Whenever I travel, I always make sure I find cheap accommodations on the places I visit. And on a recent trip to Chiang Mai City, I crossed my fingers and hoped that I could still find a cheap guesthouse despite the fact that I’m headed to the best city to celebrate the Songkran Festival.
During Songkran, it’s hard to find your ideal home since almost all of the guesthouses are fully booked. So when I tried to look for a guesthouse, I got lucky to find an available room on the first affordable guesthouse I visited. I ended up sharing a 180 baht room per night for 5 nights with Lucie, a French exchange student studying in Bangkok. The guest house was ok but because of the summer heat + the wooden walls that surrounds the room, staying inside it was like being inside a sauna. Their internet connection sucks big time too. With the location independent lifestyle that I’m leading, the need to have access to the internet 24/7 is on top of my priority list and that guesthouse only provided free wifi access in their lobby from 8am to 11pm. Sometimes, they shut down the routers earlier. They also gave me a hard time when I tried to extend my stay. That prompted me to find another guesthouse.
It took me 5 guesthouses before I found the one. I hopped from one guesthouse to another trying to find an affordable place to stay in Chiang Mai. I even found this cute ladie’s dormitory offering 220 baht per night. I almost got tempted to book a room with them but decided to look for one more. And I was very happy with this decision. Otherwise, I would not have discovered the guesthouse which I would be considering my home in Chiang Mai.
It was already dark when I went guesthouse hopping. I was already desperate. My feet were already tired from our 2 days of trekking. in the jungles of Chiang Mai. Then I saw this bar across the ladies’ dormitory. I passed by the bar and almost missed the signage posted at the gate beside it. It said “Room for Rent: 180 baht”. I went inside to inquire about the rooms. I looked for the person in charge and I was greeted by this Australian guy, Adrian, whom I thought was the owner of the place. He seemed to know a lot about the guesthouse and was already telling me that they serve free coffee and have 24/7 access to free WiFi.
- Friendly and accommodating guests. Check
- Free coffee. Check
- Free Wifi access 24/7. Check
I then met Boon, the guy manning the Giant Guest House. He told me that a single fan room costs 180 baht. When I asked if they have a dormitory room (since I was running out of funds), he told they have one for 120 baht per night. I found their dorm room decent. It was clean and no one was occupying it. Unlike other dorm rooms which have double decked beds, the beds of the dorm room of Giant Guesthouse have standard single beds. I immediately made reservations for the following night. Then Boon sounded concerned and asked if I’m fine to share the room with a total stranger in case someone checks in. I told him I’m fine with it (I had no choice. The 180 baht single room was way too much for my budget). He asked me the length of my stay. I said 3 nights. He then offered their single fan room for 150 baht/night since one of their guests would check out the next day. Without seeing the room, I said yes.
Giant Guesthouse single fan room and shared bathroom
The single fan room at the Giant Guesthouse was nice. It had ample walking space. I also learned that the guesthouse offers free drinking water aside from the free coffee. This is one of the things I loved about Giant. I am not a coffee person but I would prefer a guesthouse that offers free drinking water since buying water regularly would surely ruin one’s backpacking budget. Mine did when I had to buy drinking water daily on the previous guesthouse.
I also noticed that there’s a common kitchen in the guesthouse. I was all smiles when I learned that we can use their kitchen. They also offer free use of the desktops for surfing. I can also wash my clothes, they said.
- Friendly and accommodating staff. Check
- Shared kitchen. Check
- Free use of their desktop for surfing online. Check
- Ability to do one’s own laundry. Check
I also discovered that the guesthouse is strategically located near the Chiang Mai gate where the Pratu Chiang Mai Market is situated. On my first morning in the Giant Guesthouse, I just walked one block and indulged myself eating cheap breakfast across the market. The cheap food I found in the market made me rethink on using their shared kitchen. It was impractical since I’d only spend 3 nights there.
When I saw that another guest checked out, I went to see what their room looked. I preferred that room over what I had at that time so I requested to change rooms. The staff of the guesthouse immediately granted my request, no questions asked. Yey!
At night time, Freedom bar, the reggae bar beside the guesthouse comes to life where you can chill and have a great time mingling with people from different parts of the globe.
There are also private rooms in the Giant Guesthouse which caters to large groups or families. The photo on top showcases a private room with 3 beds and its own bathroom.
