Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chiang Mai: The Hotels

Tamarind Village was our first choice of hotel. We had read good things about it on the online forums, and it was right smack in the middle of where the Sunday Market would be held, on Rachadamnoen Street. Because of work commitments, we had had no choice but to fly in to Chiang Mai on a Sunday afternoon, and since we had to leave before the following weekend, we had but one chance to hit the market. Hence, I wanted to ensure that we could head straight for the market once we had checked in. Unfortunately, Tamarind Village was fully booked that first night, thanks to the Royal Flora Expo that was being held in Chiang Mai. It was the internet booking agent we used who suggested Rydges Amora Tapae, near Tapae Gate, a stone's throw away from the market, so in the end we booked one night at the Rydges and four nights at Tamarind Village.

Rydges Amora Tapae

When the hotel was built, the Rydges caused a fair bit of controversy. Located right at the edge of the old city, the 12-storey building cast a shadow over many a wat, not a good thing in a staunchly Buddhist country. For tourists, the location of the hotel is a nice compromise, between old city sights and the Night Bazaar-centred downtown area.

To be honest, we hadn't stayed at a 3-star (4-star, if you believe some hotel booking sites) hotel for a while, a 3-star boutique hotel, yes, but not a standard tour package hotel. At 2200B (SGD $110) per night, we didn't expect too much from it.

The first thing that happened though was that we got bumped up to a suite, instead of the mountain view deluxe room we had booked. Was that because the hotel had messed up the booking? Oh well, a suite was nothing to sniff at.

Once we had checked in, we wondered: if this was a suite, what would the rooms be like?

The suite was spacious...

the living room and dining area

... but you couldn't accuse it of being luxurious.

HM insisted on a close-up of the fugly carpet

cheesy Christmas decor...

...made from Khong Guan-type biscuits!

coffee house, at breakfast time - tack-o-rama...

Still, things worked and if you didn't look too closely, you could ignore the inherent ugliness.

in the dim light, this looked remarkably like the Ritz-Carlton

the living room in soft lighting

the basic necessities...

the shower (bathtub's on the other side)

At the end of the day, the Rydges Amora Tapae is probably a good choice if all you want is a place, with all mod cons, to lay your head down at night, ideal for businessmen out all day for meetings and expatriates just in town to run errands, and perhaps for those whose idea of a good holiday involves squeezing in as much as possible and running around the whole day. We on the other hand like to be able to relax in more salubrious surroundings, at least for part of the time, so while we didn't regret staying at the Rydges, we were happy to take that 5-min sangthaew ride over to the Tamarind Village.

Tamarind Village

Our first sight of the hotel was in fact during our stroll through the Sunday Market.

front entrance, on a Sunday night

front entrance, by day

The funny thing about the hotel is where it is located. Although it is within the old city, the area is hardly what you would call pretty or even picturesque. Amidst car dealerships and other equally mundane buildings, a boutique hotel was somewhat incongruous. Still, the unobtrusive bamboo-lined driveway led to a much-needed refuge from city life.

ahhh, the gateway to peace and quiet


When we booked the hotel, we were aware that it was a sister hotel to the Rachamanka and the Rayavadee, both luxury hotels in Chiang Mai and Krabi respectively. However, at 4100B (SGD $205) per room night, it was definitely the junior sibling.

What we didn't know was that it was an icon of Chiang Mai design, if one of these glossy coffee table books is to be believed. Apparently, the two local architect/designers behind the Taramind Village were the ones responsible for the genesis of the so-called Chiang Mai style. And what a looker the hotel was. Suddenly I felt underdressed in my sloppy three-quarter length pants and t-shirt. (HM thinks I should invest in resort wear for future visits - linen pants, anyone?)

the hotel reception area

the foyer of the hotel

the hotel shop, so chi chi

Inside Ruen Tamarind, the restaurant

Of the 40 rooms on the property, ours was as good as a stand-alone cottage, being tacked on at the end of a row.

home sweet home

Each of the rooms had either a porch...

our neighbour's porch

... or a bath-tub.

guess which we had?

But it was the inside that we fell in love with.

HM swears that she's never slept better than in that bed.

very resort

the devil's in the details

with compliments from the hotel

eh, we almost bought a pair of these

peek a boo - two closets, on the right and the left, and swing doors that opened to...

... this (pardon me for spoiling the view)

modern facilities, phew

laundry baskets in the closet

bamboo towel rack

wooden slat shower floor

Of course things didn't just look good and feel good, they smelled good too. The in-house toiletries were a big hit - jasmine and chempaka shower gel, ginger shampoo, both as viscous as honey!

kawa-eeee, as the Japanese would say

Needless to say, we were torn between spending time inside our little cottage or outside in the lovely grounds. In the end, we only made it to the pool once in the four days we were there.

oh for more time at the pool

All in all, Tamarind Village really suited us well. It was quiet and relaxing, and provided respite from the shopping and sightseeing. It was where we needed it to be, close enough to the Night Bazaar (a 15-minute stroll) but not engulfed by the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. And in the time that we were there, we only encountered one other Singaporean party, a family of four. The other guests were mostly European. Would we have preferred to return to Rydges, where we would have to jostle with and be pushed by the mostly Asian if not Singaporean guests around the breakfast buffet table? I think not.


Post a Comment

<< Home