Feb 18, 2019
Being the Soul of Nawa Saraan Hotel
Location: Nawa Saraan Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
A Home in Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai, I've always stayed in Nawa Saraan Hotel at the invite of owner-friend, Mike. Now, it feels home to be here. It's a charming boutique hotel with 4 spacious luxury rooms. The front is container-themed with a Zen garden and Koi pond. Three years back, it was thriving and energy was alive. Now, it felt a little sad. Mike said Nawa Saraan needed a soul as his newer hotels kept him occupied. It left me thinking, "I could be that soul".
The more I thought about the possibility, the more it made sense. Why?
- timing - after 6 years of continuous traveling, I was already tired and willing to settle down. I even asked my universe to find me a home - and apparently, it just did
- experience - given all those years on the open road, staying in hotels and resorts, I already have a feel for what works in a hotel and what doesn't. I know what travelers are looking for. Furthermore, I actually managed a resort at one time - Fox and Firefly
- soul - I love Nawa Saraan! I've always defaulted here since I met Mike. It's a lovely hotel I feel strongly for
- Chiang Mai - I thought I would settle down in the Philippines. But settling down in beautiful Chiang Mai where the conscious community is vibrant? This is a dream!
- friendship - I'd be hanging out more with Mike and I'd also be working for a friend who has helped me many times. This could be my way to say thank you.
A New Mandate
After a few deliberations, I committed myself to the task and assured Mike about my resolve to be the soul of Nawa Saraan. After my weeklong Thai massage course, I began my new mandate - Feb 18 to be exact. Mike ensured that I get full support from the staff from the other hotels. He gave me free rein about my vision for the hotel. In his own word, "Nawa Saraan is yours!". At the barest minimum, I should be around to check-in the arriving guests and to check-out the departing ones. With only 4 rooms, it wasn't a Herculean task. But of course, my vision for the hotel goes well beyond the check-ins.
Right off the bat, I saw what needed immediate enhancements:
Social Media Reviews
As the lone staff, I make it a point to put hotel guests at ease largely by interacting with them. I tell them I'm their point-man for all their lodging needs. I help carry their luggage, give them directions, suggest itineraries, etc. This is perhaps the paramount responsibility I have - fostering guest relations. I am good at that. I simply treat them as fellow travelers I meet on the open road. I can relate to them at that level. Already, I get validation from all these efforts through the rave reviews on Booking.com (and to a minor extent, Tripadvisor).
A Gathering Space for Friends
Nawa Saraan is in a charming Zen-garden setting with a Koi pond. With outdoor tables and chairs, it serves as my gathering place to host coffee talks with friends. I can whip-up artisan coffee and eats without the expense of meeting at trendy restos or hipster cafes. It has hosted many gatherings with fond memories.
Breathing Life into Dead Spaces
There were a few spaces with inert energy. I wanted to breathe life into them.
- open container space - for now, I had it cleaned-up and it's my yoga space. I am currently reaching out to massage schools to have it available as a massage practice space. There are also industrial high-density mats, sheets and pillows. I've printed flyers and hope to get them distributed soon.
Developing Niche Markets
Since I just came from a week-long Thai massage course, I saw how I could tailor-fit Nawa Saraan to be massage-school friendly. I have already opened-up a massage practice space, arranged a special hotel rate from Mike for week-long guests participating in massage courses. In the works would be bicycles available by the hotel front to help students in their commute. I have yet to sit down with massage school owners to convey my intentions and develop some kind of partnership. If this goes well, the 4 rooms should be fully booked at all times.
This is a dream job but there is this one potential deal-breaker I didn't see coming - long wait with uncertainty. There could be a check-in with no arrival time. It might sound benign, but that means I have to be on my toes until this guest arrives. I could already be up at 7am in case it's an early arrival, and the guest might not come until 10pm! That's 15 hours of being 'on hold'. It has happened a few times. I can't go out for lunch or dinner and I can't even shit in leisure because the guest just might arrive anytime. Of course I could do other things while waiting, but still, the mind remains on the pending arrival. It's beyond not liking it, it's actually taxing my sanity. I'm simply not wired this way. I just hope I can come up with a system that removes that uncertainty altogether.
I've just finished a full month being the 'soul of Nawa Saraan'. I have yet to finish a few of the things I started and think about other creative approaches to enliven this hotel. Obviously, I'm doing something meaningful and having fun at the same time.
