HOTEL NOTES -- NORTH THAILAND AND GOLDEN TRIANGLE
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In October 2009, we took a mountain bike tour from Chaing Mai to Golden Triangle Thailand and stayed in 7 different hotels along the way. We thought the bike tour provided by Spice Roads was excellent. Hotel reviews are provided for:
Phu Chaisai Resort
Imperial Golden Triangle
17 & 18 – Oct – 2009
Chaing Mai, Thailand
The Manathai Village is a small boutique hotel with a feeling of Thai authenticity. There is an appealing lobby with pleasant sitting areas, an upscale looking [albeit smallish] pool, and great gardens with a constant smell of flowers. As guests we enjoyed lots of the Manathai’s little touches including a welcome drink upon arrival, a fruit basket in the room on the afternoon of arrival, and fresh flowers on the bed with the turndown service. Throughout the property there are lots of local nick-knacks which add to the experience of being in Thailand.
We paid $97 per night [tax included]. That price included breakfast for 2 and free wifi. That’s a great price by western standards for this level of service. And Chaing Mai has plenty of similarly priced and even more expensive rooms. However, those on extreme budget can also find rooms for $15.
Our room had a comfortable king bed, nice linens, soft towels, and great air conditioning. The bathroom was clean, functional, spacious, and well stocked with upscale bath amenities. The nights were quiet with no sounds of roosters, dogs, or vehicle traffic to disturb a good sleep.
The two disappointments were first the widespread use of cement in both the bedroom floor and shower stall. And second, the location on the hotel on a side street in a modest income residential area feels intimidating and makes it difficult to find.
Breakfast was exceptionally good and served in a very clean and very smart dining room. The omelets [ordered from the menu] were done to perfection with great seasonings. The buffet table featured fresh fruit, pastries, yoghurt, as well as local dishes.
We had no problems communicating as English was widely spoken with minimum accent.
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Chaing Dao, Thailand
The Royal Ping hotel makes a nice first impression with guarded entry, nicely kept grounds, and smart indoor/outdoor lobby. The room also presents itself well with teakwood floor, bed with decorative sash, and clean wicker furnishings. There was a little outdoor sitting deck off the large main room. The room was generally clean.
Beneath these good first impressions, there were several disappointments. The furnishings were clearly on the inexpensive side. There were some cobwebs in corner of bathroom and mildew in the shower corners. Other standard features showed signs of age: air conditioner controls, television. And the bed didn’t yield a very good night’s sleep; I had a back ache in morning.
The hotel charged a bit more for incidentals than other hotels in the north Thailand countryside. Internet requires a password, which is purchased for 100 Bhat [approx $3] for one hour. And a round of drinks was almost twice as expensive as other establishments [but still half the price of a US hotel].
Breakfast was included with the room, but was pretty ordinary. There was no coffee service. There were no pastries nor yogurt at the buffet. Thankfully there was an omlet man.
The staff’s English was modest and accents were prevalent making it somewhat difficult [but no impossible] to communicate.
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Saimoon Buri Resort
Chai Pra Kran, Thailand
The Siamoon Buri Resort is a small yet very tidy inn with just a half dozen rooms. It sits back from the main highway on the side of a lagoon and amidst pleasant greenery. Both the property and the room present extremely well. The entry way is pleasant. The lobby opens out to the lagoon and is staffed by an English speaking receptionist. The main building also houses the bar and the indoor section of the dining room. The outdoor section of the dining room is adjacent to the lagoon.
The room also makes a fine first impression with teak floor, blue linens and multiple pillows. The floorplan was generous – about the size of a small 2 car garage – and dwarfed the very comfortable king bed. The bath area is without doubt the most impressive of any place we’ve ever stayed. There were two showers plus a comfortable oversize bath tub. One shower and the bath tub were in a atrium type room looking out onto lush tropical plants. The entire bath and shower area were easily 4 times the size of a standard household bathroom. Everything was exceptionally clean and tidy. Only the desk and TV were of lower quality and not as impressive.
