We stayed at the Fondcome Village Resort for a couple of nights during our visit to Chiang Mai in November 2009. On arriving at Chiang Mai Airport we learned that, contrary to the info on the hotel website and some of the reviews posted on the place on TA where it is described as being 10 mins away from the airport, the hotel is actually a good 25-30 mins away, on the other side of town. Expect to pay between 250-400 baht for a ride up to the hotel, depending on who you ask. Anyone planning to stay at the hotel is advised to organise a pickup by the hotel, which, at 200 baht, will work out far cheaper.
We arrived at the hotel,slightly bemused by the fact that the hotel was a bit further away from Chiang Mai than we had expected,to find the place practically deserted (apart from the staff of course). Besides us, we only saw 2 other guests during our stay at the Fondcome so business must be pretty poor in the current economic climate. The whole hotel wore a tired look and it was obvious that parts of it were being left in a state of benign neglect, possibly due to the lack of guests at present.
We had arrived quite early but our room was ready and the staff were happy for us to check in early. As with all the places we stayed in SE Asia, the staff were extremely friendly and attentive throughout our stay the the Fondcome.
We were subsequently shown to our accommodation, which, although a regular room in a five storied block, was called the 'Yin Tai Villa' for some reason. In any case, a villa or a typical 4 star hotel room it wasn`t. The room was very nicely decorated (with what I later learnt were traditional Northern Thai tribal bits and bobs) clean and had everything one would expect in a, well, hotel room (kettle, hairdryer etc) but the finish was nothing special and definitely not of a standard one would expect in an upper end hotel. The bathroom was adequate, had a bath with a shower over it but once again, signs of neglect were evident here as well. For instance, the grouting around the bath had turned pitch black in colour with mould and no attempt had been made to repair it.
The room also had a balcony which, in addition to the creek that meanders through the grounds of the hotel and hills beyond, unfortunately overlooked some sort of workshop and the nearby busy road, which did not make the view altogether pleasent.
The hotel also has a swimming pool which, despite being quite small, looks quaint due to the way its constructed, and inviting. Although the hotel claims that it is constantly cleaned by some natural means which sounded like eco-friendly mumbo jumbo to me, it was not clean when we got to the resort and the staff confirmed that it had not been cleaned (possibly due to lack of guests).
The most annoying bit about our stay was the lack of any international TV channels in the room. We only had a few terrestrial Thai channels and when we spoke to the front desk about this, we were told that English TV Channels were only available in suites and we were invited to upgrade to a suite (at a hefty additional charge of course), which we declined. We found this to be unacceptable in a hotel which has aspirations of being a four star property and the management should rectify this.
Breakfast was included but had to be ordered a la carte, which we quite liked as we could ask the chef to prepare the dishes to our vegan tastes. Breakfast was excellent and the level of service exceptional. We would recommend the pancakes and the fried rice, which were both excellent. However, here too there was some evidence of the hotel cutting corners- for instance, the pancakes were supposed to be served with honey but instead came with honey flavoured golden syrup- I don`t know how much money the hotel saves by doing this but it does not do their image any favours. We did not have any other meals in the hotel restaurant but the menu looked good and the prices fairly reasonable (plus they have a good chef).
There was no internet access in the room but the hotel allows guests free internet access in the restaurant (and have 2 PCs for this purpose) and also has free wi fi in the restaurant.
The hotel describes itself as a resort in a secluded spot just outside Chaing Mai- I think they have got the bit about being outside Chaing Mai right but the hotel is not 'secluded' by any means. Its in a rural location and backs out to some hills but the room we stayed in was adjacent to a main road and the fact that it is in quite a rural spot meant that drivers do put their feet down. As a result, I was woken up on several occasions by the noise of cars speeding past during our stay there.
So why am I giving the hotel three stars, despite all the drawbacks I have just mentioned? For starters, we were extremely impressed by the level of service, which was by far the best we have received during our visits, past and present, to Asia. The staff appeared not too worried about the lack of guests at the hotel and were totally focussed on ensuring that we had a good stay. They couldn`t do enough for us and were all over us like a rash (but in a pleasent way). What was also obvious was the attention to detail, even in the way the rooms were done up (I can`t remember any specific examples now but there were many). Despite all this, we never felt under any pressure to tip them, as it sometimes happens at hotels,say, in the Middle East.
I also have to point out that the we stayed in the most basic room at the hotel and a walk around the hotel grounds made me realise that they had several exquisitely appointed (and needless to say substantially more expensive) rooms/villas to the back of the property, and therefore further away from the road. I am sure a stay in one of those rooms, together with the level of service you receive, will be far more enjoyable than the stay we had.
Having said that, the hotel's location, a good 25 mins drive from the centre of Chiang Mai, is a major drawback as far as guests are concerned. By booking the hotel, we were hoping to stay somewhere outside the hustle and bustle of the city but yet within easy reach of Chiang Mai but unfortunately this was not the case. There is no public transport or private hire (tuk tuks, taxis etc) available in the vicinity and guests who do not have their own transport are therefore entirely reliant on the hotel van for getting to Chiang Mai. This may not be a huge issue for people who plan to spend most of their time in their rooms but it was quite tricky for us as the entire purpose of our visit was to explore Chiang Mai. The hotel operates a free shuttle service twice a day, once to the Chiang Mai night safari and the night market, but both trips are in the evening and only the night market run takes you into town. Any trips into Chiang Mai outside these times are charged at 100 baht per person each way (including pick up and drop off at airport). It may not sound a lot but believe me it does add up during your stay. On some occasions, we were able to avail of the free pickup back from town at night, which saved us a bit of money. Don`t even think of catching a tuk tuk or a taxi back from town as it would work out much more expensive than using hotel transport.
Although described as a resort, there is no a lot to do in the hotel itself but it is close to the hills and there may be mountain biking, trekking and the like to do nearby.
Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to visit and we personally like it much better than Bangkok but it was clear during our stay and conversations with the locals that the tourists numbers visiting the city have dropped dramatically this year and hotel trade and the hospitality sector has suffered heavily as a result. Consequently, there are many hotels in Chiang Mai itself offering extremely competitive rates for rooms of a similar standard to Fondcome, with various extras thrown in. Tourists are more reluctant than ever to part with their cash and I feel that, unfortunately, it would be places like Fondcome which, despite its exceptional staff and service, that would suffer the most in this downturn due to the inconvenience of its location and no obvious advantages or USPs over other places in town.
I would recommend Fondcome to anyone who is willing to splurge on one of its better rooms and does not mind the expense of getting into town as the service you receive will make it well worth it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Huarn Jana Boutique Resort, a special hotel of arts, culture and nature is located on Hang Dong - Samoeng Road a famous tourist route in Chiang Mai, only 15 minutes from Chiang Mai International Airport and 20 minutes from city center. Ther hotel is settling in a lush valley of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park with a natural stream running through the back. There are 50 unique guest rooms that designed in various styles inspired by Lanna, Sibsongpanna, Tai Yai, tribal arts and cultures. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Fondcome Village Hotel
- Fondcome Village Chiang Mai