Thanks Mike for the trust.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
Next stop: Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019)
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai International Airport
Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily
Arun Dara Villa - 7 exclusive rooms, 1 swimming pool for every room, grand opening
Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big rooms, high ceiling, salt-water pool, restaurant, cafe
Nawa Saraan Hotel - low density (4 spacious rooms), stone garden setting, Koi fish pond, Old City location
La Pizza Chiang Mai - Italian pizza, pasta, wine, dessert, coffee
Natural Bird Nest by Burapa - authentic bird's nest soup
ITM - International Training Massage School - Chiang Mai's most prestigious massage school
Float Chiang Mai - sensory deprivation float pod
Zira Spa - upscale authentic Thai massage and spa treatment
Tawan Bike - motorcycle rental | +66 91 635 2863 | Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Top Thailand Adventure Tour - bicycle rental
Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
- crop-burning season in Chiang Mai is between late Feb to early April. But laws change everytime. This year, 2019, there is a 61-day ban on burning so the farmers started burning early. When my plane was approaching Chiang Mai on Jan 24, 2019, there was already a thick blanket of smog covering the entire city (and beyond). But within the city itself, you won't feel it (but that doesn't mean the air is healthy). To monitor air conditions in real time, refer to site: Chiang Mai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
- hot season begins March and lasts until June
- wet season begins July and lasts until September
- best time to visit Chiang Mai is mid-September to mid-February
- visit Chiang Mai between October and April - best time, without the monsoon rains
- you have to try Khao Soi, this is north Thailand's culinary staple
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
- to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
- get a red cab (songthao) outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
- shared red taxi (songthao) - B30 standard fare plying all over Old City
- for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
- FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
- North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session, Blues on Sundays by the 11pm band
- Road House - in front of Porn Ping Hotel
- Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar
Chiang Mai Cost Index
- B60 Chiang beer
- B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
- B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
- B50 noodle soup with meat
- B50 coffee
- B40 pad thai
- B30/kilo wash-only laundry
- B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
- B100-150 dorm bed/night
- B250 fan room/night
- B30 internet cafe/hour
- B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
- B130-150 Movies weekdays
- B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
- B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
- B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
- B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
- B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)
- B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
- B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
- B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
- B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
- B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
- B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B638 #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B50 red taxi fare from point to point
- B100 red taxi fare from train terminal to city
- B2000 full day elephant sanctuary
- B750 Chiang Rai one-day tour
- B1500 mountain biking scenic ride
How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by Train from Bang Sue Train Station
For more train info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains - departing from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)
(I'm using Bang Sue as a starting point because I was closer to it, but you may be closer to the Hua Lamphong station)
- take the MRT train to Bang Sue Station. Take the #1 Exit to the north provincial trains
- Proceed to Counter 2. You will see an information booth, a train schedule chart and the ticket counter. Choose the train and pay at the ticket counter.
- daily train schedule:
- 8:48am - #7 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:30pm, not sleeper, B638
- 2:06pm - #109 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 4:05am, sleeper
- 6:31pm - #9 Premium Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:15am, sleeper, B938 upper deck, B1038 lower deck
- 7:56pm - #13 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 8:40am, sleeper, B768 upper deck, B838 lower deck
- 10:22pm - #51 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 12:10pm, sleeper, 3rd class B270 (non sleeper), 2nd class B438, B728 upper deck, B798 lower deck
Chiangmai Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019) Mar 19, 2019
- Being the Soul of Nawa Saraan Hotel Mar 18, 2019
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Jan 24 - Mar 13, 2019
- Movie Review: Vox Lux (2018) Mar 2, 2019
- Movie Review: The Favourite (2018) Feb 25, 2019
- Curing Cancer with Yoga? Feb 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Alita Battle Angel Feb 19, 2019
- International Training Massage School (ITM): Level 1 Feb 11-15, 2019
- Movie Review: Spider-Man - Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Feb 3, 2018
- Movie Review: Green Book Jan 30, 2019
- Meditation in a Sensory Deprivation Tank at Float Chiang Mai Jan 29, 2019
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Jan 27, 2019
- Movie Review: Aquaman Jan 26, 2019
- Reiki Share at the Mastermind Brain Spa Jan 26, 2019
- Resuming Life in Chiang Mai Jan 24, 2019
- 4 Days in Chiang Mai at Nawa Saraan Hotel Jan 2-6, 2019
- Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
- An Intimate Conversation with my Universe in Chiang Mai Aug 8, 2018
- Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
- Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
- Yoga Exploration at The Yoga Tree with Gernot Aug 1, 2018
- Yoga In The Park - Chiang Mai July 31, 2018
- Yoga with Adam at Hidden House Yoga, Chiang Mai July 29, 2018
- 2 Weeks in Chiang Mai July 25 - Aug 7, 2018
- A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
- Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
- Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
- Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Chiang Mai April 9-10, 2016
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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