Rajaburi Hotel in Tak province
When night falls on a long drive up North, there's no better place to find yourself than Tak.
The province's lonely highways are strung with brightly lit hotels where weary road warriors can rest up before hitting the tarmac refreshed next morning.
After a hard day's motoring we spy the new Rajaburi Boutique Hotel, a convenient halfway stop between Bangkok and Chiang Mai located right on Highway No 1 and near enough to Tak town centre. An evening stroll by the Ping River in town is 10 minutes away by car but a little too far to walk.
We arrive at the hotel on a busy night judging by the few spaces left in the large car park, and skip up the stairs into the main lobby of the beige building. The lobby looks polished and reasonably well maintained, with Lanna-style decor to welcome us to the North.
Luckily, my powers of observation haven't switched off with the car engine. After spotting a karaoke bar in the basement, I ask for a room away from all the noise. The receptionist explains that most are occupied but eventually finds us one on the fourth floor at the back, well away from all the wailing.
The rack rate at the Rajaburi is Bt1,200 a night but we get a pleasant surprise - a discount that knocks it down to Bt700 including breakfast for two. What sounds like a good deal gets better when we see the room, a good-sized, spotless deluxe that comes equipped with fridge, television, mini-bar, telephone, tea and coffee making facilities and bedside lamps (and they actually work!)
The Rajaburi Hotel also has junior suites at Bt1,200 a night, busted down from the full rate of Bt2,500. We don't even consider upgrading, though, as the deluxe is already much better than expected.
The wireless Internet is piped for free, but after plugging in I find the signal in the room is weak. I call the receptionist and learn that the lobby is the place to log on.
Dinner is a much easier connection to make thanks to the short hop into the town centre and onto a stool at a food stall in the night market. Pulling back into the packed car park, we find out just how popular this four-storey hotel with 41 rooms - the newest in Tak - has become in the short time since opening.
Back in the room there's a party atmosphere. Unfortunately the party is going on down the hall. The loud voices quickly fade, but only because the guest next door has turned up his TV to thundering cineplex levels. It begins to seem that the nicely decorated walls of this hotel are made out of paper.
Soon after the first annoyance, there's someone knocking on my door. I don't remember making an appointment for the dead of the night in Tak, so I decide not to open it. A moment later my cineplex loving neighbour opens his door and shouts after his drunken roommate, who had obviously lost his way. What a relief!
But my late-night neighbours seem to be early birds as well. They get up early and crank up the Dolby surround sound on the TV again. No lie-in for me.
Before blasting off we needed to make a refuelling stop. Served at the restaurant on the ground floor, the buffet breakfast is buzzing with guests. But in air thick with the smell of stale tobacco smoke, we don't have a whole lot to choose from. We check out, glad to get out on the road to watch this brand-new, so-called boutique hotel disappearing fast in the rearview mirror.
RAJABURI HOTEL AT A GLANCE
High Point: The location is convenient and the deals are unbeatable perhaps the best in Tak considering the spotless, high-quality rooms.
Low Point: The pub and karaoke in the hotel basement can be loud. Also, ask the receptionist for a room away from any noisy tourists.
Find it: Rajaburi Hotel 307/1 Moo 8 Phahonyotin Road, Namrueam, Muang Tak, Tak
Pay for it: A Deluxe room costs Bt700 a night, a Junior Suite Bt1,200. Rates cover buffet breakfast.
Phone it: (055) 572 111
Browse it: www.Rajaburi.com