2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai

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First published 14th July, 2005

Of all the holiday destinations in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is one that has seen the emergance of some truly outstanding guesthouses and hotels. Regardless of if you want to spend 200B or 10,000B, chances are you'll be able to find a guesthouse or hotel that not only represents excellent value, but that is also comfortable, charming, friendly and quiet -- yes it is true -- cheap places like that really do exist in Chiang Mai.


In the past, Chiang Mai was popularised as a temple town that doubled as a launching point for hilltribe treks into the hinter hand, but over the years, it has developed into a destination all of its own, with some outstanding bars and restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and spa-ing to keep even the most industrious busy for at least a couple of days. While a small city when compared to big-sister Bangkok, it still pays to pick the right part of town to stay in, if, for no other reason than to save you the dizzying experience of going around and around and around Chiang Mai's legion of one-way streets and sois.

For the eaters and drinkers, you'll never go hungry, nor thirsty in this town. There are three main areas for bars and restaurants in Chiang Mai, though there are loads of other spots spread across town. The Tha Phae Gate and Loi Kroh area contain some of the longest running tourist haunts, with the former catering to budget tourists and backpackers, the latter to a predominantly male trade looking for company with their beer. Going east of here you'll reach the Ping River with its famous collection of riverside restaurants and bars -- don't forget the further north or south you go along the Ping River, the better the offerings get. On the other side of town around the Nimmanhaemin Road area is a bunch of Thai-focussed bars and restaurants -- some of which are outstanding -- don't be intimidated by the lack of foreigners, these are well worth exploring.

For shoppers, the Night Bazaar in eastern Chiang Mai has long been the epicentre of the Northern Thailand shopping experience and while there is loads of good stuff there, there are two other strips -- the Sunday Walking Market which offers a mind-boggling range of products (whose range continues to grow), running through the centre of the old city, and Nimmanhaemin Road, known for its chic and stylish (and expensive) Thai furnishing, running north to south along the western edge of Chiang Mai. So the moral of the shopping story is threefold -- it doesn't matter where you stay as you'll be within walking distance of shopping; you will need to travel to get to the other shopping areas, and don't make the mistake of choosing a place near the Night Bazaar solely on its proximity to that market. If you're a shopper -- stay anywhere!


Money changing hands at the Chiang Mai walking market

Likewise spas are growing in Chiang Mai like mushrooms in the wet-season, with seemingly new spas popping up on every corner. These range from pretty dubious affairs to fully featured flash and funky semi-resorts where your money will slide out of your wallet as smoothly as the masseuses hands glide over your back. As these places are all over the city and many will arrange free pickup, you can again stay pretty much anywhere in town and still be pampered daily.

So all in all, there is some of everything for everyone in just about all the main areas of Chiang Mai, so keeping that in mind, here's some suggestions on some of our favourite guesthouses and hotels in the city.

A standard room at RatchamankaThe Old City
Tha main advantage of staying within the moated area of the old city is that you are in the middle of everything, the traffic is lighter (excepting the nightmare moat roads) and in the evenings it is pretty quiet. There are loads of sleepy lane ways you can explore and, for the sightseeing amongst you over a dozen temples, including some of Chiang Mai's most revered. For those on a top-end budget, there are two outstanding options, Ratchamanka and Tamarind Village -- the latter was built as a practice run of sorts for the former, and they are both Thai styled, charming, well designed and exceeding comfortable. In the mid range, there isn't too much that really excels -- you're better off looking in the east of the city, but in the backpacker range, CM Blue House, Julie Guesthouse, Pha Thai Guesthouse and Jonadda Guesthouse are all pretty good.

Eastern Chiang Mai
This stretch between the eastern moat and the far bank of the Ping River has a terrific range of backpacker and mid-range options. For an outstanding mid range option in a charming Thai style, try Baan Orapin on the east bank of the Ping River. Closer to town, the brand new Chiang Mai Thai House, the Raming Lodge on Loi Kroh Road, Galare Guesthouse by the river and the Pagoda Inn all represent excellent flashpacker value, while for those on a real budget, it is difficult to go past long-running Sarah Guesthouse, and relatively new-arrival Tawan Guesthouse.

The above is just a smattering of the places to stay -- see our full guesthouse and hotel listing to get a comprehensive look at the majority of places in town, and remember, in Chiang Mai, there are new places going up all the time.


About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton and he spends most of his time in Bali, Indonesia.


