Suthep and the hotel restaurant and bar have new-millennium attitude.
Riverside House : Next door to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, this quiet and friendly place has great cheap rooms arranged around a pretty garden. All rooms have cable TV and include a continental breakfast. The 700B rooms might get some street noise and there's a new 900B wing being constructed deeper into the property.
Galare Guest House : With an affordable riverside setting, Galare is a repeat visitor's favourite. Although the rooms don't have river views, they are spacious, if a tad dated, and open on to a wide shared veranda. There's a small parking lot and it's walking distance to the night bazaar.
River View Lodge : The River View Lodge has got an edge on charm, with cabinets stuffed full of antiques and trinkets, a two-level garden overlooking Mae Ping and a good-size pool. The rooms are rather plain, but still bright and breezy with a view of the river. This property also boasts a parking lot and is within walking distance of the night bazaar.
Baan Orapin : It's a family affair at Baan Orapin, a pretty garden compound anchored by a stately teak house, which has been in the family since 1914. Guest residences (a total of 15 rooms) are in separate and modern buildings spread throughout the property. The rooms are spacious and contemporary with a sense of privacy.
Chedi : Chiang Mai's most ambitious homage to modernism, the Chedi has transformed the sculpture with bento-box glass-fronted rooms and restrained Zen-like grounds. The club suites have more amenities (complimentary mini-bar, laundry and airport transfer) than the compact deluxe rooms. Despite its rivel erfront location, only the top floor and the! corner rooms have water views. It's all very sleek and stylish, but for the price we'd rather 1 stay on New York's Central Park.
West of the Old City
Several Thai-style business hotels are clustered on Th Huay Kaew near Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre. The sois off Th Nimmanhaemin have sprouted some new 'guest-tels' (a cross between a guesthouse and a hotel). Prices tend to be a little higher here than in the backpacker areas but you're closer to Chiang Mai University.
Uniserv-lnternational Center Hostel : Looking for a place to stay close to the university? You can't get much closer than this hostel, which shares space with CMU's busy International Center. The rooms are straight-forward concrete blocks all with TV and fridge. Rates include breakfast and monthly rates are available.
Baan Say-La : The same owners as Yesterday the Village run this bohemian-chic guesthouse. Rooms have four-poster beds, rattan furnishing and cable TV. Black-and-white photography decorates the walls, and the shared seating areas have large easy chairs. The 500B rooms have shared bathrooms. Downside is that it is behind the 'Fine Thanks' live music bar, so some rooms may be noisy.
International Hotel Chtangmai : Quite possibly the ugliest building in a country where the competition is fierce, this local branch of the YMCA redeems itself with some excellent bargains for rooms with a view of Doi Suthep, and a pool. Skip their overpriced dorm beds. The residential neighbourhood of flower gardens and single-family homes is another plus and the hotel is conveniently located between the university and the old city.
Pann Malee Home : This converted townhouse has four room that feel as if an arty Thai friend has you crash at her house. In a way you are. The owner decorated each room to reflect the personalities of her family members.
Pingnakom Hotel : Mainly an extended-stay residence, this multi-storey tower at the far end of the soi has smart and breezy apartment-style rooms with all the amenities. Monthly rates start at 10,0008 plus water and electricity charges. Rates include breakfast.
Yesterday the Village : The new breed of lodging, Yesterday does a quick trip backwards to the near past. The common spaces of the converted apartment building are artistically decorated with vintage prints, %old phonographs and the soon-to-be-extinct tube televisions. The deluxe rooms have more panache than the superiors but both are spare. There aren't a lot of midrange options on Th Nimmanhaemin but this one is a tad self-inflated.
Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel : Classy in a time-capsule way, Chiang Mai Orchid is oriented towards business travellers and package tourists and has a central city location. The recently renovated rooms were a lot more appealing. They also have smoking and non- smoking floors. There's a fitness room and a business centre and it is next to Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre.
Amari Rincome Hotel : This reliable business hotel close to the university is tastefully decorated in a heritage style with a few remodels sporting more modern decor.
Viangbua Mansion : North of Pratu Chang Pheuak, this multi-storey hotel doesn't have the best location for sightseers but it has plenty of amenities for long-term guests. The rooms have contemporary furnishings, wardrobe, fridge, small lounge, cable TV and wifi; some also have a kitchen. There's also a gym, restaurant and coffee shop. Weekly/monthly rates start at 5600/12,0006.
Tri Yaan Na Ros : A honeymoon candidate of superb qualifications, this pint-size boutique hotel creates a romanticalh antique world with its artfully restored house, galleried chambers and narrow walkways leading to various sitting areas. The friendly owner is usually on site and her architect son has his offices above the hotel's restaurant.
Four Seasons Chiang Mai : Chiang Mai's first premier destination resort features vaulted pavilion suites and residences spread amid eight hectares of landscaped gardens and rice terraces worked by water buffalo. The resort is north of the city in the forested foothills and includes all the necessary self-contained distractions: cooking school, award-winning spa, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevl : Almost a kingdom unto itself, the Dhara Dhevi is an amazing resort destination that has recreated a miniature Lanna village with footpaths through walled residence compounds surrounding te'rraced rice fields. So much aichi-tectural history has been reproduced here that the resort fancies itself a cultural attraction, offering guided tours to guests as well as cratt demos. The rooms are of course aristocratic and the grounds host many wedding parties. There's also a slightly cheaper and less imposing colonial wing.
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