There is excellent wifi on the property. And there is even a computer for guest use in common study area of our block of rooms. We elected to take advantage of those amenities to check email and figured happy hour drink would be the perfect accompaniment. To our surprise we were informed at the bat that drinks were not allowed in the room. As we started to unwind our transaction, the staff told us they would make an exception in the interest of our having a wonderful stay. We thanked them for their gracious service.
Sometimes it is the little things that leave the most positive impressions. At the Siamoon Buri, not only did the staff help us at happy hour, but they also trusted the integrity of their guests with the bar tab at dinner. Then, after dinner the owner’s family congregated at one of the ceremonies associated with an upcoming festival. Pretty soon we were all part of the local tradition.
Breakfast was individually cooked breakfast because the occupancy was too small for a full buffet. We enjoyed eggs, sausage, ham, fruit, coffee, juice, and toast. This was all served in a private breakfast area adjacent to our room.
In closing it is important to note that everyone’s English was excellent at the Siamoon Buri.
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Oct 21, 2009
Huai Khum Resort
Huai Khum Village, Thailand
The Huai Khum Resort is located nearly 4Km from the nearest paved road and probably much further from the nearest telephone. It is located on a hillside overlooking the Ping river and a charming hill-tribe village. Despite it’s remote location, the accommodations were excellent. Apparently the hotel was founded by a local who moved away, made a small fortune, then came back to their village, and provided jobs and income for others.
The hotel’s entranced is identified by unusually well manicured grounds on both sides of the dirt road. To the left and down toward the river is a marvelous garden [except that it is so unexpected in such a remote place] complete with orchids and water features. To the right and up a steep hill are the guest cabins.
We were assigned a “top floor” cabin; they have the best view, but they also require climbing 150 feet up steep stairs. The view did not disappoint. Our luggage arrived by motorcycle.
The roughly 16 ft by 16 ft room has a very smart and organized look. There was a ceiling fan and lots of electrical outlets. We had a king bed. There was a small outdoor patio sitting area. The shower was powered by an innovative propane hot water heater that thankfully had English as well as expected Thai instructions. Only the shower had hot water, the bathroom sink was cold only.
The dining room was alongside the river, which required a 10 minute walk down about 200 feet. The dinner dishes were very unusual, very tasty, and nicely presented. We had a drink before and during dinner and paid 360Bhat [$11] for two big beers and 2 glasses of wine. After dinner there was a local talent show with 8 pre-teen and teen girls from the adjacent village. They entertained for about 15 minutes.
Breakfast was custom cooked because there were too few guests for a buffet [There were only 3 parties at the resort while we were there]. The fresh squeezed pineapple juice was the big treat for breakfast. Otherwise the breakfast was meager.
English at this resort was non-existent. If we did not have our guide, it would have been a challenge to enjoy ourselves as we did.
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Mae Salong Villa
Mae Salong, Thailand
Mae Salong has heavy influence from China because much of he recent settlers moved south from China at time of Mao Cultural Revolution. As a result the décor and accommodation standards are more indicative of China than Thailand. What this means is that there is a diversity to the architecture not usually seen in North Thailand. What this also means is that the hotels are bare bones and of lower quality and upkeep.
We were shown to our villa on the hillside, which was represented as “nice”. Here’s what we found: The main entry door didn’t really close, it needs re-aligning. Most of wall mounted bathroom fixtures were falling off the tile wall. The sink vanity had sloppy and poorly fitted tile surface including places where the poorly cleaned and maintained caulking was an inch thick. The slider closet door was hopelessly off its track. The coat hangers were the simple wire kind and had been bent into all sorts of shapes. Half the lighting was bare compact florescent light bulbs. Interior doors were plastic. There was only one extra plug and wires were run on outsides of walls. The water heater had instructions only in Thai. The gas feed to the water heater was in low pressure water hose. The sink had only cold water, no hot water. There were holes in the window screens. There was substantial mildew on the bathroom tiles. The fan – necessary to circulate air – made too much noise to use effectively. Getting to our villa involved navigating a slimy and smelly walkway, hopping over pcb pipe traversing the walkway, and navigating several sets of steps with an occasional riser that was an inch taller or shorter than the others. Hopefully the reader gets the picture.