Read 12 comment(s)

  • Dear Travelfish,
    I've just started up a new boutique guesthouse in Charoen Raj Rd., Chiangmai. On the same street with Good Views pub and restaurant and Baan Orapin. I'd like you to consider my guesthouse to your list.
    Please visit my website at www.bussababedbreakfast.com I hope you like it!
    Jinna

    Posted by bussababb on 15th October, 2009

  • Australian travellers, we visited Chiang Mai in Feb and again in Oct 2008 and stayed at the Lai Thai Guesthouse.

    Situated across the moat from the Old City. Good rooms with all amenities. Food and drink available in the guesthouse restaurant, and for swimmers, a pool.

    Google: Lai Thai Chiang Mai

    Posted by Bilyy Oz on 4th November, 2009

  • I am staying at Baan Nud Kun very close to Tha Pae gate. it's my 3rd week here and I would highly recommend this guesthouse to everyone. Very clean, silent, free coffee, tea and water, Wi-fi of course.

    Posted by nil on 10th November, 2009

  • I stayed at Night Bazaar Inn in Night Bazaar area.For 750 bahts with refrigrator,tv,hot and cold showers,the air-con room is worth staying.The staff is very friendly.

    Posted by ahari on 15th February, 2010

  • Last month, I stayed at Funky Monkey guesthouse close to THA PEA GATE, this is where the sunday market starts. Funky Monkey has spacious rooms, tv and hot water.It also ha a small restaurant. But this is why I recommend Funky Monkey: The STAFF. The owners, Nuy and David, really are very warm and friendly. They help you with whatever you want( try to make a trip with them "of the beaten track")
    You'll really like it!
    So,Funky Monkey guesthouse, Chayaphum soi 1

    Posted by Funky Monkey guesthouse on 15th March, 2010

  • new cool guesthouse near Ping river and train station named Baannoi nornmuan is located on Rat U-Thit rd.soi 4. This place is local cool.

    Posted by janya on 27th March, 2010

  • heres a great place to stay chiangmai guest house nr macdonalds tapae gate clean cheap new refubished i reccomend ps they also have in house massage bar motobike hire tours etc

    Posted by dave on 6th May, 2010

  • Hi, I stayed at a really nice guesthouse in the Old city called Libra Guesthouse. The staff their are soo nice and they can help you with anything including treks & tours, bike & car hire and any travel arrangements you need and they won't rip you off or take hefty commisions like many other places in Thailand and Chiang Mai. I highly recommend this place. They also have a Thai-western style restaurant with amazing food. Check it out when you're in Chiang Mai.

    Posted by Luke on 17th May, 2010

  • Wanmai guesthouse (Chiang Mai)

    This one is a nice guest house near Tha Phae Gate, it means, next to everything in the center but still in a very nice, safe and quiet neighbourhood.
    Rooms are big, double bed, with shower, table, chair, fan... also towels provided. Laundry service available in the guest house and in the street, small shop inside for food basics and full of nice places to eat the best and cheaper thai food just outside.
    Enough clean, not renovated but still good.
    There is also a kitchen for the guests and an area with tv and free internet if you have laptop.
    The owners are a thai couple very calm and quiet, they dont speak english but are very open, respectful and caring of their guests.
    If you stay one day or a couple of days the price is 150 euros, but if you plan to stay around one month or a few weeks you can try to get one room for 100 bath, paying all in advance.
    If I come back to Chiang Mai most probably I will stay here again :-)

    Posted by Unevagabonde on 1st June, 2010

  • We have a guest house in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
    Its has a restaurant and a bar we show live football and many other sports also movies and music.
    We have delicious Thai food and some western snacks.
    Everybody very welcome for eat something drink something or even sleep in our Guest House. The rooms all have air-conditioning or fans.
    Our rates for rooms, food and drink are very reasonable for for this area of the city. We are located near the old city and near all the big markets of chiang mai everything is on walking distance of our guest house and restaurant.
    We will welcome you all like you would come home to your family

    Posted by Kannika on 15th January, 2011

  • We have a guest house in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
    Its has a restaurant and a bar we show live football and many other sports also movies and music.
    We have delicious Thai food and some western snacks.
    Everybody very welcome for eat something drink something or even sleep in our Guest House. The rooms all have air-conditioning or fans.
    Our rates for rooms, food and drink are very reasonable for for this area of the city. We are located near the old city and near all the big markets of chiang mai everything is on walking distance of our guest house and restaurant.
    We will welcome you all like you would come home to your family

    Posted by Kannika on 15th January, 2011

  • Interesting to note the refurbished well know formerly HIP Guesthouse now renamed Cool Guest House ( http://www.coolguesthouse.com ) a boutique guest house located in the old city at Chanpuak gate close to the famous North Gate Jazz Co-op Bar.
    Bicycle are free to use at Cool Guest House

    Posted by Cool Guest House on 23rd January, 2011

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