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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

64. Chiang Mai Accommodation

Arrived at Smilehouse Guesthouse, was shown a very small room which was 500 baht - no room, dreary, damp and decidely yukky. And it smelt. I had booked a double room at 700 baht with television and air-con. The lady showed me another room, in the "new" building but, she told me, the television is not working. I didn't like the padlock which was to be placed on the outside of the door and locked. Security issues? Very likely in my opinion.
The lass said to complain to the office, she said all online bookings go to Smilehouse Boutique Hotel, then a reservation is sent to the guesthouse. Because I was one person, I was given a room for 1 pax. She also said many things broken here, please complain to office, She offered me a refund (I'd had to hand over 2,800 baht there and then). I said I'd look for another place.
Now that I think of it, this was the first place that wanted the cash upfront.
I hadn't been able to find somewhere else - remember, this was my first time in Thailand and I had no idea really where I was, it was very easy to get lost.

The Be Bee Cafe
Leaving the dismal Smilehouse (so inaptly named, don't you think?), I made a beeline for Tee's cafe and had an excellent meal. (See photo below)

Above: Most delicious lunch

Tee introduced me to her brother, Pang, who informed me he often worked as a guide. He offered to show me Chiang Mai, take me where I would like to go and said his sister rang him and said I was by myself and might be lonely and maybe would like someone to show me around. As this was my first time here I decided to take him up on his offer and thought it would be a good idea to go on a "walking tour" - that's the best way to find your bearings in a strange place.

We agreed that he would meet me at the Smilehouse GH in around 30 minutes.

A Shower And A Blackout
Walking back to Smilehouse, I turned on the air-con (the room was pretty hot) then hopped under the shower. So, there was me - starkers with a head full of shampoo, when all of a sudden - Bang! - the power went out. I couldn't see in the dimness, the water went cold and I had to quickly try and wash out the shampoo suds under cold water. I wasn't very pleased I can tell you.

Dressed, I made my way to reception. There was a beefy looking chap there (he told me the lady had finished and gone home) who was most unhelpful. I insisted he come with me to take a look at the now non-existent electricity. Grumbling, he did so. Outside my room on the opposite wall, he pulled a switch or something and the power came back on.

You can't have a shower and have the air-con on at the same time
He told me it was my fault the power went off because I was using "too much electricity" to which I responded I only had one light and the air-con on while I took a shower. He said you can't use the shower and have the air conditioning on at the same time because it uses too much electricity and the power goes off.

I resolved to ask Pang if he knew of another place to stay that was within my budget.

Pang Saves The Day
In the midst of the electricity fiasco, along comes Pang who asked what was wrong. When I explained, he said to come with him and took me to the Anodard Hotel saying that he knew this place (the hotel) and it was better than where I was. After speaking with the receptionist who said they had two spare rooms, I asked to see both before committing and chose the larger of the two. After giving them the details, we went back to Smilehouse, collected my luggage and asked for a refund.

NO Refund
The beefy one was most unhelpful and rather un-friendly. Didn't want to give anything back. Pang spoke with him in Thai. They had words. He eventually said he'd give back some but would keep 300 baht - for the use of the shower.
Not good PR. I definitely would not recommend this place to anyone.
I was not a happy little Vegemite!

The Anodard Hotel
Above: Anodard Hotel
My room was just up there - that square bit that juts out at the front was almost in front of my window - about the sixth from the right.

Above: Reception Staff
The girls at reception were lovely and always had a smile for me. When I was checking in, a chap came over and took my suitcase - I'd never stayed anywhere before where someone takes your luggage to the lift and wheels it into your room - and I asked Pang was I supposed to give him money for doing that. He replied, "Up to you. But if you give him something, he will do anything for you."

Not having ever stayed at a place where they wheel your stuff to the lift and take it to your room and never having been in this situation before, I thought it probably better to give him something to show gratitude and gave the chap 100 baht. I was surprised at the look on his face - it was wreathed in a big smile which reached his eyes and he seemed very happy. I was glad I gave him the money, just to see the happiness on his face. And Pang was right, this dear man nearly fell over his feet wanting to do things for me. We had lots of conversations which I greatly enjoyed and I think he did too.

Above: My room
The room was clean - I was given a choice of two, this being the better. The window faced the street and there were fly screens. It was basic but very dated. From the front, the hotel looked wonderful but the rooms alas just aren't in the same league. The public area, that is reception and lobby are far more appealing. Breakfast isn't included and they don't do meals although there is a smallish urn where for the cost of around 30 or 40 baht you can get a cup of coffee or tea. But you are not allowed to do it yourself - one of the chaps on duty does it for you. It isn't the sort of place where you meet and mix with fellow travellers.
Still, in spite of this, the staff were lovely and friendly. Should I find myself in Chiang Mai again, I think I would probably look for accommodation that has a bit of life - it was very quiet here and I found myself spending more time at the Be Bee Cafe for company than I did at the hotel.

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