Last week I mentioned that I decided to stick around in Chiang Mai for a bit, both to take a rest and to get some work done. It’s been going pretty well. Work is back on schedule, I’m well rested, and most importantly I am starting to get bored in Chiang Mai. That means I’m ready to pick up the two bags again and start travelling again.
I did promise to tell you guys the story of how I found an incredibly nice hotel room at a budget price. So here goes. As usual I had done my research on TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Agoda to single out a couple of hotels and guesthouses that would be comfortable to stay and functional to work. Since I’d be living there for at least a week, I devoted an afternoon to walking around town a bit and inspecting my options up close. Aside from the hotels that I had picked, if an apartment building looked nice enough I would just walk in and ask if they had weekly (most didn’t) or daily rates (most did).
Top-3 short-term rooms/apartments in Chiang Mai
Before I encountered the place where I would end up staying, my Top-3 consisted of the following hotels:1. Puri Piman Apartments
This short- and long-term apartment building featured large, clean, and modern furnished rooms. The rooms had a desk, a small breakfast table with two chairs, a nice bathroom, and a tiny balcony. I particularly liked the full-size fridge, microwave oven, and complimentary cofffee and tea. The location was a bit far away from the city centre, but really close to a huge grocery store, which is something I always value. The main drawbacks were that the room lacked a comfortable sitting area and that it had twin beds rather than a double. At just under 600 baht a day (about $18), this would have been my top pick. 2. Pattara Place
This apartment complex was even more high-end than Puri Piman above, but it was also even farther removed from the city centre. It was located in a fairly nice neighbourhood, though, with lots of students and cheap restaurants. Their basic rooms were too small for me, but their superiour rooms were nice and featured a king size bed. Just like my #1 option, each room in Pattara Place had a small kitchenette with a full-size fridge and microwave, a desk with chair, a small balcony, and a well-designed bathroom. This one lacked the breakfast table and the complimentary hot beverages, and a seating area was also not part of the deal. With a bit of effort I was able to negotiate the price down to 600 baht ($18) a day. 3. New Mitrapap Hotel
This seemingly Chinese-run hotel was very different from the first two choices. It was located in the touristy ‘night bazaar’ area, and was decidedly not an upscale place. The reception staff was uninterested. When I asked them about the room rate, they quoted me a much too high figure. I showed them that I had found them on Agoda, and that I could get a room for only 350 baht a night if I booked it there (of which the hotel would have to pay 15% to Agoda for its services). “If you want that, then book it through Agoda.” Alright, fine with me. At least show me the room. The inside of the hotel looked surprisingly much like a prison, with the
Note that all of these options are located outside of the ‘old city’ (the area of Chiang Mai surrounded by the square moat). Because the old city is the area where all the sights are, I find that pretty much all places there are overpriced for what they have to offer, and you’re constantly surrounded by tourists. When looking for an accommodation in Chiang Mai for more than three nights, I would recommend going just North, Northwest or South of the moat. Those areas are nice enough, reasonably priced, and don’t overflow with backpackers.
Lucking into a super bargain
One place that I didn’t get around to visiting, but that had been high on my list, was Baan Ngern Village, which I expected to be around the same level as Pattara and Puri Piman. It was located just South of the moat, and as such easy to access from the city centre. While making my way to this location, I noticed a new and modern looking hotel building, with its name and website address prominently written on the side. While I figured it would probably be a bit too expensive for my taste, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check out their website. Except that their website didn’t exist. “Amateurs!” I thought. “Well, then let’s try TripAdvisor.” Also nothing. The same for Agoda and Booking.com. It was as if the hotel didn’t exist. Being very much into online marketing, and expecting everything in the world to be mentioned at least somewhere on the internet, this certainly got me curious. So I decided to walk over there and check it out.
When I entered the lobby, there was a lone young guy sitting behind the reception, who looked at me with some wonder. It soon became clear that he didn’t speak any English, and I didn’t speak any Thai, so he beckoned a man and a woman who were sitting in the restaurant, whom I assumed to be part of the hotel staff. After some friendly words I asked them about their room rates, which they quoted as 1,200-1,500 baht per night. That was much more than I was willing to spend, given the availability of places like Puri Piman and Pattara (see above). So I thanked them kindly for their time, and turned around to leave.
Quickly the woman called me back, and asked me to wait for a moment. “You see, we would really like you to stay at our hotel.” Alright, you have my attention… “We just opened our doors two weeks ago, and we haven’t had many guests yet. We’re eager to test our systems and get some more experience. What kind of rate are you looking for?” Maybe at this point I could have just mentioned any number and they would have taken it, but given how high-end the place looked I told her that my budget was about 500 baht a night. She replied: “I may have something for you at 400 baht.” Well, that was good enough for me to at least take a look at the room.
The room she showed me (a ‘standard’ room) was very nicely furnished, with beautiful dark wooden elements. The bathroom featured one of those snazzy rain showers and everything had a high-end finish. Only it didn’t have a seating area. Nor a balcony. As nice as it looked, I doubted it would be very functional for me to work in for a week. When I told her, she said that they also had ‘superior’ rooms. The superior room had significantly more space (I would guess a bit over 30 square metres), and featured a balcony and a coffee table with two large armchairs. This was definitely a place where I could live for a week. (Check out the pictures below to see what the room looked like.)
When I asked her how much the superior room was, she quoted me a discounted price of 700 baht ($21) a night, including a full English breakfast each day. I could tell the room was easily worth that. But it was still more than I was hoping to spend. So I entered into some negotiations, one by one providing her with reasons to drop the price a bit more (I would stay for a week; I would pay everything in advance; I would pay in cash; I would give her hotel some more ‘experience’). (Also read my article ‘Be willing to walk away‘ if you’re interested in the process of negotiating.) In the end we shook hands on 550 baht a night, including breakfast: a real bargain.
A hidden gem in Chiang Mai?
This is where I’ve been spending the past week, and I have not been disappointed. The room was excellent both for working and relaxing. Also, because I was virtually the only guest in the hotel, everything was quiet at night, I had the full attention of the entire hotel staff, and the wifi was lightning-fast. Especially that last point was a big plus, in a country where hotel wifi tends to be spotty at best.
So which hotel was this, you might ask? I’m a little hesitant to give away the name, as I feel that the owner did me a favour by giving me a really good rate, and I don’t want her to be ambushed by bargain-hunting backpackers each day. On the other hand, the hotel is really nice and the staff did a splendid job, so they deserve some promotion. So here’s the deal: I’ll tell you the name of the hotel, if you promise not to go there asking for a room at a ridiculously low price “because your friend got the same low price”. Even at a higher price, I think the place is still good value. Deal? The hotel is called ‘Nordwind Hotel‘ (website still not operational at the time of writing) and it’s located in a small street off Ragang Road (‘Ragang 2 Ko Alley’), just Southeast of the moat. It’ll be our little secret before the masses discover it.
In two days I’ll have to leave Chiang Mai as I will venture to explore the South of Thailand. I’ll keep you guys posted.