A room with a view
A red songthaew drops me on Thapae Road in front of Wat Mahawan and I find that the lane I'm looking for Thapae Soi 5 is right next to the temple. Fifty metres down the quiet alleyway is Thapae Boutique House. I later discover I'm just a stone's throw from Thapae Gate, on the same popular road where Starbucks and three Gecko book stores are located.
I had booked over the Internet, getting instant confirmation on a room plus breakfast at the lowest rate of Bt800 a night. The hotel looked great onscreen and I'm pleasantly surprised to see the real-life place matches up to the publicity, though its wrapped in the silence you only get in the middle of the low season.
The courtyard entrance is equipped with an alfresco swing and wooden seating and leads to an open-air dining area filled with charming Lanna-style decorative details.
Checking in is quick, but then I have to carry my bags up to the second floor myself. Understandably for a hotel that only rises three storeys, there's no elevator. Climbing the stairs is no hardship though, and the stylish decor is easy on the eyes.
The hotel is a fusion of cosy contemporary chic and Lanna designs, with clever touches like the stained glass windows, which add light and colour. However, the guestroom looks smaller than I remember it from the booking website.
Teakwood is the key design feature here, used for the bed, side table, floor, television cabinet and wardrobe. The attention to detail in the decor is impressive, probably the hotel's strong point.
My superior room comes with a queen-sized bed adorned with elegant silk Lanna pillows and a beautiful parquet headboard, along with covetable curtains and a 21-inch flat-screen television. A peek into the bathroom reveals a shower and toilet surrounded by restful green tiling. Through my little window I spy a lush garden and behind it, Wat Mahawan's tallest chedi.
Since this is the basic room type, there's no fridge and nothing much to watch on the TV's local cable package. There is wireless Internet throughout the hotel, but I discover that the signal on the second floor is weak and erratic.
The 21room hotel has just one receptionist, a chef in the kitchen and a single chambermaid. But it offers a spa service, with a treatment room tucked away in the back of the hotel.
To upgrade from my Superior, I could have gone for a King Studio Suite or a Junior Studio Suite. Both come with a kingsized bed, fridge and separate living area.
Rooms start at Bt800 a night and rise to Bt1,000 for a deluxe, then step up to Bt1,800 for a suite with a view of the temple. Breakfast is part of the deal.
The size of the hotel is probably the reason why children under 12 years of age aren't accepted. Pets are barred too. Perhaps that added to the sense of quiet - I found no trace of other guests, four or two-legged, during my stay. When I ask about it at reception, the girl tells me that just four rooms are occupied. The only thing disturbing the silence is the odd faint bark from a neighbourhood dog.
At breakfast, served until 10 at the restaurant downstairs, I slurp just-squeezed pineapple juice, freshly-grounded coffee and toast with a fried egg, then wedge it down with a slice of melon. The restaurant's large flat-screen TV keeps guests entertained and its desktop computer is handily placed to check your mail.
The prime location makes Thapae Boutique House a great base to explore Chiang Mai. The Night Bazaar and Warorot Market are each less than 10 minutes' walk and on Sundays a short stroll takes you to the walking-street market on the other side of the gate. Otherwise there are the red song-thaews at (Bt20) per trip to explore the city with.
AT A GLANCE
High Point: An elegant place in a prime spot for exploring the city with efficient staff and decent breakfast. The prices are an added bonus.
Low Point: The superior room is small and begins to feel cramped if you have work to do. The window's small too - the nearest view of the Chiang Mai sky is out in the corridor.
Pay for it: Rooms start at Bt800 a night for a superior and Bt1,000 for a deluxe and rise to Bt1,800 for a suite overlooking the temple. All rates cover breakfast.
Find it: Soi 5, Thapae Road, Changklan Muang Chiang Mai 50100
Book it: (053) 284 295, (053) 275 370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Browse it: www.ThapaeBoutiqueHouse.com