Otherwise the room had a king sized bed, tile floor, and modest furnishings. The bed was very hard [as is the custom in China but not in Thailand] and we did not get a very good night’s sleep. There is no air conditioning, no internet, and we didn’t hear any English.
The bottom floor of the main building is dedicated to convenience stores and a hotel reception area without a single piece of furniture. The 2nd floor of the main building is a large restaurant where they serve mostly Chinese fare. We ordered a beer and wine with our dinner and paid about twice what we were paying in other countryside establishments.
Mae Salong has pretty white & gold temples and impressive stupas. The town center has nice tea shops, but otherwise the trinket stalls sell junky landfill destined souvenirs. Our hotel was reported to be one of the nicer places in town. So if are touring the north of Thailand, you may perhaps elect to stay overnight elsewhere.
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Phu Chaisai Resort
Chaing Rai, Thailand
The Phu Chaisai Resort is an elegant hotel and restaurant with splendid common areas. Situated 4 miles off the main road, it is wonderfully integrated with nature, the jungle, and the hillside. There are lots of tropical flowers and plants. Thinking back, there are no grassy areas.
Our room was more like a small condo in a six-plex building. The room was very large [20 ft by 25 ft] and included a nice sitting area in addition to a mosquito-netted comfortable king bed. There was excellent air conditioning. The spotlessly clean bathroom had a sink supplied with both hot and cold water, both a shower and a tub, upscale shampoo and bath gels, hair dryer, bathrobes, and thick soft monogrammed towels. In addition to the sleeping, sitting, and bathroom areas, there was a large outdoor porch [approximately 20 by 20 ft] featuring an outdoor bath tub with great views of the nearby jungle. The porch was also furnished with couch, table, and chairs. Back inside there was in-room coffee, plenty of plugs, and a wifi signal just out of range. We thought about moving to a closer unit in order to get wifi but decided it was not worth sacrificing the seclusion of the jungle.
The aforementioned common areas included live piano entertainment from 6PM to 9PM. The pianist played mostly western pop and show tunes and was so good that we stayed for nearly the entire performance. Actually, in the middle of the performance we enjoyed dinner. It was gourmet class with exquisite flavors and delicate portions. Our waitress had excellent English and was delightful to talk with. The whole experience was a real surprise and genuine treat so far from civilization.
We noted a few relatively minor places the Phu Chaisai could improve. For instance, the bar staff did not have good English. There was a big wolf spider in the shower in the morning. The air conditioner blows directly on one’s head in the bed. It is difficult to find the right balance of temperatures. The wireless internet does not reach to all the rooms. And there is a weak smell of insecticide near the floor. And impossible for the hotel to manage, but something guests should know is that mosquitoes do come out at 4PM, so it’s wise to bring repellent.
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Imperial Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle, Thailand
The Imperial Golden Triangle Hotel is a larger establishment built in efficient western style but with some local Thai accents. The lobby is expansive and looks elegant. The lobby includes a nice piano, but offers no music. All hotel rooms face the Ruak river just above its junction with the Mekong. From the rooms, once can see Burma and Laos.
Our room was standard size for a mid range hotel. It included a two twin beds pushed together to give appearance of a king bed. The bedding was mattress and box springs [unusual] and was quite comfortable. The room also had a small desk area, minibar, small standard TV, carpeted floor [unusual]. The work area had only one plug taken by the lamp, so bring a 3-way splitter. The rooms were very clean and insect free. Sliding doors lead out to a large deck with overlooks the river. The bathroom was quite acceptable. The towels were scratchy and there was some minor mildew, otherwise it was clean and bright.
The air conditioning is very very strong and blows right down the middle of the room. We had to move out of the path of the air in order to work in comfort. There is wireless internet on the property, but it costs for the connection. Instead we found a free signal from the Sriwan Thai Restaurant. We used their internet and then decided to eat there. The food was excellent and far less expensive than at the hotel
The dining room on the hotel property is in a separate very nice building [access via floor 3 of the hotel]. It is aptly called Borders View because from the patio one can see the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Burma.
Our biggest complaint is probably that the hotel is not all that well soundproofed and we could routinely hear sounds from nearby rooms.
Staff seemed to speak good English and they graciously gave us a late checkout.
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