The photo on top is a spacious private bedroom for two with its own bathroom. I think this one costs 280 baht per night.
The Giant Guesthouse has this 3-storey building which houses their private bedrooms. On a separate 1-storey building across the photo on top is where you’ll find single fan rooms. The other photo shows their receiving area or lobby where different nationalities get to mingle and share their travel adventures.
Tips In Finding a Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand
– Staying for more than 3 days could score you a discount so better mention this to the manager of the guesthouse. If you are thick-faced, try asking for a discount even for a 1 night stay and let your charms do the talking. Goodluck on that though! 😀
– Find a house which is near the market to get access to unlimited supply of cheap food. Otherwise, it’s also high time to start thinking about that exercise you’ve been delaying for months. You can start by walking to the nearest market in the area where you are staying.
– Be sure they offer free WiFi access 24/7 and free use of computers. This very important for those who are bringing their work with them. Giant Guesthouse offers access to the internet with a download speed of up to 7Mbps (the last time I checked speedtest.net) on all of their rooms 😉
– Ask if they offer free drinking water too. This will help cut costs on your food/beverage budget.
– Find a place to stay in Chiang Mai which allows you to wash your own laundry at no extra fees. Getting your laundry done by laundry shops costs around 40-60 baht per kilogram. Just imagine saving up on laundry expenses. Instead, why not get a free workout when you do your own laundry? You can spend the laundry budget on food, you know 😉
– Look for one which has a shared kitchen. With my backpacking budget, I make it a point to find a kitchen where I can cook my own meals to save on my food budget. However, with the access to cheap foods in Chiang Mai, it can be more practical to buy ready-to-eat meals rather than cook your own food. But knowing that you have control over what food you want to eat (via buying out or cooking in) is still important.
– Find a home in Chiang Mai which you are comfortable living in. I had to deal with different issues from the previous guesthouse I was staying in. The lack of internet access 24/7, the sauna room temperature and even how the staff treats you are small things you should consider when deciding if you should stay or go. You should never compromise your comfort.
These are some of the tips I could think of when finding a guesthouse or hotel to stay in Chiang Mai or in other parts of the world. I bet there are a thousand more tips out there and feel free to help me add more to this list.
Giant Guesthouse has provided me with all the basic needs I look for in a guest house as I continue my backpacking journey in Southeast Asia on a limited budget. If you are looking for a 2-5 star accommodation, please don’t blame me if you get disappointed with Giant’s. What I can guarantee you though is that you will have access to the generous freebies that this guesthouse offers and you will get the chance to meet genuine people who are always there ready to lend a hand whenever you need one. I personally witnessed this during my stay at the Giant Guesthouse.
On one of my random small chats with Adrian, he told me that “home is where the heart is”
And I definitely felt at home during my stay at Giant Guesthouse. Not only were there a lot of perks on this guesthouse with a giant heart but the generosity and kindness of the different blend of people who stay there and those who found their way into the guesthouse is something you may not find on any other guesthouses in Chiang Mai.
I was almost desperate and had nowhere to turn to after being travelling solo and without any job. I was on the verge of losing my wits in Chiang Mai but I will be forever grateful for finding the Giant Guesthouse, a simple guest house which I consider as my home in Chiang Mai.
Thank you for your big heart, Giant Guesthouse! Thanks for giving me a home!
How to get to the Giant Guesthouse
From the bus/train station, you can hire a tuktuk or a songthaew (a red pickup car converted into a passenger vehicle) and tell them you need to go to the Giant Guesthouse near the Chiang Mai Gate. Banana house was the former name of this guesthouse so be sure to mention this to the driver too. In case the driver drops you off at the Chiang Mai gate, just walk 1 block to your right (facing the Pratoo Chiang Mai Market) after the market and then turn left. Walk a few more steps and you’ll find Giant Guesthouse on the first corner to your right. Or just simply ask anyone for directions. 😉
You may be asked to pay 80-100 baht when hiring a tuktuk inside the bus station. Try to haggle for 30-40 baht. Otherwise, walk away and go out of the bus station and find your ride on the main road.
When hailing a songthaew, find one that has passengers in it and haggle for 20-30 baht to bring you to the guesthouse. Hiring an empty songtheaw may cost you 30-40 baht for the trip depending on your haggling skills. Again, if they don’t agree with your price, walk away and find another one.
4 Rachamankha Road
T. Prasingha A. Mueng
Chiang Mai, Thailand