This is the tenth in a series of posts documenting my January 2019 trip around the world, which took me to Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Chiang Mai, and Hong Kong. You can read my last post, which covered my flight on Cathay Dragon from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai, here.
The city of Chiang Mai has a walled square-shaped historic center, which then sprawls out in all directions, including east to, and over, the Ping River. There are a lot of smaller hotels in the walled city itself, but most of the larger hotels are either just outside the walls, or farther out. I had wanted to stay at the Le Meridien Chiang Mai, which is just outside the walls and close to the Chiang Mai night market. Unfortunately, the cash rates were quite high, over $200 a night. There were standard rooms available, but there was no points availability. That clearly violated the program rules in place at the time, which stated “if there is a standard room available at a Participating Property for booking by any means, whether cash, credit or Points, then you can reserve the room using Points.” (The “no blackout date” policy has since been made much more opaque and confusing.) I contacted SPG/Marriott about this on November 4. It took seventeen days to get a response, which simply stated that there were no rooms available on points, and was completely non-responsive. After several follow-ups, the rep seemed to understand the issue, and said she would reach out to the property. I did not receive a response from the property for another week, alas, which did not really address the violation of the program rules, but offered to make a room available for me at the standard points rate of 35,000 points. In the interim, though, IHG was running a special for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, so I just booked the Holiday Inn rather than wait for the Le Meridien to get back to me.
The Holiday Inn did not have as good a location, as it was farther out of the city, both south and east on the other side of the Ping River. It was very cheap, though, coming to under $140 including all taxes for two nights. Given how jam-packed my time in Chiang Mai was, and the little amount of time I spent in the city itself, it worked out fine. There’s a tuk tuk queue outside the hotel, and it is about a 15-minute ride into the walled city. Rides into the city cost me between 100 and 200 baht ($3-6), though I really should have negotiated more. There’s a 7-11 across the street, and there are a lot of restaurants along the river closer by. The hotel also runs a free shuttle into the city and to the night market at set times throughout the day. You are supposed to make reservations for the outbound, but on my rides, many people did not. On the return from the night market, they seemed to just send a number of vehicles out for the last trip.
The hotel is only about three miles from the airport, but there was traffic, so the drive took fifteen minutes. The property is massive, and much larger than any other Holiday Inn I’ve ever been to. It was pretty dated, but it reminded me of the Intercontinental in Panama City I stayed at in 2014, or the Holiday Inn in Penang I stayed at in in 2013. There was a large lobby with a giant chandelier, a gift shop, and a large restaurant. The hotel hosts a ton of tour groups from all over, and seemed to have a lot of conferences as well.
When I got to the front doors, the bellman asked if I was an “IHG Member,” and when I said yes, he directed me to a separate check-in desk, that had seats as opposed to the standard counter – very un-Holiday Inn in my experience. The agent was very polite and solicitous, and thanked me for my loyalty. She told me I had been upgraded to an “executive” room, and presented with me with a welcome letter, listening a variety of benefits, including a discount on breakfast, other meals, and massage services. She also presented me with a shuttle schedule, and while we were chatting, another agent came over with a welcome drink—a juice of some kind. And even though it was only noon, my room was ready.
One complaint I did have about the hotel is the elevators were very slow, despite their being several – which was an issue since I was on the 24th floor. The height did mean, though, that my room had a great view of the Ping River looking towards the center of Chiang Mai.
The room was very large, though definitely dated. There was a (very soft) king-size bed, and then a full sitting area with a loveseat, coffee table and arm chair, and then a separate desk area. There were lots of universal power outlets throughout. There was a tea kettle with coffee/tea, as well as an empty mini-fridge – good for stuff from 7-11 across the street. The large bathroom seemed recently re-tiled.
In the room were two bottles of complimentary water, and as I was settling in, a bellman delivered a welcome amenity plate of fruit and cookies.
Because my time in Chiang Mai was jam-packed, I didn’t spend a lot of time at the hotel. I peeked into the fitness center just to see its offerings, and it was quite good.
There is also a rooftop pool on one of the lower levels, which technically has a bar. I didn’t see anyone at the bar around sunset, but the view was quite nice. The pool itself was pretty small and not that luxurious.
Every time I interacted with the staff, they were exceedingly pleasant. My late checkout request of 2:30pm was granted no problem. I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication, but when I asked the concierge if I needed to pre-arrange a taxi to the airport or could just get one when I was ready to go, they said they’d arrange it, and it ended up being the hotel’s own very fancy shuttle van. I would’ve been fine with one of the regular larger tuk-tuk taxis that other people seemed to have, but this was only about 100 baht more than the shared, less nice shuttle I took from the airport, and still only about $10 for a solo ride.
Overall, I don’t regret staying at the Holiday Inn. Given how busy my schedule was, and how little time I spent in Chiang Mai itself, being a little bit outside the center of the city wasn’t a big deal. Plus, the city itself is actually fairly sprawling, so there aren’t that many locations in walking distance to everything. That being said, if I had planned on spending more time in the city, I would consider staying somewhere closer in, given just how many hotels there are. For a major chain property, though, the Holiday Inn is the best value.
Next up, I’ll cover how I spent my 56ish hours in Chiang Mai.