On Tuesday I helped at a send-off event for study abroad students preparing for their time away in the coming summer and fall. As a Alumni Ambassador with CISabroad, I was there to answer questions and connect with the students before their experiences abroad. I was happy to pass along advice from my time studying abroad last summer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
There was pizza, trivia, and prizes. It was a great time, with great questions shared from fellow students.
One question I received on my program:
“Where did you stay?”
“In a hotel.”
Everyone in the room was surprised. Thinking back to learning what my lodgings were going to be like on the program, I was stunned to learn I’d be living in a hotel. As the program progressed and I got used to living abroad, I didn’t think much about the situation of my study abroad lodgings.
Sitting in at the send-off event this week and detailing the experience of staying in a hotel, I realized how unique this setup might have been. I hadn’t thought about it. I’d never heard of anyone living abroad in a hotel, but assumed that it might have been normal for other programs, in additions to dorms, apartments and homestays. I gathered that maybe it wasn’t after all?
So what was it like to stay in a hotel for a month in a new country?
Firstly, it wasn’t terribly expensive lodgings and was included in my program’s cost. The conversion to U.S. dollars for a room for 2 adults (and 1 child) + the breakfast buffet, amounted to $27.01. A steal in comparison to prices in the United States.
My room was on the second floor and shared with another girl from Wisconsin. All the other college students on the program were right down the hall from us.
The room amenities included two twin beds, cable TV, a mini fridge, balcony, and air conditioning.
The air conditioning was key because of the heat and humidity in Thailand. The mini fridge was also a great place to stock items for partaking in future 2 am snacking.
There was daily maid service as well at around 11 am. The service was appreciated, since there were two cold glass bottles of water restocked in the fridge on a regular basis. In a country were bottled water is a major purchase, this was a blessing.
Access to the Internet was provided, but a successful connection was harder to establish the farther we were situated from the lobby. Being on the second floor, my roommate and I found the connection was best in the early morning. At night, we would often take our phones and laptops into the sitting area adjacent to the bar to study, answer emails, and message family and friends. The wifi quality was my only complaint for where we were situated.
The hotel provided a breakfast service daily in the hotel’s Palm Tree Restaurant. All of us ate breakfast before getting into the red taxis to go to our classes at Chiang Mai University. The buffet was a mix of East and West. Everything from coconut grass jelly, to hashbrowns, to waffles and steamed rice.
The lobby bar was also open from 8am – 11pm with a menu offering non-traditional fare for homesick tourists.
A swimming pool was the meeting place for the students on our program. I remember the midnight that I checked into the hotel. All the other students from the program came to my room to say hi and invite me down to the pool for a swim.
The rest of the program, I went into the pool a few times, but really preferred to lounge in the beach chairs during the cooler evening hours to catch up on journaling. Sometimes a cool rain shower would start up while I was sitting in the pool patio. No complaints.
In the main lobby there was a desk with an attendent who would help guests schedule excursions in and around Chiang Mai, from the transportation to the tours. We used the desk services to help schedule a spontaneous backpacking trip and a day excursion to the “sticky” waterfalls.
Around the hotel there was also a mix of restaurants, both traditional and tourist-oriented. The daily market was slightly more than a five minute walk from the entrance of the hotel. This meant that it was fairly quiet on our street. Most businesses on our street were closed by midnight.
Open street vendors, smoothies, and black bean icecream popsicles from 7/11 were a short walk away. So much delicious food close by was a dangerous thing.
I often went to the restaurant across the way for their dairy-free mango lassis and sushi.
Besides food, other local spots near the hotel included neighborhood temples, the massage parlor across the street offering hour-long full-body Thai massages for $9, a laundry service shop, an ATM, and a coffee shop serving sweet espressos. All good things.
Looking back at all that was available at these accomadations at the Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, I’m happy that I had the experience of staying here.
I had the best hotel roommate. We stayed up late watching movies on the 24/7 movie channel. Bought street market crepes after making late night snack treks to 7/11 in the early monsoon season rain. Did our laundry in the stand up shower with powdered detergent. Caught baby geckoes on our balcony.
We survived an incident with durian, sipped local kombucha on the balcony, and kept fresh produce in the mini fridge. And most of all, lived our best life trekking out from our lodgings to explore Chiang Mai and the surrounding cities.
This is what it’s like to live in a hotel abroad for a month.