Normally when I visit Chiang Mai, I stay at Tawan Court, a small budget hotel located a couple blocks away from Chiang Mai’s popular Night Bazaar. While there really isn’t anything really special about the hotel (the rooms are somewhat drab and need new carpeting), I feel comfortable staying there because the management is very friendly and the location is ideal. As the hotel rates go up every year, you would think that the owners would spend some extra monies on refurbishing the rooms.
On my last visit to Chiang Mai in December 2009, I decided to ignore my loyalties to Tawan Court and try something different. After considerable research online, I found the Banilah Hotel, a very stylish looking budget hotel located away from the tourist districts in a neighborhood popular with the University crowd.
The images on Banilah’s website are very flattering in an attempt to portray the hotel as a boutique property. While the office has a nice ambiance, the rooms were sort of dark and drab with very small and cramped bathroom facilities. When you take a shower, the toilet will get all wet. The hotel, which is over 3 years old, is beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. As with most local and budget hotels, there are no in-room safes or safe deposit boxes available at the front desk.
On the plus side, all the rooms have free Wifi and TV. In addition, the hotel offers complementary use of bicycles to all their guests.
Two of my biggest criticisms with Banilah are:
- The hotel management exercised very poor judgment by laying down a water hose across the narrow walkway to the guestrooms without putting up a caution sign. Somebody easily could have tripped and had an accident.
- The hotel staff doesn’t necessarily answer their phones during their normal business hours of 9:00AM – 6:00PM. That definitely created a problem for me. To give you some idea, I was near Taphae Gate in Chiang Mai (the opposite side of town) and was getting ready to return to Banilah by Tuk tuk about 4:30PM in the afternoon. As I was leaving on an early morning flight to Singapore, I had to retrieve my valuables from the hotel safe by 7:00PM (the hotel office closes at that time). As most of the tuk tuk drivers probably did not know of the hotel and where it was located, I tried calling the hotel numerous times to get directions but there was no answer. Fortunately the tuk tuk driver that I hired knew the way and I reached the hotel in less than 15 minutes.
Even though the hotel is a pretty good value, in light of my recent experience, I really cannot recommend Banilah Hotel at this time. Management needs to be more responsible to its guests, and most Western visitors might be not too pleased with its offbeat location. Then again, the hotel seems to cater mostly to a Thai clientele.