From hut to haute: checking in to the Rachamankha Hotel

Written by on March 9, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Thailand - 12 Comments

The dirt embedded under my nails is thick. Despite having been “clean.” I guess, after a week at Elephant Nature Park as a volunteer with elephants, “clean” is relative.

When the Elephant Nature Park van arrives to the Rachamankha Hotel, an elegant boutique hotel inside the old city of Chiang Mai, and I catch a look at the pristine property and white walls, I tuck my hands into the pockets of my black sweats, hoping none of the staff notices my layer of grime.

“Welcome to the Rachamankha,” says one of the well-dressed bellmen as he hauls my brown backpack from the back of the Park’s white van and into the hotel’s compound.

I walk through the main entrance to the sprawling oasis of calm, casting a final look back at the van filled with the volunteers from my time at the park, throwing a last wave and blowing kisses, then follow the man into the little reception room.

He gestures to a cushioned seat, and I place my backpack and bag on the chair next to me, wiping a thin coating of sweat off of my face and making sure I am not too dirty from hugging elephants to sit in the seat.

Then, I am given an ice-cold can of a lemongrass drink with a straw. As my reservation is pulled up, I suck down nearly the entire contents of the long, skinny can.

“This way please, miss,” the man checking me in says, handing me a key attached to a bulbous red key chain with a smattering of fringe, and then leading me out the door and into the courtyard of the hotel.

With my bags in tow, he quickly gives me an overview of the majestic property, pointing out the restaurant, library (a wall-less sitting area with couches, chairs and books), the pool … then, my room.

He swings open the double doors made of thick wood, places my bag on the stand, and then exits, leaving me to soak up my new surroundings.

I look around.

Crisp white sheets on the bed. Windows with glass. A bathroom en-suite with a huge shower head. Toiletries. An air-con unit.

This is a far cry from my primitive palace at Elephant Nature Park.

I sit softly on the bed, taking care not to crinkle the blanket just yet. And don’t move.

I don’t want to let myself get to into this moment yet. I’m not ready to let go of the past week of my life. Of the elephants. And, I’m afraid if I rush into this new chapter in Chiang Mai, everything will disappear … dissolve into thin air and memories too quickly.

Instead, I take a few deep breaths. Look around at my new, luxurious surroundings. I don’t feel right being here yet. After a week of being overheated, dirty, exhausted, emotional, I feel as if I am an imposter at the Rachamankha. That me and my backpack don’t belong under the roof of a place this nice.

After a few minutes, I let myself be brought into the moment, shedding my dirty clothes and putting them into a plastic bag to be washed. Then, I step into the shower and let the warm water wash over me, rinsing clean the dust and dirt from my body. I run soap through my white string bracelet given to me a week earlier when I was blessed by the shaman, and I recall a conversation I had with Adele, one of the volunteers, about her bracelet.

“This here, it’s got everything captured in it,” she had said, moving it back and forth on her wrist. “Banana balls, poo, dirt …”

I stop myself from giving it too good of a wash.

After all, there are some memories I’m not ready to wash away just yet.

Then, I quickly dress, apply some make-up for the first time in a week, then head back into the Chiang Mai evening. I’ve got a Sunday Night Market to conquer, and then a meet-up with some of the volunteers.

I turn off the air-con in my room, shut the huge wooden door, and exit into the darkness of the humid night, ready for the Chiang Mai experience. And still holding strong to the week with elephants.

Editor’s Note: I was a guest of the Rachamankha Hotel, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

12 Comments on " From hut to haute: checking in to the Rachamankha Hotel "

  1. Stephanie - The Travel Chica March 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm · Reply

    Not much better than checking into a comfy, clean hotel with great service after roughing it for a while.

    • Diana March 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm · Reply

      It was delicious. Such a change!

  2. Bobbi Lee Hitchon March 11, 2012 at 1:34 am · Reply

    Sounds like a gem. It’s always nice to stay some place clean and comfortable after spending time in the wild. I haven’t been to Chiang Mai yet, but I’m really hoping to visit next time I visit Thailand, which I’m hoping will be this year. I’ll have to check Rachamankha Hotel out.

    • Diana March 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm · Reply

      It was! The review is coming soon. When you are there, it is definitely worth spending the money for a night or two. Then, go backpack it at a guest house for pennies. :)

  3. Mica March 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm · Reply

    Sniff…sniff….CM memories…

    • Diana March 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm · Reply

      We WILL have more in CM.

  4. Bret @ Green Global Travel March 13, 2012 at 7:31 am · Reply

    There is nothing better, after rushing it in nature, than coming back to a posh hotel that pulls out all the luxurious stops. Mary And I push ourselves so hard during our adventures, we truly relish a little downtime immediately before and after. The hotel looks awesome!

  5. Julia March 13, 2012 at 7:47 am · Reply

    I feel you — while it can be such a relief to get somewhere clean and restful after an adventure, it can also feel like you’re just slipping back into amnesia. Sometimes the discomfort of an adventure is part of what makes it so powerful.

    • Diana March 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm · Reply

      I like that … “slipping back into amnesia.” I always have such a hard time popping from traveling to reality — it makes it seem like the travel was just a dream.

  6. Francy R March 13, 2012 at 9:31 am · Reply

    Racthamankha is a place to be loved or hated! it depends on your expectations and on your tastes. It is a real Thai villa of the XVIII centuty ehere all the rooms overlook the inner courtyard. The corridors looks like those of the medieval castles. The atmosphere is quite, relaxing and peaceful even too much, according to me. I enjoyed my stay as well as you!

    • Diana March 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm · Reply

      I don’t see how it could be hated … it was a really lovely property with attentive staff. I loved the peace and tranquility. And, when I was ready for a little stimulation, I just left and went outside to the city.

  7. D.J. - The World of Deej March 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm · Reply

    This hotel geek is impressed!

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